Tommy & the High Pilots, American Riviera
A California dude inspired by a year in New York City, Tom Cantillon has come up with a winner of an EP. With a lot of help from his excellent band and producer Marc McClusky, he’s put out six songs full of unexpected hooks, rhythmic surprises, and interesting arrangements, while his rich, quavery vocals keep the emotion cranked. McClusky’s creative hand shapes the material into a tightly-wound ball of unconventional power-pop.
The band’s lyrical side shows in the melodic “Where to Start,” with its alt-rock soft/loud contrast, but there’s no grunge; many of these songs are sweeping little suites with multiple parts that hold together, never losing their grip. At moments they bring to mind various other artists—Richard X. Heyman, the Animators—but Tommy & the High Pilots make their own statement here, and make it superbly. “I killed myself to get to you / So come and get it,” Cantillon sings in “The Limit.” Good advice. Metaphorically speaking, anyway.
Various Artists, Music from the Original Film For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots
A new documentary about black soldiers in America’s wars has generated this stirring soundtrack, a (to my knowledge) unique fusion of military/patriotic music with soul and gospel. With contributions from the Waters, the Andrae Crouch Choir, and others, its various pieces (which include full songs as well as bits of incidental music) use drums, horns, vocals, keyboards, and traditional Americana sounds to evoke the stories of the black soldiers who, even in the face of discrimination and worse, believed in the promise of the United States of America. The songs include Stephen Foster’s “Was My Brother in the Battle,” sung beautifully by Carol Dennis-Dylan; a jaunty, jazzy take on “We’ll Meet Again”; and a couple of bittersweet-sounding versions of popular Christmas carols. While clearly a soundtrack, the disc is quite listenable; the music draws vivid pictures that make you want to see the film, but that also provide an emotional experience of their own.
Reverend Freakchild, God Shaped Hole
The best parts of this new retro-hippie disc from Reverend Freakchild sound like the elements of a lost Nuggets collection dating from the acid-baked era of groovy music and naive idealism. “Everything was true,” he sighs in “Sweet Sweet You” after namechecking Jimi, Janis, John, Rosetta Tharpe and Robert Johnson. It’s a sly, moody song that reflects Rev’s significant pastoral side.
There’s a flavor of early Grateful Dead through the disc, a laid-back feel even to the occasional rocker like “All Across America.” But, un-Deadlike, Rev often sings in a somewhat hyper style, though his flattish, unpretentious voice is inviting but the opposite of showy.
Mewling lap steel, plus fiddle from Sara Alden (of Luminescent Orchestrii), decorate the quiet “Supersubconscious,” while Rev evokes voodoo and stinky New York summers with his Resonator guitar in “My Good Friend Legba.”
Towards its second half the disc loses some focus, getting extra loose and jammy so that one feels one might need to be tripping to appreciate it. “Causing Crying,” for example, is a hookless country song that misses the mark. But the closer, “Don’t Miss Nothing,” wraps it all up into an airy blue package of slide-guitar heart.