Reviews of this week’s CD releases
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/09/2022 (193 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Someday is Today (Kanine Records)
Of all the labels that have been applied to the lush music of Living Hour, dream pop is most fitting, as the Winnipeg indie quartet’s downtempo indie-pop/rock should remind listeners of those precious, barely conscious moments between sleep and wakefulness.
On Living Hour’s newest full-length collection, that misty sensibility is rendered via a rich mix of gentle melodies, imagistic and introspective lyrics, sparse yet precise instrumentation and soothing, multi-layered, ethereal vocals.
For the uninitiated, Living Hour has been around for nearly nine years, an organic product of Winnipeg’s thriving and supportive indie music scene. The group’s core has always been singer/keyboardist Sam Sarty and guitarists Gil Carroll and Adam Soloway, with bassist/multi-instrumentalist Brett Ticzon climbing aboard in 2018, just prior to the release of Softer Faces, the band’s second album and first for Brooklyn boutique label Kanine.
Someday is Today is the band’s pandemic album, written during 2020 and ’21 and recorded in just seven days last winter at No Fun Club studio in the West End. Sarty is the lyricist and lead voice on nine of the 11 songs, while Carroll contributes the gently poppy Exploding Rain and Soloway adds the slow-burning Curve.
The 11 songs were then dispersed to three different producers — Melina Duterte (Jay Som, Chastity Belt), Jonathan Schenke (Snail Mail, Parquet Courts) and Samur Khouja (Cate Le Bon, Regina Spektor) — yet they come together as a seamless reverie of reflections on the beauty and wonder of life’s small moments, from musing on a visit to a grocery store to revelling in the soft-focus memory of a long-departed nightclub, all of which are often lost in the hustle and bustle of the everyday.
Taken altogether, then, Someday is Today is a beautiful meditation. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: Hold Me in Your Mind; Lemons and Gin; Miss Miss Miss
— John Kendle
Watkins Family Hour
Vol. II (Family Hour Records)
Tom Petty’s pianist plays Tennessee Waltz, an Ernest Tubb classic rides a Bo Diddley beat, and a deep cut by the ’60s band the Zombies becomes a Disney-style lullaby.
The latest album from Watkins Family Hour lasts just 39 minutes, but that’s not to say it falls short. Like its 2015 predecessor, Vol. II captures the adventurous spirit of the musical variety shows hosted by siblings Sara and Sean Watkins during their enduring residency at the Los Angeles club Largo.
The stellar new set is more consistently engaging than the first album, thanks to a range of styles and collaborators. Among those featured are Benmont Tench, a Largo regular best known for his work with Petty, and Jackson Browne, who sings harmony on a stirring rendition of his tune The Late Show.
Tubb’s Thanks a Lot sounds grateful for the Watkins’ rhythmic tweak and Jon Brion’s cool guitar work. Sara’s supple soprano anchors four-part harmony that features Lucius on the Zombies’ The Way I Feel Inside. Sean and Sara tap into their bluegrass roots on Jim and Jesse’s She Left Me Standing on the Mountain, and also excel at bouncy pop on the Tune-Yards’ Hypnotized.
The final cut benefits from a large choir that includes Madison Cunningham, Fiona Apple, the Milk Carton Kids and Ed Helms, and they elevate Glen Phillips’ Grief and Praise into a moving benediction. “Sing loud while you’re able,” goes the chorus as Watkins Family Hour hits just the right closing note. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: The Way I Feel Inside, Grief and Praise
— Steven Wine, The Associated Press
Small Bridges (Self-Released)
The term sonic experimentation is probably overused to describe modern jazz music. The fact is, however, that the scope of such experimentation is moving jazz in some fascinating and different directions.
Drummer and synthesizer player Robert Diack’s debut album of several years ago referenced small towns in Ontario, while this second one gained life through his moving to New York to further his studies. He musically notes the culture shock involved in the reality of New York life on Small Bridges with his band, guitarist Patrick O’Reilly on guitar, pianist Jacob Peterson on piano and Brandon Davis on bass.
Through 14 relatively brief tracks, Diack displays a terrific mix of acoustic moments and electronic affects that are layered and intense. The term sonic experimentation is appropriate and ear-catching.
On the other hand, the track Laund is basically a canonical acoustic piano solo, while tracks like Plex or Hollow pile the sounds on top of sounds with Diack’s drum grounding wild harmonic and meter changes.
The range and variety of the music is outstanding. There are fascinating gems in each track while at times sounding extremely funky and rock-edged. Guitarist O’Reilly has many terrific solos that cover smooth riffs to driving fusion or rock hues.
The rhythms are generally straight up, with tracks like Sassafras taking a country groove within the changing moods track by track. Vodemi is a quiet ballad that leads into Secede that is neither quiet nor a ballad.
The mood changes actually draw the listener in as opposed to sounding jarring, although it would have been even better to hear the band stretch out on some of the tracks, the longest of which is only about five minutes long.
Having said that, this is a fine outing and one hopes that Diack will be back for act three soon. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: Hollow, Vodemi
— Keith Black
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 (LSO Live)
Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda leads the London Symphony Orchestra in two stirring works by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov on this intense new recording.
The first offering, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64b, which was composed in 1888 and conducted by the composer during its première that same year, roils with Russian temperament, first heard during the opening movement Andante – Allegro.
Noseda ensures its recurring Fate theme that serves to unify the work’s four movements is crisply articulated, while resisting any temptation towards the maudlin. The Andante cantabile movement sings, as it should, including a effective opening horn solo that bleeds from tragic to more hopeful ethos.
A lilting, lighter Valse follows with its unusual hemiola rhythmic pattern, contrasted by a Trio, the latter in particular highlighting the orchestra’s wind players. The finale is imbued with requisite nobility underscored by noble brass, as it ultimately takes listeners from the depths of tragedy to triumph of the spirit.
Also included is Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Invisible City of Kitezh Suite, based on the ancient Russian legends and folk tales that in turn inspired his opera about the mythical Russian Atlantis.
Its four movements performed by well-balanced sections showcase the LSO musicians’ ability to weave a spell from its opening Prelude: A Hymn to Nature, through to the colourfully orchestrated Wedding Procession – Tartar Invasion. The Battle of Kerzhenets brims with dramatic intensity including large sweeps of sound before being capped by resounding cymbal crashes, ending the work – and entire album – on an ebullient note. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THIS: Symphony No. 5, Valse
— Holly Harris
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