Whiskey (Cadence Music)
Winnipeg’s Joey Landreth is another in a long line of singer-songwriters to bubble up from the local music scene over the past few decades. His band, the Bros. Landreth, is a Juno Award winner (2015 best Roots & Traditional Album of the Year), and with his première solo outing Whiskey, the guitarist continues the previously established musical thread.
Landreth has a lot going for him here. Not only does he have a sweet-as-molasses singing voice sounding like a cross between Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell, he also twins it with some pretty serious six-string wrangler attitude.
His slide-guitar charm is breathtaking and figures prominently on the title track and the mid-tempo burner Gone Girl. Lyrically, Landreth creates some interesting moods but once he experiences the world a bit more maybe he won’t be singing about relationships gone wrong quite as much. Just about every one of these seven tracks cover some pretty standard thematic terrain, and while there isn’t a bad song on Whiskey, maybe next time he should broaden the palette lyrically.
The production by local wizard Paul Yee is clear and present and the small band approach is tight and fiery when it needs to be. Landreth has created a winner with Whiskey. Until his tug-of-war between being an earnest singer-songwriter and a potent guitar slinger works itself out, we can expect more of this kind of work. ★★★★
DOWNLOAD: Whiskey, Gone Girl
— Jeff Monk
I See You(Young Turks)
Producer/multi-instrumentalist Jamie xx is the electronically inclined musical force behind English trio the xx, but the group’s pop/soul personality is down to its singers — guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim. While the pair has often alternated lead vocals on past material, their voices intertwine seamlessly on album opener Dangerous, as her alto weaves in and out of his monotone bass while an in-yer-face bass line and staccato drum riff effortlessly move the tune onto the dance floor.
Yes, the xx has upped the tempos on its third record, heating up the spare coolness of its first two, rather stylized albums and surrendering to the groove while Sim and Croft playfully simmer in their roles as star-crossed lovers. Say Something Loving finds the pair stumbling over each other’s words in the thrall of desire and On Hold catches them in a flush of regret and the epic synth-washes of I Dare You find them biting their lips while challenging each other to go further. Fans of the group’s more mannered approach may initially find I See You’s material a little too mainstream, but a few listens should have most hooked on the xx’s new beat. ★★★1/2
DOWNLOAD: Say Something Loving, I Dare You
— John Kendle
The Awakening Orchestra & Kyle Saulnier
Interlude: Atticus Live, The Music Of Jesse Lewis (Biophilia Records)
Jesse Lewis is a guitarist who released an album a few years ago called Atticus. Kyle Saulnier is the leader/arranger of the Awakening Orchestra, and was intrigued by the idea of taking Lewis’s music from the album and arranging it for large ensemble. He then added Lewis as a soloist for the band and performed the music live.
This versatile and solid band has been described as both "elegant and edgy," and the arrangements move through quiet moments and more aggressive motifs. The tune Snowflake starts out gently before becoming the equivalent of a blizzard.
Lewis solos on several tracks, and the energy generated by a live audience is apparent throughout. Several tracks have a reference to the poet Robert Frost, and the music can be contemplative and intense. I hadn’t been aware of this orchestra, but it belongs with other excellent modern jazz big bands. I can only hope it continues to perform this style of fine modern large ensemble jazz. ★★★★
— Keith Black
Giaches de Wert: Divine Theatre, Sacred Motets (Harmonia Mundi)
Leave it to acclaimed British vocal ensemble Stile Antico to breathe new life — literally — into music written by seldom-heard composers.
The ensemble’s latest album features a selection of motets by 16th-century Franco-Flemish composer Giaches de Wert, who spent most of his life in Italy and notably published only three collections of sacred a cappella works between 1566-81.
Each of the 13 selections brims with the experimentalism that Wert, also hailed for the madrigals for which he became known for. Such works including the five-part Gaudete in Domino, and Amen, amen dico vobis feature an abundance of tone painting, as does Ascendente Jesu, including its narrative’s stormy seas depicted by wild syncopation, before eventually subsiding into calmer, more consonant waters.
The 13-voice troupe also seamlessly delivers the larger-scale works, including Saule, Saule and Egressus Jesus, with both featuring fluid polychoral technique. The latter piece provides the greatest thrill of all, as the choristers finally break into ecstatic, seven-part counterpoint that also bears testament to this fine ensemble’s musical skill and unflinching resolve.
Liner notes provides background information and full translations for each work. ★★★★
— Holly Harris