MUSIC REVIEWS: Glasvegas, Mariza, Iran, Kodomo
Glasvegas is a Scottish indie rock quartet whose name is a combination of two cities: Glasgow, the band’s hometown, and Las Vegas. The band consists of former members from two other bands, Bestforgotten and Hope that Hurts. Their self-titled debut album features the vocals of James Kevan, who sings and screeches in such an obvious and exaggerated Scottish accent, you get the impression he really loves hearing his voice. I was first introduced to Glassvegas when I heard their single “Daddy’s Gone,” which I really enjoyed. The band’s sound is sort of a modern take on Doo Wop and 60’s girl pop, which are evidenced by the “ya-ya-yas” and “oooohs” on tracks like “Geraldine.”
However, the two hurdles to this album are Kevan’s exaggerated accent which makes most of the lyrics incomprehensible, and that simple Doo Wop style that the album consistently conforms to, which restricts the band’s potential and hinders the album from a song writing perspective. In addition to the previously mentioned songs, check out “It’s My Own Cheating Heart” and “S.A.D. Light” to see if you are a fan. It’s just not my cup of haggis.
I like the mood Mariza puts me in. At once, I visualize myself on a balcony overlooking a garden. Or I’m dancing closely to a man who’s overcome by me. Maybe I’m walking alone with my camera in an old Spanish town. I might even be in a smoky cafe. The music on her new album Terra is soothing, contemplative, and rich; particular favorites are “Minh Alma” and “Ja Me Deixou.”
Mariza was unknown to me, but clearly not to much of the rest of the world. She’s a two-time Latin Grammy-nominated fadista. Fado is a style of music that originated from Portugual, where Mariza was raised. It’s characterized by mournful music and lyrics, often about the sea, the poor, or life in general. Despite this, I find many of the songs to be peacefully uplifting, including “Rosa Branca.” What’s particularly interesting about Mariza is that her father is Portuguese and her mother’s African from Mozambique.
Fado is usually linked to the Portuguese word “saudade,” meaning the feeling of missing someone. A special track, called “Beijo de Saudade,” features a duet with singer Tito Paris. The album also features guitar accompaniment from Javier Limon. The only awkward element of this album is the song, “Smile,” sung entirely in English with more of a jazzy element than the other tracks. Otherwise, Mariza knows how to create a mood with her strong, smooth voice.
Listening to Iran’s third album Dissolver is like discovering bits of gravel in your bubble gum…then finding that you don’t mind the crunch all that much. The now-Brooklyn-based band appropriately describes itself as part rock, part experimental, and part “melodramatic pop song;” the perfect genre for songs covering that particular sentiment you might have when you discover your latest relationship is only tolerable when you’re both high (cue track 5: “Baby Let’s get High One More Time”). Compared to previous albums, Dissolver sips rather than gulps on Iran’s lifeblood of screechy guitars, high-hat obsessions, and other such noises one might associate with a number of kitchen appliances. The result? A recipe for aural deliciousness.
“Still Life,” by three time Emmy nominee, Kodomo, whose real name is Chris Child, is beautifully crafted and visually stunning. Songs are created to make pictures speak through ambient sounds. Child’s impressive career background is in composing music for video games. As Kodomo, he has a special grasp for making songs that harbor an affinity of depth and instrumentation. Scientifically, he conceptualizes his music from his photography, for example, themes in nature influence the overall style, texture and rhythm. This discipline of song making adds richness to the music and makes the album very alive and vibrant. However this release is very drum and bass heavy. The titles for each song are labeled in “concepts.” Whether it is the spacey galaxy jam that begins with a slow building of dripping soft bright keyboard murmurs, or the album’s centerpiece, “Concept 16,” a track around ten minutes long that constantly grooves along a nasty and satisfying bass rhythm then soars upwardly, or “Concept 3” and its modern jazz slightly club trip-hop beat, the album constantly alters its own landscape as each picture in the album art changes. To the ear and eye, “Still Life” is as cultured as life itself.