First Listen Reviews: The Lumineers, Cathy Jordan, Little Richard, and Admiral Fallow
THE LUMINEERS – Self-titled
Everyone loves the Lumineers, so there’s some expectations on this one. Initially, I don’t think they sound particularly different from everything else that’s happening these days. There’s a Dylanesque kind of thing going on with the lead singer’s voice. The second song (“Ho Hey”) employs a “HEY!” that sounds like it was lifted straight out of “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” But then it picks up and something happens. My foot is going, my head. My torso is doing a little sway and pop, and I don’t even know why. Like I said, it’s not particularly unique or individual. But it does that thing music should do – gets inside me somehow, without me even knowing how or why. I want to crank it loud and drive all day. I want to park it on the beach and build something in the sand; throw some meat on a grill and kick back. Whatever it is, I can’t stop listening. I’m not going to try to pretend it’s got deep, lasting artistic value, but with grooves this good, who cares. It’s perfect for summer in the background, and I bet their live show is fun as hell too.
CATHY JORDAN – ALL THE WAY HOME
Right off the bat, Jordan’s voice proves soothing and full of whispy depth. I tend to enjoy traditional Irish music more in theory than in practice. I rarely find myself in a “traditional Irish folk music” mood, but there’s something about Jordan’s approach to the form which is stirring and perhaps even a bit more contemporary. Perhaps it’s the instrumentation or the way the melodies lilt off her tongue – there’s something sleepy about it. Not exactly tentative or lazy, but wanting. Lonesome. Possibly even regretful, without being morose. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m several songs in and still falling over the words, so maybe this is one to pull back out a few more times before I can properly wrap my head around it. It’s certainly something that should interest more trad folkies than me, but also won’t scare off the more contemporary indie roots folks. It’s all nighttime rain and stargazing, maybe even with whiskey.
HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD (Remastered)
This feels a little like cheating, far as the implications of a “first listen” go. Lord knows I’ve heard most of these songs a million times and this is a reissue. Honestly though, if not for a reissue, I may not think about listening to Little Richard this year. The man is a national treasure and listening to this classic album (all remastered for our digital ears) is a reminder of what music feels like when, to borrow a phrase from Grant Alden, it swings. I’d say ninety-eight percent of the music happening these days couldn’t possibly stand up next to the Little Richards of the world (as if there’s more than one). This is the kind of energy, passion, and straight-up music toward which songwriters should be shooting. If, in the middle of the constant indie din, you need a reminder of how it feels to hear someone sing the crap out of something, this is where you should go. Besides, it includes a couple of demos at the end, two videos, and an interview with Specialty Records founder Art Rupe. And a poster. Yes, a poster, for your wall.
ADMIRAL FALLOW – TREE BURSTS IN SNOW
I should have eaten a strawberry, or something, between Little Richard and this one. Cleared my palate, if you know what I mean. This is not music for the same reasons as, say “Tutti Frutti.” This is moody indie soundscape kind of music. There are a few awkward phrases repeated over and over, which aren’t very intrinsically musical. When I hear bands do that I consciously wonder if they’re being intentionally awkward or if they just don’t understand that words have musicality…sometimes they really can work with the notes you’re singing; other times they work against the music. Sometimes the music is so artful, I’m fairly certain they’re deliberately putting the lyrics in opposition to it. Sometimes, it’s not clear what they’re going for. In the spirit of art, I’d like to think that’s deliberate too, but often I doubt it. So, here I am considering this tiny little aspect of the music far too existentially when the second song comes on and it’s kind of what I imagine would happen if the Head and the Heart tried to channel the Arcade Fire. It’s not effective. I bet these guys are exciting live. I’m not sure they should be completely judged on how they translate that to a studio recording, though. There’s something about this album which feels like they’re trying too hard and not truly feeling it. I bet they’ll be much better at the whole album thing in five or six years. (If albums are still a thing at that point.)