Mobius Band: Heaven (Misra)
Luxuriously romantic but never overwrought, the Mobius Band vibrates with modern love's shiver. That feeling may walk beside most of us but it's clearly taken up residence in their breasts. Some moments suggest Ultravox after a chill pill but many others, like the clanging, handclap propelled "Secret Language," are hopped up, '80s inflected, Secret Machines-y sweetness. There's something of emo's pop-mope to "Control" and "Tie A Tie" but a good hook on a perpetually cloudy day, especially when attached to bittersweet, smiling lyrics like this pair, will always work. "Under Sand" will make you wistful for a time when the Psychedelic Furs were new and coke was the people's drug. The key chain mirror ball that hangs over the muted back cover landscape painting kinda sums things up in one fell swoop. A real grower this one.
Two Dark Birds: self-titled (V-fib Recordings)
In the very keen Maplewood, Steve Koester helps conjure the mistral singer-songwriter winds of Gordon Lightfoot, America and other soft rock gold. In Two Dark Birds he throws the net warmly wider. While Rust Never Sleeps, it's clearly passed out on his couch a time or two, and this group also invites Thurston Moore, The Platters and Dennis Wilson to the slumber party. Songs move with poetic jumps while the music simmers on a low heat that bubbles from time to time with electric bark and slide wistfulness. There's the electric piano teardrop of "The Second Kingdom" and the impossible to pin down sulk of "Pernod Blues." Everywhere Koester decorates the inviting sonics with lines about Easter morning flowers, buzzards and headphone umbilical cords. Cut by cut, it's mix tape silver and gold, and taken as a whole it's a new friend ready to wrap your ears in good things.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: The Assassination Of Jesse James... (Mute)
This soundtrack to the Brad Pitt western almost no one saw is a delightful aberration by Cave and his fellow Bad Seed, Warren Ellis (Dirty Three), akin to Neil Young's Dead Man score - instrumentals flecked with prairie haze and prickly, erratic electricity. Ellis' violin and viola is like the wind or a small bird that follows you from place to place, a caress that teases a tear from the eye. Cave plies Satie-esque piano, ringing celeste and triangle to tease the ghosts of gunfights from their slumbers. One can imagine the spirits in Disney's Haunted Mansion throwing this on when the guests have gone, turning slowly as they ache for the sorrowful, majestic pain of living, the ballroom echoing with Cave & Ellis' sad strains.
Hammer No More The Fingers: self-titled (Power Team)
This wriggles and churns in a distinctly post iPod way, mixing the angular, math-y lines of say Pavement with a splash of emo over-sensitivity and '70s FM power chording. What's so compelling about HNMTF is how they sound absolutely taken by every element, and in turn transmute base carbon into something shiny and appealing but still lovingly besmirched, ugly-pretty baubles that you'll be happy to find jangling around in your headphones as you shrug along to the delightful collapse of "Fall Down, Play Dead" or "Mushrooms," a worried but unrepentant ode to psilocybin. This 24-minute introduction fires off the starting line with surprising self-assurance and unfettered variety. Think we ought to pay attention to this Durham/Chapel Hill, NC trio, gang.
Next month, well, I'm not sure what we'll listen to together. The new Dub Trio album looks tasty and the Charles Lloyd Quartet's latest is a jazz treasure. We might well get to those two but the fates may well decide the rest. Until then, remember what ol' David Crosby once said, "If you smile at me I will understand/ Because that's something everyone does in the same language."
JamBase | Shuffling Towards Bethlehem
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