Music Reviews

Categories:  Music Reviews    Music
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 at 6:42 AM
Music Reviews by Bieler-Speggen-Vaillancourt

Beck

Morning Phase

Capitol

4.5 Stars

Although Beck calls his first new album in six years a companion piece to his stellar 2002 album Sea Change, it’s hard not to think of Morning Phase as a sequel. It can be a harsh designation, as the word “sequel” often leads one to think of lesser versions of a beloved original, but we find Beck treading the familiar melancholy territory of Sea Change, just not quite as well as he did 12 years ago. Of course, that’s not to say that Morning Phase isn’t a worthwhile return to heartbreak; in fact, it’s a lovely set of 13 tracks assisted by an ample amount of sorrowful strings and reverb. It’s hard not to get sucked in when Beck yells “I’m so tired of being alone” to kick off the excellent single “Blue Moon,” while the veteran musician creates lovely arrangements for his new assortment of sad songs. Morning Phase may feel like a sequel, but it’s certainly a worthy one. - Alex Bieler

St. Vincent

St. Vincent

Universal

5 Stars

It’s not often that a musician could describe their sound as a sort of “techno-shamanism,” but when Annie Clark of St. Vincent used that term to describe her new album on The Colbert Report, it sure did fit. St. Vincent, Clark’s fourth solo album under her saintly pseudonym, is a musical marriage of earthly desires in a digital age. “I’m entombed in a shrine of zeroes and ones” she sings during the dark, fuzzy breakdown of “Huey Newton” before the album shifts to the exquisite, almost robotic single “Digital Witness,” an efficient track influenced by Clark’s time working with David Byrne. Elsewhere, Clark displays her impressive fretwork on “Birth in Reverse,” showing off her ability to provide soft and rough textures to her sonic soundscapes. Clark’s career has been fascinating to watch, and on St. Vincent she’s become the queen of her own musical world. - Alex Bieler

Strangers and Liars

Live That Way

Independent

3.5 Stars

Just one year after releasing their debut album Five Seat Concert Hall, Erie-based Americana pop-rockers Strangers and Liars return with their sophomore follow-up Live That Way. Ten tracks – including a full-band version of drummer Tom Hitt’s “Elizabeth Off and On” (a cool tune then, and a cool tune now) from his solo record Scribe and Jester – capture the essence of good, ol’ fun rock ‘n’ roll. Some of the songs play a bit long and could benefit by losing a phased-out guitar solo or three, but the loose feel the band plays with creates the sense that four guys at work are having fun and enjoy the experimentation that comes with making music. While it is one of their longer songs, album standout “Lost” captures Tommy Link’s songwriting at its best, blending thoughtful lyrics with a catchy melody with a tight delivery from the rest of the band.- Ben Speggen

Jerry Gaff

Sojourn, Pieces for Guitar

Self-released

3.5 Stars

Sonorous, solitary, and somnambular, Sojourn's 11 tracks display a wide range of emotional expressiveness reminiscent of a backwoods expedition through uncharted sylvan dales; with veteran local fingerstyle guitarist and composer Jerry Gaff leading the way on the mostly-instrumental journey, expect to experience rich and deeply moving Americana-esque themes that occasionally include tinges of isolation and melancholy that gracefully subside, revealing a warm, comfortable destination just over the next hill. While it may be a stretch to call the inclusion of the vocal track "Breathe Deeply" a "gaffe," Sojourn could have benefited from the omission of this mood-breaker, however, overall, this album — mostly recorded and mastered at Cycling Troll Recording Services in Fairview, Pa. — is still worth a spin, whether you're trekking through the wilds on a raw winter's day, or laying in a candlelit bathtub with a bottle of American Honey. - Cory Vaillancourt

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 20
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

Now serving up good vibes on State Street

Fighting for change in our most vulnerable communities.

Running into a blazing building can be ‘terrifying,’ but some choose to do it, anyway. 

Here are three good opportunities to lighten up as the nights grow longer.

Dancing Wheels bring a world premiere to Mercyhurst.

IN THIS ISSUE

Now serving up good vibes on State Street

Fighting for change in our most vulnerable communities.

Running into a blazing building can be ‘terrifying,’ but some choose to do it, anyway. 

Here are three good opportunities to lighten up as the nights grow longer.

Dancing Wheels bring a world premiere to Mercyhurst.

Shapeshift With Me, relative to the band’s spectacular catalog as a whole, is certainly one of their less powerful studio albums.

Grate every road in downtown Erie all at once.

Some ‘multigrain’ bread has a little more protein than you’d like. 

Don’t just dream it. Be it!

If De Palmas trip down memory lane whets your appetite, come back to the museum for one of his most underrated movies a week later.