Stay tuned to OpenAir, new music from Colorado Public Radio, to hear the latest from Braids, Ski Lodge, and Johnathan Rice.
By: Daniel Mescher
Braids - Flourish // Perish
For the follow-up to their acclaimed debut, 2011’s Native Speaker, Canadian trio Braids decided to “invent” a genre for the album’s musical style: singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston dubs it “natural electronica”, a combination of natural elements like voice and drums with synthesized sounds. The result is a curious medley of art-rock and experimental computer music. Tracks like “Together” and “Amends” thrust glitchy robotic beats behind immaculate vocals, a technique reminiscent of the recent output of Thom Yorke, another artist who has embraced electronica while attempting to humanize its colder elements. “Victoria” is a Knife-esque standout, with Standell-Preston emulating Karin Dreijer Andersson while electronic percussion creates a frantic atmosphere. Flourish // Perish is a captivating listen from a band unafraid to delve into new aesthetic territory and utilize the constantly-changing musical capacities of technology for their art.
Standout track: “Together”
Ski Lodge - Big Heart
Ski Lodge is for all intents and purposes the output of Brooklyn-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marr. Big Heart is Ski Lodge’s debut record, written and performed almost entirely by Marr. Chosen to "evoke an image of being warm by a fire, alone or with friends, while outside exists the cold and cruel winter", the Ski Lodge moniker might be an appropriate reflection of the music on Big Heart as well. The eleven songs here feature familiar jangle-pop guitar with vocals evocative of Suede’s Brett Anderson, but a dark undercurrent persists in Marr’s lyrics and delivery, allowing a sadness to seep through even on seemingly cheerier tracks. Song titles like “You Just Can’t Stop Being Cruel” and “Dragging Me to Hell” mask deceptively upbeat tunes, ones that would undoubtedly sound at home during the college-rock heyday of the 1980s. A record wiser beyond its years, Big Heart is one of the finest debuts of 2013.
Standout track: “Boy”
Johnathan Rice - Good Graces
Johnathan Rice goes by many titles: singer, songwriter, studio player (he’s played with Elvis Costello), actor (you might remember him as Roy Orbison in Walk the Line), producer, boyfriend of and collaborator with Jenny Lewis (as Jenny and Johnny). The Scottish-American musician (or whatever else you’d like to call him) returns with his third solo album, his first in six years. Good Graces, like his everyday life, finds Rice playing many roles: country balladeer on opener “Acapulco Gold”, sentimental pop crooner on “My Heart Belongs to You”, mournful minimalist on “That Summer Feeling”. Lewis and the Watson Twins show up to animate tracks like “Lou Rider” with their vocals on an album that Rice has deemed “healing” music for its therapeutic effect on the songwriter during the writing and recording process.
Standout track: “Nowhere At the Speed of Light”