Couple more reviews up today, a long one from Dusted about Micah Blue Smaldone, who swims in the same pool as Death Vessel, Fire on Fire and Larkin Grimm, and a shorter one about a very nice, vinyl-only pop psych debut from Texan Matthew Gray of Matthew and the Arrogant Sea.
Micah Blue Smaldone
The Red River
Like his sometime tour mate, Joel Thibodeaux of Death Vessel, Micah Blue Smaldone has been moving towards music that is rooted, rather than confined, in 19th century folk. His first album, 2003’s Some Sweet Day, was defiantly old-time-ish, rooted in populist folk and protest music and played on a resonator guitar. Two years later, he offered Hither and Thither, a bit more modern in its references and scope. And now with The Red River, his best yet, richer, more fluid arrangements tip his songs from straight folk blues into gospel, soul and even hints of R&B.
Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, Family Family Family Meets The Magical Christian (Nova Posta Vinyl)
Here’s a self-imposed challenge: how to write about Matthew and the Arrogant Sea’s psyche pop oeuvre without referring to LSD. Instead, let’s stick to lysergic landmark comparisons—Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In an Aeroplane Over the Sea. Family Family Family Meets the Magical Christian is by no means in the same league with these classics, but it is an impressive debut. It shares these records’ lucid dreamlike quality, its songs filled with bright colors, luminous melodies and bizarre but friendly imagery. Consider casio-paced, acoustic guitar’d “Pretty Purple Top Hat” which spins into its own universe with the opening salvo, “I was sitting on an orbit floating off in space/when your pretty purple top hat/hit me in the face.” From there it’s all glowing electro-keyboard flourishes and sighing vocals, surreal “hippo-sized balloons” floating by in the distance. Or take the foot-stomp-and-clap rhythmed “Mock Origami” with its swooning, much harmonized chorus of “And we all wave our hands goodbye.” It is not so much strange as an alternate reality, bounded by its own set of rules and sciences and oddly inviting. A willing suspension of disbelief, of logic, of linearity is required to enter into this world, but once you’re in, the water’s wonderfully warm. Not many young songwriters are constructing their own universes, right off the bat, so substance-assisted or not, let’s give songwriter Matthew Gray his due. This is a fantastic and phantasmagoric outing into alternate reality, and well worth checking even if you’re stone cold sober. [Amazon ]
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