The Sunlight and the Sound
Asheville’s retro indie-pop six-piece Nevada have merged the feel-good harmonies of ‘60s California folk rock with the ethereal, synth-driven noise rock of the ‘80s, and emerged with a debut worthy of comparisons to artists as diverse and influential as My Bloody Valentine and Fleetwood Mac. Spacey male/female vocal melodies soar alongside bright keys throughout The Sunlight and the Sound, complimenting the reverb-soaked guitar leads of day-dreamy anthems like “Flier’s Dream” and “In the Light” — an album highlight reminiscent of early R.E.M — while shifting to a delicate, near whisper for the album’s alt-country slow burners like “Fading.” And though Nevada’s sound is undeniably “classic,” they have just as much in common with Midwestern indie-rock artists Rilo Kiley and ‘80s Brit shoegazers Modern English as they do with Crosby Stills and Nash. Nevada carry these influences well throughout The Sunlight and the Sound, managing to meld seemingly contradictory elements of new wave, folk, classic rock and contemporary indie into a seamless offering that pays homage without coming off as derivative.
Orange Thread in a Blue Sea
Angi West’s self produced, self-released debut is an ambitious undertaking for a fledgling artist. Perhaps too ambitious. Though West hits the mark on straightforward folk ballads like “Elijah,” “If You Remember” and the a cappella “Blackest Crow,” her attempts at more lush arrangements on tracks like “A Good Catholic Boy” and “Every Drop In This Glass” are less effective. West’s theatrical soprano is inconsistent on these offerings — especially her overused falsetto — and when it falters, the singer’s sometimes-awkward phrasing and melodies are especially prevalent. At her worst, West is a mediocre knock-off of late ‘90s chart topping singer/songwriters like Paula Cole or Michelle Branch. However, standout tracks like “The Light In Your Eyes” and the pop-friendly piano ballad “Saying Goodbye” are evidence of West’s potential as a songwriter and lyricist. Despite the spattering of lackluster offerings, Orange Thread is a promising start for an artist who, at her best, manages to evoke nostalgia and longing with mournful strings, lonesome melodies and effective imagery.
Even In the Midst
Continuing their tradition of dissonant and chaotic, yet surprisingly precise instrumental rock, critically acclaimed Asheville trio Ahleuchatistas meander their way through 45 minutes of mathy rhythm flux and noisy confusion on Even In the Midst, the band’s fourth effort in as many years. Without compromising the frantic pounding and technical splendor of epic tracks like “Cup of Substance” and the album’s opener “ … Of All This,” Ahleuchatistas also manage to churn out more accessible melodies against a backdrop of unorthodox time signatures on simmering jams like “Take Me to Your Leader Never Sounded so Alien” and the six and half minute “Prosthetic God,” whose jazzy mid-song breakdown is an album highlight. From a production standpoint, the record is about as bare bones as they come, abandoning overdubs and effects pedals for raw energy and improvisation. And rightfully so. Even In the Midst‘s brilliance lies in the winding free-form guitar-rock, cacophonous post-hardcore and experimental ambience overproduction would completely diminish.
Dane Smith is a freelance writer based in Asheville.