Critics Playlist: Reviews of Neko Case album and more
01:08 PM, Oct 07, 2013
THE WORSE THINGS GET, THE HARDER I FIGHT, THE HARDER I FIGHT, THE MORE I LOVE YOU. There’s a real desperation in that title, something I hear in Case’s voice as well. The fragile heart that once beat in the souls of Patsy Cline and Dusty Springfield, yet an indomitable spirit. I didn’t think I could love any album more than Case’s last release, Middle Cyclone, but here she’s taken that depth of emotion and imagery and turned it up to 11. The atmospheres that she creates aren’t weird, but they are unsettlingly surreal. It’s like standing on your porch at night, staring out into the darkness, uncertain as to what’s out there. “I fell in love with those electric lights that dragged me into town so late,” she sings. Case, backed here by great guests such as Calexico and Los Lobos, has an eye for the truth: She knows that snow always falls sideways in the city.
LOVE IN FLYING COLORS. You would expect music by a Netherlands producer (Nicolay) and a rapper/singer/producer from North Carolina (Phonte) who met on an online message board to be esoteric. Their worlds were so far apart then, no way they could vibe in a way the masses could understand. But this duo (plus a supporting cast) makes accessible music that is unlike much of what we hear today. Foreign Exchange is a meld of R&B, neo soul, hip-hop and even electronica. I can imagine Phonte and Nicolay (who resides in the U.S. now) tucked away in a room for hours creating “Call It Home” like two evil geniuses. The song’s eerie synthesizers and electric percussion washes over you, a feeling I bet the artists were going for. Love in Flying Colors is best experienced with an open mind and no where to rush off to. This CD is worth your undivided attention.
JONAS KULLHAMMAR QUARTET
LAT DET VARA. This new CD’s Swedish title translates to Let It Be, and the cover apes the Beatles swan song album. Saxophonist Kullhammar declares this the last outing for the JKQ, with intentions of continued work in various ensembles and solo projects. Kullhammar is a popular, oft-performing visitor to the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. (On the album notes for Låt det vara, Kullhammar explains that the opening track, “Alvsalavals,” is dedicated to Alvsala, a place he especially loves “besides Rochester.”) The seven tracks are varied and personal, and reflect the influence we’ve noticed before, primarily from John Coltrane and secondarily from Sonny Rollins. I especially like a lovely ballad, “Domedagen,” for which drummer Jonas Holgersson provides an enticing “Poincinna” rhythm. The robust title track features the quartet augmented by six musicians who’ve meant a lot to Jonas over the years, including his own father, drummer Janne Kullhammar. This CD could be a challenge to find, but try iTunes, other internet sites or ordering it from local independent record stores.