Like a collision of stars from different galaxies, this was unexpected but wonderful and mesmerizing. Womack’s lonely rasp and acoustic guitar resonate over spare, mostly electronic soundscapes crafted by two british music giants for a dark night of the soul kind of record. It succeeds where Cat Power’s new record fails to me: it’s able to translate the ineffable art of the musician into a new form without it seeming like they’re just playing dress-up.
A sunny summer daydream of psychedelic pop, produced by Dave Fridmann. Sure, there are fuzzy guitars, and hearty touches of reverb and panning, but often it forgoes the acid-washed textures for softer swells of keyboards, bouncing bass lines and big, sweet vocals swirling in delay above your head, all together tickling your ears like the blades of grass in Strawberry Fields.
A restrained offering from a band willing to roam musical landscapes with wide-eyed abandon. While “Gun Has No Trigger” is the kaleidoscopic standout – an antecedent to the doo wop pop and tone of the Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” – the rest of the record has a warm and un-presuming mood. With acoustic guitar, hand claps and occasional laughter, tracks like “Unto Caesar” unfold as if an impromptu living room session with friends.
Sad, sweet and tremulous like the sound of a bowed saw, Iris Dement’s voice is not just an instrument but a character unto itself. On its surface, a kissing cousin to the sweet, melodic warble of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Iris nonetheless sings with deceptively staggering power on Sing the Delta, lending her lonesome prairie ballads a heartrending soul.
How does a band that’s been making music for 20 years sound fresh? One answer: by manipulating a stale palette to their aesthetic. “Nashville’s most fucked up country band” pursues something more like an understated chamber pop on Mr. M, employing instrumentation and arrangements that can seem so inoffensive – piano, strings, and flute – but with melodies that captivate, ever intriguing lyrics, and songs that push against the boundaries of their own construction; the straight ahead chug of “Gone Tomorrow” morphing into a Philip Glass raga, and the unexpected coda to “Gar”, a sweetly plucked guitar and woodwind lullaby.
Ripping through 10 songs like they were building a pyre from a record shop (remember those?), Open Your Heart careens through hardcore, krautrock, country-fried desert rock, and Spiritualized guitar drone, sometimes in the space of a single song like “Oscillation.” The Men evoke the sturm und guitar clang of indie rock bands of the early 90’s without sounding like all the phony nostalgia masquerading as the new flavor.