CD Shorts

Le Vent du Nord
Tromper le Temps

This is my top acoustic release of 2012. Le Vent du Nord offer everything Québeçois music should have: history, new tunes that sound old, seasonal songs, kitchen-style dance music, a soupcon of folklore, inspired silliness, breakneck clogging and even a rare song of requited love. Check out “Lettre á Durham,” the quartet’s take on a British plan to suppress Francophone culture, frothy dance tunes such as “Toujours Amant,” and a quirky reel sparked by an unfortunate vehicle rental (“Le Winnebago”). And if you want to know how much music can be made by four harmonizing voices, tapping feet and a drone, listen to “Le Diable et le Fermier,” a tale in which a commoner outsmarts the Devil. Belgium meets Canada in a heady mix of hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki, fiddle, mouth harp, accordion and guitar. Crooked dance tunes meet lusty vocals on an accomplished album fit for recital hall or a Gatineau parlor. —Rob Weir

Camper van Beethoven
La Costa Perdida


Back in the ’80s, Camper van Beethoven offered an unusual and thoroughly idiosyncratic antidote to the vapid, synth-driven sounds of radio pop. Their sound was a California-flavored melange of world music, ska, tango, rock and hippie-style jam. The band had few, if any, fellow travelers. That is, happily, still true. It’s at times remarkable how much this reunited lineup of players sounds like the Camper van of old. Gypsy-flavored abandon swirls with violin and quirky guitar, and David Lowery (equally known for his work with Cracker) offers the dreamy, surreal lyricizing that’s long been his hallmark. Some tunes fall flat“Northern California Girls” is a lackluster Beach Boys-esque departure that goes on for far too long, and the surreal becomes mere vapidity in “Too High for the Love-In,” which winds up with repeated calls to “bring to me the antivenom and make me a sandwich.” Outside of those exceptions, this feels like a perfect continuation of the bombastic yet laid-back habits of one of rock’s most interesting bands. —James Heflin

Howling Hex
The Best of the Howling Hex

You can occasionally hear the Southwest influence in the Howling Hex, but it’s more of a subtle, sunny feeling than a mariachi tribute. The vocals, on the whiney side, often seem to recall a less snarky Of Montreal, but the music is a funky mix of influences. The album pops and jumps, and makes you want to as well. It mixes long, distorted guitar solos with a bouncy bass and a steady, if somewhat repetitive, drum loop. The album is comfortably enjoyable and probably better live. There are bands with more polish and finer lyrics, but there is something unique about Howling Hex; maybe it’s their New Border influence or their Gypsy tendencies, but you can feel the epic road trips that formed this band in their music, and it makes for good fun—even if you want to turn down those long guitar solos sometimes. —Kathleen Broadhurst

Author: Advocate Staff

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