Since everyone else is doing it — all the other reviewers and critics and press types, that is — I’ll avoid comparison when discussing Laura Gibson, and instead just say that her smooth, precise, detached vocal styling should appeal to anyone who likes an eccentric female singer-songwriter. “Spirited,” off the forthcoming Beasts of Season, suggests an orchestrated lushness to this young Oregonian’s songs, as opposed to the more classic shuffle of “Hands in Pockets,” from 2006. Speaking of the new album, NPR will feature it next week in streaming audio as part of its Exclusive First Listen series.
Peter Broderick’s new album Home isn’t much more than a guitar, his voice, and occasional percussion. Anything else frankly would get in the way. At a moment in time when most of the industrialized world is bent on multi-tasking themselves to a living death Broderick sheds himself of distractions and focuses on his precision finger-picking guitar playing, his lush vocal washes, and his zen-like compositions. If you’ve been feeling like you’ve been swept up in a figurative hurricane, or if you’ve been cleaning up after Ike himself, let Peter Broderick breathe a soul-cleansing burst of pastoralia into you. Let him be the eye of the storm of life. Be sure to check out Broderick’s band Efterklang.
This oughtta give you an idea of what Norfolk & Western are about: they drag a century-old Victrola around with them on the road and Adam Selzer, vocalist and band leader, will sing through it on stage. That, and they’re liberal with the banjo and violin. And one more thing, Selzer and drummer, Rachel Blumberg have been musically involved with M. Ward and The Decemberists. That should be enough clues. Now get listening. The stand out track is “A Gilded Age,” and its timeless melody, pierced with shimmering guitars, reflecting our own newly-gilded century.
Call it a genetic defect, but I will always be a sucker for a woman who seduces not with sex appeal but with intellect. Shelley Short’s beautifully facile voice sounds like a lullaby, but the kind that you might hear Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn sing: resolute heartbreakers about women who are clearly smarter than the men in their lives and need to share their blues. Short isn’t all the way that old-fashioned, but her resignation and independence come through thanks to her distinct sense of herself and a recording style that favors echoey live instrumentation to a canned studio sound. It’s precious, yes, but for all the right reasons.
Hush honcho, and artist extraordinaire, Chad Crouch, thinks vocal comparisons to Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian) have worn thin. I hate to perpetuate the problem, but the similarities are quickly apparent. Reminds me as well of a not-so-cynical Stephen Malkmus. More important, however, is the wonderful, and varied, pop sounds he and fellow Portland pals put together in his basement. Blanket Music is a pop Sno Cone to which brightly colored flavors are added: jazz, country, bossanova, and funk. You’ll have to pick up their new album, Cultural Norms, to taste all the flavors.
Sultry bossa nova noir… Mysterious and enchanting, and not just because frontwoman Esperanza Spalding is barely 18 years old.