And The Kids When This Life is Over
Indie gems And The Kids summon the jangle-buzz of retro '90s dream pop that buoyed misfits through the crisis that is college. Reality hits that we're all on the road to dead, so don't just stand there staring at your shoes. This idiosyncratic clan manages their moping fearlessly with unconventional anthems that pulsate with guitar, synth, percussion, and effects that are angsty yet carefree, disoriented yet sympathetic. And they are keeping the balance. "No Way Sit Back" establishes hopeful, danceable pop juxtaposed with the painful concept of media-obsessed society, looping female vocals and a euphoric cascade of aural alchemy. "Champagne Ladies" is a forceful, guitar and drum-driven single declaring, "Life is a bastard / It wants to kill you / Don't get old."
Some tracks are demos straight from the bedroom, where youthful notions are born. "Get to That Place" imagines two girls seated on a bed weaving intricate lyrics simultaneously, feeling detached while still in harmony with a language all their own. "Butterfingers" chips away at uncertainty through upbeat reassurance, revealing "That's why I sing loud / hoping we could drown it out," manifesting a smattering of new perspective on the malaise of existence. Personal favorite "Somethings (Are) Good" is a snuggly tune of lilting harmonies over scintillating and distorted chords: "Something's good / everything else can just go take a hike in the woods / Take it away / Just want the best out of every day."
—Haviland S Nichols
Brutalism is a school of architecture that rejects ornamentation, embracing broad, austere surfaces. It seems almost unfair to yoke the marvelous work of this resourceful trio—drummer/percussionist Chris Bowman, bassist Jim Donica, and tenor saxophonist Woody Witt—to such rigid pigeonholing. Nonetheless, a comparable tough-mindedness can be heard throughout this expertly recorded release. The group's rubato rundown of the standard "What's New?" serves as a sort of mission statement, though they are also at home with both hard-swinging, second-generation free jazz, as on the too-brief "Intro," and an embrace of silence and solo statements on "Motif Lite" and "Dakota 2." I generally lament the use of post-production reverb on jazz recordings, but its use here certainly imparts a dark-hued luster to Witt's plangent lines, Donica's resonant arco, and Bowman's shimmering cymbal and gong work. Far from unadorned, Brutalism evinces nearly endless possibility, making me eager to hear this band live.
Cochemea All My Relations
A "technical note" inside Cochemea Gastelum's All My Relations warns that the recording is a stereo experience. And how. There's a bit of aural mescal going on, maybe even some sonic peyote or ayahuasca. The disc shoots straight out of 1972, calling up shadows of El Chicano, Malo, and Big Fun-era Miles Davis, with the leader's treated saxophone and flute taking up the same sonic space as the guitar. The Sharon Jones sideman and Woodstock resident is joined by nine players, all of whom contribute percussion and chanted vocals, regardless of their main focus. Drawn from Native American, Mexican, and Indian influences, the overall sound is a sort of international, meditative funk—deep, rich, and tribal. Tracks like "Mitote" and "Al-Mu'tasim" are serious earworms, the latter highlighting Bosco Mann's hypnotic guembri beneath Cochemea's Chris Wood-inspired electric reeds and mantra-like refrain. Try this one in headphones—with or without your mind-altering substance of choice.
(Royal Potato Family)
On Healing, the aptly titled Upstate (formerly Upstate Rubdown) does indeed lay down the parameters of an increasingly familiar upstate New York sound—rootsy, mostly acoustic Americana sounds shot through with elements of jazz, funk, and soul, often within the same song. The trio of female vocalists—Melanie Glenn, Mary Kenney, and Allison Olender—weave in and out of each other with the beauty of the Roches, the sass of the Pointer Sisters, and the complex, high-lonesome harmonies of Red Molly and Lula Wiles. Backed by a core group of musicians handling mandolins, guitars, bass, and percussion, supplemented by horns and keyboards as well as found sounds, the sextet combines intimate confessionals with upbeat folk-rock. All three singers also write, extending the New Paltz-born group's sound stylistically and thematically. Produced by Wood Brothers percussionist Jano Rix and recorded at Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, this album is recommended if you like Lake Street Dive.