More on this week's many local CD release shows
In today's paper I wasn't able to give proper attention to the new releases from Andy Shaw Band, Eric Nassau, Your Favorite Assassin and MojoFlo, all of which are hosting CD release parties this weekend. So I wrote longer reviews to post here. Without further ado:
Andy Shaw Band “Ways of the World” release show When: 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 17 Where: Thirsty Ear Tavern, Grandview Web: andyshawband.com
Here we have the sound of Andy Shaw Band coming into its own. Ways of the World exhibits a fully-formed unit that transcends the frat-rock limitations of whiteboy reggae in favor of something richer and fuller.
Imagine a friendly but unmemorable kid cousin who one day shows up to family reunion wearing your favorite band’s T-shirt and spouting fascinating insights about the latest headlines. Andy Shaw Band’s new album is that sort of head-turner.
Their pals the Floorwalkers, with whom they share lead guitarist Theo Perry, have obviously been a positive influence. Shaw’s songs still rest on a foundation of island riddim, but his vocal melodies and the band’s arrangements are more thoughtful and satisfying than on previous releases.
Shaw has never been one to settle for warmed-over “Ras Trent” dreck, but here he and his band have shown the positive consequences of playing as many shows as possible and constantly challenging themselves to up the ante. They’ve stepped toward accessibility and sophistication in one fell swoop.
The group has two more release parties planned after Friday’s event at the Thirsty Ear. April 27 they’ll celebrate at their weekly Monday gig at Ruby Tuesday; April 30 they’ll host an all-ages event at Wild Goose Creative.
Eric Nassau “What’s Left of Empty Space” release show When: 10 p.m. Friday, April 17 Where: The Treehouse, Grandview Web: ericnassau.naladahc.com
Eric Nassau’s list of collaborators is almost as long as his beard. On What’s Left of Empty Space, the singer-songwriter’s rustic folk-rock is fleshed out by a sprawling cast of local all-stars including Stan Smith, Megan Palmer and Jim Volk.
Palmer’s fiddle is an especially potent complement to Nassau’s Appalachian odes, lending melancholy swell to the uptempo “Big Water” and blowing a spooky breeze through the slow gallop of “Frozen.”
Nassau’s sensitive mountain man persona can wear thin over the course of 16 songs, and his voice occasionally falters in subtle ways that knock the songs off balance without causing them to crash. Some will find real-life yarns like “Movin’ Time” relatable; others will be repelled by such lyrical frankness. But in spite of Nassau’s flaws, there’s no denying his songwriter’s touch and folksy charm. I’d be happy to happen upon one of his sets at some far-flung watering hole. America will have just such a chance during the two-month tour he’ll embark on after Friday’s show at The Treehouse.
Your Favorite Assassin “Like a Saint, Like a Fiend” release show When: 10 p.m. Saturday, April 18 Where: The Treehouse, Grandview Web: yourfavoriteassassin.com
My previous encounters with Your Favorite Assassin left me thinking they were a one-dimensional bluster of heavy riffs and even weightier melodrama from their singer, a riot grrrl holdover known simply as “The D.B.K.” But YFA’s latest offering reveals more complex shading, indicating that either this band is growing or I was giving them the short shrift. (Probably both.) They’re still not my cup of tea, but I appreciate the way they’ve spread their wings with this collection.
Like a Saint, Like a Fiend shifts from harsh-but-melodic punk songs to whispery doom pop with ease. The real highlight here, though, is the dub version of “The Flood.” The track finds YFA breaking out of the conventional boxes that do it no favors and into a more experimental territory that suits them. The D.B.K.’s vocal take mars the track somewhat, which is a shame consider the way she stepped up her game throughout the rest of the disc.
Closing track “Acts of Heroine” benefits similarly from scaling back the fury. It eventually erupts into one of the band’s trademark screaming sprees, but its first few minutes convey the same abrasive emotions through pleasingly tense understatement. This crew finds some success through Michael Bay-level pyrotechnics, but I like this them better when they simmer than when they sear.
MojoFlo “Waiting” release show When: 9 p.m. Saturday, April 18 Where: Rumba Cafe, Campus Web: myspace.com/mojoflomusic
Columbus cats won’t find an album opener with more sass than “Waiting,” the title track of MojoFlo’s new EP. As staccato blasts give way to pelvic grooves, the band conjures joy and pain at once. You can marvel at the complex emotional palette they’re painting with, or you can drop the intellectual dissection and dance.
The rest of Waiting is nearly as strong. Each band member gets a chance to show off his or her chops, from George Barrie’s sharp guitar work on “Sho Would” to Amber Knicole’s vocal gymnastics on “I’m Gone.” Piano ballad “Crying” is a noble experiment, but this band is built for better things.