Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen

Categories:  Music Reviews    Music
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen by Erie Reader Guest Author

The Shins  
Port of Morrow
Columbia
From the very beginning, The Shins was essentially a solo project for front man James Mercer After spending some time with Broken Bells, The Shins return from their five-year hiatus with “Port of Morrow.” No matter what incarnation he’s in, every Mercer project takes on some variation of his sound. “Morrow” seems stuck between the airy, acoustic pop of past Shins work and the electronic experimentation of Broken Bells. Lead single “Simple Song” mixes the two well, displaying a more polished production than the albums before, but much of the album alternates between the two. “September” sounds like a throwback to the days of “Oh, Inverted World,” while the title track could have been ripped straight from Broken Bells. “Port of Morrow” is a solid album, but with Mercer trying to go in two different directions at once, it’s hard to move forward.

3.5/5

Lost in the Trees
A Church That Fits Our Needs
ANTI Records

For Lost in the Trees’ bandleader Ari Picker, “A Church That Fits Our Needs” marks not only the group’s sophomore effort, but also a tribute. The album revolves around the suicide of Picker’s mother back in 2009, shortly after the release Lost in the Trees first full-length effort. No stranger to darkly personal subject material stemming from an abusive past, Picker dedicates each song to his mother’s memory, even adorning the album cover with her photo. Drawing from Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich, Picker infuses each song with multiple layers, employing blends of swirling strings, brass, and harp in his unique classical-folk hybrid. The album swerves from unsettling to heart wrenching at every turn, remaining beautiful throughout. Picker’s therapeutic tribute isn’t the easiest listen, but the grandiosity of “Garden” and the quiet honesty of closer “Villian (I’ll Stick Around)” will ensure that patience is rewarded.

5/5

Yellow Ostrich  
Strange Land
Barsuk

Just a few years ago, Alex Schaaf was recording songs by himself in a bedroom. Now, he’s moved from Wisconsin to Brooklyn, expanding Yellow Ostrich from a solo effort to a three-piece on “Strange Land.” With the additions of drummer Michael Tapper and multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez, the album has a much larger sound, with plenty of guitar-driven, indie-rockers. The growth in sound has highs and lows throughout “Strange Land.” At times, the band sounds disjointed, a young band trying to give a song a fuller sound despite some notes sounding forced in. When it does work, like on opener “Elephant King,” the results are catchy and fun, with Schaaf’s hopeful squeal surrounded by a building riff that, hopefully, is a good parallel for the group’s future. “Strange Land” isn’t perfect, but it does suggest that Yellow Ostrich may have a bright future ahead of it.

3.5/5

Justin Townes Earle
Nothing’s Going to Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
Bloodshot

After taking home 2011 American Music Award for Song of the Year, Earle withdrew to the western mountains of North Carolina to push out his next album—an effort recorded live in studio. Recording songs in one shot captures Earle’s subtle intensity but lends to looser cuts, leading to a “what if we did just one more take” feeling on some tracks. “Nothing’s” steers from his earlier sounds, as country-folk takes a backseat to the Memphis-soul drawn to the forefront with an emphasis on horns, resulting in a thicker feel. While sounds evolve as the artist grows, he remains lyrically sharp, proving still to be a great--yet troubled--storyteller. Listeners new to Earle will find this album more accessible than prior recordings, which will broaden his listening base, and faithful fans will find enough of the “old” Earle on the album to still keep it spinning.

4/5
 

Erie Reader: Vol. 4, No. 23
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

Google searching for solution to European Parliament resloution.

Five months after the Supreme Court rules against it, Aereo files for Chapter 11 protection.

House Republicans are suing the President. Where's Edgar Snyder when you need him?

President Obama addressed the nation last night in regards to his new plan for immigration policy, did you tune in? If you didn't we've got you covered. In other news, the CIA is trying to delete all their old emails, and in Iraq and Syria the refugee crisis seems to be getting out of hand. 

Local singer parodies infectious pop song to spread message about controversial topic.

IN THIS ISSUE

The popular genre-bending cellist and composer brings his distinct brand of indie folk to Erie.

The comedy legend makes his first Erie appearance.

Local organization Pro Wrestling Rampage celebrates its 7th anniversary.

Addressing the future of athletics in the Erie School District.

The imminent closing of Shur-fine on West Eighth Street will result in a food desert.

In 2102, a van and a narrow patch of asphalt changed Bob Sonnenberg’s life permanently.

This crowdfunding program could be the answer Erie needs to foster new businesses.

To invest, or not to invest taxpayer money in the Public Safety Radio System – that is the question.

The Texas-based band brings their metalcore to Basement Transmissions.

The real reason the Republican Party came out on top Nov. 4.