CD reviews: Yuck's newest album fortunately doesn't live up to band name
‘Glow & Behold'
Yuck (Fat Possum)
British outfit Yuck, despite the grossly misleading band name, emerged as one of the best new indie acts of 2011 on the strength of its self-titled debut. Daniel Blumberg and his mates are equally at home playing driving rockers or slowing things down, and that versatility is on display throughout sophomore release “Glow & Behold.” Languid instrumental “Sunrise In Maple Shade” opens the 11-track platter, and Yuck settles into a nice groove with “Out of Time,” “Lose My Breath,” “Rebirth,” “Nothing New” and the title track. This one's a keeper.
Matthew Daniel Siskin, aka Gambles, won me over with June's “Far From Your Arms” EP and happily I didn't have to wait too long for more music from this talented youngster. “Trust” is a 13-track gathering of lo-fi tunes that showcases Siskin's strong writing chops and captivating vocal presence. You won't find a bad song on the album, but Gambles is especially effective on “Rooftops,” “So I Cry Out,” “Safe Side,” the title track, “Penny for a Grave,” “California” and “You Are Truth.” These songs will stay with you long after the CD stops spinning. You can't ask for more than that.
The Deep Dark Woods (Sugar Hill)
Alt-country outfit Deep Dark Woods makes folksy, harmony-heavy music that owes a debt to both the Laurel Canyon sound of the 1970s and the band's Western Canada roots. “Jubilee” is its fourth album, but first since guitarist Clayton Linthicum joined the fray. While a notch below 2011's sublime “The Place I Left Behind,” this mellow 13-track release should appeal to fans. Opener “Miles and Miles” is a little too ethereal for my taste, but by the time Ryan Boldt & Co. hit their stride with “18th of December” and “Picture on My Wall,” I was onboard. Other standouts include “Gonna Have a Jubilee” and “Pacing the Room.”
Leverage Models (Hometapes)
Stars Like Fleas founder Shannon Fields explores his indie pop side under the Leverage Models moniker on this captivating self-titled debut. Armed with plenty of electronic beats and his piercing (in a good way) falsetto, Fields impresses throughout the 10-track release. “Cooperative Extensions” is the best of the bunch, and he shine on “Night Falls on the General Assembly,” “The Least of Your Brothers,” “Sweep” (with the awesome Sharon Van Etten) and “A Slow Marriage.” Good stuff.
Static Jacks (Old Friends)
New Jersey garage rockers Static Jacks seemed on the cusp of stardom a couple years ago after 2010's “Laces” EP and 2011's excellent “If You're Young” full-length debut. They haven't quite broken into the mainstream, but perhaps the solid “In Blue” will do the trick. It's almost as good as its predecessor and finds the guys dabbling with a poppier sound. The approach works, for the most part, as Static Jacks serve up keepers “Horror Story,” “Wallflowers,” “We're Alright,” “Katie Said” and “People Don't Forget.” And if you like this album, do yourself a favor and check out their earlier material.
Italian electronic pop duo M+A (Michele Ducci and Alessandro Degli Angioli) made a fantastic debut a couple years ago with “Things.Yes,” and the talented twosome builds on that foundation with equally infectious sophomore set “These Days.” All the songs are in English, and feature Ducci on vocals, and they hit it out of the park. Highlights include “B-Song,” “Down the West Side,” “New York There,” “Practical Friday” and “Midnight Radio.” This is indie pop at its finest.
‘Days Are Gone'
Sisters Alana, Este and Danielle Haim have been making music together since they were kids growing up in California's San Fernando Valley. As pop trio Haim, the siblings deliver a rock-solid full-length debut in “Days Are Gone.” They first came to my attention last year with the free “Forever” EP and after hearing these 11 tracks I'm convinced the Haim sisters are onto something. Two of the EP's best songs — the title track and “Go Slow” — appear again here, and Haim also delivers the goods on “The Wire,” “If I Could Change Your Mind” and “Running If You Call My Name.”
Raccoon Fighter (self-released)
Brooklyn-based indie trio Raccoon Fighter gets down and dirty on debut full-length “Zil.” With eight tracks clocking in at a brisk 24 minutes, there's no wasted space on this rough-around-the-edges slab. The opening salvo of “Delivered” and “Santa Teresa” are the best songs in the bunch, and Raccoon Fighter impresses with “Street Urchins,” “Down and Out in a Diamond City” and “Wolf at Your Window.” Keep an eye on these guys.
The Paper Kites (Nettwerk)
Australian indie folk collective the Paper Kites introduced themselves to American audiences over the summer when they released their first two EPs as an 11-track box set. Their earthy melodies and pitch-perfect harmonies continue on debut full-length “States.” Though a bit overstuffed with 13 tracks unspooling over 56 minutes, the Paper Kites managed to hold my interest throughout. After a slowish start to the album (“Malleable Beings”), the band hits its stride with keepers “St. Clarity,” “Gates,” “Tin Lover,” “Cold Kind Hand,” “In Reverie” and “I Done You So Wrong.”
‘Build Me Up From Bones'
Sarah Jarosz (Sugar Hill)
At age 22, singer/songwriter/mandolin prodigy Sarah Jarosz already has three phenomenal full-length albums under her belt, including dynamic new effort “Build Me Up From Bones.” Jarosz penned nine of the 11 tracks and her growth as a songwriter is evident. She recorded the album during her final semester at Boston's New England Conservatory and these songs give every indication that Jarosz will be a player on the indie folk scene for decades to come. You won't find a bad song on the CD, with Jarosz especially terrific on “Fuel the Fire,” “Mile on the Moon,” the Bob Dylan cover “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Gone Too Soon” and “Book of Right-On.” Highly recommended.
Some bands enjoy a meteoric rise to success, but many more follow a painstaking, circuitous route as they chase the brass ring. Such is the case for North Carolina outfit Schooner. The Reid Johnson-fronted band seemed on the cusp when it released its first album in 2007, but a lengthy hiatus and a couple lineup overhauls stalled any momentum. At long last Johnson, as the lone founding member, returns with “Neighborhood Veins.” It's a decent record that loses points for a pair of interminable tracks — the tedious “Still in Love” and the mess of a set-closing title track. Other than that, “Neighborhood Veins” has something to offer.
‘Hush Your Fuss!'
Dave Riley & Bob Corritore (SWMAF/Vizztone)
The partnership between blues guitarist/vocalist Dave Riley and harmonica wiz Bob Corritore has proven to be quite fruitful. The awesomely titled “Huss Your Fuss!” is their third album together (following 2007's “Travelin' the Dirt Road” and 2009's “Lucky to Be Living”) and finds the twosome at the top of their game. Blues fans need to add this platter to their collection, as Riley and Corritore tear it up on the title track, “No Cussin',” “Snuff Dippin' Woman,” “Home in Chicago,” “Hard Headed Woman” and “My Baby's Gone.”
Chris Young (RCA)
Tennessee native Chris Young has come a long way since being crowned the Season 4 winner of “Nashville Star” in 2006. “A.M.” is the fourth rock-solid full-length in as many tries for an artist whose star is on the rise on Music Row. Young mixes ballads and honky-tonk anthems on the 11-track release, with the title track, heartbreaking “Goodbye,” “Text Me Texas” and “We're Gonna Find It Tonight” being the standouts. Enjoy, y'all.
‘The Death of the Self Preservation Society'
Two Cow Garage (Last Chance)
A decade or so ago, I was busy singing the praises of Ohio twang rocker Two Cow Garage in the wake of its first two fantastic albums. It was a band made to order for Drive By Truckers fans and I predicted big things. It never caught on like I figured it would and, truth be told, it's been a few years since I even thought about the band. So imagine my surprise when “The Death of the Self Preservation Society” came across my desk last month. TCG has traded twang for more of a pop/punk sound and it works well on “Little Prince & Johnny Toxic,” “Stars & Gutters,” “Pantomime,” “Lost on Youth” and “Annie, Get Your Guns.” Here's hoping the band is back to stay.
‘Door Without a Screen (Deluxe Edition)'
Sundy Best (E One)
Up-and-coming country duo Sundy Best (Nick Jamerson and Kris Bentley) reminds me a lot of chart-topping counterpart Florida Georgia Line, although it has yet to deliver a cross-genre hit like “Cruise.” The deluxe edition of the duo's “Door Without a Screen” debut includes country radio staples “Lily” and “Home (I Wanna Go),” plus a lot more. The 18-track set features the original 11 studio cuts, plus live renditions of “Drunk Right” and “My Ol Kentucky Home/These Days,” along with unreleased demos “Car Song,” “Summit City Slowdown,” “Holy Ground,” “Uneven Trade” and “Distance.” This one's a winner.
‘Lonely Comes Easy'
Chris Jones & the Night Drivers (Rebel)
Though not a known commodity outside of bluegrass circles, Chris Jones is one of the genre's most respected figures. Jones & the Night Drivers return to the spotlight with “Lonely Comes Easy,” their first studio effort since 2009's terrific “Cloud of Dust.” With a nice mix of originals and cover tunes, the 13-track release will appeal to anyone who enjoys contemporary bluegrass. Keepers include a pair of sizzling instrumentals — “Don't Blink” and “Swine Flu in Union County” — as well as standouts “You're My Family Now,” “Barn Burner,” the title track, Charley Pride's “Too Hard to Say I'm Sorry” and Ralph Stanley's “A Few More Years.”
‘Where You Stand'
Travis (Red Telephone Box)
Just when you thought Britpop stalwart Travis was never to be heard from again, the Fran Healy-fronted outfit makes an impressive return with “Where You Stand,” the band's first full-length since 2008's “Ode to J. Smith.” Healy and his mates sound rejuvenated following the long layoff (Healy served up a solid solo set in 2010) and this 11-track release should please loyal fans. Opener “Mother” is the best song here and sets the tone of the album. Travis additionally scores with “Moving,” “Warning Sign,” “Another Guy” and “Boxes.” Welcome back, lads.
‘The Essential Bill Withers'
Bill Withers (Columbia Legacy)
Bill Withers was one of the most successful and prolific R&B artists of the 1970s. His string of hit singles and stellar albums spanned the entire decade and most of his biggest hits — “Ain't No Sunshine,” “Grandma's Hands,” “Use Me,” “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” — remain relevant some 40 years later. “The Essential Bill Withers” is a career-spanning set featuring 34 songs over two discs and is a must-have for any self-respecting music lover. All the usual suspects are here, along with “Harlem,” “Who Is He (And What Is He to You?),” “Family Table,” the Grover Washington Jr. collaboration “Just the Two of Us” and “I Want to Spend the Night.” Simply sublime.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media.