How Do You Do
The “retro soul” tag is added to almost any contemporary work that sounds like it was originally recorded before 1980, and Mayer Hawthorne is aware of how trends come and go. But, he says, he’s not interested in taking it back to the “good old days,” as much as he is in creating the “new good days.” And to fans like producer Mark Ronson, who said, “I have no idea what this is, old or new, but it’s fucking good!!!” upon first hearing Hawthorne’s music, age ain’t nothin’ but a number. On How Do You Do, Hawthorne proves that he is not part of a trend. The classic Motown sound that provided the blueprint for his self-produced independent debut, A Strange Arrangement, remains, but is joined on How Do You Do by music reminiscent of late 1960s California pop and the best work from the likes of Steely Dan and Chicago. But that’s not all. On “The Walk,” the first single from How Do You Do, Hawthorne plays a man scorned and content with saying “So long, you did me wrong” to the lady in his life. “A Long Time” is both a brilliant homage to Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and a storied history of Hawthorne’s beloved Detroit, followed by a duet – yes, duet – with the incomparable Snoop Dogg on “Can’t Stop.” You need this.
The four musicians who make up Wild Flag have known one another for well over a decade. Brownstein and Weiss were in Sleater-Kinney and toured with Timony’s band Helium on numerous occasions. Brownstein and Timony played in a side project called The Spells. Rebecca Cole’s Portland-based band The Minders was a frequent opener for Sleater-Kinney. Weiss and Cole play together in the 1960’s garage-rock cover band The Shadow Mortons. If someone drew a visual representation illustrating the ways in which all indie bands are interconnected, Brownstein, Cole, Timony, and Weiss would be in the same tiny sphere, so playing together felt almost inevitable. After collaborating on a score for a documentary, the ease with which they worked together proved infectious and promising. Future practices were scheduled, songs were written, and Wild Flag was formed. And what’s it like? Imagine Helium’s snaky guitars melded with the maximum RnB of Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods and you’ll start to get the idea. This is very much ensemble playing – a mix of groovy punk and psychedelic jamming. It’s a potent brew that will likely grow stronger as the band continues touring and honing it’s sound… And it might just be one of the best rock records of 2011. Dig.
Gratitude for the Shipper
Since the release of Slow Road to Tiny Empire, Fan Modine’s first album, in 1998, Gordon Zacharias has been known as an artist who mixes buoyant orchestral pop music with oftentimes more gloomy lyrics. This disconcerting combination has won him a cult following among fans of obscure rock bands, and of indie-pop artists in particular. With Gratitude for the Shipper, Fan Modine’s first album in six years, his music adds dimensions both lyrically and sonically, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as French symbolist poet Stephane Mallarmé and Southern pop trailblazer Alex Chilton (“Waiting for Distant Light,” the album’s finale, is a tribute to the recently-deceased songwriter, singer and guitarist). With expanded instrumentation and higher-fi recording, Gratitude for the Shipper sounds consistently bright, melodic and hook-happy. “It’s a struggle to think in terms of albums these days, but I still strive for that,” Zacharias says. “I wanted to make a tight, solid album that holds together like John Cale’s Paris 1919 or Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog do for me, although, I feel like we ended up with something quite different.” Indeed. Fans of brainy power pop should crank this up with abandon. Produced by the one and only Chris Stamey.
Still Right Here
Melissa Ferrick has a great deal to show for two decades in the music industry. There is the expansive body of work, mapped out over the sixteen albums that comprise her career to date, nearly all of which she distributed herself. There are the stories of the crisscrossed world and the things she has both gained and lost in her wake. There is the fervent fan-base that has grown with Ferrick, which has waited patiently for her latest opus for the preceding three years. Above all there is the sound, a voice burnished by breakdowns and breakthroughs, refined over the twenty years she has been doing this. And now, there is Still Right Here, the sum of these hard-earned parts set to music, Ferrick’s gorgeous purpose unspooling over the ten tracks that comprise the album. Featuring performances by Ani DiFranco & Kaki King, the album perfectly showcases Ferrick’s finely-honed chops as a singer & guitarist, while highlighting her prowess on piano & drums. Co-produced by Ferrick with Brooklyn indie darling Alex Wong (The Paper Raincoat, Vienna Teng), it’s a rich, emotionally intense album that will appeal to fans of Tegan & Sara, Ben Harper, She & Him, Jakob Dylan & David Gray.