Albums of the Week

December 21-December 27

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In this edition: Carolyn Wonderland, AllofaSudden, Pterodactyl and The Fall.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Caroyln Wonderland: Peace Meal (Bismeaux Records)

Jesus, this is good. That’s meant both colloquially and in the sense of, “Hey, J.C., thanks for giving this child so much unmistakable gospel soul!” Peace Meal (released October 4) is a truly rich repast littered with the raunchy, saloon ready blues that have made Wonderland a fave of the Marcia Ball/Angela Strehli crowd but also showing she’s a sharper songwriter and vocalist than either of these mainstays and far more diverse in her choice of material/genres, too. While it kicks off with an obscure Janis Joplin tune, it’s quickly followed by two Wonderland originals that kick its ass before proceeding to mix up cherry covers and more fine original fare. The sound is clear and sharp, highlighting all her charms and what an awesome pair of accompaniments she has in her regular touring partners Rob Hooper (drums) and Cole El-Saleh (keys), showing the good instincts of the production team of Larry Campbell, Ray Benson & Sam Seifert, and pleasant surprise Michael Nesmith, who helms a version of Dust My Broom so good it makes one happy to hear this overplayed saw. Wonderland’s guitar work is incendiary and belly level satisfying, but it’s her stunning vocals that are the star here – a thrilling real woman’s voice filled with a lot of living and the acute knowledge that one needs to sin to get saved. It’s the kinda voice that could whisper things to a man that would make him do just about anything to fulfill her wishes. There’s nary a bit of fat and the sequencing carries one along smoothly from aching Wonderland reveries through Dylan (Meet Me In The Morning) and standout Golden Stairs, a largely forgotten Robert Hunter/Vince Welnick song from the Missing Man Formation that she turns into a powerhouse moment of bittersweet anguish. All together, Carolyn Wonderland and her damn fine associates have knocked out a high struttin’ blast that will hopefully launch her further afield from her established blues base. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
AllofaSudden: Drink The Ocean (Reapandsow)

Press play and one is quickly struck by a vibe very much in tune with proto-jam bands like early moe. and God Street Wine, i.e. young, eager to please, eager to explore rockers with a yen to color outside the lines anchored to solid songcraft. It’s almost damning in 2011 to hoist the word “jam” on any group but San Francisco’s AllofaSudden wear it well, particularly because the evidence of their sophomore album, Drink The Ocean (released May 24), reveals really fine musicianship, a knack for prime barroom ditties, and a swerving demeanor that encompasses pleasing bits of reggae, country and jazz into what is always clearly rock ‘n’ roll. What AllofaSudden does here is remind us what a big tent rock used to pitch, and then proceed to show us how fun and engaging the show can be with such an open mind. It does not hurt that they frequently let the guitars dip into distortion or flip around time signatures like men familiar with Phish (the tune Susan here has a nicely Phish-y vibe actually), nor does a bang-up cover of The Band’s Get Up Jake. Producers Charles Gonzalez and Tyler Shusterman capture AOS’ live energy and spotlight individual instruments in a way the concert hall can’t – this sounds killer loud. Drink The Ocean is a lot of fun that grows in its enjoyment the longer one spends with it. (DC)

Drink The Ocean promo pack by AllofaSudden

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Pterodactyl: Spills Out (Brah)

The best kept secret in the Brooklyn rock underground continues to veer away from their noise-centric loft party roots on their excellent third LP (released November 15) for their brothers in fuzz Onedia’s Brah imprint. On Spills Out, the Ohio expats continue to flex their aptitudes in the pop songwriting realm, evoking Zombies-esque harmonies from the experimental swirl of treated Wurlitzers, amplified ukuleles and droned-out nuances from a discontinued toy keyboard they are plinking with on this 13-song set. The band is further abetted by a poker night roundtable of some of their closest musical friends. Parts and Labor mastermind Dan Friel, Ex Models’ Zach Lehrhoff, electric organist and NYU scholar Mike Gallope, violist Amy Cimini and Frank Musarra of the underrated electro outfit Hearts of Darkness all lend a considerable hand in helping Pterodactyl achieve a fine, natural bridge juxtaposing their psych-wave past with a sunshine-loving present to hew a beautifully skewed sense of escapism for these most anxious and uncertain times. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
The Fall: Ersatz G.B. (Cherry Red)

Diving into the massive back catalog of the long-running English post-punk combo The Fall is like trying to decide what kind of pint you want to kick off the night with at the legendary Upstate, NY brew emporium Beers of the World. And while the group’s 29th venture, Ersatz G.B. (released November 22), might not rank up there with such certified Mark E. Smith masterworks as Grotesque, The Wonderful and Frightening World of… and This Nation’s Saving Grace, it serves as a fine testament to the enigmatic lyricist’s most consistent lineup of the band he has fronted in so many capacities for 35 years. This umpteenth version of The Fall rumble through a torrid clash of Greek metal, Tav Falco-esque rockabilly and art damaged Krautrock as Smith spouts out lines like, “I had to wank off the cat to feed the fucking dog”. If you are a fan of last year’s brilliant Your Future, Our Clutter, chances are you will dig this latest entry into the Manchester icons’ everlasting oeuvre. (RH)

One thought on “Albums of the Week | December 21-December 27

  1. Carolyn Wonderland’s album is my favorite CD of the year! She absolutely kills it live! Go see her!

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