Category: Music Reviews


Hollie Cook
Vessel of Love
Merge

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We’ve zeroed in on Hollie Cook’s third album, “Vessel of Love” as this week’s pick. Whether you want to categorize Cook’s work as roots, rock, reggae, or “tropical pop”, it really doesn’t matter. Her enticing vocals are very smooth and creamy making this release every bit worth adding to your collection. You can have a look and listen to “Survive” posted below, but there are other outstanding tracks. In particular, check out “Stay Alive” and “Lunar Addiction”. Producer Youth (Martin Glover) worked on the album bringing his exceptional competence with dub and electronic music. Go for it!


Starcrawler
Starcrawler
Rough Trade

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If you’re out for smack-you-in-the-face rock, Starcrawler’s self-titled release is just what you need. Arrow de Wilde is frontwoman, and while she’s been recognized for her raucous stage performances, the album gives her vocals a chance to break through on their own, which they do beyond doubt. Her power delivery brings to mind the better days of Courtney Love and she has plenty of power so as to not lose coherence surrounded by the muscle provided by band members; Henri Cash (guitar); Austin Smith (drums); and Tim Franco (bass). Yes, there’s plenty high-powered, raw energy rock with shades of soft metal and post-punk to make you jump up-and-down. The opening track, “Train” will bring you on board with tough and loud, but go on to “I Love LA” and “Full of Pride”, which are softer without loss of delivery and give the band what you might find to be a core identity. The album’s closing track “What I Want” is rock-rock featuring Arrow’s reverbed vocals accentuated by power chords and Smith’s drumming. Finally, multi-talented Ryan Adams deserves credit for having produced the album. If you’re thinking about the first download of the year, go for “Starcrawler”.


Jaguwar
Ringthing
Tapete Records

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We’re back with our “Pick of the Week”. We haven’t been slacking off over the holidays, we just didn’t see (or hear) new releases that made for a good HorizonVU fit. Jaguwar, the Dresden trio of Lemmy Fischer (vocals/guitar), Oyèmi Noize (vocals/bass) and Christoph Krenkel (drums) have released their LP “Ringthing” (as in the Electro-Harmonix single sideband modulator) and the album’s content certainly stays in line with its title. The band offers up a cornucopia of special effects ranging from noise and sweeps through to inventive applications of dynamics, which are truly notable. There are also some great vocals from Fischer and Noize on “Night Out” and “Whales”, for example. It is the case that while the all the effects tracks swirl and twirl through the songs they don’t leave much room for the vocals to live often getting in the way. Nevertheless, the LP is solid and offers up some well written and well-executed tracks. It’s likely that you’ll enjoy the melodies, and frankly, the album might serve as a reference work for alternative/shoegaze.


QTY
QTY
Dirty Hit

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New York guitarists-singers Dan Lardner and Alex Niemetz have released their 10-track album, which opens with one rockin’ track “Rodeo” (released last year as a single) and closes with the exceptionally well-crafted “Salvation”. Great male/female vocals combine with solid instrumental performances to deliver often brilliant compositions/lyrics. Though the recording was actually done in London with London with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, the duo (or foursome seen live) really is New Yorker and there are most certainly some “Lou Reed” flashbacks to be heard. “Dress/Undress” is our selected favorite track for all of the above reasons with emphasis on the finely executed vocals. Besides, it does bring to mind day-in/out life in The Big Apple”.


The Staves / yMusic
The Way Is Read
Nonesuch

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Visit yMusic at Facebook and iTunes

The Staves are an English folk rock trio of sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor from Watford, Hertfordshire, England. yMusic is a sextet chamber ensemble from New York City. Consisting of a trumpet, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, and cello, the group was formed in Brooklyn in 2008. The collaborative release “The Way Is Read” might take some extra effort to appreciate, but the album reveals both the musical differences between the two groups as well as the anticipation the music creates by bringing together consonance and dissonance. The perpendicularity of the groups is evident in the first two tracks “Hopeless” (an a cappella track from the sisters) and “Take Me Home” (art music progressivity from yMusic). The collaboration comes together and bares fruit over the remaining ten tracks. The final and title track “The Way Is Read” is unequivocally the highlight; a beautiful recording in which all talent shines through. If you’re really wanting to appreciate the collaboration, one approach is to listen to the two groups on their own. For example, have a listen to The Staves’ “If I Was” and yMusic’s “Beautiful Mechanical” then have a listen to “The Way I Read”. Realizing this might be more effort than you care to invest, go with the collaborative release, but again, be patient and have more than one good listen.


Björk
Utopia
One Little Indian

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Björk along with co-producer Alejandro Ghersi have released the artist’s tenth album. In contrast to her previous album, “Vulnicura” there is considerable beauty and serenity mixed in with the anguish of life found in the complexity of the overall production; the orchestration of the vocals and instrumentation. There’s no holding back on the time based effects and layering, but the effects are handled masterfully. There is a storyline as the opening track, “Arisen My Senses” starts with the chirping of birds (electro-birds)and segues into a melodious “rising” and “The Gate” is an opening of the heart to love. The utopia projected in the first tracks gives way to reality evident in the ninth track “Sue Me” a musical expression of emotions associated with breaking with her ex. The final tracks “Paradisia” and “Saint” allow us to float toward the final song “Future Forever”; a description of Björk’s utopia. Interestingly, there are no chirping brids, flutes or harps at this point. The vocal and a synthesizer organ leaves us sensing Björk’resilience; she’s been knocked down, but she is now standing stronger than ever.


Sia
Everyday Is Christmas
Atlantic

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Seeing as though it’s Thanksgiving week in the U.S., it seems only right to kick of the holiday season with a Christmas album. Sia, the accomplished Australian singer-songwriter, music video director and record producer, has teamed up with producer Greg Kurstin to release “Everyday Is Christmas”. The ten-track album is composed entirely of originals, and while it’s not up to the high standard set by previous works such as “1000 Forms of Fear” or “This Is Acting”, it’s full of holiday including the jingle bells ringing out in “Candy Cane Lane” and “Snowman”, a poesy to a melting lover. And there’s “Puppies Are Forever” with puppy barks in the mix. Again, it’s not Sia’s best album, but like all of her work, it’s distinctive. So, come on and get into the mood. Add snap to your holiday collection and include “Everyday Is Christmas” along with the likes of “Elvis’ Christmas Album”, Johnny Mathis’ “Merry Christmas” and Barbra Streisand’s “A Christmas Album”. Ho-Ho-Ho.


Tennis
We Can Die Happy
Mutually Detrimental

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This indie pop duo comprising husband and wife Patrick Riley (guitar, keyboards, production) and Alaina Moore (vocals, keyboards) have release “We Can Die Happy”, a five-track EP. This work follows closely on the heels of the year’s earlier album release “Yours Conditionally”. While the album is worthy of attention, there’s reason to show favor for the EP. It’s technically a bit better than the album and the songs have an edge with their very upbeat mood as in the pop “Born to be Needed” or the danceable “Diamond Rings”. This Pick of the Week is sure to make you feel good and put a smile on your face.


Emily Zuzik
Tender

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Emily Zuzik first appeared on HorizonVU’s pages in 2011. We’ve been privileged to follow her work since then – The Wild Joys of Living (2011), Detours (2014) and Angelenos (2016). She consistently shows her willingness to cut across all kinds of music including folk, pop, electronica and pop-rock. Amongst her many projects she has collaborated with notables including Moby (Destroyed, 2011) and Tim Lefebvre (Angelenos, 2016).

Emily’s most recent release, “Tender” is a three track collaboration with Geoff Pearlman (recognized composer, singer, guitarist, producer and engineer). The title track is a soulful song, which is on the lighter, pop side of soul. The vocal works well in the mix from Geoff Pearlman (lead guitars, bass, autoharp), Michael Blumstein (keys), Alex Budman (horns) and George Sluppick (drums). The second track, “Ernst Kirchner” (German expressionist painter and printmaker known to be motivated by fears about humanity’s place in the modern world, its lost feelings of spirituality and authenticity) draws somewhat on sensual Teutonism for the vocal, but the blend of Zuzik’s vocals with Gerald Menke’s pedal steel and Tim Lefebvre’s bass gives the song it’s own place. The final song, “Winter In California” is up tempo contemporary country pop-rock, which will likely get you tapping your feet. “Tender” offers three very different recordings each of which is exceptionally performed. In addition to the recorded performances, clearly, Pearlman deserves a thumbs up for mixing and mastering. In part because of its diversity, this is a recording that you can shuffle the tracks on repeat and stay well-connected. Enjoy!


Darlene Shrugg
Darlene Shrugg
Upset the Rhythm

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Darlene Shrugg brings together Maximilian Turnbull (Slim Twig), Meg Remy (U.S. Girls), Simone TB (Fake Palms), Carlyn Bezic (Ice Cream), and Amanda Crist (Ice Cream). The band isn’t really all that well known. You won’t find them promoting on social media and their live performances are on again, off again, Nevertheless, if it’s hard rock that suits you, this is the album for you. You might start your day with Darlene Shrugg. From the opening track “Inherit the Wind” through to “Freedom Comes in a Plastic Card” you’ll get the adrenaline rush blasting you into the day ahead. There is a softer, beneath the waves track “Strawberry Milk” which will cool you down a bit four tracks into the journey. This is assertive, cocksure rock. There’s plenty of gain, so crank up the volume and go!


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