BARONESS

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

COLOURS have al­ways been im­por­tant to Baroness. Af­ter the tri­umphs of 2007’s Red Al­bum and 2009’s Blue Record, the band switches gears and expands its pal­ette from pri­mary colours to the ex­per­i­men­tal dou­ble al­bum Yel­low & Green, with each colour get­ting its own disc and hav­ing its own dis­tinct feel that expands upon the band’s sound for bet­ter and worse.

The Sa­van­nah, Ga., quar­tet has ditched its heav­i­est and sludgi­est ma­te­rial and fo­cused more on its melodic side while keep­ing its har­mo­nized gui­tar lines in­tact and adding in some arena-sized an­themic cho­ruses.

Yel­low is the heav­ier and more im­me­di­ate of the two colours with Take My Bones Away and March to the Sea show­cas­ing the band’s new­found ap­pre­ci­a­tion for melody. Co­ca­nium could be an homage to the Meat Pup­pets with a splash of psychedelia, which con­tin­ues on the mel­low Back Where I Be­long.

Green is more moody and fea­tures a few tracks with the band veer­ing into some mod­ern rock with Board up the House sound­ing like some­thing that could be a play to get on com­mer­cial ra­dio. Stretch­maker is a go nowhere acous­tic in­stru­men­tal, bested later by am­bi­ent closer If I For­get Thee, Low­coun­try, but the high­light on this one is The Line Be­tween, a groove-heavy banger with har­mo­nized so­los.

Yel­low & Green is a bold move that proves Baroness isn’t con­tent to stick to sim­ple shades. It doesn’t al­ways work, but when it does, it’s golden. ½ TORONTO singer-song­writer John Royal Wood Ni­chol­son is em­i­nently lik­able. He’s at­trac­tive, well-dressed, and a tal­ented multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist with a rich, pleas­ant voice and tunes that have a jan­gly sur­face charm that’s in­stantly ap­peal­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, there’s some­thing about the melodic, mod­est pop on his third al­bum that just washes over you and drains away with­out leav­ing any­thing last­ing be­hind. It doesn’t help that his lyrics are noth­ing to write home about, trad­ing in va­garies about love and re­la­tion­ships and never find­ing a real po­etic mo­ment.

There are some stick­ier songs, how­ever; the Paul McCart­ney-es­que guile­less­ness of The Thick of It and the fuzzed-out pop of I Want Your Love among them. The Glory finds him sound­ing a bit like a les ethe­real Jeff Buck­ley, while his wife Sarah Slean sings coun­ter­point. But mostly this is paint-by-num­bers pop: pretty, but not a mas­ter­piece. AN­GUS Stone’s sec­ond solo ven­ture out­side of the duo with his sis­ter Ju­lia sees the Aussie multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist singer­song­writer han­dling pro­duc­tion chores too.

River Love builds pro­gres­sively from slow and pretty to a lively in­fec­tious jig com­plete with Ir­ish flute. The Wolf and the But­ler is a pe­cu­liar coun­try love song. The Blue Door is a murder bal­lad with an ob­vi­ous Johnny Cash gui­tar influence. Mon­sters is a banjo-driven tale of in­ter­nal strug­gle. Bird on a Buf­falo is catchy acous­tic folkpop with air­play po­ten­tial.

Sound­ing at times like Bon Iver fronting Mum­ford & Sons, Stone’s unique vo­cal style and off-kil­ter phras­ing is truly spell­bind­ing. Stone weaves a lush, at­mo­spheric sonic ta­pes­try held to­gether with cryp­tic lyrics and washed in au­ral tex­tures dic­tated by roots in­flected in­stru­men­ta­tion cour­tesy of gui­tar, man­dolin, har­mon­ica, Do­bro, or­gan, cello, vi­o­lin and of course those old stand­bys the pin­ball ma­chine and, uh, space ma­chine! AR­RANGER and com­poser Gil Evans holds an ex­alted po­si­tion in the jazz world for his 1940s-’50s work with Claude Thornhill’s band, through his great col­lab­o­ra­tions with Miles Davis to his own bands and record­ings. So the re­lease of 10 never-be­fore-recorded ar­range­ments to mark the cen­ten­nial of Evans’ May 13, 1912, birth is a rare treat.

Pro­ducer and com­poser Ryan Trues­dell un­cov­ered 50 scores and nar­rowed them down to 10 for this disc per­formed by 35 top-notch mu­si­cians, in­clud­ing three singers.

The time spans 25 years of writ­ing and car­ries the un­mis­tak­able Evans sound — airy, less brassy, great use of wood­winds and French horns; just a huge or­ches­tral mon­ster.

The CD in­cludes an early ver­sion of The Maids of Cadiz, and a 14-minute Pun­jab, in­tro­duced by Dan Weiss’s tabla, swirls and sweeps with all the horns and a great Frank Kim­brough pi­ano solo.

It’s a gem of a col­lec­tion of work by a mem­ber of jazz’s ar­rang­ing roy­alty.

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