CD Reviews

The Lion’s Roar, The Saint James Society and Welcome to Djibouti


First Aid Kit The Lion’s Roar (Wichita Recordings)

Teenage Swede sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg return with their sophomore homage to bittersweet, women-centered Americana on the London label that made Bright Eyes famous. Recalling Emmylou Harris and June Carter—both referenced in upbeat, pedal steel-kissed “Emmylou,” in which Klara asks a young man to be her Gram Parsons—the Söderbergs are more than mere mimics. They innately understand how to deliver sweet-and-sour folk and country, as if they grew up only listening to the Louvin Brothers’ “Knoxville Girl.” No murder ballads, though; Roar’s subject matter gravitates toward shell-shocked souls riding trains, wandering Joshua Tree-lined deserts and seeking solace in everything but each other. The gorgeous waltz of the title track is a pure knockout, as is psychedelic ’60s epic “Dance to Another Tune.” The album’s only weak spot is the spotty lyrics; case in point: “the lonesome wail of a lion’s roar.” They need serious editing. Regardless, First Aid Kit has fashioned the first awesome alt-country effort of 2012. ★★★☆☆


The Saint James Society The Saint James Society (Tee Pee)

Austin, Texas mystical-garage quintet The Saint James Society inflict a sound that instantly announces their influences—the Doors, Roky Erickson, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Sabbath. The band has its own tag, “Pentecostal desert glam,” but even this falls short of summing up their voluptuous, post-punk/stoner-doom cacophony. Opening track “Reflections” captures that eerie moment when a skipping stone scars the water’s surface, except in this case you suspect the missile might be boomeranging, poised to smash your head. “Ballad of the White Horse” is a galloping, blues-huffing, monster riff, singer/bassist Brandon Burkart burying what are probably interesting lyrics inside layers of reverb. But it’s when his wife Elza and Candice Bertalan attack the mics for surging, Spanish galleon-sinking “Of Silver and Gold” that one realizes the band destroys in a live setting. Ideal music for black lights and bong hits at midnight. Don’t listen to this alone, please.  ★★★☆☆


Bryan Bruner Welcome to Djibouti (Rooftop)

Although born in California and now living in New York, Bryan Bruner grew up and cut his comedic teeth in Las Vegas. Actually, he had his teeth nearly kicked in at comedy venue Boomerangs, documented by the Travel Channel’s America Caught on Camera, when a heckler got onstage to pay disrespect. Bruner covers the usual topics of romantic dysfunction, yet applies an entertainingly skewed perspective. His metaphors are hilarious, as when he analogizes picking up girls in bars as akin to shopping for clothes at factory outlets: “Sure, they look nice and you can pick them up cheap, right? But as soon as you get ’em home there’s something fucked-up about ’em.” His throwaway Vegas bits, like “Stripper With Kids,” about dating a dancer with sons named after their fathers—DJ and Bouncer—are delivered in a way that suggests he isn’t stretching the truth. But it’s anti-Bank of America rant “Skank of America” that pleases me at a time when financial institutions deserve to be called baby-killers. ★★★★☆

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