Initial Reactions (2012): Memoryhouse, The Cranberries, New Multitudes

Initial Reactions are just that: my reactions to records after only a few listens (usually 2 or 3). I try to be fair, but if a record doesn’t make much of an initial impression on me, someone’s going to need to tell me to pay closer attention if they think it deserves better. (see the sidebar for rating descriptions)

Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect [B+]: So close to greatness. It seems they are starting to move away from their ambient, Engima-esque roots into something more poppy, and while TSE pleases and soothes, I do wonder if that threatens their distinctiveness. I’ll certainly stick around, but I am disappointed that this one didn’t completely roll me over. Love that gal’s voice though. Brainy and sultry at the same time. Also, precious video. ("The Kids Were Wrong", "Heirloom")

The Cranberries – Roses [B]: Once upon a time, The Cranberries created a triad transcendent; “Linger”, “Dreams”, and “Ode to My Family” are all sublime. Roses, their first album in 11 years, starts off promising, with the band sounding completely rejuvenated on "Tomorrow." However, after "Fire and Soul", things become dull and predictable. There’s not really a bad moment here, it’s just that most of these tunes are sans thorns, pleasant and inviting, but lacking any sense of danger in beauty. ("Tomorrow", "Fire and Soul")

New Multitudes – New Multitudes [B]: More reminiscent of Middle Brother than Mermaid Avenue. That’s not say it’s bad, just that it doesn’t quite have that joyous spark that made MA I such a treasure. The big surprise: Andres Parker steals the show. His cuts range from pastoral ("Fly High") to alt-rock artistry ("Old L.A.") to downright grungy ("Angel’s Blues"). The rest of the troupe deliver as you’d expect. Any of Farrar’s tunes could have been Son Volt cuts, and Yames mostly lends that golden voice. As for Will Johnson, I’ve heard of his band, but none of his stuff here impresses me. BTW, is it a coincidence that Tweedy is delivering Mermaid Avenue III this year, or does anyone think there is still the old rivalry in play? Sensationalism, I know… (“Fly High”, “Old L.A.”)

Tracks of the Decade: “In State” by Kathleen Edwards

Kathleen Edwards
“In State”
from BACK TO ME
Other folk-rock songwriters saw more success than Kathleen Edwards this decade, but her passionate, full-bore delivery and muscular songwriting picked up where greats like Cash, Petty, and Farrar left off in decades past. “In State” was the strongest track off her excellent sophomore LP BACK TO ME, and it remains the ideal starting point for her music. As dejected as it is spiteful, the song sails on a seering guitar lead while Edwards assures her cheatin’ man: “I know when you’re going down.” “In State” evokes alt-country classics like Lucinda Williams’ CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD, but Edwards’ delivery snarkily suggests that even after “20 years in state” she’s still not likely to forgive. While Neko Case undoubtedly gets the gold medal for alt-country voice of the decade, Edwards’ fervent focus and steady lyrical aim tip the songwriting scales in her favor. “In State” might be all the proof you need.
Great video, BTW…

points_kathleen_edwardsKathleen Edwards
“In State”
from BACK TO ME

Other folk-rock songwriters saw more success than Kathleen Edwards this decade, but her passionate, full-bore delivery and muscular songwriting picked up where greats like Cash, Petty, and Farrar left off in decades past. “In State” was the strongest track off her excellent sophomore LP BACK TO ME, and it remains the ideal starting point for her music. As dejected as it is spiteful, the song sails on a seering guitar lead while Edwards assures her cheatin’ man: “I know when you’re going down.” “In State” evokes alt-country classics like Lucinda Williams’ CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD, but Edwards’ delivery snarkily suggests that even after “20 years in state” she’s still not likely to forgive. While Neko Case undoubtedly gets the gold medal for alt-country voice of the decade, Edwards’ fervent focus and steady lyrical aim tip the songwriting scales in her favor. “In State” might be all the proof you need.

Great video, BTW…