Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Imploding the Mirage (Island Records)
When you are the Killers and your usual guitarist has gone, no problem. When you’re the Killers, you can turn to Lindsey Buckingham.
The former Fleetwood Mac guitarist steps in for a tune on the new 10-song Imploding the Mirage, another sign of the band’s clout. The album’s guests also include k.d. lang and Adam Granduciel of the War on Drugs.
The absence of guitarist and co-founder Dave Keuning is felt, with keyboards and drums stepping into the void. Without Keuning’s jangle and riff shards, the Killers have a more poppy sound.
If 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful was a meditation on the anxiety of masculinity, the new album often explores the lives of women, with two sharp portraits of tough survivors in Blowback and Caution — women whom Brandon Flowers sings each come from "white trash."
Many other songs are about loyally backing a partner. "I’ll be there when water’s rising/I’ll be your lifeguard," Flowers sings on Dying Breed. On When the Dreams Run Dry, he vows: "I’ll be on your side/When the dreams run dry." In Lightening Fields, he sings, "Just wanted to run my fastest/And stand beside you." The cover of the album depicts a god tenderly supporting a goddess.
Jonathan Rado of California psychedelic-rock duo Foxygen and Shawn Everett — who worked on Wonderful Wonderful as well as with Kacey Musgraves and Alabama Shakes — have stepped in to produce and their influence can best be heard on the funky Fire in Bone.
Elsewhere, listeners may have fun finding the band’s other influences. There’s a Tom Petty-ish sound to Blowback and My Own Soul’s Warning has a Springsteen vibe. But there’s no mistaking that classic Killers mix of soaring vocals, sonic bombast and sly humour in such songs as My God and the title track. It’s a solid album from a band that’s still exploring. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: My God, Fire in Bone
— Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press
Saudade (Flying on Fire)
Breaking through in the music industry isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. Doing so as a newcomer in the midst of a pandemic multiplies the challenge exponentially.
But here comes Juni Ata, the debut project of Jesse Daniel Edwards, singing with the kind of passion that demands attention. His new album, Saudade, sets Edwards’ urgent vocals against a backdrop of soaring, multi-layered arrangements in an adventurous set that sounds pretty darn polished for a first-timer.
There’s some inconsistency here, and the style is a throwback to emo-rock from the ‘90s or the early 2000s. Some songs seem like they’d fit right in on the soundtrack of romantic comedies from that period, the kind where Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore finally work things out in the end, predictable crescendo and all.
The producers of The O.C. would’ve worn this album out if it had only come out in time.
But there’s too much heft here to dismiss it out of hand. Songs like Philadelphia and Fight Hard, Run Fast are well-crafted and melodic songs with lush arrangements that use horns to majestic effect. Edwards has a lot of help here, including Memphis guitar legend Steve Cropper, and the sound has real sophistication.
There’s also substance to the lyrics, with intriguing character development and clever, surprising turns of phrase. No Reply, one of the album’s best songs, is built around authentic-sounding conversations fraught with meaning.
"Mina swears one day she’ll leave La Casona, she’s allergic to the sun, so she lives in the shadows on the edge of border towns/She works hard through the long night, makes it look easy, and she asks me if I think she’d like Tennessee."
That’s the kind of thing that makes this an intriguing debut, and Juni Ata an artist to watch. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: Philadelphia, Fight Hard, Run Fast
— Scott Stroud, The Associated Press
Guitarist Rez Abbasi’s albums reflect many styles and often involve cultural blends of Eastern and Western jazz influences, ranging from Indian classical traditions to fusion and beyond. He is a highly accomplished musician in any context. This album, where Abbasi plays acoustic guitar, is a tribute to another accomplished jazz guitarist and composer, the iconic Django Reinhardt.
Reinhardt (1910-1953) was a Belgian-born Romani-French guitarist who worked in France with many well-known North American jazz folks. He’s likely best known for his famous collaboration with violinist Stéphane Grappelli and his Quintette du Hot Club de France. A remarkable fact is that as a young man, he almost died in a fire and lost the use of the ring finger and pinky on his left hand, requiring him to completely relearn how to play the instrument.
Abbasi has added Neil Alexander on organ and electronics and Michael Sarin on drums for this wonderful tribute to a one-of-a-kind jazz master. The tunes are all Reinhardt compositions except for the opening track, an engaging cover of Kurt Weill’s September Song, and The Anniversary Song, both of which Reinhardt recorded.
Abbasi is reflective throughout, perhaps more laid-back than on some earlier releases. There are lovely ballads, such as Django’s Castle and Douce Ambiance, and the trio digs in with a harder edge on tracks such as Swing 42 and Heavy Artillery. I’ve been gently reprimanded in the past for not always being enamoured with B3 organ, but it works well here with the style and referencing of Reinhardt’s music.
Abbasi’s creativity and musical scope is phenomenal. His albums are always marked by his ability to enhance the mood and style of the music being played. One has to believe that the iconic Django would have loved this affectionate tribute to his music. ★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: Diminishing, Douce Ambiance
— Keith Black
Chamber Works by Walter Kaufmann (Chandos)
A lifetime in the making, this new release features the première recording devoted to chamber works by Walter Kaufmann, performed by the Grammy-nominated ARC (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) Ensemble. It’s the fourth instalment in the Toronto group’s ongoing "Music in Exile" series, highlighting music either lost or marginalized in the wake of anti-Semitism and political suppression.
Kaufmann’s music reveals a master at work, one in possession of his own unique, culturally blended, compositional voice.
The Karlsbad, Bohemia-born composer/conductor fled rising Nazi persecution for India in 1935. He was later appointed as the inaugural conductor for the newly minted Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (1948-56).
The String Quartet No. 11 immediately asserts Kaufmann’s East-meets-West ethos, from its pensive opening through to the finale, fuelled by hypnotic, driving rhythms, ending on an uplifting note.
String Quartet No. 7 brings greater introspection, including close-knit harmonies juxtaposed with soaring, lyrical lines, as well as an effective, plaintive violin solo.
Sonata No. 2, Op. 44 for violin and piano again displays Kaufmann’s skill for creating strong textural interest, with its haunting central movement, Adagio molto, based on a pentatonic scalar palette that further infuses it with Eastern exoticism. The players bring the utmost sensitivity to their performance.
The Sonatina No. 12, penned for violin and piano and arranged for clarinet and piano, is deeply emotional, while Septet, scored for three violins, viola, two cellos and piano, allows Kaufmann’s eclectic compositional esthetic to play out against a larger instrumental canvas.
It’s particularly striking how immediate, fresh and new Kaufmann’s 80-plus-year-old music is in this significant contribution to the chamber music discography; it’s a celebration of the arresting artistry of a composer Winnipeg once proudly, if briefly, hailed as one of its own. ★★★★★
STREAM THIS: Sonata No. 2, Op. 44, Adagio molto
— Holly Harris
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.