Wednesday, September 15, 2010

music - Junip

After obsessively blues-rocking out to J Roddy Walston almost nonstop for the past few weeks (I caught their show at Great American Music Hall here in SF, and I'm going to see them at the Double Door in Chicago next week, because I happen to be traveling there anyway, and not because I'm following them, hoping they'll read this blog, call me up on stage, ask me to guest-drum on "Uh Oh Rock n Roll", then forgive me when I completely butcher it and invite me to do shots of Evan Williams with them anyway), I think it's clear I need to mellow out.

Enter Fields, the latest full-length album from the Jose Gonzalez-fronted Junip, a band busying themselves in the most vague of musical genres: "singer/songwriter". Not nearly as sparse as Gonzalez's solo albums, Fields nonetheless builds on the atmospheric qualities of his solo work, namely loneliness, desperation, yet again forsaking sun-shininess. Junip even makes use of (gasp) percussion to send "Rope and Summit" and "Sweet & Bitter" rollicking on rusty rails, suspended between the cornucopia of acoustic and synth elements and Gonzalez's unmistakable lead vocals.

It should come as no surprise to Gonzalez fans (and really, after "Heartbeats", you have to be a special breed of hater to exclude yourself from this group), but damn, this is one moody record!

What is surprising is that this band shows a hint of a sense of humor on the standout track "Always" (especially in the video). Here lies wit, ever-so-slight and completely deadpan, but present. This shows that Junip, and Gonzalez in particular, has put a special focus on growth, not just record to record or song to song, but within the songs themselves. You can almost see the band, faces illuminated by some sinister campfire, trading scowls with smirks.

Seriously guys, don't take it so seriously.

Score: 17/20

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

music - J Roddy Walston & the Business

Have you ever listened to a new album, only to deflate from eager to impatient, drumming your fingernails on your veneers as you waited for the performers to get to the goddam point?

Well J Roddy Walston and his band The Business must have. And they made quadruply sure listeners didn't have to wait for their self-titled debut to wake up and declare itself.

Walston doesn't so much tickle as assault the ivories as the kamikaze pilot of this blues/rock-n-roll/country flight crew. This is exactly what the Brits, Aussies and other "world" music fans look to America for: an album so raucous, unabashed and sweetly soulful, it can only be a bunch of pearl-snapped, Motown-influenced punks too young and naive to know when to say when.

Only, these guys aren't out of control at all. Throughout all the banging, crunching and clattering, each song is deftly managed for maximum, oh, let's say "kickassedness". "Full Growing Man" in particular combines the power of Jim James's flying V with the weirdness of Bowie and the balls of Buckcherry.

We should all be so willing to get to the goddam point so thoroughly. It's okay to get turned on by loud rock n roll. If it were possible, I'd have an earection.

Score: 18/20