New This Week: Keepaway, The Shins and More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 01.10.12 in Spotlights

Charlie Haden

HELLO! Welcome back! 2012! Here we are! Doing it in the 0-1-2! This will be the last relatively quiet week we’ll be having here for a while, I think. A handful of new titles and some really worthwhile catalog stuff, along with Dave’s usual, fantastic jazz roundup. Here we go!

Keepaway, Black Flute: New Yorkers return with groovy record on Das Racist’s Greedhead label. You get squiggly grooves, thick organs, drowsy, far-off vocals — the kind of stuff that kicks in at the dance party around 3:30 a.m. when everyone is good and boozy. eMusic’s Marc Hogan says:

The official video for first track “Cake” shows Keepaway in three-part split-screen, goofing around in front of a tree. Sounds about right. Avoiding a single focal point, Mike Burakoff (samplers), Frank Lyon (drums) and Nick Nauman (guitar) all share vocal duties, and while there’s definitely a sylvan quality to Black Flutes’ hollow beats and campfire harmonies, these are no stone-faced shamans. “Hologram” ventures into grinding-ready dubstep bass wobble; synthy, Afropop-nodding reverie “Bomb Track” ends with what appears to be assurance that women can’t measure men’s size as well as they think; and the chorus on the FlyLo-warped “Vital,” includes the wildly apropos line, “I forget my manners.”

Snow Patrol, Fallen Empires: Irish band returns with more deeply-felt pop music — do Irish bands write any other kind? There’s a lot of yearning, but also a lot of racing, and the band spikes their usual concoction of glimmering guitars and searching vocals with the odd layer of keyboard or throbbing dance beat.

Megadeth, Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying? (25th Anniversary Addition): Anniversary reissue of blistering, classic Megadeth record finds it sounding just as nasty and uncompromising as ever. Seriously heavy!

Syd Barrett, The Madcap Laughs: Timeless psych-folk record from the inventor of the genre. This is Syd spacing out, woozy melodies and woozier arrangements. Animal Collective still ain’t got nothing on this.

Heavy Feather, You’re the Lotion on Darkness’ Knuckles as it Punches Light in the Face: This is the greatest album title I’ve seen in quite a while. The album is small and soft and pretty, lots of whispery melodies and gentle arrangements. Tender little snowfall indie rock.

The Little Willies, For the Good Times: Norah Jones’ country band (which also features vet Jim Campilongo on guitar) returns with a batch of smoky, note-perfect covers of classic way-out-west tunes.

Caspian, Live at the Old South Church: Live album from instrumental/post-rock/mood-core band on the great Mylene Sheath label. Fans of everyone from Rachel’s to Explosions in the Sky, this one’s for you.

–>Jazz Picks, by Dave Sumner
Iro Haarla Quintet, Vespers: Another late 2011 arrival to eMusic , and another standout from last year. Haarla brings a masterful touch to this collection of soaring tunes and serene atmospherics. Switching between piano and harp, Haarla is the driving force behind the long plaintive calls of Matias Eick on trumpet and Trygye Seim on sax (both stars of the Euro jazz scene in their own right). Enchanting tunes that’ll fit in just fine with those quiet moments when all you want to do is sit back and relax. Beautiful stuff. Pick of the Week.

Marc Perrenoud Trio, Two Lost Churches: High octane piano trio that doesn’t forget the melody. Swiss pianist and composer Perrenoud, historically, has kept the personnel on his albums to three or less, and his ability on this album to build a sense of more out of less is evidence of his comfort level with the small combo setting. Modern piano trio, but keeps things grounded in the jazz tradition. Nice stuff.

Strasax, Strasax Live:This quintet of four saxes and a set of drums invites excellent pianist Benjamin Moussay to sit in for a live set of modern jazz. Sax collectives tend to take to approaches to a performance: everyone storming off in their own direction with a powerful cumulative effect when their paths cross or take-turns-soloing blowing sessions approach. On Live, Strasax seems to straddle both those extremes. A fair amount of dissonance and skronk, but Moussay’s work on piano and electric keyboards brings a groove to the set that nicely counterbalances the saxes and attracts them back to the center of the tunes.

Jazoo, Are You Still There?: This quintet from Slovenia is a neat little find. Instruments comprising sax, piano, drums, bass, accordion, flute, and electronics. They have a fresh modern sound abounding with celebratory cheer and respect for the melody. Woodwinds that sway happily to and fro, rhythms like a race through the driving rain, squiggly electronics blended with the teddy bear warmth of accordion. Absolutely love this. Find of the Week.

Joachim Kuhn Trio & HR Big Band, Out of the Desert: Pianist Joachim Kuhn does some amazing stuff with the trio format, but he just can’t help himself when it comes to the large ensembles. Much like the guy who foils his friends attempts to have a quiet night at home with a beer by dragging everyone out to the tavern, Kuhn brings his trio, once again, out into the crowd. This time it’s with the HR Big Band in a live performance. Kuhn’s a vet of the scene, and even though his compositions sound very much of Today, his roots of jazz past clearly inform his current releases. If you like your big band to sound a little different, this is a good choice. And if you prefer something more symphonic with your piano trio, then Kuhn’s excellent Europeana with the Radio Philharmonie Hannover will float your boat, too. Both albums on the ACT Music label, a great source of under the radar modern jazz.

Blue Cranes, Cantus Firmus: This Portland quintet seem to straddle the line between jazz and post-rock, but where much post-rock sounds meticulously thought out, it’s the heart of jazz that shines through when improvised music is the guiding principle. The Blue Cranes clearly take to improvisation. Featuring a core of tenor & alto sax, keyboards, drums, and bass, they seem more than happy to toss a bunch of strings into the mix. Strangely, it pushes their music further away from post-rock and closer to an avant-chamber jazz sound. Cantus Firmus is an EP, but they also have a proper album from 2010 on eMusic called Lift Music! Flown Music! from 2007, and it’s just as cool as the EP. Intoxicating tunes with plenty of force from sax and melancholy from strings, rhythms that don’t so much keep the time as spray paint the walls wherever the melody wanders. Highly Recommended.

Blake Lyman, Anthology For Now: This Portland saxophonist’s debut album has him sounding way more comfortable standing in his own reeds than should be expected when using the word ‘debut’. A trio outing, I was ready for a competent but unspectacular blowing session. Instead, what I got was a confident set of evocative tunes. Lyman takes a speak softly and carry a big sax approach to this album, letting his instrument give the impression of force without ever letting the volume get loud enough so that the neighbor’s call the police. Very impressive album. Nice straight-ahead music. Lyman clearly has his own voice; it doesn’t ever sound like he’s trying to channel his sax idols. Recommended.

Elio Villafranca & Arturo Stable, Dos Y Mas: The Cuban born pianist and percussionist seamlessly fuse jazz and world musics, particularly Cuban, for a sublime duo recording. It’s a spirited affair. Villafranca is something of a virtuoso on the keys, though it maybe Stable’s varied percussive instruments and polyrhythmic approach that lend the most intriguing elements to this recording. Tough to say for sure; they both demand my attention with the quality of their play. This is the kind of album that I slowly become addicted to and might begin raving about on the forums in a couple months. Released on the Motema label, who is on quite a roll these days. Highly Recommended.

Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, Come Sunday: I was waiting for this to hit the site. Jazz masters Charlie Haden (bass) and Hank Jones (piano) come together to record another set of spirituals. Fifteen years ago, they recorded Steal Away, a remarkable recording also based on spirituals of their childhood. Come Sunday is no less sublime. Throwing their legendary experience behind simple tunes, it gives the album a weight belied by their light touch. It’s obvious they didn’t record on auto-pilot and there’s no throw-away tunes here. Just beautiful stuff, though with the sad passing of Hank Jones not long after they finished recording, it leaves for a pull on the emotions even greater than the visceral reaction to the sound.

Fernando Huergo, Suite En Celeste Y Blanco: Veteran jazz bassist leads a quintet in an excellent set of Argentinean-influenced jazz. Quintet comprised of sax, flute, bass, drums, and piano. Warm tunes with long flowing lines and some delicious sharp curves. A solid recording that’s sure to cheer up the saddest of winter gloom. Some moments of thrilling beauty.

Jessica Pyrdsa, Whistler’s Daughter: Okay, this caught my attention. Pianist-vocalist has a real nice sound on both instruments. Jazzy in the sense of early Tom Waits. Gotta say, I’m finding myself addicted to quite a few of these tunes. Nothing that blows me away, but the music sounds pretty damn sincere, and I wanted to get a quick word in the article about it. Nice stuff.

And a heads-up about six box sets new to the site. They’re all listed under the Verve label. Artists include Oliver Nelson, Woody Herman, Oscar Peterson Trio, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, and Quincy Jones.

–> Singles & EPs
The Shins, “Simple Song”: Well, if you were anywhere near a computer yesterday, I’m going to assume you heard this? New one from the Shins 2.0 features a lot of yearning James Mercer vocals and a typically resplendent backing arrangement. For some reason, he was sounding a lot like Brian Wilson to me when I listened to this yesterday. Weird, I know.

Dry the River, Weights & Measures EP: You heard it here first: keep an eye on this band. Keening country harmonies, trembling vocals and sparse arrangements characterize this brief EP from soon-to-be-buzz band. This EP doesn’t do a great job of capturing the power of their live show, but it’s a good introduction before a full-length delivers the goods.

The Babies, Cry Along with the Babies: New 6-song EP from the Babies, aka Kevin from Woods and Cassie from Vivian Girls, is made up mostly of lo-fi folky stuff recorded on what sounds like a 4-track, a nice nod to the sound of indie past.

Nite Jewel, “One Second of Love”: Nite Jewel used to be hushed and tentative and proudly chintzy, but this debut single for Dead Oceans finds her ramping up the cool Italo Disco influence. A good pump-primer for the forthcoming full-length.

Air, “Seven Stars”: Single from forthcoming Air record. I haven’t paid attention to Air in a really long time. This sounds nice, though – a lot more organic than their previous stuff.