Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Music Review: Mutemath – “Odd Soul”

MUTEMATH-odd-soul

★1/2

I actually went back and accessed my old Myspace account blog before writing this review. Buried deep in the unread reaches of a dead blog I found what I was looking for: my November 2007 5-star review for Mutemath’s debut album. I still remember the night I discovered Mutemath, taking a cold Idaho winter walk to Albertson’s from my duplex. The album was so perfect the way it mixed atmospherics with rock and electronics. It’s still one of my favorites.

Two albums later I still love Mutemath, but I have to remind myself that I only hear an album like their debut once or twice a year. With that said, there’s nothing wrong with their newest effort. It’s heavier on the rock-y element than I would prefer, but I’m sure it makes for great summer windows-down driving. That’s clear right away on “Pyrtania”, a pulsating rocker that is probably a beast live. Lead single, and possible best track, “Blood Pressure” seems to borrow heavily from the bluesy rock that Black Keys brought to the mainstream in 2010. “All or Nothing” is the closest we get to circa-2007 Mutemath.

There’s a definite pep to this album, on full display on songs like “Allies” and “Walking Paranoia”. “Walking Paranoia” even gets a little funky. Whether or not it’s the second or third best Mutemath album can be debated, but it’s definitely the most fun. Mutemath also brings the Christian-yet-not-a-Christian-band element to the table, which I’ve written here about liking. This can be seen as they deal with religious pressure (“why can’t you, do a little more for Jesus?”), fear the untimely return of the Lord (“I’m a nervous wreck/Jesus is coming back/gonna catch me at the porno rack”), and deal with the searching souls of the world (“Where’s your heart gone, and where’s your soul? Where did all your faith go?…We’ll find it in no time at all.”).

Ultimately, Mutemath is now three for three. They may never live up to their debut to me, but who cares? They’re dependable, they’re fun, they’re interesting, and occasionally they are moving. Give it a shot.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Music Review: Sarah Jarosz – “Follow Me Down”

sarahjarosz

★1/2

I’ve mentioned my Nickel Creek withdrawals before, and how their breakup (“hiatus”?) is still my worst one. Lest this turn into a paragraph about how much I still, and likely always will, love Nickel Creek I’ll just say that I suspect that Sarah Jarosz does too. Unlike me, though, Sarah Jarosz has talent and an ability to recreate the same kind of moods and pleasantries that come with mingling of folk, bluegrass, and pop that Nickel Creek did so well.

On “Follow Me Down”, Sarah Jarosz provides an album that will please all longing Nickel Creek fans, and maybe make some new fans. It was not a surprise to me to find youtube videos of Sarah playing with Nickel Creek members, as the comparisons are easy. Forgive me if I don’t make head-shaking criticisms of Sarah’s perhaps shameless copying, because originality here is so overshadowed by the sheer wonderfulness of the copycatting. “Come Around” might be the best example if only for the male backing vocal, but it is executed so fantastically with the energy and mandolin plucking. “Run Away” and “Annabelle Lee” are also stars on the album, and three songs into the album I dare you not to fall in love. And if there haven’t been enough Nickel Creek references yet, there’s also a well-done remake of Bob Dylan track “Ring Them Bells”, a la Nickel Creek’s redo of “Tomorrow is a Long Time”.

One of the strengths of the album is it’s consistency. There is no track I’d call poor, even if there are some that don’t measure up to the rest. The dreaminess of “My Muse” is particularly unique, and the decision to cover Radiohead’s “Tourist”, one of my personal favorite songs, is the most wonderful kind of pandering I’ve ever seen. Instrumentals like “Old Smitty” and “Peace” are also well-placed, and “Gypsy” is perfect for the right mood.

I haven’t read any reviews of Sarah’s album, but let me wager a guess. Originality is likely a strike against her, because it is as if she set out to make the missing Nickel Creek album. For me, I do not care about this. This may be surprising, as originality is important to me, but this album is so well done and I miss Nickel Creek just that much that I highly, highly recommend it to Nickel Creek fans and more.