Sounds for the soul

Hav­ing a rough day? Here’s a batch of new mu­sic that may make that long-haul down the high­way a lit­tle more in­vig­o­rat­ing. Greg Bush writes

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A DEEPER UN­DER­STAND­ING The War On Drugs Warner/At­lantic www.warn­er­mu­

A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing is the fourth al­bum from Philadel­phia’s The War On Drugs. De­spite the name, there’s lit­tle ag­gres­sion here; rather their style is to write and record multi-in­stru­men­tal am­bi­ent-style rock. Up front, singer Adam Gran­duciel sounds al­most like a young Don Hen­ley. Lay­ers of swirling in­stru­men­ta­tion give the band a sound un­like any of its con­tem­po­raries. A

Deeper Un­der­stand­ing opens with the mid-paced ‘Up All Night’. There’s a re­laxed coun­try tone to ‘Think­ing Of A Place’ with Max Hart adding pedal steel amid Gran­duciel’s elec­tric gui­tar licks. ‘In Chains’, with hyp­notic sound­scapes, is more up­beat, while ‘Clean Liv­ing’ is a sooth­ing pi­anobacked bal­lad. Pre­vi­ous re­lease Lost In The Dream was im­pres­sive, but A

Deeper Un­der­stand­ing has ‘al­bum of the year’ po­ten­tial.

RISE & SHINE Simo Mas­cot/ Provogue www.mas­cot­la­bel­

The US city of Nashville is noted for coun­try mu­sic, but three-piece band Simo, which orig­i­nated from ‘mu­sic city’, is any­thing but coun­try. Led by singer-gui­tarist and chief song­writer JD Simo, this trio leans to­wards funk, psy­che­delic mu­sic and hard driv­ing rock. Rise & Shine is Simo’s sec­ond al­bum for the Mas­cot la­bel, and it starts off calmly enough with funky gui­tar licks and muf­fled vo­cals on ‘Re­turn’ be­fore reach­ing a faster, more even tempo on ‘Shine’. There’s a multi-faceted in­stru­men­tal, ‘The Climb’, with JD Simo un­leash­ing both funk and fuzzed-out gui­tar gymnastics, then lead­ing into ‘Light The Can­dle’, a flash­back to the psy­che­delic sound of the 1970s. In con­trast, ‘I Want Love’ is a slow bluesy, R&B style num­ber, while the fi­nal track ‘I Pray’ is an off­beat and ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney.

DRESSED FOR THE OC­CA­SION Luke El­liot Jul­lian Records­keel­

Hail­ing from the US state of New Jer­sey, Luke El­liot has the voice and the sto­ry­telling tal­ent that has led to com­par­isons with artists such as Bob Dy­lan and Leonard Cohen. Dressed

For The Oc­ca­sion is El­liot’s sec­ond full-length al­bum, and he sings with much emo­tion, espe­cially with the slow pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment on ‘Let It Rain On Me’. He per­forms a pow­er­ful re­make of ‘Get ’Em While They’re Not’, orig­i­nally re­leased on his 2010 EP Death Of A Widow. On ‘Trou­ble’, he laments poor choices in his past, his raspy but soul­ful vo­cals giv­ing the song a tone of des­per­a­tion amid its twangy gui­tar back­ing. El­liot does an ad­mirable cover of Tim Har­den’s ‘Rea­son To Be­lieve’, a hit for Rod Ste­wart in 1971, and he ups the im­pact on ‘This Gun Of Mine’, one of the best on this raw and hon­est al­bum.

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