Full Flight by Joshua Carpenter
If you think of Josh Carpenter as the rocker behind CobraHorse or the force-of-nature drummer in Floating Action, you probably won’t immediately recognize him on this vocal-and-acoustic-guitar-driven folk rock album. But really, Carpenter spreads his wings on Flight and showcases his prowess as a singer, songwriter, composer and distiller of various influences, from contemporary indie rock to vintage sources like The Byrds, the Beatles, The Beach Boys and Silos. Oddly (or awesomely) the disc launches with “Things to Clean,” whose opening bars closely resemble — with jangling guitars and prancing percussion — “Jingle Bells.” This is no Christmas carol, though, and it sets the tone — hand claps, tenor vocals (often doubled) and idiosyncratic but super-catchy hooks — for the nine tracks to follow. The album is charmingly off-kilter — “Holiday” is darkly psychedelic (seriously, no “Jingle Bells”) — but even the stumbles (a flubbed beat here and there) only add to the album’s overall insouciance. Here’s hoping Carpenter starts booking local stages and performs these songs live. They deserve an audience.
Half Moon to Here by America Jane
The album opens with the slow folk-noir “Water In Chains,” a spooky, dark track underscored by the chain-gang clank of the angle iron. Somewhere between a Cowboy Junkies song and an African-American spiritual, it’s a little surprising when the subject matter reveals itself to be stream pollution. Erika Jane’s low, smoky vocal is up front on each track, her tone reminiscent of Grace Slick in the echoing sound booth. The coolest effect of the album is that it sounds like it was recorded in a machine shop. At the bottom of a well. And there are certain poetic lines: “Took my phone off the hook, got lost for a month in a bong and a book.” But the morphine drip pace, languid boom and relentless navel gaze feels overbearing, even on a mere nine tracks. Yes, there’s much to suggest Half Moon, not the least a strong and consistent backing band, but a happy track every so often would nice.
The Tell Tale Heart by Ian Moore
According to this album’s liner notes, it was “intended as an exploration of what folks have been calling ‘steampunk.’” Part SciFi, part Victorian, part historic and part futuristic, Moore’s take seems right on par. Instrumental parts pair lithe, Celtic-tinged fiddle with mechanical clanks and thumps. Moore’s vocal is theatrical, but considering the inspiration this seems apt. To listen to the patchwork collection of influences, traditions and found sounds might feel schizophrenic were it not proposed as an experimental dreamscape, a score to some as yet unmade film. Even still, it’s not hard to imagine the strange and marvelous world of steampunk, with its steam engines and clicking gadgetry, coming to life within Moore’s compositions.