Sounds – May 11, 2017

Sounds – May 11, 2017

Retakes and Redefinitions 

CONOR OBERST – “Salutations”
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Conor Oberst comes back with his second album in six months.
THE BAD: Prolific? Kind of. A rerun? Sort of.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Last fall, Oberst released the unplugged and intimate “Ruminations,” a ten-song collection featuring the man accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica. “Salutations” is that record’s companion piece, featuring all ten of those tunes given the full band treatment plus an additional seven new compositions.
So “Salutations” is more complex and fleshed out, the songs and their rich arrangements ringing true. Yet the new record also is less distinct than its predecessor. There’s something to be said for raw emotion — songs being all the more powerful when stripped to their bare essence. And when ten cuts become 17, there’s bound to be a few weaker links in the chain.
“Salutations” at times comes off as just another latter-day Bright Eyes release. Not bad, but lacking in the passionate sting found on last year’s set.
BUY IT?: Sure.

THE GOOD: Seattle indie rock outfit Minus the Bear goes back to Suicide Squeeze Records for their sixth full-length.
THE BAD: Just like every other Minus record, “Voids” has great moments and meandering ones. The band likes its intricate arrangements and prog-rock inclinations. You always have to work a little.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Permanent long-time drummer Erin Tate has bailed, and the self-produced “Voids” finds touring drummer Kiefer Matthias sitting in. Other than that, the set finds no great changes within the band or their sound. This is typical Minus. Longtime fans should feel just fine in their comfort zone; “Voids” hits all the desired sweet spots.
Vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider leads the crew through a set of tracks both straight-forward (the shimmering “Last Kiss” and churning “Invisible”) and more broad in scope (the dramatic “What About the Boat” and forever-building “Lighthouse”). Sure, “Voids” is slightly interchangeable with other Minus sets, but the record never drags or wears out its welcome.
BUY IT?: As usual, your choice.

SPOON – “Hot Thoughts”
THE GOOD: Texas indie rockers Spoon give us their ninth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Frontman Britt Daniel and the guys stick with the well-oiled Spoon formula, but add just enough color and sonic textures to give “Hot Thoughts” its own personality. Producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, OK GO) is back, but first impressions make the set feel more like a James Murphy record. Seriously, “Thoughts” is sprinkled with more electronic elements than usual and most of these songs are all about a fierce dedicated groove. Very LCD Soundsystem indeed.
But “Thoughts” doesn’t lock itself into any particular flavor for too long. The lilting “I Ain’t the One” is quite possibly the prettiest song Daniel has ever composed. And extended cuts “Pink Up” and “Us” go off into unchartered funk and jazz territories. Plus Spoon manages to embrace these sounds without coming off as self-indulgent. We end up with another gem in a “reliable” catalog that’s been progressing nicely for two decades.
BUY IT?: Definitely.


Wilkes-Barre rapper pursues dreams with support of fans

Wilkes-Barre rapper pursues dreams with support of fans

Rapper Jared Xavier grew up with music coursing through his veins — most teenagers in New York do, he said.

The Staten Island-born musician, now based in Wilkes-Barre, performs across Northeast Pennsylvania, promoting his love for hip-hop, jazz and neo soul music to create his own path. Xavier recently discussed his process for writing music, the release of his first EP — set to come out later this year — and where he sees his musical career going.

Q: How did you get involved in music?
A: Growing up in New York, that’s all we heard. It was a major part of the culture.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public?
A: I was the main act at the show, so I was very nervous, but I had a good amount of support, so it was great.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
A: It’s always different, but I usually listen to the beat for days and get my mind right, then I simply talk about normal stuff that goes on in my life.

Q: Have you been working on any new music lately? If so, can you tell me about it?
A: As of right now, I’m working on my first EP called “The Love Is Rare.” It’s going be a quick look into my life as a whole.

Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
A: I’ll change a lot. Sometimes I think I change too much. It’s a battle I often have with myself, but I know it’s for the better.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a musician?
A: My favorite memory is when I threw my first LTI event at The Other Side. It really let me know how many people supported the movement. LTI is my brand, Live to Inspire. It was my first show I put together independently. I did my own promotion and everything.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: I feel like there are a lot of the big-time artists coming out here more than ever, but on the same hand, the independent scene isn’t looking too good.

Q: Who has influenced you over the years?
A: I used to be highly influenced by other artists in the game, but as of right now I feel like life is what influences me the most.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?
A: The biggest challenge is trying to be successful at this music thing. It can be very difficult at times.

Q: What are your future goals for your music?
A: My future goal is to be happy with how things are going musically, and for one day to get the recognition it deserves.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet the artist
Founded: 2012
Based out of: Wilkes-Barre
Genre: Hip-hop and rap
For fans of: J Cole, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa
Online: Jared Xavier on SoundCloud, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook