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Digging Goldfrapp, Lamb and Ron Sexsmith

           

So, after hearing some older things for the first time and learning that some new releases I didn’t anticipate were coming out, I ended my record-buying hiatus by plunking down money for Goldfrapp’s Felt Mountain (from 2000), Lamb’s Between Darkness and Wonder and Ron Sexsmith’s Retriever.

I haven’t, of course, given them all a proper listen, but some things about all of them stand out immediately. The Goldfrapp release features a song called “Horse Tears” that I heard on Liz Copeland’s overnight program on WDET a couple of weeks ago. Felt Mountain CD CoverWhen the song came on, I thought at first that I was hearing a side project to which PJ Harvey had contributed vocals. Then I realized it couldn’t be Harvey, for the singer also evoked Beth Gibbons of Portishead (and, come to think of it, the sounds also recalled Portishead). In the end, it’s a wonderfully textured record—both lush and intriguing. It also contains some odd sonic allusions to carnival and circus music, among other things.

The Lamb recording sounds more subdued than their previous three releases, but in a good way. On the earlier recordings, there sometimes seemed to be violent clashes between the vocals and the instruments/samples. Between Darkness and Wonder CD Cover It was almost as though there were two different worlds that co-existed in sonic space but were oddly compatible. That sense is gone here. Allison’s vocals sound a lot more relaxed and a lot less manically edgy; I could say the same about the instrumental sounds. I think the record will grow on me.

Perhaps predictably, I’m really digging the Ron Sexsmith recording. He reminds me again what an amazing skill he has for writing three-minute pop songs. Retriever CD CoverLyrically and musically, each of the songs is a compressed diamond that must have taken centuries to form. He’s also adept at writing songs that explore all kinds of sonic configurations, and I frequently love his forays into R&B. On this recording, the song that does that is “Whatever It Takes.” Sexsmith himself describes the tune as both a tribute to Bill Withers and a cautionary meditation on “trying hard not to screw up a good thing.” It’s beautiful, and if you listen closely, you’ll catch some wry seven-bar phrases.

Not much else to report beyond some upcoming releases that I’ll probably have to “review” once I’ve heard them. They include CDs from Prince, PJ Harvey, the Roots, Wilco, Fiona Apple, George Michael and the Finn Brothers (Neil and Tim). Oh, yeah. I’m really digging Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, the debut full-length from TV on the Radio, and Obrigado Saudade, the latest from Mice Parade.

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