Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Sound of the Blue Heart – Wind of Change

Most goth albums are pretty boring – once you’ve heard one Sisters of Mercy album, you’ve pretty much heard them all. Sound of the Blue Heart’s new album Wind of Change is aptly titled – it’s a chronicle of a breakup, with predictably disheartening results. Frontman Johnny Indovina sings in the doomed, I-could-kill-myself-at-any-minute baritone that’s everwhere in goth music (and reaches overkill awfully fast), but the music here transcends cliche. Spiked with incisive, imaginatively bluesy lead guitar over alternately lush and stark atmospherics, there are echoes of Pink Floyd as well as the Alan Parsons Project in their artsiest moments, along with the usual black-robed suspects. Some of this also evokes the quieter side of long-running New York Americana goth band Ninth House.

It’s a familiar story – the poor alienated protagonist tries to make it all by himself, but he can’t escape falling under The Spell, which is insistent but then gives way to a strikingly swoopy slide guitar on the break. By the second track he’s been poisoned for good, and as Indovina makes all too clear, “the poison stays.” This one is an interestingly funky minor-key song with big, catchy harmonies on the chorus, a meditation on the dichotomy of life and death. By the third track, he knows he should Run for Cover but he doesn’t – this pretty, organ-fueled backbeat ballad is essentially Memphis soul gone goth, a strange blend of soul warmth and gothic chill.

The title track – “Jealous of those with time to spend” – reverts to a goth-funk feel with electric piano and watery chorus-box guitar. As its ominous refrain reminds, hope is always elusive. The following track, Never is a dismissal/repudiation of a tortured past with echoes of Floyd: “Just close your door, I’ll go away.” By now, it’s obvious that none of this is going to end well. Violet’s Wish, a swinging, swaying blues ballad makes clear that the love interest here has one foot out the door: “She plays the song that takes her away.” The requiem begins with the ornate, 6/8 anthem Once Stood Love which with its fretless bass manages to maintain suspense despite an album’s worth of foreshadowing. And then everything comes crashing down with the vivid art-rock ballad The Arms of Yesterday, its mellotron wind arrangement evoking the Strawbs circa Grave New World, grief-stricken narrator losing himself in memories as the sun goes down. This is where the original songs on the album should end, although they don’t. The album winds up with a surprisingly good goth cover of Dylan’s It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – incongruous, maybe, with all that 1980s chorus-box guitar, but you can’t say it’s not original. For all we know – it’s been awhile since we made it out to Goth Night – this band could be huge with that crowd, and for that matter Sound of the Blue Heart ought to resonate with anyone who likes anthemic, artsy songcraft.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Marta Topferova – Trova

Czech-born, New York-based chanteuse/songwriter Marta Topferova has carved herself out a niche as a first-class avatar of latin music. Her new cd Trova (a Cuban style, though she explores considerably more terrain here) is quite a change from the pensive melancholy that runs throughout much of her previous work. It’s a mix of oldschool latin styles with a Caribbean tinge, like something out of San Juan, 1955, recorded with her band at an old farmhouse outside Prague fresh off a European tour. The album features Topferova on guitar and cuatro along with big band leader Pedro Giraudo on bass, Aaron Halva on tres and accordion, Roland Satterwhite on violin and Neil Ochoa on percussion. It’s got a quiet joy that simmers and bubbles over once in awhile for extra flavor. Frequently, the star of the show here is Satterwhite (formerly with Jenifer Jackson and also Howard Fishman), whose imaginative, casually intense phrasing adds an unexpectedly biting edge to some of the quieter material. As is typical throughout the cd, its unexpected moments are subtle but compelling, as in the case of the infectious opening bomba, Juligan, a nocturnal street scene whose central character, a bum, turns out to be something completely different. And yet the same.

She follows that with an effervescent, percussion-driven dance tune, a stately, delicately pensive tango and a symbolically charged midtempo number rich with chordal jangle and gorgeous acoustic textures. Largo el Camino (The Long Road) winds along on a catchy, swaying four-bar hook and a couple of nice introspective tres solos, the latter closing the song on an optimistic note.

Descarga de la Esperanza (The Hope Jam) is hypnotic, like the Dead gone latin and acoustic. Madrugada (Dawn) is a pretty, sad waltz with a buoyant Satterwhite solo, one of those kind of songs that, thirty years ago, would have had record executives scheming over the prospect of a crossover international hit. Topferova saves her grittiest vocal for the tricky Argentinean changes of Entre a Mi Pago Sin Golpear (Come On Over and Don’t Knock), Satterwhite’s jovial fiddle adding contrast.

The cd winds up with the vividly lyrical La Amapola, inspired by a poppy native to Czech Republic, showcasing Topferova’s seemingly effortless ability to shift between styles; the dusky las Luciernagas (Fireflies) and an old bolero cover usually sung by a male vocalist. Topferova puts her own spin on it, a woman in an arranged marriage displaying quiet defiance. This album has the same kind of rustic quality that spurred the Bachata Roja Legends’ surprise crossover success and could just as easily resonate with anglo as well as latin audiences. Not bad for Czech expat for whom Spanish was a second language. She’s at Barbes on Jan 22 at 10.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 1/3/10

Every day, our Top 666 Songs of Alltime countdown gets one step closer #1. Sunday’s song is #207:

David Bowie – Because You’re Young

“Because you’re young, you’ll meet a stranger some night.” The Thin White Duke in wise old rake mode, consoling the “psychodelicate girl” and the guy who might or might not be the right stranger. A gorgeous, bittersweet anthem from Bowie’s best album, Scary Monsters, 1981.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment