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This article was published 6/10/2016 (1045 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings (Polyvinyl)
FEW bands in the last few years have had the immediate impact of Philadelphia’s Beach Slang. Bursting onto the scene with two EPs and a full-length album that would establish the foundation of its Replacements-meets-Jawbreaker-meets-early Goo Goo Dolls sound, the group’s emotionally driven punk rock instantly resonated with the disenfranchised youth and aging music lovers about whom frontman James Alex was singing his heart out.
Not much has changed on the band’s sophomore release, put out on the tail end of spending much of the year on the road, where the group’s reputation as a potent live act was cemented. While the shoegaze influence, hinted at on the song Ride the Wild Haze and the group’s collection of covers, is more noticeable on this release, Alex’s lyrics still hone in on the emotions and feelings that are most pronounced in your late teens and early 20s.
In the hands of a less passionate songwriter, Alex’s tales of misspent youth and heartbreak coming from someone in his 40s could come off as corny and inauthentic. With the group’s ability to turn three-minute blasts into near anthems after only a few listens, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings creates the urgent impact of the group’s past work, without coming off as a rehash of its debut. ★★★★
DOWNLOAD: Art Damage, The Perfect High and Young Hearts
— Anthony Augustine
Keep Me Singing (Caroline Records
WHEN Van Morrison’s fiercest critic likes his work it’s easy to tell. There’s an audible murmur of approval, and it comes from the man himself.
It’s the sound Morrison makes when he’s into the music. He does it a few bars into Let It Rhyme, the opener to Keep Me Singing — an early hint that this might be his best album since The Healing Game nearly two decades ago.
With playful references to past lyrics, nods to heroes like Sam Cooke and Chet Baker, and heartfelt singing throughout, Morrison harkens back to the gentle, wistful spirit that made him Hollywood’s go-to guy for movie soundtracks. He’s in a better mood than on other recent albums, and it’s easy to imagine songs like Every Time I See a River, written with lyricist Don Black, or In Tiburon, a name-dropping homage to the San Francisco Bay, playing as credits roll.
Morrison, who just turned 71, has penned good songs in recent years, but no album has approached the bursts of sustained brilliance that established him as one of the world’s great songwriters. And this one doesn’t soar to the heights of Moondance, Astral Weeks or Into the Music.
But an older, less audacious Morrison can still soothe the soul when he is into the music — and he won’t be the only one murmuring his approval this time.
— Scott Stroud, The Associated Press
Chris Gestrin and Keith Lowe
The Thoughtfulness of Distance (Phonometrograph)
THIS review is a bit of departure from many of the previous albums that have appeared on this page. For the question "Is this jazz?," the answer is not straightforward. Pianist Chris Gestrin and bassist Keith Lowe team up here on an album that will confuse definitional purists. It is listed as jazz and also electronic, and is clearly ambient "new age," meditative, peaceful and otherworldly.
Gestrin, a mainstay of the Vancouver jazz scene, is a phenomenal musician. He has released albums that range from gently melodic to harshly experimental. The Seattle-based Lowe has a similar range of musical expression. This album is clearly creative, improvisational music, and those are parts of any jazz definition. The two musicians here develop long and convoluted themes that move back and forward in ways that become clearer with repeated listenings.
The overwhelming mood here is one of peace. Simply sit back and enjoy it. And if it’s not jazz, it’s something else of the same name. ★★★★
Download: The Thoughtfulness of Distance Pt. 1
— Keith Black
Allen Harrington, Saxophone, Lottie Enns-Braun, Organ
Vanishing Point (Ravello Records)
ONE might assume pipe organs and saxophones make for strange bedfellows. Yet Winnipeg’s Allen Harrington and Lottie Enns-Braun prove otherwise with their debut release, Vanishing Point.
The intriguing album features nine works for the seemingly incongruous pair of wind instruments, with Enns-Braun’s organ providing an ideal partner for Harrington’s horn. The two have played together since 2005, evidenced by their cohesive, blended sound.
An arrangement of gentle lullaby Chanson à Bercer particularly shows off Harrington’s sweetly lyrical tone. But there are also fireworks during Sonata and Partita Breve. Other highlights include the harrowing Angel Tears, which begins with a piercing wail, and Earth Prayers, written immediately after the November 2015 Paris attacks and displaying the two musicians’ innate sensitivity, as does the chant-like Clémens Rector.
The title track, composed for the duo by Enns-Braun’s brother, Leonard Enns, is a thoughtfully conceived work that defies standard musical architecture. The three-movement piece begins with a flurry of sound during its opening, Con Vivo, that eases into Slow, Peaceful. It finally slips away to a quiet close — its own vanishing point — during Adagio, performed by both artists, but especially Enns-Braun, with an iron-clad conviction born of ties that bind. ★★★★
— Holly Harris