LucaSick of Love
The problem with reviewing a local album is that it's hard to eschew the local factor: Are you giving this band more of a chance because they're local? Would you not even give it a second listen were they from, say, Anywhere, Calif.? I'm all for supporting local music--sometimes, though, there's a tendency to give local bands more of a chance than one would with bands composed of people one does not know.
With Luca's Sick of Love, though, this ain't a problem: Local or not, this is a damn good album.
From pop-rockers like "Find Me There" and "Melody" to jazz grooves like "Loosin' Ground" and "Maybe Move On, Baby," Sick of Love is heavy on the energy, only slowing things down for "Evening Blue" and "This Tiny Room." Things just gel on Sick of Love: Slide guitar and vocal harmonies on "Maybe Move On, Baby" turn the song from just another blues number into something deliciously hypnotic, and the energy of Luca's live performance is captured on "Rosalie." "This Tiny Room," with its recurring chorus-laden guitar melody, is the kind of song you'd expect to hear in the background of a TV show, and I mean this in a good way--it's that well put together. Save the title track, which has something a little too ordinary and stale (Luca's strength is making standard rock 'n' roll sound fresh), Sick of Love is all well put together.
Eric BachmannTo the Races
While this past year provided a handful of phenomenal, nearly unanimously adored indie releases from the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Sleater-Kinney, certain albums slipped under the radar. In fact, aside from the Weekly's own musically astute Curtis McCrary, few people--myself included--thought Dignity and Shame by Crooked Fingers deserved equal praise. I've since retracted my position, and, by means of offering my humble apologies, I offer this (mostly) glowing review of To the Races, the second solo outing by Crooked Fingers frontman Eric Bachmann.
Beginning with a career-defining high note, the album gets underway with the wonderfully (and woefully) simmering "Man O' War." The song follows a gently cascading guitar line through siren-like backing vocal harmonies (courtesy of Miranda Brown) into a pleasantly howling chorus. Like much of the album, Bachmann reveals that beyond his wonderful musical harmonies and thoughtfully selected lyrics, there's a voice--falsetto especially--to be reckoned with.
The album's flaws are minor or inconsequential given Bachmann's decidedly lo-fi approach to recording (the album was self-recorded in a hotel in North Carolina), and hardly seem worth mentioning. Still, the acrid "Genie, Genie" is too harsh, awkwardly distancing it from the pack.
Criticisms aside, Bachmann quietly continues to be one of this generation's strongest singer/songwriters. The oscillating, spindly "So Long, Savannah," forlorn, Nebraska-esque "Carrboro Woman" and spartan, desolate "Genivieve" are prime examples of how Bachmann has left his competition in the dust.
Nouvelle VagueBande a Part
Nouvelle Vague is two French producers, Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, and a collection of breathy French and Brazilian chanteuses with sultry accents, who recast '80s punk and new wave classics in a different light. The group's debut album stuck to bossa nova arrangements of songs like Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck." On paper, it looked like a somewhat crass gimmick (anyone remember all those lounge versions of hit songs that were ubiquitous a decade ago?), but somehow, it managed to transcend that status to become far more enjoyable than it should have been: It was one of my favorite albums released last year.
Part of the charm of that debut was the fact that it took songs that weren't erotic in their original versions and made them truly sexy--bossa nova is inherently sexy, after all. On Bande a Part, the group branches out musically; there's still some bossa nova on tracks like Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love" and Lords of the New Church's "Dance With Me," but Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself" is more of a mambo than anything else, while Blondie's "Heart of Glass" is minimalist reggae with accordion. While the album has its moments--Echo and the Bunnymen's "Killing Moon" is a highlight--there are some serious duds, too--what were they thinking covering U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)"? Overall, the album just sort of sounds uninspired, maybe a rush job to capitalize on the success of the debut. And there's nothing sexy about that.