New Music Roundup: 8/8
Submission by Greg Pokarney, first-time music contributor
Come Back to Us, Release the Songbird
I’ve always been a fan of Zach Rogue’s nominal band Rogue Wave, so I was excited to hear what on earth a solo-project move from an all-but-solo project might entail.
What we get, I’m glad to report, is something charmingly comfortable – something to hug. With melodies that are like leaves folded in an old book, forgotten, then returned to, much later: familiar and yet something new.
This is a wonderfully open record, one that fits nicely on a summer’s day. A song like “Why Can’t You Look At Yourself” or “A New You” is bound to bring to mind a few instances of Simon & Garfunkel, but that’s part of the bliss of it. We haven’t had a good Simon & Garfunkel in a long time, and that Zach thought kindly enough of his audience to provide such a thing is a testament to his generosity of approach.
Rogue Wave has gone through a number of shifts in tonal operandi through the years, and I’m grateful Zach chose to single this one out as something special.
Suego Faults, Wolf Gang
The kind of dance music I’d be willing to throw down for. That’s probably because it’s not even dance music. But even as I listen to this album while trying to write this, I find myself getting up and putting a slight move on, if only on the way to the bathroom and back. (Dancing while pissing always proves to be a significant and repeatedly learned mistake, at least for the sake of the bathroom floor.)
Tracks like “Lions In Cages” and “Something Unusual” (the one-two punch of the opening tracks) have a glorious full-heartedness that a little bit defies description, if only that it has too many disparate parts from the past to incorporate into any one sentence. And yet the whole thing still feels wholly new in this day and age.
From the pitter-patter synth beats that warble behind the steady piano riff on “Stay and Defend” to the unerring grandeur of the title track, this music reminds me of The Ark when they were at the top of their game. Only this guy isn’t as interested in cutesy song titles and strumpet-and-trumpet pomp & circumstance. He’s interested in something subtler, though still forging ahead in cinematic bombast: these songs straddle the hump of look-at-me and let’s-just-sit-here-and-talk in a way that I find utterly refreshing in pop songs of this size.
Satan I Gatan, Veronica Maggio
I don’t know Swedish to save my life in Sweden, and so haven’t a clue what this girl is singing about – but I assume, by the sound of it, it has something to do with love or the lack thereof. That’s the beauty of Pop Music (proper nouned for a reason) to me: that the tropes are by now so well-worn and, basically, a part of our being, we can hear a song, forget the lyrics, not pay attention at all really, and still feel the thing. Of course, music being such an abstract thing to begin with, has always had this ability. But, shit, not knowing a single word aside from Baby in “Jag Kommer” makes that baby sound even better – those two syllables carry more longing, in that teenager dancing in their room sort of way, than anything else I’ve heard this year. This thing wouldn’t stop playing if I had heard it when I was 16. My parents would only up their suspicions about their son, tenfold.
The other tracks all have a similar feel – from the trickling balladry of “Mitt Hjärta Blöder”, with it’s simplistic yet movingly growing chorus, to galloping-triumphant “Alla Mina Låtar” to the soft resigned coo of the delicate piano track “Alla Mina Låtar” which could almost pass for a Regina Spektor outtake.
I think it’s a little bit sad that foreign music not translated into English ever gets much play over on these shores. That’s our loss, for sure, but I would urge everyone to look less at what a song says and more at how it says it. Pop Music has said everything it’s ever going to say. The thing that we love about Pop Music is how it moves us, with the same sorry-ass chord progressions that got the regents moving in Mozart’s time.
Rust and Golden Dust, Lars Eriksson
It’s no surprise to me that the Swedish do American Idol better. But also, it comes as no surprise that Lars Eriksson publicly came out criticizing the unequivocally rampant consumerism of the essence of the show. Nothing about this guy screams Idol, even if we’re talking about one held in Sweden.
Instead, what he provides is some smack-kickingly charming 60s-ish Pop Music with an English feel (I’d be hard pressed to actually ever tell he was Swedish – aside from the rampant hooks he delivers). Tracks like “Reasons For Love”, with its uplifting near-reaching the sky moments at the chorus, or the hold-steady-it’ll-be-okay soothe of “Rejected Love”, with that standard chord movement in Pop Music that absolutely screams unrequited (Be My Baby, anyone?)
The opening track, “The Lonely Journey Called Life” all but begs to be heard somewhere on the water. I don’t have a strong reason for this, just a feeling. That – for instance – riding the free ferry from the Southport to a Mets game would be an ideal place to hear this song, especially on repeat, as the words stay the same and the scenery changes, though (in most cases) whatever your situation is stays with the music, the same.
The dude uses strings to great effect. I’ll be honest and say I’m a sucker for anytime a stringed instrument that isn’t a guitar makes a scene in a song, most often the songs most dramatic moment, and this album has those moments in spades. But they never overtake their respective songs with inordinate bombast. They simply add to the tone of the tune, making them stronger, feeling all the more classic for someone basically trying to recreate the things he’s loved from the past.
And the guy does it with some fine-ass class.
Hurray For The Riff Raff, Hurray For The Riff Raff
With Hurray For The Riff Raff, I can’t help but think of Chan Marshall recording some faux-country thing out of an outhouse in West Virginia. This is meant to be a total compliment.
There’s so much banjo here you’d think it was Deliverance, delivered right to your ear, without the request to squeal like a pig, even though you just might. But there’s also that voice! Any song as simple and structurally splendid as “Daniella” deserves a place on any playlist. That whistling will haunt you more than anything even Andrew Bird could ever do.
It’s interesting to me how the band has been featured on the HBO series Treme, given that, on record, they seem far removed from their hometown of New Orleans. Yet on that show, they fit right in, indiscernible from almost any typical funeral procession styled street stuff you might find down there. I would suggest that this marks a high grade for the music itself: its ability to traverse multiple landscapes of sound and space and still sound like themselves.
The Brooklyn band Hem does something similar, in a far more drawn out fashion. But what Hem does in pitch-perfect orchestration, Hurray For the Riff Raff make up for in pitch-perfect trans-American hope.
“Young Blood Blues” may smack you right-dab in the center of Appalachia, musically, but its heart, really, reeks of the South. Yet its mind is on America as a whole: its history, its nuance, its heartbrokenness and creaky recovery.
And I’m listening to it right now as a Yankee, and couldn’t be happier.
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