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2014/09/10

Slipping Into Autumn: A Review of Some Pre-Fall Singles


Slipping Into Autumn: 
A Review of Some Pre-Fall Singles

As I was syncing my nano iPod, I began to hobble together a new play list.  Seems there were about 32 songs I’d downloaded (most for free), but never gotten around to giving the time of day.  So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of the cream of that crop. 

And guess what?  I really like most of them.  A plethora of new acts, to be sure, but a couple of veterans managed to slip in there, making for an eclectic, interesting ride. 

Enjoy!

Sideways
Wrabel

This one has been on my Nano for a while now, but I only started paying real attention to it this week.  Maybe it was the corny saloon singer opening, reminiscent of Ray Davies of the Kinks, which had me hitting the fast forward button.  My advice?  Stick it out, because ‘Sideways’ ends up revealing a totally different performer. 

His aching falsetto and the slight Disclosure-like setting are sure to draw comparisons to Sam Smith.  And, though not as soulful as Smith, Wrabel (of Afrojack’s ‘Ten Feet Tall’) manages to bring a hollow ache to the table as he sifts through the complexities of a romance stuck in neutral.  Each verse, each chorus, reveals something sonically new to the song, taking the listener on a bittersweet journey. 

One thing I know?  I won’t be hitting that next button anymore.

Begging For Thread
Banks

Heavy on atmosphere, Banks’ single, ‘Begging For Thread’ aims for the icy, jaded detachment established by the likes of Tove Lo and Lana Del Rey, and hits the bull’s-eye.  

The production alone manages to create quite a bit of drama while the vocals remain firmly in check; no vocal histrionics here.   It makes for an interesting tension, with the yearning beat causing ‘Begging’ to rise above the crowded field.

Whether she has personality enough to distinguish herself remains to be seen.  But, overall, I’d grant her contenders status, for sure.

When Everything Was What It Was
The Belle Brigade

Think Indigo Girl(s) meet ‘Tusk’ era Lindsey Buckingham, and you know exactly what the duo The Belle Brigade is all about.  As such, ‘When Everything Was What It Was’ scoots along just fine on a pleasant, countrified folk shuffle beat sure to please.  The harmonies are bright, confident, and fun, the lyrics informed and knowing, making this one go down like a tall glass of the best lemonade on a sunny afternoon.

The real fun?  Wait until after the break when a wall of sound which seems to include a horn section and a flattened out sax, comes out of nowhere, kicks into high gear, and gives the song the perfect, unexpected send-off.

PAINKLLR (Cole Plante Radio Edit)
Erika Jayne

I have long admired Erika Jayne.  Not content to be merely a pretty, faceless voice, from day one she has strived to provide something of substance to the dance music she brings to the floor. To bear this out, her hits (‘Rollercoaster’, ‘Party People’, ‘Pretty Mess’, etc.) routinely hit number one, no doubt due to the integrity she operates with.

‘PAINKLLR’, however,  is on the slight side, though enjoyable none the less.  On this mix, Cole Plante’s synths, from time to time, both manage to undermine and overwhelm Ms. Jayne’s efforts. That said, ‘PAINKLLR’ has been rocketing up the Club Play Charts, so I expect it to join her other great singles in the number one slot. 

Break The Fall
Laura Welch

If Florence Welch and Sophie Ellis-Bextor mixed musical DNA, Laura Welch would be the result.  There is an ache and break in Ms. Welch’s voice that is very similar to Sophie’s, while the bombast that propels ‘Break’s chorus is reminiscent of Florence’s work. 

Fortunately, ‘Break’ is visceral enough to survive on its own terms; full-bodied and fully commanded.  A confident, sure outing, definitely worth more than a single listen.

Why I Had To Go
Bishop Allen

Oh, my. On ‘Why’, Bishop Allen has taken a trip back to 1979, capturing perfectly a Korgi’s like simplicity and innocence.  The verses are bouncy, clipped and a tad chilly, though it’s hard not to get caught up in the sunny euphoria created within all that airy space once the subtle synths whoosh in on the chorus, jetting us off on a futuristic, drum-machine inspired mission. 

It may simply be nostalgia clouding my better judgment, but ‘Why’ is a lot of fun and certain to have you swaying your head back and forth in an old school DEVO sort of way.

Grown Up
Eli “Paperboy” Reed

A power-positive, upbeat slice of pop detailing the challenge of maturing from a kid who fears his mother will walk in on him “relaxing” to a fully-functioning, responsible adult. 

Yeah, that description doesn’t really capture the breeziness of this tune, though it is apt.  To be sure, Eli is personable enough and the song is not without its charms.

Introduced via something reminiscent of a child’s tune issuing forth from scratchy, well-worn vinyl, ‘Grown Up’ then kicks it into full fun mode,  striking a comfortable chord somewhere between Barenaked Ladies and Smash Mouth.  The song offers up its cleverest bit in the first verse and plays out like the theme song from some generic Fox sitcom.

Pleasant enough, I don’t see ‘Grown Up’ popping big unless it gets some exposure via, well…a generic Fox sitcom.

New Home
Deacon Blue

Glasgow vets, Deacon Blue, return revitalized with the title track of their new album.   Opening with a simple piano figure, a galloping beat and jangly guitars soon take over leading us through two verses before bursting into a soaring chorus.  The production is crisp and clean, capturing a seamless performance. More reminiscent of Paul Simon than U2, Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh are in high form.

‘New Home’ is all about the promise of a new day and the excitement one experiences stepping into the future with a clean slate.  In other words, a perfect song for any soul in need of an anthem to accompany their rebirth.  

Runaway
sELF

Veteran act, sELF, who have tried on everything from Nirvana to Beck, return to the scene, taking on yet another persona.   Delicious, quirky fun, ‘Runaway’ offers up a perfect slice of modern pop a la Phoenix and Passion Pit, beeping and blurping its way into your brain.  

Hardly what anyone would have expected given their grunge roots, but Matt Mahaffey has never been one to stick to a sound. And, in light of the fact that he recently produced Hellogoodbye, one can now see how that teaming must have been a great learning experience for both artists.  Never fear.  On ‘Runaway’, Mahaffey nails it, creating his most commercial offering yet. 

Call Me
St. Paul and The Broken Bones

Sounding like a veteran act, St. Paul and The Broken Bones actually formed in 2012 and couldn’t commit to touring fulltime until all their horn players had graduated from college. 

On ‘Call Me’, the ghosts of Steve Winwood and The Spencer Davis Group haunt every note. But not to worry: the boys have found a niche on NPR and already have an established fan base.  Seems all those retro horns and that vintage sounding blue eyed soul bring to mind a bygone era that appeal to a lot of people. And one can hear why.

‘Call Me’ is certainly a refreshing change of pace, to be sure – an organic one, even – but sometimes this particular homage steers a little too close to the original for my comfort level.   Still, it is a classic sound, a great listen, and something tells me the group is lot of fun live. 
















1 comment:

whkattk said...

Hmm. Banks. First I've heard. Not bad... No histrionics, and call me old fashioned, but I'll bet she'd sound even better letting the voice to the forefront rather than having it buried beneath the over-produced music.

Thanks for your comments on my blog, Upton. They are greatly appreciated.