Sound advice 

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Lyle Lovett

Release Me

Curb/Lost Highway

Buy if you like: Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark

One of Lyle Lovett's favorite activities is giving props to his influences. On Release Me, his final album for the Curb label (yes, the title is a direct, tongue-in-cheek reference), he offers more tunes by hallowed Texans such as Eric Taylor ("Understand You") and Townes Van Zandt ("White Freightliner Blues"). But this quirky collection also includes Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" as a slow, bluesy ballad; a soulful version of the Michael Franks-penned / Sonny & Brownie-popularized "White Boy Lost in the Blues"; and a charming duet with jazz singer Kat Edmonson on "Baby, It's Cold Outside." k.d. lang joins on the title song, and Sara and Sean Watkins share "Night's Lullaby," one of only two originals. Full of his usual impeccable arrangements (check out his treatment of Jesse Winchester's "Isn't That So"), this disc isn't as affecting as 2009's Natural Forces, but it's fun. — Lynne Margolis

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Sleigh Bells

Reign of Terror

Mom + Pop

Buy if you like: CSS, Cults

The buzz band of 2010 is back with an album that should solidify them as one of the most inventive, noisiest indie rock acts — and one of the most fun. Kicking off by making fun of stadium rock, complete with crowd noise, on "True Shred Guitar," Sleigh Bells' Reign of Terror piles up Derek Miller's big guitar noise and chopped-up beats throughout the rest of the disc. Over the top of that propulsive racket come pop hooks carried by Alexis Krauss's vintage '60s girl group vocals. This time around there are power ballads, punk-shaded songs and hammering numbers with roots in '80s rock. There's also some lyrical depth — in songs about recovering from the death of loved ones and contemplating suicide — that wasn't around on Treats, the duo's debut record. Strong from start to finish, Reign of Terror proves Sleigh Bells still deserve all the hype. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Buy if you like: Aphex Twin, Lykke Li

Visions is the record that should make Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, an indie star. It manages to capture everything great about her fuzzy, psychedelic pop — including the deployment of all kinds of synthetic sounds in service of its captivating blend of pop hooks and beats. In the process, Boucher's voice becomes as much an instrument as it is a lyric-spouting machine, with words that are, at times, completely indecipherable. But the layers and loops of her swooping, soaring falsetto still connect. There's no simple way to describe Grimes' music; it's part Aphex Twin, a little Lykke Li, some Asian pop, a bit of mainstream mall pop and some Brian Eno atmospherics, all blended into continually catchy, shape-shifting combinations. Even if you can't always understand what she's saying, Grimes still gets the point across. Once you've heard her, you'll be hooked. — L. Kent Wolgamott


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