Anime had its Big O; well-traveled singer/songwriters look to Alejandro Escovedo and Damien Jurado. That, and more tenuously tangential links in our roundup for the 16th, also including Hope For Agoldensummer, The Royalty, and We Are Serenades.
How strange is it that Alejandro Escovedo was once in a side-project rock band called Buick MacKane and has now thrice worked with producer Tony Visconti? As things stand, Big Station (Fantasy) sounds no more like T. Rex than anything else in the 61-year-old’s catalog. But Escovedo and Visconti have come up with what amounts to a “hit” album for the San Antonian, in so far as it sounds like a compilation of all his best work. Perhaps that’s owed again to the collaboration of co-writer Chuck Prophet, who himself is on a roll as far as distilling Americana rock into something a little less wearying than your boilerplate No Depression stars. Opener “Man Of The World” might not quite be the Fleetwood Mac song, but its pumping swagger gives that version a run for its money. (Wednesday@Uptown’s Playlist Theater in LaSalle with Jesse Malin.)
One day, a rather stunning compilation will be made of Damien Jurado’s best, and in a perfect world it would place him alongside the likes of John Prine in the history books. Maraqopa (Secretly Canadian), however, will not be rocketing toward the top of the pops soon. A deep, yet somewhat quixotically mixed album, Jurado usually pushes the bulk of his imagination into his characters but really lets fly with the arrangements here. Opener “Nothing Is The News” opens with the muddled rumble of old guitar strings, but soon launches itself into Haight-Asbury psychedelic rock. “Life Away From The Garden” casts a creepy children’s choir, and the LSD returns for the reverbed lope of “This Time Next Year.” Though his fragile tenor reminds you whose album this is, it’s easy to forget what you began listening for, until words like “Don’t let go/I need you to hang around/I am so broke/and Foolishly in love” remind you that not all’s in the scenery. (Wednesday@Schubas with JBM.)
Harmonizing sisters aren’t trendy — they’re a gift. So yes, Claire and Page Campbell intertwine as effortlessly as the Watson Twins or Wilsons, but they don’t prefer a lung-emptying showcase or even something that would wake Azure Ray from a slumber. Instead, Hope For Agoldensummer use Life Inside The Body to make subtle and even aching gestures, many of which recall the vulnerable, half-wakefulness of Rebecca Gates. It can be somnambulant and deliberate, for sure, but it’s never typical. (Wednesday@Uncommon Ground Devon with Andru Bemis.)
It can be a wonderful thing to have a versatile pop band. While Victory Records has gone overboard with The Royalty by comparing them to everyone from Adele to Blondie to Sleigh Bells, the label’s clearly excited by its prospects. On Lovers, Nicole Boudreau stars in an almost Gwen Stefani-like way, one that flirts with debasing her bandmates’ contributions. But The Royalty are up to creating a multitude of pop scenarios for her, whether Spector-esque pop, ska-lite, or electro-pop delight. (Wednesday@Beat Kitchen with Nature Show, Placeholder, and Eiffel Tower.)
The jump from Shout Out Louds to We Are Serenades is deliberate if not literal. The delicate, Swedish power-poppers might actually only be half SOLs — frontman Adam Olenius — but their raison d’etre is fully encompassed by his band’s “Impossible” and its precious intent to never compromise happiness. What keeps Criminal Heaven from being an irrepressible ode to blind youth is its pacing, a cryptic concession to acquiescence that is obscured in the interest of keeping the good times going for as long as possible. (Wednesday@Empty Bottle with Northpilot and Dozens.)
– Steve Forstneger
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