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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
28 July 2006
Skye, Mind How You Go (Cordless Recordings)
Skye was Morcheeba to some people, so it should come as no surprise that her solo album tends to stay with part of her past while branching out into her own with her own written material. Working with Daniel Lanois, Skye managed to mix the best of both worlds here judging by the gorgeous and soothing "Love Show" that is part urban and part adult contemporary, making for a rich, fluid ditty. Another little nugget is the melancholic "Stop Complaining" with her precious vocals supported with a bit of jungle and electronica. Sultry and oh so sexy, Skye's style makes even the simpler songs like the roots-y, organic "Solitary" soar with the slightest of ease. You can also hear traces of Bjork and Sade in a few efforts, especially on the light, soul-tinged "Calling". There are a few songs screaming for radio play including the slightly up-tempo "What's Wrong With Me?" that has her repeating a line about not thinking about the rain. Other highlights include the sensual and uplifting "Tell Me About Your Day" which describes a happier time in New Orleans during St. Patrick's Day. Quality from start to finish, Skye gives the murky, orchestral "Powerful" a powerful, airy delivery that would put Dido and Sarah McLachlan to shame while the hymnal-esque "Jamaica Days" sounds like she has Ladysmith Black Mambazo backing her.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
David Mead, Tangerine (Tallulah!)
On his website, David Mead wrote that he has "never stretched as far" as when he recorded his latest album, Tangerine, and he wasn't kidding. The record finds the singer-songwriter traversing an incredibly vast musical territory. Mead performs on keyboards, guitars, ukelele, vibraphone, and glockenspiel, and he tackles styles ranging from tender folk to infectious pop. All of the singer's efforts are informed by a commitment to detail and a keen sense of songcraft. The result is a record which never falters, moving from strength to strength and from one melodious, intricately arranged song to another. Fans of Mead's music should find this to be perhaps the singer's strongest release, and everyone else will find Tangerine to be one of the finest and most rewarding pop albums of the year.
album stream: [MySpace]
Create(!), A Prospect of Freedom (Sounds Are Active)
There is an unconscious assumption that improvisatory free jazz is abrasive, difficult, impenetrable. Asd,klfjnoisea. [Whoops, sorry about that; just improvising on the keyboard.] The appropriately-named Create(!) challenges this notion in A Prospect of Freedom. Save one composition -- a tribute to guitarist Sonny Sharrock -- all eight tracks are both completely "improv" and surprisingly accessible. The sextet constructed these sound sculptures in one take, without overdubs, during the exploratory sessions for Castanets' First Light's Freeze. That album features Raymond Raposa's gentle goth-folk compositions melting into jazz abstractions. In contrast, the tracks on A Prospect of Freedom were recorded with a "no solos" mandate. Know this fact and, as a listener, the six minutes of "Six Dreams/Divided" will surprise you with their coherence and subtlety. You can almost hear these players (who have worked with Eugene Chadbourne, Red Krayola, and Wadada Leo Smith) simultaneously listening to and playing with each other. At times, the playing with is too sparse ("When A Single Flower Blooms, It is Spring Everywhere") or too exploratory ("Duridana") for my ears -- but, overall, these fingers say: this.Is,a-ok.
Mark W. Adams
"Six Dreams/Divided": [MP3]
Jazz / Experimental
Ben Vaughn, Designs in Music (Soundstage 15)
What happens when a composer of TV themes loses the boob-tube safety net? With Designs in Music, Ben Vaughn (composer for shows like Third Rock from the Sun and That '70s Show) aims to find out, applying the scoring aesthetic to a dozen new instrumental tunes that are meant to stand on their own merits. The songs unfold like a running tribute to the small pantheon of cinematic composers, with sweeping allusions to the windswept tapestries of Enrico Morricone ("Brushfire"), the cocktail espionage of Henry Mancini ("The Stalker Pt. II"), the pop culture debris of Danny Elfman ("Frequent Flier"), and the lounge-pop affectations of Jon Brion ("Avanti"). It's all perfectly competent music with keen melodies and texture, but its tame evocation of mood wears thin without the complementary scenery. As a result, Designs in Music is incidental without the corresponding visual incidents, a collection of olives in search of drinks to garnish.
multple songs: [MySpace]
Deadstar Assembly, Unsaved (Pure)
Showing promise with the militaristic intro "Unsaved, Pt. 1", Deadstar Assembly is an industrial rock-meets-metal fan's wet dream. With band members named Dearborn, The Dro and my personal favorite Mubo, the group ends up becoming parodies of industrial bands before them even with better than average tracks like "Unsaved, Pt. 2". At other times, the group's knack for what they dub "death pop" sounds like Vince Neil with a nu metal/screamo chip on his shoulder during "Killing Myself Again". They have a few good tunes, including "Dejected" which is basically Linkin Inch Nails at best. "Na´ve" shines brighter as Deadstar Assembly downplay the tune perfectly a la Trent Reznor so the huge uber-chorus comes bursting out of its skin. Perhaps the album can be best surmised in "Darker Now" which has potential but never lives up to that, resulting in a tepid and tired power rock effort. Other times they're reinventing Def Leppard, especially on "Pale Blue" although with a nu metal edge to it. Each song could be great, but then about half fall by the wayside and into the gutter, particularly "Bled" which dies a slow, agonizing death. "This sucks!" they chant in "Serial" (or so it sounds like) and, well, half the time it describes it perfectly. The best by far is "Death Wish", possessing the oomph the album mostly lacks.
multple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 9:48 AM