Review: David Bronson completes his life story with 'The Long Lost'
‘The Long Lost'
David Bronson (self-released)
Eight years in the making, singer/songwriter David Bronson's autobiographical magnum opus is complete. Collectively titled “The Long Lost Story,” the 22-track project was split into two albums, with the phenomenal “Story” dropping last fall. “The Long Lost” is a prequel of sorts and almost as good as its predecessor, though the subject matter is decidedly darker. As I noted in my review of “Story,” Bronson has poured his heart and soul into the project and he can be proud of the results. Among the standouts here are “October,” “Crooked Trails,” “Incompetent Assassin,” “Living in Name,” “Once When I Was God” and “Stay in Touch.”A fitting conclusion to Bronson's labor of love.
‘Fight for My Soul'
Jonny Lang (Concord)
Though just 32 years old, Jonny Lang has logged almost two decades in the spotlight. That's what happens when you're a blues guitar prodigy before you reach high school. Lang hasn't been especially prolific of late — “Fight for My Soul” is his first studio effort since 2006 and first album of any kind since 2010's “Live at the Ryman” — but chalk that up to steady touring and starting a family. This 11-track release is a solid addition to Lang's résumé as he dabbles in rock, soul and the blues. Lid lifter “Blew Up (The House)” sets the tone, and Lang shines on “We Are the Same,” “The Truth,” “River” and “Seasons.” Welcome back.
‘Fly By Wire'
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (Polyvinyl)
Missouri-based indie pop outfit Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin has one of the more unwieldy names in the business, but that hasn't stopped it from making mostly excellent music over the past decade. The rock-solid “Fly By Wire” is the band's first new album since 2010's “Let It Sway” (so-so compilation set “Tape Club” dropped in 2011) and finds Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin on top of its game. It's a warm, sunny gathering of 10 tunes from a band that last year became the first American group to perform at Russia's Old Nu Rock music festival. Lead single “Nightwater Girlfriend” is the best of the bunch, with the guys soaring on “Young Presidents,” “Lucky Young” and “Unearth.” Good stuff.
I've made no secret of fondness for bands hailing from my old college stomping grounds of Athens, Ga. The city has a rich musical history and has churned out a handful of bands that have gone on to national and international acclaim. That said, I just can't embrace Athens' Lullwater, whose self-titled sophomore release sounds every bit as dated as its 2011 predecessor. I was a student when grunge exploded and probably would have loved this 13-track release back in 1991. But all these years later, it sounds like warmed-over Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. “Blind,” “Get a Life” and “Home” merit a couple spins, but this isn't a record I'm likely to revisit.
Big Scary (Barsuk)
Though (justifiably) revered in its native Australia, eclectic indie duo Big Scary is relatively anonymous on our shores. After repeated spins of sophomore set “Not Art,” however, I found myself clamoring for its 2011 debut “Vacation.” Comprised of Tom Iansek and Joanna Syme, Big Scary has cobbled together 11 songs that can't be pigeonholed into any particular genre. Iansek handles the bulk of the vocals (though Syme's “Harmony Sometimes” and “Why Hip Hop Sucks in ‘13” are highlights) and he puts his distinct vibrato to good use on “Hello, My Name Is,” “Luck Now,” “Phil Collins” and “Long Worry.” Check out this talented twosome from Down Under.
‘Los Angeles Part 1'
Sonia Rao (self-released)
While I'm not a big fan of television singing competitions, they occasionally bring a future star to the public's attention. Hopefully that will be the case for Sonia Rao, who parlayed an appearance on Season 1 of NBC's “The Voice” into a recording career. Though Rao didn't make much of a dent with her 2011 debut album, that figures to change with the release of “Los Angeles Part 1.” The five-track EP is jaw-droppingly good as Rao establishes herself as a first-class singer/songwriter. Opener “You Say!” is nothing short of amazing, and she scores with “Little Blue Room,” “Let's Hate L.A. Together” and “Los Angeles.” Fantastic.
Blouse (Captured Tracks)
Please be patient with “Imperium,” the sophomore full-length from indie pop trio Blouse. It might take a couple spins for you to appreciate the band's ethereal brand of electronic pop and warm to the vocals of frontwoman Charlie Hilton. But if/when you do, I'm betting you'll really enjoy the 10-track release. Songs such as the title track, “1000 Years,” “A Feeling Like This” and “Arrested” are quite lovely and show why Blouse has been compared to indie darlings Beach House. At times “Imperium” threatens to become oppressively mellow, but Hilton and her mates always manage to right the ship.
Tift Merritt (Yep Roc)
Last year, Americana singer/songwriter Tift Merritt crafted one of the best albums of her impressive career in “Traveling Alone.” She's topped herself with “Traveling Companion,” available in a special expanded box set of the acclaimed 2012 release. “Companion” features 10 previously unreleased acoustic tracks and, truth be told, might be even better than the original record. There are eight originals, highlighted by “Traveling Alone,” “Real Understanding,” “Real Good on My Own” and “Southern Downtown,” plus spot-on covers of Tom Waits (“The Train Song”) and Joni Mitchell (“For Free”).
‘Excitement at Your Feet'
Tommy Keene (Second Motion)
For more than 30 years, power pop singer/songwriter Tommy Keene has enjoyed a cult following. He's never become a household name, but with more than a dozen albums to his credit, Keene has carved out a very respectable career. “Excitement at Your Feet” is his first covers album, but leave it to Keene to put a twist on the formula. Other than Donovan's “Catch the Wind,” none of the 11 tracks charted in America. He digs into the back catalog of the Rolling Stones (“Ride on Baby”), the Who (“Much Too Much”), Big Star (“Nighttime”), the Bee Gees (“I Laugh in Your Face”), Television (“Guiding Light”), among others, and puts his stamp on every song.
Susanna & Ensemble neoN (SusannaSonata)
“The Forester” is the latest effort from Norwegian singer/pianist Susanna Wallumrød, who has released albums over the year under her given name, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Susanna and now Susanna & Ensemble neoN. It's an ambitious gathering of tunes that kicks off with the 15-minute title track, which has broken down into a three-part orchestral suite. If you like this sparse, haunting piece of chamber folk, chances are you'll enjoy the remaining four tracks (“Hangout,” “Oh, I am Stuck,” “Intruder,” “Lonely Heart”) as well. If not, then “The Forester” probably can't come to an end soon enough.
‘Songs of Love and Protest'
David Carroll (self-released)
Billing himself as the “hardest-working Austro-Czech-American-Irish-Jew in show business,” singer/songwriter David Carroll has crafted a gem in “Songs of Love and Protest.” His 2009 self-released debut “The Guest” was a solid folk-rock offering and he's outdone himself on this rollicking 10-track platter. Whether distilling the essence of James Joyce's fabled “Ulysses” into a six-minute pop song (“Holding on to Love”) or railing against the 1 percent (“Wall Street Is Burning”) and election inequities (“Can't Vote”), Carroll doesn't miss a trick over the course of 38 very enjoyable minutes.
‘Memories and Moments'
Tim O'Brien & Darrell Scott (Full Skies)
Thirteen years ago, Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott took the roots world by storm with the fantastic collaboration “Real Time” and fans have been waiting for them to hit the studio again ever since. Last year they whetted our appetites with “Live: We're Usually a Lot Better Than This” and at long last return with the stellar “Memories and Moments.” Sharing lead vocals and playing everything from mandolin to banjo to guitar, they've crafted a 14-track album that exceeds its much-ballyhooed predecessor. Both contributed five originals to the project — highlights include “Time to Talk to Joseph,” “Brother Wind,” “Fiddler Jones” and “Free Again” — and they roll out delightful readings of songs by John Prine (“Paradise”), George Jones (“Just One More”) and Hank Williams (“Alone and Forsaken”), along with the jointly-penned gem “Keep Your Dirty Lights On.” Enjoy, y'all.
‘In Rolling Waves'
The Naked and Famous (Republic)
Fronted by the talented boy-girl tandem of Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers, New Zealand indie pop outfit the Naked and Famous has built on the success of 2011's “Passive Me, Aggressive You” debut (which featured the hit single “Young Blood”) with this infectious, electronics-tinged gathering of 12 songs. Things get off to a middling start with “A Stillness,” but by the time the Naked and Famous roll into “Hearts Like Ours” it's hitting on all cylinders. Additional standouts include the title track, “The Mess,” “Golden Girl,” “I Kill Giants,” “What We Want” and “To Move With Purpose.” I see big things in store for this band.
Tony Joe White (Yep Roc)
Renowned swamp rocker Tony Joe White turned 70 in July and has more than two dozen albums to his credit. His legacy secured, you'd think the Louisiana native might be ready to ease into retirement. Think again. White is as fiery and feisty as ever on latest album “Hoodoo.” His distinctive baritone voice is strong and clear and he struts his way through nine blues-tinged tunes. You'd be hard-pressed to find a misstep, but White shines brightest on “Holed Up,” “9 Foot Sack,” “Alligator, Mississippi,” “The Flood” and “Sweet Tooth.” Keep on keepin' on.
Seams (Full Time Hobby)
British producer James Welch records under the Seams moniker and his “Quarters” debut shows Welch to be one of the up-and-coming talents on the electronic dance music scene. But even though Seams delivers the goods on pretty much every one of the eight tracks, I still found my attention waning at about the half hour mark. Opener “ClapOne” is terrific, and Seams scores with “Pocket,” “Sitcom Apartment” and “Rilo” ... but unless you're at Euro dance club, “Quarters” is hard to take in one sitting.
Sky Larkin (Wichita Recordings)
British outfit Sky Larkin came into being in 2005 when school chums Katie Harkin and Nestor Matthews bonded over their shared love of lo-fi, American-influenced indie rock. After breaking through with last year's stellar “Kaleide,” Sky Larkin returns with the almost-as-good “Motto.” Harkin's dynamic vocals remain the band's calling card, and she utilizes them to great effect on the grungy title track, “Newsworthy,” “Loom,” “Frozen Summer” and “Italics.”
Carly Ritter (Vanguard)
Folksy newcomer Carly Ritter comes from pretty famous stock (she's the daughter of late actor John Ritter and the granddaughter of country music icon Tex Ritter) and she does the family proud on her self-titled debut. A solid songwriter with a pleasingly twangy voice, Ritter soars on standouts “It Don't Come Easy,” “Mama,” “Princess of the Prairie,” “Silver Dagger” and “This Place Ain't Our Home.” With a little more seasoning, Ritter may turn out be something truly special.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.