Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead and Drew Dixon of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
Drew’s Picks of the Week:
Expectations for Laurel Spengelmeyer aka Little Scream‘s first album were understandably high as the album was recorded with members of Arcade Fire and the National. Add to this the relatively stellar reviews the band received post SXSW and the ambitious title, The Golden Record, chosen for the album and one of two outcomes is likely–massive dissappointment or tremendous success. I am happy to report that the latter is mostly the case. “The Heron and the Fox” is a beautiful folk ballad and perhaps the most sentimental and self reflective song on the album. “People is Place” is the slowest track on the album and nicely accentuates the mystic quality of her vocals. Spengelmeyer impresses most on “Boatman” and the album’s strongest track “Cannons.” It is here that the singer/songwriter shows a knatutck for art rock creating layers of sound that make these tracks impossible to ignore. There are a few out of place tracks on the album–“Red Riding Jacket” doesn’t seem to fit and the western vibe of “Guyegaros” needs more development. But even these tracks show promise as a exhibit interesting moments that I hope Sprengelmeyer will explore in later albums.
tUnE-yArDs recently released their new album w h o kill and its a blast. The band is largely the project of Merril Garbus whose music almost as hard to describe in terms of genre as the band name is to type. Garbus’ recorded her first album, BiRd-BrAiNs, almost entirely on her own. In contrast w h o kill is a much more collaborative effort and the result is that its a bit more accessible and surprizingly more intimate. This album is fun, groovy, and disturbing at times. Despite the interesting arrangements, every song shows off Garbus’ impressive vocals.
Highlights: “Bizness”, “Gangsta”, “You Yes You”, and “My Country”
Jason’s Picks of the Week:
Det Vackra Livet
Det Vackra Livet is the duo of Philip and Henrik Ekström, who you might recognize as two of the founding members of The Mary Onettes, one of the best ‘80s revivalist pop outfits in recent memory. Listening to “Viljan” — the first single from Det Vackra Livet’s upcoming full-length — it’s readily apparent that the golden sounds of classic Cure, Smiths, New Order, et al., exert a heavy influence over the duo. Which is a very, very good thing in my book. However, if you’re looking for a little more variety, this remix by Studio’s Dan Lissvik gives the song a mellow, blissed out balearic vibe.
Imaginary Flying Machines
I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli’s films, and much of the reason for that is the music that often accompanies them. Much of it is written by Joe Hisaishi, and his poignant, stirring melodies and orchestral arrangements only enhance the already magical quality of Studio Ghibli’s films. So the fact that a label was releasing a compilation of Studio Ghibli covers already had my interest. But when the covers are all performed by heavy metal bands with names like Blood Stain Child, Disarmonia Mundi, and Living Corpse? Yes, it’s as odd — and as awesome — as it sounds. Some covers are bound to be eye-opening even for metalheads, e.g., the trance-y electronica flourishes on Blood Stain Child’s cover of “Itsumo Nandodemo”. Simply put, there’s something absolutely delightful about a band undoubtedly decked out in leather, spikes, and corpse paint ripping through the theme of My Neighbor Totoro, one of the finest children’s films of all time. What’s more, those trademark Ghibli melodies remain as sublime and stirring as ever, even when delivered with blast beats, nuclear riffs, and growling vocals aplenty. More info here.
Violens’ brand of arty, lo-fi pop has intrigued me ever since their inception. And thanks to the band’s rather prolific nature — they seem to release a new single or two every month — I’ve had a steady supply of solid tracks. Their latest track, “Spirit”, is a perfect encapsulation of what I dig about Violens’ sound. Catchy, jangly melodies? Check. Vaguely shoegazer-esque atmospherics? Check. Breathy vocals singing lyrics that are as cryptic as they are sensual? Check. On a related note, if you dig what you hear from Violens, be sure to check out Lansing-Dreiden, the shadowy art/music/multi-media collective that was Violens’ progenitor.