CD Shorts

Lucy Wainwright Roche; Ka; Suburban Legends

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lucy Wainwright Roche

There’s a Last Time for Everything



When you’re descended from as much folk royalty as Lucy Wainwright Roche, you’d better be able to deliver. With this, her second full-length, Roche obliterates all doubt and firmly stamps her own identity. Her voice is faintly reminiscent of Patti Griffin’s, but Roche is a singer of many moods—an ethereal and dramatic waif singing across the echoes (“The Year Will End Again”), a melancholy piano-backed torch singer (“Look Busy”), a queen of mystery (“Seven Sundays”), and the leader of a sunny folk/pop parade. Two of the latter are duets, “Seek and Hide” with Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, and “A Quiet Line” with Mary Chapin Carpenter. Ten originals and a stunning cover—Roche appropriates Robyn’s heart-thumping club hit “Call Your Girlfriend” and slows it down to create something as sensitive and fragile as a bruised rose petal. Roche brings her triumphant tour to Northampton’s Parlor Room Nov. 15.


The Night’s Gambit

(Iron Works)

The Night’s Gambit is an uncommonly restrained, insular hip-hop album. Ka’s voice never rises above a calm monotone; the beats he’s crafted knock, but are largely hypnotic and spare. But whatever appeal it foregoes in bombast, it more than makes up with gravitas. Ka’s distilled his life growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn during the crack epidemic to a series of intricate, incisive verses, and as this record goes on, they reveal weight, solemnity and wisdom. He’s a wonderful writer for hip-hop or for any other arena. On “Peace Akhi,” as church bells toll and rattling drums race insistently, he sums up his style with elegance—“my heart is never to question/ I write hard phonetic aggression/ my art is parked in the medicine section/ stay sharp, each word carved is lettered perfection.”

Suburban Legends

Dreams Aren’t Real But These Songs Are

(Rock Ridge Music)


Suburban Legends is a ska-centric band from California, and on this EP, the group offers a set of Disney movie songs. Back in the ’80s, the album Stay Awake offered an impressive roster of artists doing Disney material, and the sounds ranged from creepy lullaby to apocalyptic melodrama. The Suburban Legends, on the other hand, offer just one flavor: saccharine. The songs are uniformly well played, mixing poppy vocals with horn hits and distorted guitar, yet in some cases, the band outdoes even the cotton-candy lightness of the originals. You may well find yourself impressed with the solid musicianship one moment, over-sugared the next. In the Suburban Legends’ earliest days, they often played at Disneyland. This EP would fit right in there, and probably sees its best use in providing kids with alternate versions of songs they already love.

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