Sights and Sounds
by Mike Evans
Unplugged (Not Completely)
MUMFORD AND SONS — Babel
THE GOOD: London indie folk-rock outfit Mumford and Sons breaks out big time with their second album.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The album shipped gold upon its release a few months back. That’s quite an impressive feat today, especially if you’re not a pop tart or your last name isn’t Bieber. Of course, whenever an indie act sells that many records that quickly, the detractors are ready to pounce. Are the lads being “sincere?”
Let’s just say the boys are hopeless romantics and leave it at that. There’s no denying the emotional pull of tracks like “I Will Wait” and “Lover’s Eyes.” The harmonies are tight, the arrangements either hushed or rousing but always warm and homey, and you have to love a band that puts a banjo out in front of practically every song. Lead vocalist Marcus Mumford is the sweet poetic boyfriend about which every girl dreams. The band itself wouldn’t sound out of place wailing away in a British pub circa 1906.
Babel is just as enthralling as 2009’s Sigh No More. So I guess one tender melancholy turn deserves another.
BUY IT?: Yeah.
MINUS THE BEAR – Infinity Overhead
THE GOOD: Seattle-based indie rockers Minus the Bear are back with their fifth.
THE BAD: No MtB record is perfect, the band often forgoing great songs for a positive vibe or a set of tracks meant to “gel.”
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band has always mixed indie with classic elements and faint traces of soul.
They would work in a mix with mewithoutyou or Pinback, and at the same time wouldn’t feel awkward opening for the Dave Matthews Band. Though not a jam band, an MtB tune would probably catch a Phish fan off guard and in a groove.
That’s why it always takes a few spins for an MtB album to completely sink in and grab you. This music is meant to be embraced as a whole; the big picture sharper and more inviting than any individual colors. Better songs this time include the rolling “Listing” and the reggae-tinged “Empty Party Rooms.”
But individual songs are irrelevant. Just go with the whole thing … and chill.
BUY IT?: Depends. Your desires and mood are both factors. Infinity Overhead will either leave you enthralled or empty.
TWO GALLANTS — The Bloom and the Blight
THE GOOD: San Francisco folk rockers Two Gallants unleash their fourth album, and first in half a decade.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: It’s great to finally have these guys back. I missed the wailing vocals and nervous energy of songwriter Adam Stephens, not to mention Tyson Vogel’s undercutting drums and guitar work. The duo’s first three albums from the mid-2000’s all boasted a raw blend of indie and modern folk; the guys armed with basic but stirring melodies and a few really good stories.
The Bloom and the Blight continues that grand tradition, but the pair’s music has never had so much blood and muscle before. There’s a kind of urgency in these tracks, as the guitars are much more prominent and electric this time. That’s right. The boys want to rock a little too. So we get a blazing mix of melancholy and gain resembling some of the finer Neil Young or Dinosaur Jr. records already buried in your collection. Dive head-first into swaying numbers like “Song of Songs” and “Willie” and feel that loud emotional tug.
BUY IT?: Surely.
NEW RELEASES — CD
BAD RELIGION — True North
FOXYGEN — We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
GUIDED BY VOICES — Down by the Racetrack
JOY FORMIDABLE — Wolf’s Law
RA RA RIOT — Beta Love
SAY ANYTHING — All My Friends are Enemies
TORO Y MOI — Anything in Return
NEW RELEASES — DVD
END OF WATCH with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN