Music

Justin Ancheta: Plant

Justin Ancheta can come off at times as a San Francisco-flavored Jack Johnson, but he and his band definitely have a promising start here.


Justin Ancheta

Plant

Label: Justin Ancheta Band
US Release Date: 2013-04-09
UK Release Date: 2013-04-09
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Justin Ancheta's Plant is a fine, unassuming full-length album. His website refers to his music as reggae flavored funk and jazz -- this fits most of the time, with reggae featuring most prominently in the mix. At times he sounds like a San Francisco flavored Jack Johnson - albeit a more permanently relaxed Jack Johnson.

Opening "Forever" paints a slow-burning blues-pop groove with just the lightest touch of reggae hints -- a fine song to spark up some incense and relax in the twilight under the glow of tiki torches. "Truth Existence" continues by setting the tone for the rest of the disc. Ancheta's activist nature is shot through this entire disc -- and while the very word can summon images of treacly, over-wrought hand-wringers, he mostly avoids this trap. "Better Predicament" is a gleefully overflowing kaleidoscope of instrumentation -- still gently rolling along, but rocking a bit harder than anything before it. The singing slips into almost rapping at times, but never feels unnatural or forced.

After such an overflowing (yet still tasteful) mix, more plaintive moments like "Outer Space" and "Wander" are a welcome relaxation to the whole proceeding. "Wander" even manages to switch with ease between the same rapid-fire delivery found in "Better Predicament" and a more slowed-down vocal style. If you're more in it for the faster-moving numbers, there are still few to be found here, but "Counter Culture" pulls off the nifty trick of "rocking" and having a full-fledged sound, even as it rides a delicate reggae beat along -- complete with full throated vocals, trumpet interludes, even the occasional scratch. Once again Ancheta shows a knack for the everything and the kitchen sink folk track. Too much and it gets cluttered, but with this one he pulls off the just right effect. "Simmer Down" is a funny title for a track so bubbly and over-flowing with energy, but still a fine track just the same. It gets a bit fat near the end with the trumpet solo -- highlighting an issue found elsewhere on this album.

The solo excursions and mid song breakdowns show clear-headed, intelligent playing, but sometimes linger on just a bit too long. They are the kind of free-form experimentation that is far more easy to appreciate in a live setting -- on a studio disc it is too easy for these moments to sound like padding. Album closer "Livin' It Up" has one foot in the blues, the other in jazz-folk, and is a fine track to end things on -- not just for the lively energy, but the way it makes the listener leave wanting more.

Plant wins largely on the organic feel and lush sound. Too often artists who create this kind of music fall back on studio trickery to "liven up" the performance. Often, it has the opposite effect, and a lively, organic performance sounds like just another studio creation. Still organic, but too polished. It wins and fails, as sometimes the recording captured is too raw -- a testament to how hard it is to capture live-sounding music on CD -- and yet none of these songs give the impression they would sound bad live. Overall a promising start, and balancing out the approach on future albums should only see better things to come for this band.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.