CD Reviews

The Harrow & The Harvest, Super Powered Love and Conjure and Command


Gillian Welch The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony)

It’s been eight years since acclaimed songstress Gillian Welch released Soul Journey, a hodgepodge of originals and traditional folk tunes that felt like a holding pattern, especially in the wake of her 2001 stone-cold masterpiece Time (The Revelator). Writer’s block and studio-recording dissatisfaction set in for Welch and guitarist-producer husband David Rawlings, but eventually the couple’s perfectionism waned, and we’re finally granted what is unanimously hailed as an instant classic. Sure, The Harrow & The Harvest is honed to an exquisite degree; alas, this album seems to me to lack much of the easy, unfolding grace of Welch’s earlier work. “The Way It Will Be” possesses her patented blend of mystic bluegrass and ethereal blues, while “Tennessee,” with its eerie refrain (“It’s beef steak when I’m working/Whiskey when I’m dry/Sweet heaven when I die”), is an indelible listen. But a flat foray into miserable children’s Americana (“Six White Horses”) and a too-earnest working-class paean (“Hard Times”) blemish an otherwise exceptional effort. ★★★☆☆


Kirby Krackle Super Powered Love (Self-released)

With a self-titled 2009 debut, lyricist Jim Demonakos and singer/guitarist Kyle Stevens sought to fashion a novelty record to sell at comics conventions. A year later, the polished E for Everyone, with power-pop Green Lantern gem “Ring Capacity,” suggested the duo’s music aimed to appear in Hollywood superhero flicks, a narrowly missed reality. Now the Krackle has crafted the ultimate nerd concept album—namely, that the passion of geeks masks a broader love of (wo)mankind. It works on “Big Heart,” about a well-intentioned champion: “I’m not that strong, I don’t lift cars/My asthma sucks, but I’ve got a big heart.” “Bite of Another,” meanwhile, references Squeeze’s “Tempted” while presenting a lovestruck Dracula: “Changed by the bite of another,” Stevens sings poignantly. “Changed, now I get to discover.” Title track? A Superdrag-in’ alt-rock slice. Ramones rave-up “I Wanna Live in a World Full of Heroes” makes it clear, though: Krackle is the comics-rock king. (Order via iTunes or ★★★★☆


Toxic Holocaust Conjure and Command (Relapse)

Portlander Joel Grind already envisions himself a post-apocalyptic wastelander writ large, and his second album for the Relapse label will only enhance his reputation as the Mad Max metalhead of our messed-up moment. This time, instead of playing all the instruments himself, he relies on his touring band, which he assembled after 2008’s An Overdose of Death, and the results have the up-and-down tempos and moshpit-pleasing dynamics that come with road-testing new material. “Agony of the Damned,” a narrative of human decay in atomic ruins, rages and seethes with white-hot intensity, and “Revelations” rewrites the biblical end times with added horror. But the real surprises are sludgy, pestilence-ridden doom anthem “I am Disease” and back-in-time WWII opus “Red Winter.” Equal parts punk, thrash and black-metal nihilism, Toxic Holocaust’s future-shock fictions have never sounded more ferocious or unforgiving. (Toxic Holocaust plays the Bunkhouse Saloon 8 p.m. July 30.) ★★★★☆

Suggested Next Read

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Concert Review

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

With supermodel good looks, Grace Potter could have a musical career without much talent. But here’s the thing: Potter is immensely talented. And she proved it at the pool at Red Rock Resort on July 1, when she and her background band, the Nocturnals, experimented with a number of different genres—blues, rock, country, dance, pop, even reggae.