Music » Music Reviews

Music reviews - 8.2.06


Race to the Blackout

The members of Clouds forming Crowns know where they’re coming from. References to rock progenitors like The Who and the Rolling Stones border on cliché, but the Clouds’ combination of collage and innovation leans more toward familiarity than repetition. The band creates a distinct sound somewhere beyond trite rock homage and early ’90s indie rehash that would sound right at home on the front porch during a summer afternoon or in a damp bar under some dim neon lights.

At the band’s core are Ohio brothers Tim and Todd Tobias, former bassist and producer, respectively, for Guided by Voices. They borrow GbV’s mid-fi vibe, but cut the sound with steaming piles of rock. My personal taste favors the more melodic tracks on the album. But be warned, the bulk of it is fairly riff heavy. Are you?

--- Andrew Frisicano


Roots and Branches
self release

Rich, melodious and executed with an almost impossible degree of poise, this debut from saxophonist and Eastman grad student Shirantha Beddage is the product, as he explains it, of his “newfound love of composition.” Good thing for us Beddage found that love --- and that he felt comfortable enough to pay tribute to his musical heroes (Turrentine, Coltrane, Corea) so openly in his own pieces. Pianist Michael Stryker nimbly extends the harmonic frame of Beddage’s melodies by choosing chords that add subtle shading, texture, and subordinate melodies of his own. Meanwhile, drummer Jared Schonig alternates between finesse, drive, and taking liberties with meter with intuitive grace, never losing the pocket. In the liner notes, Beddage discusses his fascination with trees, how they “at once instill a sense of tranquility and exude majesty.” The same is true of this album, which offers a kind of ultimate sonic nourishment for the listener.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni



Ganging Up on the Sun

Alas, Guster may never be more than a “college rock” band --- whatever that means these days --- but they sure can craft a solid album. Ganging Up on the Sun features smooth harmonies (“The New Underground”), playful melodies (“Satellite”), a dash of longing (“Dear Valentine”) and even a tear-jerker ballad (“One Man Wrecking Machine”), all while flirting with that fine line between “radio ready” and “college radio only.”

Beyond that, Guster opens up a can of sweet alt-country-rock on the best track, the banjoed “The Captain,” while the band channels their best Ben Folds impression with “Manifest Destiny.” The only slip is the seven-minute-plus snooze fest known as “ Ruby Falls .”

Though the first half of the disc is definitely stronger, the disc as a whole is a well-rounded collection. Maybe it’s that Guster seems to know when so little can sound like so much, and when too much can sound like so little.

--- Todd Rezsnyak


Cowboy Justice

Acoustic bassist Ben Allison and his excellent sidemen are poised to achieve popularity beyond a jazz audience on the strength of this album’s narrative flow. The pieces on Cowboy Justice, rather than follow the typical jazz pattern of an ensemble suspended against one musical idea, intensify in steps not unlike pop, soundtracks, or classical music. “Emergency,” for example, goes from a funky intro to dirge-ish power-chord riffing to mischievous jamband comping to a stately melody. The band first touches on these motifs, then masterfully draws them out later for maximum impact. At the end, the melody transforms into a stirring, majestic climax. Somehow, Allison’s pieces cover epic ground over modest lengths. Kudos to trumpet player Ron Horton, who almost singlehandedly arouses the music’s beauty and drama, and Steve Cardenas, who puts a fresh but tasteful spin on traditional jazz guitar. Justice demonstrates accessibility without compromising substance.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


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