Carry on, ‘07, but we’ve got ten
Highlights from a year’s worth of great local CDs
Had enough of the year-end lists? The worsts, the bests, the you-might-have-misseds? Look, it’s some kind of seasonal journalistic compulsion. It’ll pass; just indulge us. Now then: Here, in no particular order, are ten remarkable local CDs from 2006. Each is an achievement that we’d like to celebrate.
First, for finding a balance of delicacy and drive, making even bleeps and bloops seem steamy, and writing songs that stop us in our tracks, we salute the Evening Episode’s The Physicist Has Known Sin. “Lovely Creatures,” indeed. That gorgeous, gauzy track alone already is reported to have seen more than 13,000 Myspace plays. Well, it and nine others are right here waiting—your songs for the basking.
Then, to keep from spacing too far out, try the Deep Fried Funk Brothers’ Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire. It’s easy to be down with DFFB. These cats go way back. They paid years’ worth of dues (formerly as the CUF), and now live beat to beat, putting out vibes of affirming, unforced hip-hop seniority. Accurately self-described as “one of the dopest sounds outta Sacto,” this is witty, tight, vital stuff.Whassamatta? Feeling uneasy about venturing from the white-bread comfort zone? It’s OK. Baby steps. Hell, even in the zone there are good tunes to be had. Earthy, compulsively listenable, and just jam-bandish enough, 2ME’s Schizophrenic Love Songs, makes merry, Joe-college-friendly folk ’n’ roll with unselfconscious abandon. We’re not selling miracles here, but what if these dudes actually manage to broker some kind of common ground between hipsters and heshers?
As for unadulterated alt-folk indie steez, we’re calling it a draw between Two Sheds’ Strange Ammunition and Agent Ribbons’ On Time Travel and Romance. These tuneful duos—Caitlin and Johnny Gutenberger, the two full-time Sheds; Lauren Hess and Natalie Gordon of the Ribbons—set fine examples for letting reputations precede them. Affable and alive with wily, pretty vocals, their easy-cool albums demonstrate what all the buzz is about. And while we’re on the subject of dynamic duos, how about Allison Jones and Derek Fieth, collectively known as Pets? If you think their fuzzy, non-housebroken rock-pop (pop-rock? Pop Rocks?) makes for a great live show, try the CD, Pick Up Your Feet. The title says what to do; the music teaches you how.
Or perhaps some rootsy, bluesy rock that’s not just for the kids? We suggest Davis singer-songwriter Chris Webster’s Something in the Water. She comes highly Raitt-ed, but this velvet voice is all her own. Hard to say just what it is about the lovely lope of “Out Here in the Real World” that brings the tears to your eyes. The integrity, maybe? Between that one, the handsome cover (with Jackie Greene) of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” and, well, all the other tracks, Webster shows warmth, grace and range. She’s a class act.So’s Joe Gilman, whose trio’s View so Tender: Wonder Revisited Volume One delights. Building on his similar Brubeck inspections of ’03, the Capital Jazz Project piano man, again with bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown, gets busy discerning how amenable Stevie Wonder’s supple soul-pop structures are to improvisation. Very, it turns out. Bound neither by safe-playing hero-worship nor the blander vernacular of today’s trad, Gilman and Co. breezily home in on the Wonder of innate musicianship.
And since jazz seems a little underappreciated around here these days, we’re also paying a nod to Kairos Quartet’s mellow, modal, melodic Riverrun. This little beauty has the virtue of never getting too noodly or running low on ideas. It’s all about the simmering, relaxedly adventurous interplay of Steve Lishman’s tenor and Dyne Eifertsen’s trombone, as framed by Matt Robinson’s bass and Alex Jenkins’ drums. That’s just how a great quartet works: everybody listens to everybody else.
Finally, Mary’s Got Seven but I’ve Got Ten, by Deluxe, is simply a great album. Frontwoman Katrina Skalland’s jittery, tender-tough singing works brilliantly with her accomplished bandmates’ music, a driving, grrlish blast of surety and surprising changes. How, for all its hooky energy and emotional presence, is there not a single misstep here? Wow.