ATO Records

Four-member indie/alternative Los Angeles band Everest’s latest outing Ownerless represents a freedom where all four musicians contribute to each other’s work. Sharing the stage with everyone from the legend Neil Young to Wilco, songwriter Russell Pollard (lead vocals, guitar, drums, and who was formerly part of the rock outfits The Folk Implosion and Sebadoh), Jason Soda (guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals), Joel Graves (guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals), and Elijah Thomson (bass guitar, percussion, vocals) thread different pieces of their personalities to form a musical quilt of diverse moods and sound textures.

“Rapture” charges on through a heavy rock atmosphere before the album hits smooth wistful terrain in “Raking Me Over The Coals” and the swirling instrumental “Never Disappoint.” “Letter” features a sparse rhythm, spooky effects, and hazy vocals that are offset by the prominent drumming and guitar playing of “Games.” But then the last self-titled piece ends the album as a hypnotic sedative. The contrasting tracks highlight what Jason Soda states: “I think we finally embraced the fact that we shouldn’t sound like anybody. We should sound like us.”

by Jeff Boyce

An Americana Primer: Vol. 1

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Lost Immigrants
An Americana Primer: Vol. 1
Lo-Fi Tofu Records

Though currently composed of only five members, the band, Lost Immigrants, excels at exploring the musical possibilities of the seldom heard of genre, Americana. The band, better known for being under the country genre, hales from Texas, thus pouring many southern roots into their music. The EP An Americana Primer: Vol. 1 is the first in a three-part series to be released by Lo-Fi Tofu Records later this year.

Deriving influences from diverse musicians such as alternative rock band Wilco and bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley, Lost Immigrants relies more on lyricism to make each new song different rather than changing its style from one song to the next. The songs on the EP blend from one song to another through the use of masterful guitar and piano riffs. Their stories are also seamlessly tied together through their lyrics so as to create one overall message and theme throughout the EP. This theme seems to be finding a way to persevere through hardships and reach a brighter and more hopeful future. The addition of harmonizing vocals between male and female singers presented throughout serves to give each song a haunting character reminiscent of the indie rock genre as well.

Each song within An Americana Primer: Vol. 1 is long and drawn out with instrumental bridges and solos as though to remind listeners that every note counts. With that mentality, the band Lost Immigrants was first started in 2004 by songwriter James Dunning and close friend Craig Hinkle. The band has since celebrated a number of accomplishments including winning the Shiner Rising Star contest in 2005. Today, the band is well on its way to stardom after the successful release of a total of six albums and one EP, each more diverse than the next.

by Michelle Marie Garcia

Heading South

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Moonlight Social
Heading South
Self release

Austin, Texas-rooted alternative-country duo Jeremy Burchard and Jennica Scott open their first album with a drum-guitar-piano-mandolin-fiddle arrangement in the title tune, which also expresses their vocal tradeoff patterns. It also serves as an introduction to Scott’s throaty, emotive vocal that contains influences of country music stalwarts Reba McEntire and Martina McBride. The lyrics set the template for love and life trials that trail through to “So Long (San Antonio),” a 6:30-minute farewell to “looking backwards” and moving on through life.

Their most popular track on the album, “Neither Are You,” is sung in an assertive tone with melodic and thoughtful songwriting accompaniment (“When I leave you dangling fumbling to find the thread/Trailing off to the last piece of me you’ll ever get”). But “The Finer Things In Life” deviates from the album standard, with surging rock guitar, tempo changes, and solo vocal pieces that eventually synchronize at different points. It represents the confusion and chaos in the lyrics: “Won’t you let me hold your hand since I let you tie my noose/There’s something to be said for the way I keep coming back/Where the hell did I put my self-control?” to “Like all your confidence, the way you hide your scars/That evil little smile, and how it gets you off.”

“Well, That Was a Mistake” continues to pull in alternative ‘90s rock with hints of 311 and Barenaked Ladies while “The Idea of Me” ebbs to more country underpinnings, starting off a cappella to tell how “love is just another word for mutual pain.”

Heading South has all the elements for mainstream success: attentive yet accessible lyricism, different mood swings that allow for a little experimentation, and an alternative Americana heart that stays true to its Southern roots.

by Jeff Boyce

Sub Rosa

Jesse Harris
Sub Rosa
Dangerbird Records

Jesse Harris’s career discography includes being featured as a guitarist on Jewel’s classic single “You Were Meant For Me” as well as working with R&B legend Solomon Burke, Lisa Loeb, and jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux. He attained his greatest success with Norah Jones’ 2002 mega-selling album Come Away With Me as a songwriter and guitarist, especially on the timeless “Don’t Know Why.” As a solo artist, he released his eleventh album titled Sub Rosa (Latin for “under the rose”), which was primarily mixed in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and features Brazilian luminary Dadi’s son Daniel Cavalho, a Grammy Award-winning engineer who made notable contributions to Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso’s recordings.

Brazilian music reached an apex in the United States during the 1960s bossa nova craze and for decades with samba being an international part of social dance. Harris mixes these influences with the sounds of other Brazilian forms such as tropicalia to concoct a light, beach-tinged affair with folk-pop underpinnings. Strings and horn ensembles, pulling in members of Bon Iver and Brooklyn Rider, are found as are other ethnic influences that give the album a decidedly global ethnic flavor. For example, “I Won’t Wait,” which features Conor Oberst on vox and Nick Zinner on tremolo guitar, has an Italian tarantella feel to it, while jazz great Bill Frisell contributes guitar to “It’s Been Going Around,” which also has Latin-tinged maracas and traces of surf/Hawaiian grooves. “Tant Pis” features singer Melody Gardot and is entirely sung in French, the lilting “As Long As You’re Here” features harmonica, and the tribute “Afternoon In Kanda” (a neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan) is a bright instrumental. Yet despite these global incorporations, Harris manages to inject a Brazilian foundation underneath it all.

“I Know It Won’t Be Long” pairs Harris with the Grammy-nominated Brazilian artist Maria Gadu, but his most striking duets are with long-time friend and collaborator Norah Jones. Both singers have calming tones that complement each other well and fit appropriately to the rhythm tracks. Jones’ voice stars on the bossa nova-influenced “Rocking Chairs” (co-written with Dadi), the mellifluous waltz of “Rube and Mandy At Coney Island,” which features glockenspiel and depicts longing, and the quiet moods of “Let It All Come Down” and “You Were Bound To Fly.”

What makes Sub Rosa stand out is its bridging of different world sounds that give the impression that musical languages are actually more similar than dissimilar, and its wealthy assortment of instruments (trumpet, guitar, flugelhorn, maracas, French horn, cello, glockenspiel, violin, trombone, viola, clarinet, saxophone, euphonium, harmonica, marimba, and organ) make this Jesse Harris’ greatest outing yet.

by Jeff Boyce