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Quasi, Up the Chain, Daphne Lee Martin

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Quasi

Mole City

(Kill Rock Stars)

 

This ninth album from indie rockers Sam Coomes (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Janet Weiss (vocals, drums) is an ambitious project. Featuring 24 tracks, the record bounces from upbeat pop to more eclectic stylings at a rapid pace. Songs like “Loopy,” “Clap Trap” and the title cut don’t even reach a minute in duration. But while lengthier numbers like “New Western Way” possess longer running times, they also include spacey detours into Beatles-esque psychedelia. One highlight, “You Can Stay But You Gotta Go,” is worth all the time spent listening to lesser noodling. Opening with a distorted rumble, the tune levels out into a fuzzy bass jam complete with a sing-song rhythm. Elsewhere, “Nostalgia Kills” and “Fat Fanny Land” are notable classic rock pastiches. Quasi also injects its music with plenty of wit. Observant listeners will revel in all the sonic details.

Up The Chain

Seeds and Thorns

(independent)

Reed Kendall, the singer/songwriter behind Up The Chain, has a clean, clear voice—boyish, but without the agonizing strain of Conor Oberst or the overt playfulness of Jason Mraz. In tune with that voice, Seeds and Thorns is a smooth, crisp folk-rock album centered around Kendall’s singing, songwriting and acoustic guitar. Producer Bill Moriarty has done excellent work here, adding a variety of interesting instrumentation, from the electric piano on “Seasick Sailors” to the thumping, hard drums on “The Horse’s Course” and the warm, plaintive trumpet and creeping bass on “For To Give Away.” It’s easy to imagine Kendall, by his lonesome, fiercely delivering these songs at a dimly lit bar in his native Philadelphia. Seeds and Thorns is a worthy conduit for the kind of passion that requires.

Daphne Lee Martin

Moxie

(The Telegraph Recording Company)

Quite early in the album Moxie, Connecticut’s Daphne Lee Martin reveals that the boundaries of her musical territory are very wide indeed. It’s a beautiful defying of expectation, for instance, that in the midst of a tune that seems at first like pre-World War II speakeasy vamping there’s a screaming, distorted guitar solo. Old-school horn playing bumps up against Hammond organ, banjo appears, and it’s clear that all bets are off. Moxie seems like an album that draws from the entirety of a musical century, letting anything and everything jostle around in the same box. Martin’s voice lends itself beautifully to old-fashioned tunes, and even when the album turns toward R&B or ’80s pop stylings and reggae, it’s her easy, adept vocalizing that provides the glue. Martin’s songs aren’t universally successful, but most of them bring together cleverness and musical dexterity to make a noise that’s truly not quite like anything else.

—James Heflin

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