Carrier is an odd sort of album in that its skeleton is straightforward songwriting, melody-centered, quiet and a touch wistful, but its vibe is thoroughly contemporary, mixing that deliberate, closely examined songwriting with evolutions into noisy, overdriven rock. There’s something about the slow-moving melodies and big sounds that clearly hails from the current indie world, but Carrier is more interesting than the work of many an indie band for its wide variety of sounds and its toying with expectation. The vocals, on the other hand, remain steadfastly safe—vocalist, guitarist and songriter Meric Long mostly stays within his comfortable range, and isn’t prone to vocal cord pyrotechnics. The divide between unhinged instruments and low-energy singing often works, but at times, it’s easy to wish he’d cut loose there, too.
There must be something about the spaces between. Back in 1973, jazz pianist and keyboardist Sun Ra released “Rocket Number Nine,” the fifth and final song on his album Space Is the Place. Flash forward 40 years, and British brothers and synth/drum team Ben and Tom Page form RocketNumberNine, get noticed by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, plan a collaboration with Neneh Cherry (daughter of jazz pocket trumpeter Don Cherry, who, incidentally, recorded with Sun Ra) and present their debut album MeYouWeYou, a collection of (fittingly) nine electronic dance tracks that somehow manage to be jazzy without being improvisational. “Black and Blue” stands out thanks to Page’s excellent ambient techno drum kit work, as does “Matthew and Toby,” the final, eight-minute (down from the original 14-minute single) offering.
(Molehill Mountain Productions)
At its core, F. Alex Johnson’s debut solo effort is, in his own words, “a rock and roll record” through and through. Spanning the spectrum of rock styles (and the neck of his guitar), Johnson’s 12 original songs are held up as much by their sweet guitar riffs as by their catchy, stuck-in-your-head-all-day melodies. “I’m Still Running,” “This Happens to Everyone” and even “Style of the Time” are on one end of that spectrum, as hard-charging and head-banging as any mainstream rock song. The more surprising turns on the album come in the form of slower songs, like rock lullaby “Go Back to Sleep,” where Johnson and co-writer Jodi Lynn Nicholas relate the feeling of waking from a bad dream, and a gorgeous acoustic instrumental, “For the Birds.” Catchy stuff with nice rock harmonies.