An unusual amount of original-sounding music has burrowed its way out of my listening pile recently. See, in particular, the first two reviews below. But first a quick note for our New York readers: punk-pop dynamo Kirsten DeHaan, an Indie Round-Up favorite, is starting a residency this Thursday at Club Midway on Avenue B. I wrote about her last year here. Do check her out if you're in town.
Kelli Hanson, Our Buildings
Contemplative but energetic, Kelli Hanson's music is a strange bird. With a few exceptions - like "Foolish Champion" and the opening track, "Doesn't Even Matter" - the songs aren't particularly hooky, and between Hanson's drawling pronunciation and the deep reverb on her voice it's hard to make out the words. But the music draws you in with a mysterious power. One can detect touches of an acoustic singer-songwriter vibe, featuring Hanson's woodsy guitar picking, as well as R&B, Europop, mystical she-magic, modernism, the obscure edges of classic rock, and other strands. There's even what sounds like prepared piano on the captivating little instrumental "Fall in Canandaigua." But Hanson is really her own animal. Her tunes might not follow you into the shower, but her thoughtful, atmospheric sounds very well might. I'm keeping this one.
Mama's Cookin', Mama's Cookin'
Hip-hop beats and rap-like lyrics merge with heavy blues and strong musicianship in the third album from the young Colorado quartet Mama's Cookin'. The band has come up with a distinct sound, which is quite a rarity. Slide guitar, organ riffs, and live drums alternate with moody jangle and funk grooves, all propping up singer-guitarist Zeb Early's impassioned vocals. It's refreshing and worthwhile.
My only caveat: Early's half-sung, half-rapped style works less well in some of the smoother tracks, like "Lampin'" and "Tough Times" - this sort of music recalls authentic soul sounds like Marvin Gaye's, and, to my ear, seems to call for real singing. (Listen to Kevin So for a more fulfulling modern interpretation of this feel.)
By contrast, in the band's higher-energy rock tracks, like "Run Up Quick," "What I Am," and "Black Reign," the medium matches the socially and politically conscious message, and you can feel the power. Great stuff.