ALBUM REVIEW: Canyons, Larkin Grimm, Rumer, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour and Chris Willis

Posted on 31 Jan 2012 at 6:15pm

These January releases go from blah to bliss while an overlooked 2011 album kicks ass

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Canyons
Keep Your Dreams
Modular Recordings

Although they don’t want to be labeled as dance/electronica, electronica act Canyons provides multitudes of synth and drum machines in all 11 tracks of their latest album. Dreams starts off with a hip bass line and groovy beat in “Under a Blue Sky,” but that interesting minute is quickly put to rest with the inclusion of saxophone. Initially, it registers as fascinating, but quickly becomes abrasive, that they prove the point that saxes and electronica do not blend well and the song devolves into a melange of animal sounds, ethereal vocals and pretty much drivel.

The Aussie band fares better in “My Rescue,” a offering more focus with stronger beat with vocals. Then it regresses into the pedestrian “See Blind Through.” The album has major ups and downs that  aren’t worth the ride with the second half  merely a haze of irregular beats. Strangely, 11 songs are listed, but 10 show up. However, I doubt the missing song could have made the album anything better.

One and half stars (out of five).

Larkin Grimm
Soul Retreival
Bad Bitch Records

Grimm’s freak folk can be a shock. She’s not the most polished singer and the arrangements are off-kilter enough to disturb, but stick with it. Her stories are a fascinating trip. Weaving a string section of harp, guitars and mandolin, she creates a fabric of her truth that centers on a zen like restoration of life. Heavy? It can be, but just interesting enough to garner attention.

Touching on a Peruvian ouerve, the acoustic album percolates with quiet energy and at times she hits a perfect Joni Mitchell sound. Production is somewhat raw giving it a live feeling, although “The Road is Paved with Leaves” gets a little off sound balance. Here, Grimm pulls back on a bluesy sensibility against a dirge-like backdrop a la Mazzy Star.

The album wanes with “Dirty Heart, Dirty Mind” and “Lying in a Pool of Milk,” and then gets sonically odd with “Hello Pool of Tears.” She creates astute visuals, but the arrangements aren’t appealing. Retreival ends on the patient “I Am Not Real,” a short song with a chanting beat and dreamy strings. It bookends well with opener “Paradise and So Many Colors,” but closes this chapter with quiet strength.

Two and half stars.

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
Out of Frequency
BMG Rights

TAGT benefits by having one of the best album covers for its newest release. Sixties-style graphics with the right bit of coolness makes the album interesting. Fortunately, the music follows through. The Dutch band channels a good amount of soul with its excellent use of horns, way funky beats and singer Mette Lindberg’s nasally but quirky vocals that have more muscularity then they initially let on.

Frequency’s first three tracks meld into each other as sort of suite setting the lush tone. The first real song, “Major,” pushes the soulful mod sound into overdrive making you wish for a time machine back to a 1960s basement party in London where Julie Christie’s Diana Scott would be hanging out. Each song makes a strong showing on its own, but “Heart Attack” may be the best rep of TAGT’s intention — upbeat and carefee out the ass. They add layers of psychedelica and jazz that fluff up the sound even more. With subtle touches of dub, the album emits a modern aura but dipped deep into ’60s retro. The band is smart to not overdo the party atmosphere and chills back with “Cloak and Dagger,” that still maintains the sound, but gives you a break to get a drink.

“Theme from 45 Eugenia” is a hot mess that you can’t push forward fast enough and “Suburban Space Invader” feels too silly. They turn it around with the frenetic “When It Comes to Us,” the album’s 14th track. Lindberg’s voice takes some getting used to and the party sometimes needs to come up for air, but TAGT’s fresh take on an old sound is a worthy investment for the ears — and feet.

Three and half stars.

Rumer
Seasons of My Soul
Atlantic

Initially I thought this was Rumer Willis, the offspring of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, cashing in on her name and lineage. Instead, Sarah Joyce goes by the moniker and debuts with a gorgeous throwback to the days of Karen Carpenter. You hear that the second opener and first single “Slow” hits.

Rumer’s voice recalls some shades of Adele but with a lustrous smoothness that caresses the ears. The album is a slow-mover, but that allows you to savor her work. Her ability to capture that adult contemporary sound of the mid-’70s and clone it to perfection is uncanny and gloriously unironic. Her commitment to it not only highlights her voice, but kinda makes you long for a deeper approach to pop music.

Three stars.

Chris Willis
Premium/Songs from the Love Ship V.1
Vener Records

A holdover from 2011, Willis’ debut album with the ridiculous title is a worthy listen. The out singer got on the radar thanks to his work with superstar dance producer David Guetta. Taking a cue from those club beats, he echoes that sound successfully here starting with opener “Louder.”

Initially, I commented Willis may be the gay Usher, but he’s a lot more Ne-Yo with his smooth, strong voice that doesn’t give way to a heavy dance track. “Too Much in Love” and “Faded” are sickly addictive and it’s a relief to hear a male delivering great dance music over another diva. Most of his tracks work perfectly, but his gospel background seems to keep him less on the dangerous side. “Be There” is a self-help reader’s dream and his cover “Stand By Me” he delivered more by the book than with much feeling.

For the most part though, Willis didn’t miss a beat here.

Three stars.

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