The latest sounds
We round up and review the latest sounds, from indie-folk to pop.
HORSE FEATHERS: Thistled Spring (Sheer Sound)
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Horse Feathers are an indie-folk band, whose sound is a more orchestrated version of Iron & Wine’s folk goodness, and frontman Justin Ringle’s voice is reminiscent of Ben Ottewell of Gomez.
In 2004 singer-songwriter Ringle started to perform solo shows under the moniker Horse Feathers.
Soon he had assembled a band that helped him to flesh out his songs and record his first two albums. But that band has since departed and been replaced, with Horse Feathers existing as a four-piece since 2009.
Nathan Crockett has joined on violin, Catherine Odell on cello and Sam Cooper on banjo, mandolin, piano, percussion and the musical saw. Highlights include The Drought, Veronia Blues and Belly of June. This album may take a few listens to offer up its full rewards, but Horse Feathers do give an interesting take on folk music.—Lloyd Gedye
SERJ TANKIAN: Imperfect Harmonies (Gallo)
Armenian vocalist Serj Tankian could never be accused of being unoriginal. Perhaps best known for his part in alternative rock group System of a Down, Tankian has now released his second solo offering, Imperfect Harmonies. The new songs indicate that Tankian’s music is moving in a more sophisticated direction.
The album demonstrates a dabbling in several genres, with a schizophrenic blend of rock, orchestral music and a splash of electronica. Tankian’s voice remains unusual yet intriguing as he comfortably transits from baritone to falsetto in an instant.
The lyrics are no less challenging as Tankian addresses modern-day social issues: ‘We have built our lives without nature in mind. Slowly we’ve become the disease but we won’t go.” This album is not an easy listen but certainly a worthwhile one. Fresh ears may need time to appreciate the complexity of Imperfect Harmonies, but loyal followers of System and Tankian will be very pleased with this offering of modern-day folk.—Lisa Steyn
THE POSIES: Blood/Candy (Sheer Sound)
It’s been more than five years since The Posies released a new studio album, with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow playing live with Big Star and R.E.M in the meantime. Blood/Candy sees the band easing off a little on the power-pop glory that made them such a cult success, with a more understated and laid-back collection of songs. It’s a gentle shift but the band is clearly stretching themselves musically and not all of it works.
Much like their Glaswegian peers, Teenage Fanclub, who also made a welcome return this year, The Posies’ Big Star-influenced rock has won them many rabid fans. It will be interesting to see what these fans make of this new album. There are great songs among its 12 tracks—that is beyond doubt. The Glitter Prize is a driving pop song that features ex-Letters to Cleo singer Kay Hanley on backing vocals, whereas So Caroline is a propellant little sunshine-drenched pop song only The Posies could write.
She’s Coming Down Again is another album highlight, but unfortunately there are also a number of tracks that just feel like filler. Blood/Candy is solid but nowhere near their finest moments.— LG
DELORENTOS: You Can Make Sound (Sheer Sound)
Ireland’s Delornetos have produced a debut that doesn’t do much to raise Ireland’s lull in its musical offerings. It’s boring pop-rock, following in the footsteps of those who try to blend the Editors’ hooks with Franz Ferdinand’s guitar riffs and Keane’s soft, unedgy polish, and don’t get it right. With lyrics like ‘it was an accident, it was accidental”, there’s not a large amount of intelligence, and the same goes for the melodies and arrangement.
Tracks like Hallucinations and the opening Sanctuary may make for popular drunken pub anthems and, with the rest of the album, have almost exactly the same tempo. Secret spells out words in the chorus, which, personally, brings on a retching reaction. I wouldn’t spend money on this album and I wouldn’t date anyone who would. Many songs start off with promise, only to sound exactly like the song before. If you’re looking for something even mildly interesting, don’t go near this band.—Ilham Rawoot