In case the title doesn’t make it a dead giveaway, Miskatonic Graffiti, the newest LP by the neo-classic rock outfit Casablanca, is a concept album. Not only that, the band describes it as “Ziggy Stardust meets H.P. Lovecraft in Twin Peaks.” If one is expecting grandiloquent, noodly prog, she would be well within reason; however, one spin of the album cut “My Shadow Out of Time” will dispel any such notion. Casablanca’s mindset on Miskatonic Graffiti is indeed cosmic, but their musical tastes are far more visceral than cerebral. Melding together the influences of ‘70s classic rock and ‘80s heavy metal, the group crafts a blissfully retro rocker in “My Shadow Out of Time”, with an energy to match the eccentric vision of Miskatonic Graffiti.
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With a Brian Setzer-esque inflection in the guitar tone and jazzy minor chords that bring the world of film noir to mind, the tune “My Hometown” is an intriguing homage by singer/songwriter Eilen Jewell. On the one hand, there’s a lovingness here as Jewell pays her respects to her hometown: “If sweetness had a sound / It’d sound like my hometown,” she sings. On the other hand, the desert noir mood evoked by the patient, legato strums of clean-toned electric guitar gives the titular town a strong sense of mystery. These two elements—tenderness and mystique—serve as a reminder that no matter how much we love the places we call home, there’s always a magic ambiance to them that prevents us from being able to fully put into words what makes them so special. A phrase like “If sweetness had a sound” is both evocative and vague; in this way, Jewell invites the listener in to experience her understanding of her hometown whilst simultaneously conveying its ineffability. That paradox, when combined with “My Hometown”‘s lovelily lonely sound, makes this tune a gem.
With the release of “Ship to Wreck”, the art-pop outfit Florence and the Machine, helmed by chanteuse extraordinaire Florence Welch, have given the public a first taste of their forthcoming album How Big How Blue How Beautiful. This follows 2011’s Ceremonials which placed at number 25 on PopMatters’ Best Albums list of that year. In his 8 out of 10 review of Ceremonials for PopMatters, Arnold Pan writes, “Elevating their idiosyncratic style to an even grander scale, Ceremonials makes Florence and the Machine’s captivating debut Lungs seem quaint and charming in comparison.”
This summer, the Denver indie rock sextet Instant Empire will release its debut full-length, Lamplight Lost. The LP was recorded and produced by John Vanderslice, who has also worked with Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Mountain Goats. The influence of the former two of those groups can be heard in the music of Instant Empire, along with a smattering of others such as The Hold Steady, Bright Eyes, and Phantom Planet. Quite wisely, Instant Empire avoids the navel-gazing lo-fi stylistics that are still en vogue in the indie world, and instead does well in emphasizing the rock in “indie rock”.
This May, the husband and wife duo called the Grahams (Alyssa and Doug Graham) will release two brand new works of art: an album, Glory Bound, and a musical documentary film, Rattle the Hocks. The latter is a visual document of the relationship between the railroad system and American roots music. The former is a joyous musical celebration of roots music, a genre that the Grahams have a strong grasp over. Need proof? Give the wry and charming “Biscuits” a spin, which, as the Grahams explain it, is an exercise in euphemism.