Short Cuts takes a quick spin on new releases that just can’t be overlooked.
Marco Benevento: Between the Needles and Nightfall
The Royal Potato Company
Each solo release from Marco Benevento offers another perspective of the pianist’s range of abilities, from the free-form improvisation found on Live at Tonic to the lush, breezy atmospherics of his newest and most satisfying release thus far, Between the Needles and Nightfall. Over the album’s 11 tracks, Benevento illustrates an astute ability to establish a groove, then forge layer upon layer of sound, like a builder constructing a house from the ground up. “Greenpoint” blossoms from a crystalline piano groove into a funky, swirl of sound; “Two of You” is soundtrack-savvy, its mellow drone swelling to an anthemic crescendo; and “Numbers” flirts with Boards of Canada-style down-tempo. Benevento is one of the true innovators; one who gives little indication of what is coming next, but lives up to the mystery by always delivering something fresh.
Cloud Cult: Lost Songs from the Lost Years (Re-release)
Cloud Cult has spent the first half of 2010 looking back over its past 15 years, first with the reissue of its first two albums – They Live on the Sun and Aurora Borealis – as well as a reissue of the odds and sods compilation entitled Lost Songs from the Lost Years. And true to its name, Lost Songs uncovers distant treasures and unearths freak-out meditations that could stand to be forgotten. On the whole, though, the band’s sincere and unique approach to musical experimentation is realized, whether through the chugging waves of “After the Car Crash,” the mutating kitchen sink funk of “Intro to Devil Came to Dinner,” or the crystalline orbit of “Lightning Girl,” Cloud Cult’s history is more than just dates and melodies. It is feeling.
Martin Sexton: Sugarcoating
Kitchen Table Records
Fixtures aren’t just for lamps and bathtubs, if you are like Martin Sexton who has become an enduring, reliable workhorse since releasing 1992’s In the Journey, a collection of self-recorded demos. Nearly 20 years later, with the release of Sugarcoating, Sexton confirms himself as a true songwriting fixture who is still doing things his way. The title track offers a hook-laden commentary on America’s conflicts, and “Livin’ the Life,” among others, emanates trademark warmth and clever wordplay. But Sexton struggles in his own sugarcoating on “Always Got Away,” in particular, which plays out with melodrama that pales against the rest of the album. Martin Sexton is one of a kind; a player who has crafted a familiar sound, that even when inconsistent, is true, real, and unmistakable.
Frog Eyes: Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph
Frog Eyes gained acclaim with 2007’s Tears for Valedictorian, and subsequently, the Canadian quartet found a dramatic sense of confidence. The follow-up, Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph is a sprawling work of epic indie compositions, wasp nests of buzzing guitars and jagged vocals, some topping out at nine-plus minutes. The album’s nine tracks are passionate … to the point of overwhelming; however, there is a sincerity that rings true and an inventive nature that makes even the longest compositions feel as though they are growing to great lengths as dictated by the muse. Frog Eyes capably avoid the expected or trite on Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph, casting itself into each composition with fear or pretense.
The Fall: Your Future Our Clutter
British post-punk favorite The Fall has had a fruitful career since its inception in 1976. With 28 albums, the band is too mean to die, and has now released Your Future Our Clutter, which brims with a poignant snarl and trademark guitar grind. Mark E. Smith talks above the raucous melee of sound with casual economy, saying just enough, but even at his most slight, his intonation is all snub-nosed attitude. Standouts include the fluid “Mexico Wax Solvent,” and the sunny “Funnel of Love,” with the its surf-guitar and synth embellishments. Thirty-four years of making music hasn’t taken the piss out of The Fall; Your Future Our Clutter is a polished affair, but even studio polish can’t quell raw attitude.
Future Islands: In the Evening Air
Thrill Jockey Records
Baltimore, Maryland’s Future Islands has been doling out the music this year, first with its EP, In the Fall, and now with its debut long-player, In the Evening Air. The synth pop-trio matches vibrant with grave, the spry backing of J. Gerrit Welmers (synthesizers and programming) and William Cashion (bass), accented by singer Samuel T. Herrings’ gruff vocals that emanates a hyper-emotive Peter Gabriel. In the Evening Air‘s “Long Flight,” “Tin Man,” and “As I Fall” delve deep into rich textures and sparse instrumentation, creating a lucid, intense experience. Future Islands is poised to overrun the music world with the music it deems “Post Wave,” and that is certainly fine by me.