CD Reviews

Electric Cables, Holiday Life, Animal Joy


Lightships Electric Cables (Domino)

Teenage Fanclub bassist Gerard Love has been the Glasgow, Scotland, power-pop quartet’s secret weapon—a soft-rock balladeer indebted to Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” and seemingly little else. Left to his own devices, however, Love, with his debut solo project Lightships, owes even more to delicately minimalist Brit troubadour Nick Drake. Electric Cables comprises 10 tracks of pastoral chamber pop that suits a rainy day or hungover morning. Love picks up the electric guitar for the first time, delivering simple, tremolo-kissed lines that complement each exquisite track perfectly, especially on the nimble delight of “Sweetness in Her Spark.” Synth waves and ghostly flute melodies (by Tom Crossley) fuel “Sunlight to the Dawn,” a beautifully shimmering tune. Belle and Sebastian fans will cherish this little opus. ★★★★☆


Ravens & Chimes Holiday Life (Better Looking)

Here’s a Brooklyn quintet that strikes me as being yet another Arcade Fire-inspired band, only these guys strive for a more streamlined, oddly less commercial sound along the lines of Neutral Milk Hotel. Opening track “Division Street,” with its naïve piano chords and haunted keyboard tones, evokes the empty, late-night Manhattan landscape full of magic and loss. Frontman Asher Lack excels at gloomy portraiture of confused and lonely wanderers of NYC’s urban jungle, his taut lyrics enhanced by Rebecca Rossi’s lovely harmonies. Holiday Life is Ravens & Chimes’ second album, but it has all the resonance of a forceful, unforgettable debut. Images of confined rooms, windows wet from downpour (see “Hearts of Palm”), abound, making this a bittersweet yet undeniably magnetic listen. Modest Mouse-keteers, dig in!  ★★★☆☆


Shearwater Animal Joy (Sub Pop)

This Austin, Texas, band does no wrong in my ears. Since seeing them play a Matador Records fest at the Pearl at the Palms in 2010, I genuflect at the feet of frontman Jonathan Meiburg, who earned a master’s degree studying remote human communities in places such as Tanzania. Once again, his band constructs an epic sound—far-flung and otherworldly—on their eighth album, this time for the Sub Pop label. Indeed, Animal Joy is darkly joyous and rife with grandiose possibilities. “Breaking the Yearlings” mysteriously blends garage-rock guitar and world-music rhythms to arrive at something wholly unique, while the two-chord lockstep march of “Dread Sovereign” serves as Meiburg’s most pop-friendly effort—until the song’s cavern-spelunking, prog-rock interlude that defies expectations. As far as today’s precious indie-folk scene goes, no other group, not even the Decemberists, is as startlingly inventive. ★★★★☆

Suggested Next Read

VHS or Beta

Neon Reverb

VHS or Beta

The 7:30 p.m. start to their set in the hard-to-find downtown lot made VHS or Beta’s stellar show the most criminally under-attended of any band I saw that weekend. While the early start might have made sense had the venue not changed from the alley behind Beauty Bar (blame new zoning regulations), it did no favors to the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Louisville, Ky., dance-pop outfit. Nonetheless, VHS or Beta put on one of the better sets in Neon Reverb history. “Burn It All Down” might be five years old but it’s so likeable, it could still be a dance anthem.