The Circle and the Blue Door
(Metal Blade/ Rise Above)
According to demonology, the creature “Purson” is a “Great King of Hell,” often accompanied by 22 legions of demons that do his bidding. On its debut album, the London band Purson conjures the sinister spirit of such a monster with 11 tracks of carnival-influenced progressive rock. Led by vocalist and lead guitarist Rosalie Cunningham, this five-piece often sounds like a throwback ’60s psychedelic group, complete with whirling organ textures and dark lyrics that focus on the occult. First single “Leaning on a Bear” is a tightly wound blues-inspired number that still manages to fit an instrumental freakout in between distorted vocal passages, while the mostly acoustic opening cut “Wake Up Sleepy Head” acts as a deceptive introduction that lulls listeners along before plunging them into chaos. Though the CD’s long running time means it sometimes drags, many will still want to follow Purson to the dark side and beyond.
Northampton’s Pale Cowboy offers an intriguing collision of styles on Shelter. The guitars possess a high twang factor, sounding quite country at times. Yet the vibe that prevails amidst the male/female harmonizing, pop hooks, and quirky song construction seems to hail more from Lennon/McCartney pop than Nashvillian by-the-numbers offerings. The studio production is almost startling in its impeccable, punchy reproduction and mix, even via relatively lo-fi online media. The songs are a mixed bag of laid-back reveries and solid rockers, and, pleasantly enough, they are apt to take all sorts of unexpected turns in their construction—the last tune even departs for outer space deftly, before returning to the previously scheduled pop tune. If Pale Cowboy is any indication, the Valley is continuing its habit of turning out surprisingly capable young musicians. You can see Pale Cowboy Aug. 3 at 10 p.m. at the Iron Horse.
The Boxcar Lilies
Fusing organic folk harmonies, dueling acoustic guitars, and keen lyricism, Americana trio The Boxcar Lilies (Stephanie Marshall, Jenny Goodspeed, and Katie Clarke) debut a sophomore album whose catchiness is matched only by its complexity. The haunting hush of “In This Valley” complements the soft strum of “Love Comes Back,” while the lively fiddle of “Lightnin’” and the head-nodding tune of “Good Fortune” help round out the album’s range of folk sounds. The Lilies’ bass-led title track “Sugar Shack” and their a cappella cover of James Taylor’s “That Lonesome Road” stand out as the most prominent displays of the vocal harmonies for which the trio is (rightfully) known. At 35 minutes long, the album achieves a refreshing purity grounded in its originality and balance. Their sound takes root—it addicts.