Time for spring cleaning

New releases for open windows

By Alan Sculley and L. Kent Wolgamott

 

Courtney Barnett//Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit // Mom + Pop Music

  CourtneyBarnett

Courtney Barnett sings about seeing Jesus in the watermarks on a ceiling, buying organic vegetables and staring at a lawn that needs to be mowed on Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, her captivating debut album. But mixing sing-speaking with pop cooing and occasional full-on vocal blast, the Australian singer transforms her observations of the everyday into personal examinations of anxiety and insecurity, love and regret. Barnett’s writing has been rightfully compared to that of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain in her ability to turn the mundane meaningful. But she’s also whip smart, insightful and, importantly, funny, a la The Kinks’ Ray Davies. The single “Depreston,” for example, starts out talking about the purchase of a percolator, saving $23 a week on coffee, shifts to the possibility of buying a house that has some connection to a man who served in Vietnam and becomes an examination of mortality and responsibility. The shimmering music, like the rest of the album, is driven by Barnett’s incisive guitar and is rooted in Pavement of the ’90s, but spins backward toward the sparseness of the Modern Lovers and even a hint of the Velvet Underground on “Dead Fox,” a number about supermarket vegetables, hay fever and a “Jackson Pollock in the tar.” The songs range from the spacious ballad “Small Poppies,” to the buzzing ’90s alt rock stomp of “Pedestrian at Best,” with its key line, “Give me all your money, and I’ll make some origami, honey.” There’s garage rock on “Nobody Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” the ’60s pop in the look at insecurity of “Debbie Downer,” and  layered, grinding guitar crescendos on “Kim’s Caravan” – all of which feel perfect.

File next to: Liz Phair, Sleater-Kinney

Rating: 4/5


– L. Kent Wolgamott

 

Diamond Rugs // Cosmetics // Sycamore/Thirty Tigers 

 DiamondRugs

Even on their first album, Diamond Rugs sounded more like a fully formed band than many groups made up of members of other established bands. (In the case of Diamond Rugs, the lineup includes John McCauley III and Robbie Crowell of Deer Tick, Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Bryan Dufresne of Six Finger Satellite and former Black Lips singer Ian Saint Pe.) On the group’s newly released second album, Cosmetics, Diamond Rugs’ sound has grown more distinctive and at times idiosyncratic (but in a good way). The lead track on Cosmetics, “Voodoo Doll” trades off between segments of brisk rock laced with Berlin’s honking sax and ones with more a new wave-ish feel. It’s an odd combination, but it works. On “Thunk,” “Motel Room” and “Clean,” the band straightens out the quirks of the opening song to create a trio of hooky rockers with just the right amount of grit. There’s a bit of a vintage rock in

Cosmetics as well. “Live and Shout It” sounds like Tom Petty on a rockabilly kick.  “Couldn’t Help It” has a bit of an Everly Brothers/Buddy Holly vintage pop within its rambling pop-twang sound. Cosmetics is more cohesive and evolved than the debut – making Diamond Rugs sound less like a just-for-fun side project and more like a group that deserves the time, effort and care of its members’ main bands.

File next to:  Delta Spirit, White Denim

 

Rating: 4/5

– Alan Sculley 

 

Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King // Fat Man’s Shine Parlor // Blind Pig

 SmokinJoe

 

These longtime musical partners and guitar slinging bluesmen deliver just what fans have come to expect over the course of more than a dozen previous albums together – a solid collection of blues-based songs that are flavored by rock, soul and funk. Fat Man’s Shine Parlor starts out on a high note with “Got My Heart Broken,” a boogying full-throttle rocker that’s one of the better songs the duo has ever written. Nearly as good are “Cornbread,” a Southern-fried foodie anthem that mixes riffy rock and a fast Texas blues shuffle, and “Diamond Eyes,” a rocker that manages the tricky task of being both tough and tender. Fat Man’s Shine Parlor, though, also shares a less favorable characteristic with most of the Kubek/King albums. It has a few pedestrian tracks, including “Don’t Want To Be Alone,” “Done Got Caught Blues” and “How Much,” which all suffer from bland melodies. One keeps hoping this pair will one day make an entire album that rises to the level of their best material. As it is, Fat Man’s Shine Parlor has more than enough sterling songs to make it one of Kubek and King’s better studio albums yet.

 

File next to: Johnny “Clyde” Copeland, Freddie King

 

Rating: 3.5/5

– Alan Sculley 

 

George Ezra // Wanted on Voyage // Columbia

 
GeorgeEzra

George Ezra’s irresistibly catchy sing-songy folk popper “Budapest” is already a hit from the 21-year-old Englishman’s debut album Wanted on Voyage. Ezra, who’s got a big versatile voice that can shift from falsetto to a croon, get soulful then blast away, comes off something like his countryman Jake Bugg on the acoustic-driven album-oriented shaker “Blame It On Me.” But Ezra is a folk rocker with a touch of blues and gospel thrown in here and there – as on the a cappella intro for the shaker “Did You Hear The Rain?” and the dark, clattering closer “Spectacular Rival” in which Ezra sounds far older than his years. Wanted on Voyage hit No. 1 in England. Now, Ezra appears like he’ll be England’s newest hit maker here.

File next to:  Vance Joy, Willy Mason

Rating: 3.5/5

– L. Kent Wolgamott

      

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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