Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New music: R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner, The Shins, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Guy Clark

Potent songwriting is at the heart of four noteworthy new collections released in early March.

Artists: R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner
Title: Make It Be (Lost Colony Music & Bar/None Records)
You might like if you enjoy: XTC, Beck, Jellyfish
Tell me more: It is hard to think of a recent collaboration as interesting, eclectic and ambitious as the new Make It Be from indie hero R. Stevie Moore and singer-songwriter/guitarist Jason Falkner. The perfect mix of brilliant original songwriting, experimental spoken word pieces and several beautiful instrumental guitar interludes captivate across the fast-paced 18-track collection that is as accessible as it is groundbreaking. Those who love traditional power pop-styled songs featuring shimmering harmonies will find themselves immersed in the sonics of "Another Day Slips Away," "I Love Us, We Love Me" and "Sincero Amore," as well as the lush "Horror Show." Driving garage rock is given its glory on the art damage rocker "Stamps" while the psychedelic folk song "Play Myself Some Music" and experimental piano-meets-electronica foray "Passed Away Today" are late album highlights. There is also a just-for-fun take on Huey Smith & the Clowns' rollicking 1958 single "Don't You Just Know It." Across the disc, the wide-ranging talents of Moore and Falkner as vocalists and musicians dazzle bright. Information: bar-none.com.

Artist: The Shins
Title: Heartworms (Columbia)
You might like if you enjoy: The Shins, Broken Bells
Tell me more: The Shins are back with their fifth studio album (and first since 2012's outstanding Port of Morrow). The newly-released Heartworms finds singer-songwriter James Mercer and company building on an established sound that is a hybrid of indie rock, dream pop and '80s-styled synth pop. Romantic dreams are celebrated via the electronica Erasure-flavored "Cherry Hearts," while the Shins somehow fuse authentic Americana into their sonic brew via the magical "Mildenhall." The magnificent "Rubber Ballaz" and propulsive "Half A Million" are bolstered by dance floor-worthy rhythms without sacrificing lyrical and melodic elegance. "So Now What" finds Mercer's high-reaching tenor perfectly positioned against a symphonic expanse where he sings of painful new beginnings as a long-term relationship ends. Information: theshins.com.

Artist: Cindy Lee Berryhill
Title: The Adventurist (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Kerry Getz, Emmylou Harris, Cindy Lee Berryhill
Tell me more: Cindy Lee Berryhill's welcome return The Adventurist is an amazing listen to be sure. The songs here resonate powerfully, part of a song cycle for Berryhill's late husband Paul Williams whose traumatic brain injury ultimately led to a number of medical challenges including dementia; he died in March 2013. Berryhill began writing the first of the songs that appear on The Adventurist in 2011, and her ability to share the most intimate of emotions is at the heart of The Adventurist. The joys and challenges of deep love and loss are articulated with beauty, a touch of humor and uncommon depth at every turn by Berryhill, whose songs are lavishly enhanced by a talented group of players who add cello, vibraphone, violin, glockenspiel and many more voices across the 14-track journey. The soundscape used by Berryhill to paint her musical portrait runs from indie rock ("American Cinematography") and baroque pop ("Somebody's Angel," "Thanks Again") to dream pop ("Gravity Falls") and indie low-fi rock ("Deep Sea Fishing"). Information: omnivorerecordings.com.

Artist: Guy Clark
Title: The Best of the Dualtone Years (Dualtone Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard
Tell me more: Acclaimed singer-songwriter Guy Clark, who died on May 17, 2016, is celebrated on the essential The Best of the Dualtone Years. The two-disc set is comprised of stellar material from his final three studio albums, his 2011 live set Songs and Stories, along with three previously-unreleased songs offered up as intimate demo recordings. The complete 19-track collection is gold, filled with Clark's insightful and descriptive lyrics sang with a lived-in-the-world baritone. Against a rich musical backdrop as rich and vast as his native Texas, the range of Americana-styled nuggets includes the sumptuous "Rain In Durango," magical musical tale "The Guitar," the ultimate tale of escape ("L.A. Freeway"), and the romance-themed acoustic ballad "My Favorite Picture of You." Information: dualtone.com.

Robert Kinsler

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