Prepare for the future with Black Mountain’s latest album
Vail, CO, Colorado
“In the Future,” Jagjaguwar
Any musician knows that the secret to mainstream success lies in a simple two part formula: Image + catchy pop tune = Top 40 hit.
Certainly Canada’s indie-rock sensation Black Mountain is aware of this formula, yet the band somehow manages to keep straddling the fence between really intelligent and enjoyable music. Their second full-length release “In The Future” is like riding a horse through sonic valleys and over mountain tops of psychedelic wonder.
Frontman Stephen McBean’s voice is a melodic treat, whether he’s crooning about masking misery in the slow and sweet “Wild Wind” or wailing over fuzzy guitar tones and jungle drum beats in “Evil Ways,” able to transform each song from raw rock ‘n’ roll into a multi-layered musical casserole. Forced to describe their sound, the first things that come to mind are Pink Floyd and Wolfmother ” one band from a drug-riddled past, the other from a retro-loving present.
Black Mountain sounds primed for a break out into mainstream audiences, and their deceivingly simple sound matches a lot of what can be heard on rock radio these days. However, “In The Future” lacks any immediately discernible pop qualities or radio-friendly hits. When the world is ready for a band that sounds like the past and the present combined, Black Mountain will be there to fill the space.
” Charlie Owen, High Life writer
“Dwight Sings Buck,” New West
Mainstream country music has long since moved from the Bakersfield sound that Buck Owens epitomized, but his influence lingers on artists as varied as Cake and Dwight Yoakam.
Cake included an Owens cover on an album of rarities last year, but Yoakam turns in a full-scale tribute on “Dwight Sings Buck,” a collection of 15 classics that’s faithful, but not too faithful, to Owens’ original versions.
It’s classic-sounding country, full of trebly guitar twang, pathos and, not least, wit, on songs about finding love, losing love and bemoaning love. The little hiccup in Yoakam’s voice helps sell “My Heart Skips a Beat,” the opener, and the pair of snare-drum hits that poke through the chorus of “Foolin’ Around” simply make the song. Yoakam’s version of “Love’s Gonna Live Here” features harmonies that are incredibly tight, which holds true throughout, particularly on the she’s-leaving weeper “Cryin’ Time” and the honky-tonkin’, takin’-her-back “Under Your Spell Again.”
It’s a testament to Owens’ skill as a songwriter (and cherry-picker of the tunes he didn’t write) and Yoakam’s skill as an interpreter that these songs sound vibrant decades after they first appeared.
Essential download: “Foolin’ Around.”
” Eric R. Danton, L.A. Times-Washington Post
“Good Thing Going,” Rounder
Rhonda Vincent’s run of female-vocalist-of-the-year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association came to an end in 2007, breaking her remarkable string of seven straight wins, but she remains one of the genre’s best singers and instrumentalists. The 45-year-old Missouri native affirms her chops and range with “Good Thing Going,” a sharp assortment of tunes that traverse classic and modern methods with impressive dexterity.
Vincent’s voice is a clarion vessel of mountain charm, stretching toward hoots and yodels atop banjo, fiddle and her own percussive mandolin on the sprightly “I’m Leavin’.” Her manner is flexibly direct, suitable for the contemporary mainstream ballad “I Gotta Start Somewhere,” yet capable of igniting in down-home fashion alongside the percolating banjo that paces the compact spitfire “Hit Parade of Love.”
She dabbles in catchy swing on the chipper “World’s Biggest Fool” and samples low-key folk for a plaintive treatment of “The Water Is Wide,” on which guest Keith Urban’s voice is a comfortable complement, but Vincent always remains attached to her roots. As she celebrates road life in the toe-tapping “Bluegrass Saturday Night” and rides the propulsive acoustic mesh of “Who’s Cryin’ Now,” she elevates even her most firmly grounded material with a deft handle and dynamic presence.
Essential download: “I’m Leavin'”
” Thomas Kintner, L.A. Times-Washington Post
“Some People Have Real Problems,” Monkey Puzzle/Hear Music
It seems counterintuitive, but some music is so inoffensive, it’s offensive. Sia Furler has a smooth, lovely voice, and her songs are perfectly nice pop numbers, full of subtle backbeats, subdued strings and gentle piano. But they might as well be coated with Teflon for how little they stick.
“Some People Have Real Problems,” her fourth full-length studio album, slides by in a gauzy blur and leaves barely an echo after the opening song, “Little Black Sandals.” That one, at least, has something resembling a hook on the chorus, which lingers even as the rest of the album idles. There are glimmers of appeal elsewhere — the understated soul vamp on “Day Too Soon,” or “Buttons,” the hidden rocker tacked onto the end — but the tunes feel too often like surface exercises that lack heart. Sia shows off the power of her voice on “You Will Be Loved,” but the song goes nowhere and she’s left emoting over a hollow core.
It happens over and over on “Some People Have Real Problems,” and although it hardly compares to, say, poverty or war, it’s a real enough problem for Sia, especially because she never quite overcomes it.
Essential download: “Little Black Sandals.”
” Eric R. Danton, L.A. Times-Washington Post