International Edition [IdEd33]
16 April, 2013
Alex Canasta – Folks, this is not normally the kind of artist I endorse – the female singer/songwriter type, with a particularly vulnerable and prominent vocalist. Yet, something’s struck me about Alex Canasta, a.k.a Line Marianne and her band from Denmark. Something sweet and intimate, and more musically inclined than the regular soft rock riff-raff that pervades radio these days. Their latest album, Safe Inside, is certainly a pop endeavor, but with more care and nuance on each track than usual. It does not rock, and it’s certainly not edgy, experimental, or genre-bending – but it is rather lovely.
Warmth pervades the album, like in the friendly organs on “Absence” and the radiant chords underneath “Cry Another Day”. Yet, subtle layers of synths and violins weave through “Got It Coming” for a spellbinding effect; the stark “Let It Out” builds gracefully and peaks with a skillful flourish of strings. “Ten Thousand Steps” boasts the most bumpin’ beat on the album, and marks a return to the album’s sunny demeanor. However, the closer, “Hits Me Hard”, brings it down to a soft shade of blue.
Alas – and I do hate to say this about any album – Safe Inside’s most memorable track is quite possibly its opener, the title track, and also its most dynamic one: it opens with a spindling acoustic riff, and opens up into a driving number pulsing with piano and drums, shimmering with synths, and glowing with Line’s lovely vocals. Personally, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this track cropped up on Dandelion’s Festive 50 list.
Really, I’m a bit surprised that Alex Canasta aren’t more popular than they currently are. Given their sensible pop aesthetic, they ought to be enjoying airplay on contemporary radio stations everywhere – yet, such is the lot of an independent, Danish band. A shame, really. At the moment, I’m unable to find any physical release of Safe Inside – you can find it, though, on iTunes and Spotify. Or, if you’re lucky, you may be able to win a copy from Andy Morrison’s show…
Michael Tarbox – Rock n’ roll purist with grit and heart from Boston. You may have heard of him as frontman for the Tarbox Ramblers; and while he's still actively touring with those folk, he’s also stepped out into a solo career. His most recent release, Works and Days, is a rather straightforward, no-frills affair, shifting between no-holds-barred, rough-and-tumble rock with raw electric guitar and mellow acoustic ballads. No surprises here – each track flows in predictable four-bar patterns. ‘Tis solid, and maybe a slight old-fashioned, but certainly only better for its sincerity and simplicity.
The album kicks off, however, with a sultry and bluesy number, “I Believe In You”; it livens up quickly, however, with the blustery “Hey Mr. Starlight” – indeed, if Tarbox pulled a single off this album, he’d probably choose this one. “Capricorn”, a 90-second masterpiece, touts a gunslingin’ riff and a curiously light-hearted bridge. The jiving rock vibe persists with “Jack Flood”, a rather lyrical number not too removed from the previous track.
One of the best tracks on Works and Days, predictably, is “The Tower of Works and Days”: it’s a charming number, an acoustic one with a meandering stand-up bass, and Tarbox seems to be channeling Lou Reed in his vocals. Quite nice, really. In fact, I’d venture to say that the acoustic songs on this album are the real standouts, such as the lively “When The Fire’s Out” (very fine pickin’ here) and the bittersweet closer “Heathen Heart”. Ah, that closer. You hear the echo? Great touch. Adds a sense of loneliness, some desperation unfiltered.
Works and Days is a speedy album – half the tracks don’t even exceed three minutes – yet it leaves a firm impression. If the AOR stations on the airwaves around this country weren’t so stingy about their “classic” setlists, they might welcome Tarbox into their canon, since he’s so faithfully retained to the spirit of rock and roll. At any rate, you can catch Works and Days on Tarbox’s Bandcamp page – it’s $7 for the digital download.
Mumiy Troll – Russia’s biggest and most promising rock band today. They’ve been on the scene for a while – lead singer Ilya Lagutenko, in particular, is a seasoned hand at solo projects and electronic endeavors – but they released a new album last year (on my birthday, no less!), Vladivostok, which has been causing quite the buzz on The Wrong Rock Show.
Mumiy Troll is an energetic and sunny lot, big believers in sterling guitar solos and hip beats; coupled with Ilya’s fey and breathless (yet distinctly Russian) vocals, the band sound not too far removed from that glorious Britpop explosion of the early 90s. You can even hear a bit of the crisp, disco-esque beat that Pulp touted so well on “Love Contraband”, a glorious number with some vibrant riffing. “Vladivostok Vacation” is another sweet and rockin’ tune, perhaps the most anthemic one on the album (but of course – it’s practically the title track, after all).
Ahhh, but “Hey Tovarish!” has been lighting up the interwebs for a while, and for good reason – there’s this sinuous bass line that creeps in, and the most fabulous chorus that just belts out the bright synths and features zealous flourishes of sax. Add Ilya’s sensuous line –mmm. It’s euphoria. But just as buzzworthy is “Nothing Promised”, a husky, sultry number with a gun-slinging guitar – though I SWEAR, Mumiy Troll must’ve been listening to The Bolshoi’s “Sunday Morning”, because the chord structure and that lightly played, faintly haunting piano part sounds awfully familiar. Might be why I’m so dreadfully fond of this track, myself.
A personal favorite of mine, however, is certainly “Sorry Tiger” – and certainly a guilty pleasure, no doubt, to hear Ilya purr and pronounce “tiger” so sensuously. Still, it’s a groovy, danceable tune, the most synth-laden track on the album, with a guitar line that swirls around a vigorous chant – yeah, there’s plenty to love about this one. “Lightning” is also a slick and groovy little tune of a similar vibe.
I’ll admit – though “Hey Tovarish!” won me over many plays ago, I’m really warming up to Vladivostok as a whole the second time around. It’s a blast of an album, and a delight for anyone (like me) who could fall fervently in love with any man’s uniquely lush vocals. At present, however, it’s only available in digital form for us Western folk, via Spotify, iTunes, or Amazon (and other major digital distributors too, I imagine).
BONUS: MRR-ADM – DRUMS. Honestly, I know nothing about this band, save that their drummer is DA MAN. The meat of each track is in the wicked, wicked beat – everything else accompanies. And all I’ve got of this ecstasy is this Soundcloud set, which is frankly the most dope sequence of tracks I’ve heard yet on Soundcloud (especially the uber-funky “B1”, and the incredibly sinister “B2”). There’s also this “5ive” number floating around on YouTube, which actually features lyrics (drums still own it, though). If you’re craving drums, then hit this UP. Now. And if you’re out there, MRR-ADM – I need more. Name your price.