Magic Trick shines on 'River of Souls'
‘River of Souls'
Magic Trick (Empty Cellar)
Prolific songsmith Tim Cohen of the Fresh & Onlys keeps himself busy with a handful of projects and I've found none of them to be more enjoyable than Magic Trick. “River of Souls” is the third full-length from the psychedelia- and folk-influenced outfit and they shine on this 10-track release. Magic Trick hits all the right notes on keepers “Beloved One,” “Blinding Light,” “Bridge of Gold” and “I'm a Joke.”
‘The Last Concert: 25th Anniversary Edition' & ‘Black & White Night'
Roy Orbison (Legacy)
★★★★½ & ★★★★
Roy Orbison was enjoying a late-career renaissance when he succumbed to a fatal heart attack on Dec. 6, 1988, at age 52. His final performance, which took place in suburban Cleveland just two days before his death, is chronicled in the spectacular CD/DVD set “The Last Concert: 25th Anniversary Edition.” Legacy also is reissuing a DVD of the famed 1987 HBO concert “Black & White Night.” Together or separately, these are a must for Orbison fans.
‘Year of the Woman'
AAA Battery (Rescord)
Spookey Ruben, a respected figure in indie circles throughout his native Canada, has recruited pals Joe Maydak and Fred Jeske to form AAA Battery. “Year of the Woman” isn't instantly accessible, but it figures to grow on patient listeners. “Tea Time” has a Jane's Addiction vibe, and AAA Battery also put a charge into “Jenna,” “Battleford,” “S.P.A.C.E.” and “Calling Out.”
‘Hand-Painted Dream Photographs'
Moon Honey (self-released)
Your appreciation of the “Hand-Painted Dream Photographs” debut will hinge on how you respond to Jessica Ramsey's vocals. She has a quirky approach to singing that may alienate as many people as it enthralls. If you make it through the opening tandem of “The Cathedral” and “Self-Portrait Beneath Woman's Mask,” chances are good you'll wind up buying the rest of what Moon Honey is selling.
Marley Carroll (Melanaster)
Chalk up Marley Carroll's “Sings” as one of 2013's late-year surprises. Blending Carroll's estimable gifts as a turntablist with his unexpected skills as a singer/songwriter, the 12-track record is fantastic. “Speed Reader” is the highlight, and Carroll also impresses on “Fold Your Wings,” “First Thought, Best Thought” and “Repaired Piano.”
Take Berlin (self-released)
A duo comprised of Jesse Barnes and Yvonne Ambree, Take Berlin took an old-school approach to crafting their “Lionize” debut. The six-track EP was recorded on a discarded cassette deck Barnes fished out of a pile of trash a few years back. Haunting opener “Vermona” sets the tone and Take Berlin shine on “Eaves,” “Kentucky” and “Stranger.”
Mount Pressmore (Pressmore)
As the son of esteemed conductor Robert Shaw, Mount Pressmore frontman Thomas Shaw comes from a strong musical pedigree. The younger Shaw explores his jazz and rock influences on debut full-length “Enjoy.” It's a complex, entertaining collection of 10 tunes with some mainstream appeal. Standouts include “The New Regional Branch Manager,” “Trampoline,” “Interchange” and “Dakota.”
The Flaming Lips (Warner Bros.)
Though officially an EP, the Flaming Lips have essentially crafted another full album in six-track, 36-minute “Peace Sword.” The title track appears on the “Ender's Game” soundtrack and the remaining tunes were inspired by the science fiction flick though ultimately rejected by the filmmakers. Check out “Is the Black at the End Good,” “Think Like a Machine, Not a Boy” and “Wolf Children.”
‘Love's Crushing Diamond'
Mutual Benefit (Other Music)
To get the most out of Mutual Benefit's debut record, you need to know these seven pop tunes aren't going to get your pulse racing. That said, “Love's Crushing Diamond” is by no means boring. Rather, it's a soothing mix of keyboards, guitar, violin and banjo. The opening tandem of “Strong River” and “Golden Wake” are keepers, along with “That Light That's Blinding” and sprawling closer “Strong Swimmer.”
‘Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star'
Big Star (Columbia Legacy)
Though they made just three critically adored, commercially disappointing albums in the 1970s, the legacy of power-pop pioneers Big Star continues to this day. The newest “Playlist” collection focuses on the Memphis band's best songs. The 14-track set includes selections from 1972's “#1 Record,” 1974's “Radio City” and 1975's “3rd,” as well as live tracks performed by the surviving members in 1993. The essentials are here, including “Feel,” “September Gurls,” “In the Street,” “The Ballad of El Goodo” and “For You.”
Delta Rae (Warner Bros.)
Good luck trying to categorize the music of North Carolina newcomers Delta Rae. Last year's “Carry the Fire” debut was a stellar blend of folk/pop, rock, gospel, blues and Americana, and the sextet continue their winning ways with “Chasing Twisters.” The six-track EP shines brightest on the title track, “Run,” “If I Loved You” (with Lindsey Buckingham) and “I Will Never Die.”
Front Porch Step (Pure Noise)
Raspy-voiced singer/songwriters are a dime a dozen these days, but Jake McElfresh — aka Front Porch Step — rises above the fray. “Aware” is a first-rate acoustic debut that lures you right in with opener “Angels & Demons.” Other highlights include the title track, “Private Fears in Public Places,” “Poison,” “Run Away,” “The Day You Took the Good Away” and “I Won't Say That I'm Okay.”
‘All Teeth and Nails'
One Hundred Percent (20 Sided)
With its loud-louder-loudest mix of rock, punk and shoegaze, I was a little leery about “All Teeth and Nails,” the eight-track debut from San Francisco rockers One Hundred Percent. But the record wound up being a pleasant surprise as the band scores with “French Entrances/Freak Crime,” “Devil in Me,” “Grow It” and “Lowbar.” Not for all tastes, but an intriguing listen nevertheless.
‘Love Will Keep Us Together'
Yell for Help (Cabal)
Sounding like a boy-girl version of Icona Pop, Los Angeles pop duo Yell for Help make a nice first impression on “Love Will Keep Us Together.” The title track (which bears no relation to the Captain & Tennille song of the same name) is loads of fun, as are “Winter Sun” and personal favorite “Trigger Happy.” Sure to be a fixture at dance clubs everywhere.
Spiral Arms (Steamhammer/SPV)
Melodic hard rock is alive and well, courtesy of Spiral Arms, a three-guitar wielding sextet. High-octane new release “Forgiven” provides a jolt with keepers “Dropping Like Flies,” “Blackmoon Morning,” “Drugs & Alcohol” and the title track, but the 10-track platter gets a little stale even at a manageable 44 minutes.
‘Normal Human Feelings'
Little Suns (Divergent)
Montreal collective Little Suns impress on their “Normal Human Feelings” full-length debut with a sound that incorporates folk, rock, pop and a healthy dose of world melodies. The John Aaron Cockburn-fronted band molds it all into a compelling nine-track release. Highlights include sprawling opener “Sunboat,” “Them Girls” and “Istanbul.”
The Dismemberment Plan (Partisan)
The Dismemberment Plan called it quits in 2003 but reunited a decade later for “Uncanney Valley.” While not quite on par with 1999's “Emergency & I” or 2001's “Change,” there's a lot to like about this 10-track release. Travis Morrison remains a compelling songwriter, and tunes like “Waiting,” “Invisible,” “White Collar White Trash” and “Go and Get It” are flat-out terrific.
Ha Ha Tonka (Bloodshot)
I've been waiting for rootsy rockers Ha Ha Tonka to hit it big since hearing their 2007 debut “Buckle in the Bible Belt.” Subsequent records were equally great, but they still aren't a household name. “Lessons” is Ha Ha Tonka's fourth gem in as many tries. Check out “Dead to the World,” “American Ambition,” “Rewrite Our Lives” and “Prove the World Wrong.”
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.