Thursday, June 18, 2009

Unforced Ease

Call from
ed, 347

With breezy vocals and fuzzy guitars, former Guided by Voic-
es sideman Doug Gillard dishes up power pop perfect for summer days—or winter evenings ripe for a blast of light.

Call from Restricted combines bright Red Kross harmonies
with driving Cars rhythms and classic Beatles melodies (Gillard
has also done stints with Death of Samantha and the Hold Steady).

When a pop record works as it should, everything seems effort-
less—as if the music just emerged magically from out of the ether.

And yet, despite the fancy fretwork on tracks like "Entwined" and
"Gogol Was Rollo," an unforced ease permeates this multi-instru-
mentalist's sophomore recording. If the second half doesn't flow
as easily as the first, Gillard still scores more of a hit than a miss.

Ketch Harbour Wolves, Dead Calm Horizon, self-released

For those who find Austin's Shearwater too dark and dramat-
ic, this Toronto five-piece represents a more relaxed introduc-
tion to baroque pop (the press notes also compare them to In-
terpol and the National). Just take a gander at the band's No-
va Scotia-inspired name, EP title, and three of the seven
songs: "Leaves," "Midnight Dark Water," and "Animals."

As a fan of the ornithologically-minded Texas outfit, howev-
er, I'd like the Ketch Harbour Wolves better if they crank-
ed up the heat more. Dead Calm Horizon goes down without
a hitch, but it lacks the sticking power of Shearwater's operatic
release Rook, despite a shared interest in mournful brass,
delicate woodwinds, and evocative nature imagery.

Summer Cats, Songs for Tuesdays, Slumberland [7/14/09]

Slumberland releases this Melbourne quintet's debut hot on
the heels of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart's first poptastic
platter, and there's a similar spirit at work here as the shy and
bashful meet the bold and forthright. Sweet boy-girl vocals
waft in and around crunchy riffs, while soulful organ, wistful
harmonica, twinkling chimes, and playful lyrics build a brid-
ge between the two. Time will tell whether Summer Cats
will win over as many hearts as their New York labelmates,
but Songs for Tuesdays presents a strong opening salvo.

Click here for "Hey You" mP3

Endnote: For more information about Doug Gillard,
please click here; for Ketch Harbour Wolves, here or here;
for Summer Cats, here. Images from Flickr and Slumberland.

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