Gyspy bells and beach blues

New sounds for summer spinning

By Alan Sculley

As we roll headlong into the dog days of summer,mild as they may be this year, era-defining playlists are being amassed left and right. Admit it: you’re making your Summer 2013 playlist as you read this. Well, let us suggest four more options that stand to consider as possible fodder for that mixtape you’ll make for that inevitable summer crush, your 4 a.m. bender gone wild or that weekend you spent at some beach destination realizing that, perhaps, summer should be eternal.

Gogol Bordello Pura Vida Conspiracy (ATO Records)   

With six albums under its collective belt – including Pura Vida Conspiracy – the novelty of Gogol Bordello’s gypsy punk sound has worn off. But the band’s ability to combine several varieties of ethnic music with punkish energy still sounds fresh on the new album. This time out, Eugene Hutz and company have come up with one of their strongest albums, with songs that succeed because of their pure musical quality and appeal. With the exception of a couple of acoustic-based ballads, Pura Vida Conspiracy is quite frenetic. For instance, “Dig Deep Enough” shifts between a waltz, a bit of reggae and full-on punk, while “We Rise Again” is a spirited gypsy-rock anthem that throws in a couple of punk curveballs along the way. Some songs  – “Malandrino” and “My Gypsy Auto Pilot” – start out somewhat low key, but don’t stay that way. What’s more, Gogol Bordello covers lots of stylistic ground on Pura Vida Conspiracy. Of course, that’s no surprise to those familiar with the band’s other albums. But Hutz and his bandmates continue to refine their songwriting and playing skills and, on Pura Vida Conspiracy, have made their blend of global sounds more seamless than ever.

File next to: DeVotchka, Squirrel Nut Zippers


Patrick Sweany Close To The Floor (Nine Mile Records) 

 As a singer, Sweany sounds more than a little like John Fogerty at times. But otherwise, Sweany has more of his own sound than the vast majority of artists in blues/roots music these days. He opens the album with some Black Keys-ish, raw, garage blues on “Working For You,” but he stretches out from there. “It’s Spiritual” – one of the album’s most melodic tracks – has hints of country, pop and swampy Southern music and even some strings built into its easygoing rock sound. “Just One Night” mixes similar ingredients, but has a bit more of an edgy sound. There’s some of the California country to “Bus Station,” which recalls “Lodi” by Credence Clearwater Revival. Sweany channels a bit of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins voodoo on the eerie, stripped back blues/psychedelia of  “Every Night Every Day.” While one can reference the likes of the Black Keys, Hawkins and CCR in the music on “Close To The Floor,” Sweany has a pretty singular sound. Couple that with solid songwriting and it’s reason to pay attention to the musical path Sweany – with five previous albums to his credit – is carving these days.  File next to: The Black Keys, John Lee Hooker

Bell X1 Chop Chop (Belly Up Records)  

 On the Irish band’s eighth album (including live releases), Bell X1 moves away from the synthetic sounds of its most recent albums to embrace a more natural and spacious sound. It’s a good move because with Chop Chop the more minimalistic sound keeps the emphasis on the beauty and fragility that define many of the songs. A prime example is “Diorama,” where a gorgeous descending piano melody and light orchestration is pretty much all frontman Paul Noonan needs to create a stunning and delicate ballad. Another highlight in this vein is “Drive-By Summer,” where the melancholic vocal melody is surrounded by a delicate finger-picked guitar signature and washes of instrumentation and percussion, creating a shimmering musical effect. The group does put a little more punch into a few songs, although the band doesn’t rock as much it did on earlier albums. In fact, the closing track, “The End Is Nigh” is Chop Chop’s most rocking tune. With electric guitars and an insistent beat driving this first-rate song, it ends an album that’s a bit gentler, but quite original, on an impressive note.  File next to: The Swell Season, Belle & Sebastian


 Beach Day Trip Trap Attack (Kanine Records)  

 Kimmy Drake ends this trio’s debut album, Trip Trap Attack, singing the line that is the title of the closing song, “We’ve Gotta Go.” Just like that, Trip Trap Attack is over, and it feels like the album had just gotten started. That’s a sure sign of an album that works. The group from Hollywood, Fla. features two types of songs: Fast-paced, surfy/new wavish pop-rockers and slower, shimmery retro-pop songs in the tradition of Phil Spector’s production, but without Spector’s wall of sound approach. In either setting, girl group pop hooks and vocal stylings figure strongly in the sound. Such songs aren’t exactly innovative, but Beach Day does them very well, making Trip Trap Attack a fun-filled debut.File next to: the Go-Go’s, Wavves

 Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at


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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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