What Hurts the Most by Knives and Daggers
The name Knives and Daggers sounds pretty aggressive but, indeed, the local indie-rock/shoegaze group crafts lush, sweeping orchestrations — mostly without vocals. On the band’s new album, What Hurts the Most, only the title track has words. But, so achingly lovely is the EP, lyrics aren’t missed.
The album takes a more delicate approach than a stage show — on its Facebook page, Knives and Daggers explains, “Live sets feature a much more guitar-driven, turbulently loud sound, while recorded songs show somewhat different dynamics in both volume and instrumentation, as some of the songs include heavily orchestrated string arrangements that only rarely accompany a live show.” The strings on Hurts are effusive and symphonic; layered over fuzzy guitars and rock drums it’s neither too proper nor too cloying. Hopefully the band will consider adding strings arrangements to live shows more often.
Listen to “For the Glory of Nothing”:
King of Hearts by Joshua Singleton
There’s blues and rock and funk. There’s blues rock and funk rock. But Joshua Singleton, who lists himself as a roots rocker and soul musician, pulls off something akin to blues-funk on his new EP, King of Hearts. Lead track “Footprints on the Path” is all nasty guitars and hand claps. Singleton has a Jonny Lang (pre-salvation) growl in his voice and the kind of lyric that would be right at home in a juke joint. Or a really memorable Downtown After Five (hint, hint). Interesting syncopated rhythms and singing easily behind the beat add extra funk flare.
But Singleton is no one-trick-pony. “Last Man to the Gallows” is a heart wrenching tribute to the unpredictable nature of love (though Singleton’s dusky vocal keeps things sultry where they could turn sappy). “Maybe Goodbye” crushed heartache with the smack of snare and richly layered guitars.
Real Good Man by Stephen Shealy
“Drifter” is a stand out track on Real Good Man by singer/songwriter Stephen Shealy. With its lilting waltz beat, moan of lap steel and wash of cymbals, the song is sure to stir some kind of bittersweet melancholy in even the most cheerful of listeners.
Shealy’s album is consistent in its folky, rootsy mission. The instrumentation (his band — The River Kings — includes Eric Johnson on drums, Josh Gibbs on guitars and Andy Gibbon on bass) serves as a canvas for Shealy’s voice, which is pleasantly gritty and instantly familiar. As a songwriter, Shealy is a storyteller with country leaning. The album’s title track is a cautionary tale about not blowing the good thing you have. “If you want to be a legend, you better be quick on the draw,” he sings.
Listen to “Real Good Man”:
Annunciation St by The Mumbles
The Mumbles used to be from Brooklyn and now they’re from New Orleans. Surely they passed Asheville in between, but they’re not from Asheville, except that they play here several times a year. They were recently back to release their latest CD, the distinctly New Orleans-flavored Annunciation St.
The Mumbles are Keith Burnstein on vocals, keys and bass and Ethan Shorter on drums and vocals. For a mere two guys they create a big sound, live. On recording, they can do even more, like bring in guest musicians to fill out the vintage jazz club/party sound of Annunciation St. “Old Laces” is delightfully scratchy, “Notas Azules” and “Hate Yourself” are both driving funk numbers with accents of baritone sax. “Livin with Your Ghost” eases into slow dance mode with vintage Hammond organ and Burnstein’s up-front vocal that is at once laid back and urgent.
From beginning to end, Anunciation St brings the swampy humidity, the funk and jazz, and the horn arrangements of New Orleans, pairing all of these with excellent song writing and a relentless spirit of fun.
Watch the video of “Newspaper”: