Cool Stuff We’re Catching Up On… [Because YOU Have the Right to KNOW…!]
It’s probably just a sign of old age coming on, but I swear i took a nap in February and woke up in mid September. Seriously, did spring and summer even happen this year? While we try to figure out what became of all that time we thought we had to get stuff done, here’s a buckeye-season scattering of things we thought we’d get to sooner, but managed to keep putting off until now:
The Suffers – Make Some Room: And you thought the only soul music coming from Houston was Archie Bell and the Drells. While we were all still mastering the TIghten Up, The Suffers rolled in like a coastal front. It would be easy enough to describe them as a[nother] Soul Revival band, except that everything about them feels so of the moment. The band eschews the clunky Motownisms and simulated passion lesser bands cling to, preferring a fluid, breezy mix of nimble percussion and sunny horns. Vocalist Kam Franklin is a revelation: Equal parts Earth Mother, Passion Flower and Hopeless Romantic, strong enough to admit when her heart is weak and proud enough to let her desire glow hot in the sunlight. The scrumptious grooves on this EP seem to end way too quickly; even the seven minute closer “Giver” feels way too short. Not to worry: In addition to playing over 100 shows a year, the Suffers are currently funding a full-length LP, so Make Some Room is just an appetizer for a True-Soul feast in the new year. Bon apetit.
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds -The Weather Below: This band is teetering on the brink of Stardom, so don’t say I didn’t let you know ahead of the crowd. A Brooklyn seven-piece, SS&TDB deftly mix their media: Strong doses of foot-stomping southern rock, thick slices of Stax-flavoured funk, ladles of creamy, spicy horns and tasty songs chock full of smart words…all presided over by sweet and sassy belter Arleigh Kincheloe. The Weather Below is their third indie release, and likely to be their last, as they’re currently on a massive tour and are already getting the buzz. If you’re lucky, you can still see them in a room smaller than Madison Square Garden…but not for long, because they’re gonna be stars before long. You were warned.
The Courettes – Here are the Courettes: So this Brazilian chick guitarist meets a Danish drummer guy, they fall in love, get married, start a two piece band, put out a records, dress in 60s-inspired gear and say “Garage!” a lot in interviews. This should be a recipe for total poseur bullshit, but damn if the Courettes aren’t great! On Here are the Courettes Flavia and Martin rock! And then they rock some more! And when they’re done rocking…they rock! Did I mention how much they rock? Because they really really really ROCK! Seriously, this is one of those cool, fun records that you love because…well why not? While Jack White and the Black Keys were busy having their latest Twitter fight, Martin and Flavia were busy taking the two-piece garage concept and stripping the baggage from it, tossing up a Standells-flavoured cloud of slashing guitars, pounding drums and half shouted songs about Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams and other cool stuff. What’s not to like? Here are the Courettes is like a shot of your favorite whiskey: Sure you know what it’s going to taste like, but it’s still great, which is why you poured it in the first place. I think I’ll have another.
Fifi Rong – Next Pursuit EP: It’s always intriguing when an artist concocts a visuality that perfectly illustrates the music they make. Time after time on Next Pursuit, Fifi Rong appears like an Spectral presence, a Ghost in the Machine gliding effortlessly through swirling clouds of reverb and electronica like some fabulous, incorporeal Domina. Throughout the six incidents on “Next,” Rong relishes the power she finds in silence and suggestion, using whispers and empty space where lesser artists would try to shout and gesticulate wildly. Her voice is a languid, fluid substance that her elegant, hazy lyrics float past us in. There are moments when “Breathless” and “Equality” barely seem to actually happen [you’ll want to listen again just to be sure], and the bittersweet guitar ballad “Cold In You” feels transmitted from an alternate universe where heartache is considered a sensual pleasure. As much as the sounds and words on Next Pursuit are clouded and smeared, the beauty is still razor sharp and crystal clear. if an EP isn’t enough for you, Rong is crowdsourcing a new LP as you read this.
Jah Wobble presents PJ Higgins – Inspiration [Sonar Kolektiv]: As world class bassists go, you don’t find ‘em farther below the radar than Jah Wobble [nee John Wardle]. Despite being a founding member of Public Image Ltd. and creating genre busting/defining sounds with everyone from Bill Laswell to Bjork, Sinead to Scratch Perry, his cult remains small. Higgins is no mere session singer either; her eclectic CV lists cool names like Natacha Atlas, Dub Massive and various permutations of the Trans Global Underground. Without her high-relief vocals cutting to the heart of Wobble’s sonic plate, this would be little more than a nice set of moody instrumentals. She cuts through the dense desert blues of “My Heart’s Burning” like a polished blade and turns “I Did Bad” into a circular stream-of-consciousness confession…though she never quite lets us know what she’s done or if she really regrets it at all. The title track rumbles and threatens like storm clouds in the distance, as Higgins dares the rain. “King of Illusion” and “Watch How You Walk” are the kind of punky reggae Wobble made his bones with after leaving PIL and Higgins shows out on the closer “What Have I Become” – an ethno-rhythmic mashup with a charging, multi tracked vocal to match it. As terms like “world music” become more and more the province of NPR featurettes and beige Starbucks compilations, it’s nice to see people like Higgins and Wobble who know what it’s supposed to sound like.
NEXT: Dance or Die?