Quick Spins: Sloan, Steve Gunn, Cancers
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 1, 2014 9:30PM
Sloan's 'Commonwealth' is one of three albums reviewed in our latest Quick Spins, photo by Lisa Mark
This week we examine forthcoming and recent releases from a trio of bands that couldn't be more different. However, luckily for us, the results of each group's efforts result in a trio of excellent albums that won us over.
Usually when a band releases an album evenly split between the members each taking solo sides, the results can leave fans shuddering. Is the band breaking up? Fulfilling contractual obligations? In a best case scenario, even if it's based in mindset of truly creative exploration it often at the very least exposes the weaker songwriters in a band (sides 3 and 4 of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, anyone?).
Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and Sloan is one of those few bands with four amazing songwriters who more than hold their own against each other on every album they've released. Commonwealth is a little different since it groups each contributor's songs together as solo efforts, which end up making this feel like a collection of mini (and one long) suites instead of a more cohesive and unified artistic statement. The album's four sides stick with each songwriter's strengths—Jay Ferguson's still the one with the tender tough, Chris Murphy takes the mid '70s AOR approach, Patrick Pentland hews to the harder rocking power-popper mold and Andrew Scott is still the most experimentally minded while still delivering the hooks—so Commonwealth doesn't really reveal any new insight into the band.
So what makes this album, the 11th LP of the band's career, remarkable is the fact that it sounds just as strong as any other Sloan album despite it basically being four solo EPs wrapped into a single package. It's still one of the best rock albums we've heard this year. Hopefully this is a brief sojourn for the four men of Sloan to create independently before ushering in the next chapter of their astoundingly long and consistently fruitful career.
Steve Gunn's Way Out Weather is a meandering and lovely stroll through this virtuoso's brain with a few nod to the heart. We mentioned Pink Floyd earlier and much of Gunn's new album could be plucked right from that band's pastoral early period, in that space just between psychedelic freakout and epic-minded constructs shaking under the weight of their importance. Way Out Weather is a stroll through a meadow, a sip of refreshing spring water on the way to a thrush bordered beach front.
There's a gentleness to Gunn's approach that invites the listener in and slowly wins them over. Way Out Weather wins you over without your even being aware that you are falling prey to it's delicate charms until you take the needle from the final growve and move it back to the very beginning again because this is a journey built on an endless loop that keeps you in its thrall.
Unlike the sirens of yore, though, Gunn doesn't ask that you dash yourself against a craggy cliff, instead drawing you to sink more deeply into the verdant growth his songs transform themselves into as the bury you and block your escape. Not that you'd want to.
Steve Gunn plays Oct. 7 at Schubas.
The current revival of all things '90s indiehas been focused more on bands sprouting out of the Midwestern and Matador-led East Coast sound. Cancers takes their lead more from the other Coast's mixture of volume and melody fed through shredding guitars that comes across like an updated version of that dog were that band based on Sub Pop. Never mind that the duo of Ella Kaspar and Lenny Miller are based in Athens, their noise on Fatten The Leeches is all West Coast guitar glory.
Kaspar's vocals are folded securely in the walls of guitar and her delivery is urgent, plaintive and draws you deeper into the whorl of sound. Fatten The Leeches crams ten songs into under 30 minutes but nothing comes across as too brief or undercooked.
If you're looking for a short, sharp bursts of awesome that retains their potency even after a dozen listens—a situation that may trigger indoor dancing, we might warn—then Cancers should be a perfect fit with your sensibilities.