Sights & Sounds: Provocative Progressions

JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN – The Deep Field

THE GOOD: Joan as Police Woman (indie singer/songwriter Joan Wasser) releases her third soulful set.

THE BAD: Not every track is a gem, but the album works as an emotionally packed whole.

THE NITTY GRITTY: The indie rock world is a strange place. When Joan released her first solo outing about five years ago, I was surprised to find she was once the violinist for 90s alt-rockers the Dambuilders. Upon revisiting one of their videos on YouTube, my only reaction was, "Yep, that’s her."

Now, she’s concentrating on singing. Her vocals are rich, resonant and magnificent. Joan’s sound reminds me of another "Joan" we embraced back in the 90s – Joan Osborne. Their styles are similar – both big on blue-eyed soul while not afraid to fully embrace gritty rock ‘n’ roll. Toss in a bit of Amy Winehouse’s attitude and Feist’s smoky delivery and you begin to get what this album is all about.

And Field is a wonderfully varied collection, going from the instantly grabbing "The Magic" to the soft heartbreak of "Forever and a Year" and back to the brash in-your-face screamer "Say Yes" effortlessly.

BUY IT?: Sure.

 

COMPANY OF THIEVES – Running from a Gamble

THE GOOD: Chicago indie rockers Company of Thieves come back with a decent sophomore effort.

THE BAD: Gamble is certainly better than the group’s 2009 debut Ordinary Riches. At least I think it is. And that’s the problem! I barely remember Riches; Thieves churning out a very indistinct brand of rock.

THE NITTY GRITTY: I just finished listening to Gamble about an hour ago and again, no real lasting impressions. Tracks like "Look Both Ways" and lead single "Death of Communication" are vibrant enough. I kind of like the roll and tumble of "Won’t Go Quietly" and "Syrup" is pretty forceful. Front woman Genevieve Schatz has a tough but feminine voice; its richness never defeated by the powerful guitars underneath.

But too much of Gamble is just average. 15 years ago, this stuff would have been all over so-called "alternative" rock radio right alongside Collective Soul and Live. In fact, it would work on any Active Rock station today. It’s that formulaic. Maybe I’m being too hard on this outfit. I don’t know. I do know that Gamble will come and go and won’t be missed (much).

BUY IT?: Probably not.

 

MY MORNING JACKET – Circuital

THE GOOD: Kentucky indie outfit My Morning Jacket gets back to basics (sort of) on their sixth effort.

THE BAD: Nope.

THE NITTY GRITTY: MMJ always offers a lot of variety and extra texture on their records. Circuital is no exception, but this album does play it more "straight" than 1999′s debut the Tennessee Fire or even 2008′s Evil Urges.

She runs a tight 45 minutes but packs a lot of joy and swagger into that time. From the smooth and slowly building title cut to the acoustic leaning and genuinely hopeful "Wonderful (the Way I Feel)", Circuital is equal parts satisfying pop and bold experimentation; MMJ continuing to get the balance right.

"Holding On To Black Metal" is both horn-drenched soul and Polyphonic Spree. "Outta My System" is catchy youthful abandon. "Movin Away" is all beautiful melancholy. The entire set was mostly recorded live in a converted gymnasium; MMJ being a band playing in the moment. And that comes off brilliantly in the performances; the album very spontaneous but never sloppy.

BUY IT?: Oh yes. Personally, I’ve never been a huge MMJ fan, but Circuital knocked me for a loop.

 

NEW RELEASES – CD

BLITZEN TRAPPER – American Goldwing

BLONDIE – Panic of Girls

BUSH – The Sea of Memories

GIRLS – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

LADYTRON – Gravity the Seducer

MATES OF STATE – Mountaintops

NEON INDIAN – Era Extrana

SAVES THE DAY – Daybreak

THE DRUMS – Portamento

NEW RELEASES — DVD

THOR with Chris Hemsworth and Nathalie Portman

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