If you are looking to get your shoe gaze and ambient on, Fred is Nina by Meaningless! Says the Teacher, is your ticket to Chilloutville. And I mean that in a very good way. You know, sometimes, shoegaze bands will string together long chords, droning keys, and uninspired bass and percussion and call it an album. Kevin Toth (bass), Parker LaRue, Jeff Tribble, and Kyle Smith (guitars), and Tim Tuanaki (drums) stay way clear of the expected on their album, Fred is Nina. Over the course of the five-track record, the guys take the listener on a journey filled with intricate guitar-work structure around the bass and drums. As I was typing the credits, I stopped for a second and wondered where the keyboard player was – and, to my delight and surprise, there isn’t one – a testament to how they have managed to harness and master their guitar sound. Nice work gentlemen. Nice work indeed. But why is Fred Nina? I might never know. Listen to the album here.
Spoken Word is the art of streaming consciousness into tangible forms. Stringing words and thoughts together into a cohesive thought, making it rhyme without making it, well, you know, rhyme. Add to that, Spoken Word is the art of baring one’s soul without giving away too much. We Don’t Have To Be Like This from Amanda Waters does just that. On “Tea”, a standout on the collection, the listener is pushed to believe that you don’t need a love interest to be loved. And she doesn’t stop there. Each track proves as intensely lovely as the next. Loss, lovers of past and present, a silver car, an ode to Tucson, are all motifs that find voice and representation on this powerful (dare I say, female-empowered) album. Listen to We Don’t Have To Be Like This here.
One of the best things, besides the snacks at the year-end staff award-picking parties, is that we get to choose what albums to listen to. And am I thankful because that’s how I came upon the indie-folkiness of Longbird. Longbird, Bobby and Mariah Brown, a brother-sister duo from Yuma, have put together a bouncy, sentimental and wonderful 4-tune album, Pioneer Cemetery. The EP starts off with a beautiful a cappella harmony that sets an expecting tone for what is to come next. The solid musicianship is completely apparent here: banjo, mandolin, guitar, and percussion – everything that folk is known for – without going all Mumford & Sons. These siblings should be heard for several reasons because (a) they can really play and play well, (b) can craft lyrics that are story-driven and interesting, and (c) did I mention the harmonies? “Bleach” is my favorite track. Why you ask? Glad you did. Ms. Brown’s voice is showcased here. Part Regina Spektor, part Bjork, all wonderful. Combine her voice against a melancholy accordion lead, and terrific, and I mean terrific, percussion (is that an empty bottle you’re hitting a stick against?), and it’s a song that’s worth several listens. One more question… Dear Longbird, uh, yeh, when you playing next? Listen to Pioneer Cemetery here.
by Frank Ippolito