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Indie trio Mortar & Pestle make impressive debut

Friday, May 10, 2013, 8:15 p.m.
 

‘Mortar & Pestle'

Mortar & Pestle (Post Primal)

★★★½

With compelling vocalist Janaysa Lambert holding down the fort, Bay Area indie rock trio Mortar & Pestle make quite an impression on their self-titled debut EP. It takes a few minutes for the six-track release to find its footing, but by midway through opener “U.V.,” Lambert and her mates had me hooked. Additional standouts include “Pristine Dream,” “Switchblade Bandita” and “Electric Angel,” though there really isn't a clunker to be found here. Already at work writing material for their next record, the sky's the limit for Mortar & Pestle.

‘Love and Forgiveness'

Courtney Jaye (Tone Tree)

★★★½

Pittsburgh native Courtney Jaye is a musical chameleon of sorts. Her 2010 release “The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye” dabbled in 1960s pop and Hawaiian folk to impressive results, but she gets back to her country/pop roots on latest effort “Love and Forgiveness.” It's an endearing collection of 10 tunes that dance by in less than 35 minutes. But that's more than enough time to enjoy keepers “Ask Me To,” “Say Oh Say,” “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” “Summer Rain” and the title track. Hopefully this is the breakthrough release Jaye's been looking for.

‘If the People Stare'

Torches (self-released)

★★★★ ½

It's a shame that Los Angeles-based indie rock trio Torches have such a nondescript band name because it makes it too easy for their music to get overlooked. And that would be a bigger shame because this is a talented group of musicians and their “If the People Stare” is flat-out terrific. The four-song EP follows last year's “Heads Full of Rust” full-length and serves notice that Torches are a band to be reckoned with. There isn't a misfire on the EP, with the guys scoring with “When You Gonna?”, the title track, “Watched You Like a Hawk” and “In My Sleep.” Fixtures on the L.A. scene, it's time the rest of us got to know Torches.

‘Golden Age'

Grandchildren (Ernest Jenning)

★★★★

What started as a solo project for Aleks Martray, Grandchildren have evolved into a six-member indie-rock collective and sophomore full-length “Golden Age” figures to widen their fan base significantly. There's a terrific orchestral vibe going on throughout the nine-track platter as Martray and his mates infuse the songs with horns, electronics and assorted other ear-pleasing sonic bells and whistles. Things get off to a so-so start with “Sunrise,” but Grandchildren soon find their groove with the title track, “No Way Out,” “Where's the Knife,” “Forward” and “Rain Down.” Can't wait to hear more from this bunch.

‘In Film Sound'

Shannon Wright (Ernest Jenning)

★★★

It's been seven years since veteran rocker Shannon Wright's last album and she pulls out all the stops on the loud, raw “In Film Sound,” her seventh full-length. The aptly-titled “Noise Parade” launches the nine-track set and Wright rarely takes her foot off the gas. These songs are loud and intense, which might not appeal to all listeners, but the raw emotion comes through on every note. Among the highlights here are personal favorite “Who's Sorry Now,” haunting ballad “Bleed,” “Captive to Nowhere” and “Surely, They'll Tear It Down.” Welcome back, madam.

‘Lower Than My Hand Will Go'

The Bodies Obtained (Finding You Attractive)

★★½

The synth-infused post-punk of Motor City duo the Bodies Obtained is an acquired taste. So much so, in fact, that even after several spins of fifth full-length “Lower Than My Hand Will Go” I'm still not sure whether it's a record I care to revisit down the road. Opening tandem “When Wrong Is Right” and experimental mess “Down Us Wore Time” give a good indication of what's to come and if you aren't onboard by then, I'm not sure you ever will be. “Why Is Everyone Laughing at Us” is my favorite of these quirky tunes, and “All the Others Unknown” is interesting. The rest of the album I leave to your discretion.

‘Strange Pleasures'

Still Corners (Sub Pop)

★★★½

The fortuitous meeting between American expatriate Greg Hughes and singer Tessa Murray at a London train stop continues to yield good things with “Strange Pleasures,” the second full-length from the dream-pop quartet spearheaded by Hughes and Murray. Slightly less enjoyable than 2011's “Creatures of an Hour” debut, the 12-track release nevertheless will appeal to those who enjoyed the first offering. Moody gems “The Trip,” “I Can't Sleep,” “All I Know,” “Future Age” and “Midnight Drive” are the songs you'll remember on an album that flirts with greatness.

‘Suchness'

We Are Loud Whispers (Hardly Art)

★★★

Sonya Westcott was touring Japan with Arthur & Yu in 2007 when she met Ayumu Haitani and though they've not seen each other since, the duo have created their first album as dream-pop duo We Are Loud Whispers. Haitani would write and record instrumentals and send them via email to Westcott, who penned the lyrics. Soon they had enough songs for “Suchness,” a 10-track gathering that while interesting, eventually gets bogged down by a relentlessly mellow tone. “Orange Blossom,” “You Surround,” “Western Town” and “Rewind” are excellent, and give every indication that We Are Loud Whispers may have a special album in them yet.

‘Diamond Junk'

Sun Angle (New Moss)

★★½

Experimental trio Sun Angle pull out all the stops on debut full-length “Diamond Junk,” and though the Portland, Ore.-based band's sound won't appeal to everyone, there are some tasty nuggets to be found on the 11-track release. They've earned a following in their hometown on the strength of their energetic, spontaneous live performances and try to bring the same improvisational energy into the recording studio. It doesn't translate quite as well as they'd hoped, I'm sure, but Sun Angle still shine on “Raspberry,” “Yes beach,” the title track and “Bones Are Ruff.” Maybe with a bit more seasoning, these guys should bring it all together.

‘Broken Glass and Railroad Tracks'

Bracher Brown (Rock Ridge)

★★★½

While most of his friends are worrying about who to ask to prom and fretting over graduation, 18-year-old Bracher Brown is well on his way to a career as a singer/songwriter. The talented Florida teen has cobbled together an enjoyable debut album in “Broken Glass and Railroad Tracks,” a 12-track gathering of soulful pop tunes that earn him a spot at a very crowded table. Time will tell if Brown has that extra something to rise above the singer/songwriter pack, but he impresses on “Summer Love,” “Goodbye,” “Found,” “Perfect Storm,” “Still Here” and “Home to You.”

‘I Love You'

The Neighbourhood (Columbia)

★★★

Having been suitably impressed with last year's debut EP “I'm Sorry” from Los Angeles indie rockers the Neighbourhood, I was excited when full-length debut “I Love You” came across my desk. Unfortunately, the 11-track release doesn't measure up to its predecessor. It's still a pretty good record — holdover tunes “Sweater Weather” and “Female Robbery” assure that's the case — but there are more middling tunes than I expected from this talented five-piece. Opener “How” never gains traction, and the guys also misfire on “Let It Go” and “Flawless.” Additional standouts include “Afraid,” “Alleyways” and closing gem “Float.” Here's opening the Neighbourhood iron out the kinks next time around.

‘Top of the Pops'

Art Brut (The End)

★★★★ ½

I've been a big fan of British art-punk outfit Art Brut from the first time I heard their sophomore platter “It's a Bit Complicated” in 2007 and have all four of their full-lengths in steady rotation on my iPod. For those still unaware of Art Brut's awesomeness, I urge you to get a copy of two-disc set “Top of the Tops.” This 39-track collection is a perfect introduction to one of the best bands around. Disc 1 is a chronological career overview, with 17 of their best songs (“My Little Brother,” “Good Weekend,” “Direct Hit,” “Nag Nag Nag Nag,” “Summer Job,” “Axl Rose”) and a pair of new tunes (“Arizona Bay,” “We Make Pop”). Disc 2 is the treasure trove for longtime fans, with 20 rarities, B-sides, live recordings and cover tunes. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

‘Something Beautiful'

Oleander (Kobalt)

★★★

Though it's been a decade since we last got an album from California hard rockers Oleander, the quintet never broke up. And for the first time since 2003's so-so “Joyride,” the guys are back with fourth full-length “Something Beautiful.” The sound is familiar — fans of bands like Fuel, Creed and Our Lady Peace figure to still dig Oleander — and the guys inject the 12-track release with enough energy to make it a solid, if unspectacular, listen. Songs like “Fight,” “Bulletproof,” “Save Me” and “You Are the One” are keepers, but the rest of the album sounds kind of dated.

‘The Worst Comedy Show Ever'

Craig Gass (Oglio)

★★★★

In a YouTube world where stand-up comedy routines are available in unlimited quantity and at no cost, it seems strange to consider purchasing a CD/DVD from anyone not named Louis C.K., Chris Rock or Jeff Dunham. But if you're an aficionado of comedy, you might consider ponying up for “The Worst Comedy Show Ever,” the often sidesplittingly funny debut release from impression wizard Craig Gass. Recorded in suburban Seattle last summer, this 64-minute set finds Gass putting his unique spin on iconic figures like Al Pacino and Gene Simmons and entertaining with riffs about baboons replacing drug-sniffing dogs. I'm pretty sure you'll laugh throughout (though I could have done with fewer “breaking news” interludes), making this a worthy investment.

‘Rat Farm'

Meat Puppets (Megaforce)

★★★★

Grizzled rock veterans Meat Puppets have been churning out (mostly) quality records since 1982 and sublime new release “Rat Farm” shows us there's plenty of gas left in the tank. The 12-track release is their best effort since 2002's live album and they wisely ditched the synthesizers of 2011's good-but-not-great “Lollipop” and return to the classic Meat Puppets sound. Original frontman Curt Kirkwood is now joined by son Cris (bass, keyboards) and Shandon Sahm (drums) and they soar on the title track, “One More Drop,” “Leave Your Head Alone,” “Time and Money,” “Original One” and “River Rose.” A worthy addition to their already-impressive résumé.

Jeffrey Sisk is a managing editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952 or jsisk@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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