We Are Scientists

Love Canon
Cover Story
Organic Records

Popular music is cyclical as some past sounds are revisited. In recent years, the 1980’s have infiltrated pop music airwaves, from electronic dance music to indie rock, hip-hop to R&B. Appalachian-honed virtuoso string musicians Love Canon – in business for nearly a decade – have made a name by purveying roots-based renditions of rock hits in the past decades (e.g. “Touch of Grey” by Grateful Dead, “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Africa” by Toto) while adding a bluegrass flair from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their latest effort Cover Story – with the album cover a nod to vintage Rolling Stone – features collaborations with Grammy winners.

Fronted by guitarist and vocalist Jesse Harper, the band offers acoustic reinterpretations from “a journey through music’s greatest decade,” which may mean the 1980s. Ironically, the album starts off with Billy Joel’s 1976 staple “Prelude/Angry Young Man” and features Peter Gabriel’s 1977 evergreen “Solsbury Hill” to Depeche Mode’s electronic opus “Enjoy the Silence,” from 1990. Nevertheless, Howard Johnson’s catchy “Things Can Only Get Better,” English band Squeeze’s “Tempted,” R.E.M.’s “Driver 8,” and Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie” are offset by Paul Simon’s “world music” classic “Graceland” and the country music duet of Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream.” Guests such as guitarist Jerry Douglas (of Alison Krauss & Union Station), singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, and “one-man jam band” Keller Williams nicely complement this band.

While cover bands come aplenty, Love Canon demonstrates skill in a jam-based setting, shedding new light to familiar tunes. Keeping the spirit of their home-based sounds alive, Love Canon connects rock music with bluegrass influences. Cover Story continues this journey, combining disparate rock flavors into a cohesive theme.

by Kevin La Torre

The Reputations
Electric Power
Nine Mile Records

Electric Power bristles with 1960’s vintage garage and 1970’s classic rock fare, accompanied with alternating female vocal reminiscent of the B-52’s Cindy Wilson, pop-rock icon Cyndi Lauper, and British soul-pop Duffy (as evidenced in the album opener “Tightrope” and the electric title track) and a male vocal that harks back to Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham (see: “Out of Style”) and Beatles-influenced Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne (“Tightrope” is not a cover of the ELO original). In fact, the tunes rotate between male-led and female-led vocals (such as on “Neighborhood” and “If the Spirit Don’t Move You,” respectively), taking cues from folk-rock titans The Mamas & the Papas (where their influence shines as a backdrop on “Shake Me Baby,” the lone ballad).

Producer Jody Stephens, of “power pop” legends Big Star, helps the band mine a Southern groove at the confluence of rock ‘n’ roll, soul, and AM pop. Harmonies from the pages of The Beach Boys and ABBA coalesce with a guitar-driven sound that balances effervescent pop with Rolling Stones-like energy. Prefaced by the aptly-titled single “The Exciter (“I keep knocking on the same door…breaking all the rules again”), The Reputations update the upbeat familiarity of The Me Generation to come up with original lyrics that widen the palette to attract nostalgic audiences as well as people unaware of such vintage rock sounds.

by Jeff Boyce