Monday, April 18, 2011

The Unthanks


Rough Trade

On their new album, Rachel and Becky Unthank (their real name) add a bit of prog to their musical mixture of contemporary and indie folk. Prog not in the sense of Jethro Tull, but more early Strawbs, the quieter side of Elbow, and a dash of “Carpet of the Sun” era Renaissance, of that band wrote gloomy, not happy, songs. . It is very gentle, but with much sadness, like walking on a cloudy day, but with no rain forecast. It is also magical, and even oddly pretty.

Their lyrics have the same gentle sadness, whether they are talking about star-crossed lovers, or lords and ladies. For all of that , there is a sense of hope. Wait until things get better, move on to a better place, and never give up. And the magic that is in the music, is also in the lyrics, making this album breathtaking,, and a very worthy follow up to their last album Here’s the Tender Coming. []

Andrea Weiss

Tune Yards


4AD Records

Merrill Garbus is Tune Yards, and her great debut, combined found sounds like the foghorn on the Martha’s Vineyard ferry, with the ukulele and her voice, using a cheap vocal recorder and shareware recording software. On her new album, the found sounds and the ukulele are still there, but she recorded in a studio with a producer, who polished up the basic sound. Together they, and people she brought into the recording process, fashioned an album that is just as good as the debut.

While the core of the sound is still folk/rock you can dance to, this album is even better. The beats zing all over the place, but also you can sit and contemplate the lyrics just as on the debut.

While the debut was mostly love songs, the left-wing political undercurrent was muted. Not so on this album. Garbus’ feminist, warm, kind, smart, common sensible, tough left wing politics are reminiscent of Ani DiFranco’s 90’s work, before it curdled into a smug, obnoxious, cynical, self-righteous act. Garbus is a breath of fresh air. Here are politics and music that are fun, cool, witty, and just right for dancing, or thinking. A great album. []

Andrea Weiss

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