(Fat Cat Records)
Brett Paulin and Dan Workman (Ten Kens) may have minted their most profound and poignant record to date in Namesake. Over the course of a year, the Toronto-based songwriting duo produced the album in complete isolation—as is their customary practice—to avoid any influence from the outside world that might distract them from their individualized creative processes. Working behind locked doors at various studio spaces, the pair achieves an explorative sound that only comes from a focused artistic vision, using layered vocal harmonies, haunting hypnotics, and deafening bass presence. A dark yet powerful psychedelic voyage of self-discovery, Namesake aims to chronicle an aural narrative that spans the breadth of life and death, spawning intellectual rock that equates to something like abstract art. The 2013 special release carries four bonus tracks not previously included in their digital album.
Recorded after the files for the band’s first attempt at a debut album were stolen in Amsterdam in 2011, Seabed has been jokingly referred to as Vondelpark’s second record. And like most jokes, there is truth in such a statement. Opening with the R&B-inspired “Quest,” the release plays like a self-assured effort from a multi-instrumentalist collective whose improving live show contributes to some songs’ loose feeling. One number, the previously released “California Analog Dream,” has even been reinvented since its first appearance on the band’s Sauna EP. Now boasting harmonica, real drums instead of sampled beats, and a more central guitar line, the song is like an audible representation of the growth Vondelpark has made since its inception as an electronic-based act. Need another reason to rejoice? Any band that titles one of its songs “Bananas (On My Biceps)” has got to be confident in its abilities.
Oana Catalina Chitu
Maria T?nase (1913-63), who mined influences ranging from Gypsy jazz to cabaret, tango, and folk melodies, has been dubbed the “Edith Piaf of Romania.” Enter the heavenly voice of Oana C?t?lina Chi?u, who here both evokes her idol and hits the refresh button. She masters T?nase’s silly songs, wrenches emotion from soulful lamentations, is giddy with café-style love, and fans the flames of torchy selections. But Chi?u also puts her own stamp on “Pe Vale,” with a honky-tonk feel that’s more Patsy Cline than T?nase; the sexy tango “You Have No Idea,” which is reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich; and “He Who Loves and Runs Away,” whose discordant tones fit the done-her-wrong song. Chi?u is the equal to any jazz chanteuse and has considerably more spunk than most. This is a brilliant tribute album that’s primal, exuberant and original. Special shoutouts go to violinist Slavici Anton, saxophonist Vladimir Karparov, and accordionist Dejean Jovanovic.