First Listen Reviews: New CDs from Lucy Wainwright Roche, Fruition, Peter Cooper, and the Sadies
LUCY WAINWRIGHT ROCHE – There’s a Last Time for Everything
Gosh, this record starts out beautiful and dreamy. The opening track, “The Year Will End Again”, rests heavily on an acoustic guitar and upper-register piano, some distant swirling, breezy, polyphonic violins, and Roche’s voice like a gull riding a blue sky. The disc includes collaborations with Colin Meloy and Mary Chapin Carpenter. As one song gives way to the next, it’s clear all the songs are as beautiful as the first, and full of Wainwright Roche’s apparently in-her-genes songwriting prowess. Lines like “I fell in love last year / it’s not a thing I do a lot” are delivered with so much heartbreak and hope, they just kind of hang there after they’ve been sung. According to a note she wrote on the disc, this album was unplanned and arose from a handful of summer days where a couple of friends got struck by inspiration and just followed it. That inspiration is apparent in every moment on the disc. The songs are individual and fully realized, but there’s something magical about listening to them in this sequencing. Remember how albums used to be about that, and not about collecting random, disparate downloads into a cohesive product? It’s nice to hear artists who can make that old way of making music work, through songs that would be just as lovely if they showed up on their own, sure, but together they create a beautiful, complete body of work. This album will get some serious play on my speakers. It drops Oct. 15. Mark your calendar.
FRUITION – Just One of Them Nights
This disc opens with “Git Along” – a darn good song for driving or getting motivated to make the day move. It’s got a good, dirty toe-tapping rhythm that seems to be formed by boots on the ground and some rattly rhythm guitar. Maybe a hi-hat way back there in the mix. It’s not particularly unique or groundbreaking, but party music doesn’t really need to be all that. It just needs to be fun, and these guys are clearly having some fun. Harmonies are both tight and expansive, and darn near old-timey. This is how country music is supposed to sound, if you ask me. Someone might try to call it bluegrass. After all, there is a mandolin in there sometimes, and there’s definitely some well-played guitar solos. But there’s also the parlor piano that pulls them more in line with contemporary indie roots acts like the Head and the Heart. The midway point of the disc is colored by “Come On, Get In” – a sort-of-soul tune that falls in line with other Portland and Seattle-based acoustic bands, who borrow from tradition while weaving it together with modern elements. Lead vocal duties are divided between Jay Cobb Anderson and Mimi Naja, both of whom handle the task beautifully. There’s more to this band than might be apparent when the first track plays through, and I’ll personally be happy to figure out what that is on future spins.
PETER COOPER – Opening Day
I’m not gonna lie. I am not a sports fan. I don’t have a problem with sports existing. I mean, it’s something to do, but there are other things to do, and I prefer to do those other things. I have, in the past, appreciated songs from Todd Snider and Billy Joel where they have referenced baseball, but have never quite understood finding inspiration in sports, for music. So, it’s fascinating to me that Peter Cooper has created an album basically about baseball, that I’ll actually probably listen to again. “Opening Day”, the title track, is a good enough song, it doesn’t matter that it’s about how the opening day of baseball season is so important. As the album plays on, I’m reminded that Cooper is a wonderful songwriter who can create a musical story about pretty much anything. There are a lot of stories on this album, for all kinds of people with all kinds of interests, and I reckon it’ll take a lot of listening to truly appreciate all this disc has to offer. If you like baseball, though, you’ll probably dig it even more than I do.
THE SADIES – Internal Sounds
The Sadies rock, that’s always the truth. The brothers Goode aren’t capable of anything less. But, let’s just say you don’t want to start a listening session with Lucy Wainwright Roche and end it with the Sadies unless you’re a stronger person than I. The rock and roll here on the opening track is a formidable machine. Fear not, for the disc steps back into a slightly more approachable sound on “So Much Blood,” before easing back into the rock from there on out. The tumbling drum intro to “Starting All Over Again”, though brief, is one of my favorite moments on the disc up until that point. That song unfolds into a chaotic collection of instrumental parts, backing up a very catchy, almost pop-like melody. The drums take us into the next track too, and it’s not until the tenth song, “Story 19,” that we’re offered some kind of respite from the loud-and-fast rock and roll. If you’re looking to unleash some energy, crank the stereo high, and rock the hell out, this album will serve you well. As usual, the Sadies do this with mindful, imaginative arrangements and hard-core proficient guitar slinging. But, make no mistake, this is not an Americana album.Whatever it is, though, it’s good stuff.