Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Roky Erickson, Aqualung, Apples in Stereo

Roky Erickson - True Love Cast Out All Evil (* * * *)

Roky Erickson's life and career have been marred by pretty severe personal turmoil (to say the least), but his latest record, True Love Cast Out All Evil, proves he's been able to put that behind him and still make great music. Recording with indie mainstays Okkervil River, the psychedelic rock legend offers a gritty, rough and ultimately uplifting set of bluesy rock tunes that appropriately focuses on such topics as faith, sorrow, love and redemption. Whether playing simple ballads ("Ain't Blues Too Sad") or upbeat rockers ("Bring Back the Past"), Erickson's songwriting and delivery are surprisingly strong, and the personal nature of these songs is easily felt and appreciated--especially for those familiar with the artist's difficult past. Okkervil River's superb musicianship helps make cuts like the spacey "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" and the gospel-esque title track absolutely riveting, meshing smoothly with Erickson's distinctive growl. True Love Cast Out All Evil a real triumph of a rock record. (MySpace)

Aqualung - Magnetic North (* * * 1/2)

I've never been particularly interested in the music of Matt Hales (known as Aqualung), but I'll admit I've found his latest effort, Magnetic North, to be a surprisingly enjoyable pop-rock record. Incorporating influences from The Beatles to Beck, Hales offers a set of tunes that is a generally upbeat, uplifting affair--one that shows his ear for infectious melodies and big, piano-centric hooks. Occasionally Hales veers uncomfortably close to mainstream piano-pop blandness, but more often he manages to be both accessible and interesting enough to hold your attention for the length of his new album. As for highlights, "Reel Me In" is a sunny, soaring number, "Fingertip" is impossibly catchy with its hand-claps and soothing vocal harmony, and "Thin Air" is a simply gorgeous ballad. This sort of earnest, straightforward approach may not appeal to those who spurn anything radio-friendly, but Magnetic North is an intelligent and charming album that has good reason to be heard. (MySpace)

Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time (* * * *)
It's once again obvious by listening to Apples In Stereo's latest record that the band has no intention of converting non-believers. What I mean is, if you liked it before you'll certainly like it now (perhaps even more so), but if haven't previously been convinced, it's unlikely you'll change your mind this time around. But speaking from the perspective of a casual fan, I can say Travellers in Space and Time is one of the best records the band has released. The eclectic, synth-driven pop tracks comprising the record are universally impossibly to resist, filled with quirky hooks and melodies that just about demand not only your attention but your best dance moves. You'll find most of the best tracks up front; the bouncy "Dream About the Future," the sexy and funky "Hey Elevator," and slinky "Dance Floor" are all excellent, unabashedly cheesy and all about having a good time. Maybe I should take that first statement back--I really can't imagine anyone not at least enjoying a few of these tunes. (MySpace)


Anonymous said...

Aqualung? I guess it's better than going by Matt Hales, but the name still conjures up unpleasant mental images of a flute-playing Roky Erickson lookalike. Fortunately the music's good -- worthy of a Grammy.

Also enjoying the Apples In Stereo. They've progressed from sounding like the Beatles to sounding like ELO ;) Have you heard Robert Schneider's solo record for children? Obviously it was intended for the small fry market, but still pretty enjoyable for us older folk.
-- Ion

Chris N said...

Haven't heard Schneider's solo album, but I bet it's crazy. I mean, kids would probably love these Apples in Stereo albums even.