Issue July 17, 2007

CD Reviews 7-18-07

De Nada
Greg Foresman
(SELF-RELEASED)

Former Hammerheads member Greg Foresman continues to embrace classic, blues-drenched rock on De Nada. Opener “Strike Up The Band” contains all the hot guitar licks, organ and soulful vocals you’d expect from bands of a similar style. Next up is “32-20 Blues,” one of the album’s two Robert Johnson covers. The pristine production and wah wah-laden version is decent, but it pales compared with the original’s rawness. In addition to the blues, the Motown influence comes through on a few tracks (“How Was I Supposed To Know,” “Dinosaur”). On “Steady Rollin’ Man,” the second Johnson cover, Johnson opts for acoustic guitar with better results. With less glossy production, and some of the lengthier songs trimmed, this album would have had more appeal. As is, it is a so-so entry in the blues-rock genre. —Wesley Johnson

Saltbreakers
Laura Veirs
(NONESUCH)

Veirs’ broad, elegant vocal range and the weight of her swinging emotional pendulum fall beautifully in line with the melodic expanse she is capable of reaching. She is adept with different styles and genres (“Don’t Lose Yourself” vs. “Ocean Night Song”), but despite fluctuations, she exudes expression as if one with her maritime roots. Sometimes salty, sometimes boisterous, sometimes as smooth and reflective as glass … almost as if her lyrics and themes ebb and flow with the tide.
    Each track is introspective and thoughtful but not guaranteed to be bright or inspiring. The lyrics are most assuredly pensive and emotional, if not angry and frustrated. Some integrate more readily than others — “Wandering Kind” vs. “Drink Deep.” In the former, you have an upbeat drum tempo and a bit of sing-along. In the latter, you madly look for the fast-forward button.
    Initial impressions: melancholy afternoons spent lazily crafting necklaces of clover in the midst of a field on a breezy and cloudy summer day; music that enlightens without making anything lighter. Check your emotional pulse before checking this one out. —Michelle Manker

Hibernation Season
Sad Bastard Brothers
(SELF-RELEASED)

In Hibernation Season, Louisville act Sad Bastard Brothers draws together steady rhythms and guitar work reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins without Billy Corgan’s insufferable vocal work. Unfortunately, that’s all there really is to say about Sad Bastard Brothers. A few other influences can be spotted if you pay close attention; “Devil May Care” has a touch of Broken Social Scene without the raucous quality that makes them distinctive, while “Trap Door” stretches Springsteen-style vocals over guitars that are equal parts Rogue Wave and the Shins. The instrumentation is competent, as is the production, which makes Hibernation Season sound more polished and professional than perhaps it really is. That said, the album does produce a few enjoyable tracks. “Eskimos Inherit the Earth” and “Breeze” both have their strong points and serve to anchor the album in such a way that it doesn’t become tired or repetitive. Hibernation Season could be good for a couple of spins in the CD player, but don’t expect it to become a permanent fixture in your rotation. —Justin Keenan

Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters
The Twilight Sad
(FATCAT)

With song titles like “And She Would Darken the Memory,” and lyrics such as The kids are in fire in the bedroom, not to mention the absence of spring and summer from the album title, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, you may want to crawl under the covers and cry yourself to sleep. However, despite the best efforts of The Twilight Sad, the record is actually kinda funny. The album’s sound, dominated by layers of fuzzy electric guitars and abundant percussion, is definitely gloomy and even a little heavy. However, the lead singer’s lilting tenor and Scottish accent temper all this darkness and even provide comic relief. Throughout the album, the vocals remind one of Noel Gallagher or the Proclaimers. But occasionally, like when he implores, Why can’t you come around? (“I’m Taking the Train Home,”), he sounds like a breast-beating Groundskeeper Willie. In fact, his caroling, Scottish vocals save The Twilight Sad from sounding too much like Staind to be palpable. The result is heavy rock that could depress you but instead makes you smile. —Andrea Hunt

The Commonwealth
The Commonwealth
(LET’S BE QUIET R-R-RECORDS)

Carnivals evoke fear and enjoyment due to louder-than-loud pageantry and double-meanings enhanced by pop culture and mass media. You know, for example, that clowns and carousels are goofy; you also know they creep you out.
    The Commonwealth doesn’t wear red noses and white makeup, but its self-titled album trades in whimsical and sinister concepts. “Bloody Genes” waltzes in before letting loose a breakdown fit for metal-heads everywhere. The Latin-tinged “Mirror” is vain, gregarious and sarcastic, but pointed (I’m making out with a mirror/Because it’s better than you). “Skin and Bones” marries the quirkiness of banjos and acoustic guitar rakes, but this troupe never lets uncertainty obscure joy: “Stick with The Logs” basks in pleasant repose, playing on your insecurities and showing you how small they are (If you could just count from one to six/I bet that the pressure just might resist).
    Downside? No part lasts long enough to sink in, but these switch-collapse-rebuild compositions are forged by bright minds, and that alone deserves respect. The Commonwealth plays the Late Night Salon anniversary celebration on July 20 at The Jazz Factory, 815 W. Market St., 992-3242. Showtime is 7 p.m. Cover is $10. —Mat Herron