Glass Candy – Life After Sundown (Beat Box; 2007)
The latest resurgence of New Wave has been years in the making, with largely underground acts like Glass Candy re-crafting the genre and enjoying the ride. Life After Sundown incorporates it’s pulsating David Bowie electro-synth beats, with the noir-pop vibe of Depeche Mode, that comes together to create a glam, but slightly dark tone.
The swelling beats, produced by instrumentalist Johnny Jewel, morph themselves into distinct segments that allow it to somehow pull off the six-minute track without feeling tired. Ida No’s vocals are a smooth Debbie Harry meets a caricature of Gwen Stefani, providing an enchanting atmosphere in a dream-like state. — R.N.
Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards (Lonerism; 2012)
Perth, Australia’s Tame Impala is Kevin Parker. The singer, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, and producer has all the multi-instrumentalist talents of Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Paul McCartney – but his two records Innerspeaker (2010) and Lonerism (2012) sound most like the cute Beatle at his psychedelic heights.
Parker’s records could be the result of what would have happened had The Beatles and the Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd decided to jam instead of just talk when they met in Abbey Road Studios in 1967, during the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn sessions.
When Tame Impala’s other four musicians join Parker on stage to play songs like Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, the band adds the noisy intensity of Cream and Jimi Hendrix to the whimsy of psychedelic-period Beatles and Pink Floyd. — P.G.
Gary Clark Jr. – Bright Lights (Blak and Blu, 2012)
29-year old blues-rocker Gary Clark Jr. emerged from the Austinscene onto the global stage this past fall, releasing his major-label debut Black and Blu on Warner Bros. Records.
GCJ’s music is a more soulful spin on the Black Keys’ brand of dirty guitar blues: his wicked guitar chops squeal with a Stevie Ray Vaughn-like flair, appropriate considering Jimmy Vaughan helped GCJ conquer the Austinjazz club Antone’s. His style is perhaps best exemplified on Bright Lights, a slice of snarly blues/rock that helped launch Clark onto the scene.
He’s shared the stage with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Mayer, the Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Jeff Beck, and more – we’d say a resume like that more than demands your attention. – A.G.
First Aid Kit – Emmylou (The Lion’s Roar; 2012)
First Aid Kit are two young sisters from Sweden – Johanna and Klara Söderberg – who first hit the internet back in 2008 with a Fleet Foxes cover, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. The song went viral, as with most everything they put up, and in 2010 they recorded numerous original Americana-tinged folk songs for their debut record The Big Black & The Blue.
The girls really hit their stride, though, on their 2012 release, The Lion’s Roar, which featured the lovely, transcendent Emmylou – a homage to Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, and Johnny & June Carter Cash. Indeed, First Aid Kit’s folk-based acoustic music evokes their idols as well as newer artists such as Laura Marling, Joanna Newsom, and yes – even Fleet Foxes. Fans of the bittersweet folk music of Joan Baez, Judy Collins and The Roches will love First Aid Kit’s haunting harmony vocals. — J.C.
The Tallest Man On Earth – 1904 (There’s No Leaving Now; 2012)
When you first hear the voice, guitar, melodies, and lyrics of Kristian Matsson (aka The Tallest Man On Earth), you think of Hibbing, MN and its most famous son, Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan). But despite Matsson’s dedication to Dylan, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Skip James, and seemingly the entire canon of acoustic American roots music, he hails from Dalarna, Sweden.
Since 2006 Matsson has released two EPs and three LPs, with 2012’s LP There’s No Leaving Now arguably being his finest. 1904 – Leaving’s single – demonstrates Matsson’s Dylan-esque knack for combining brilliant acoustic folk guitar playing with a catchy melody and thought-provoking and poetic lyrics.
The ambiguous 1904 is about a year that “shook the world,” with an earthquake in Sweden and Norway, the beginning of the construction of the Panama Canal, and the start of the Russo-Japanese War. — P.G.