First of all, let me just say that any band that has recorded a song called “Fry Bread,” as New Mexico based band Brightblack Morning Light (Rachael Hughes and Nathan Shineywater) did on their debut LP, is already on my good side. That said, their second album, Motion To Rejoin, doesn’t have any odes to Native American cuisine, but it does include music that is the auditory equivalent of taking the good acid (whatever color that is): The nine tracks have a hallucinatory quality that’s by turns beautiful and mysterious, otherworldly while at the same time utterly evocative of the American landscape. Trying to nail down what they sound like is sort of a tricky business. They are fond of the long song, so it’s tempting to label them a jam band, but a more apt description may be Mazzy Star crossed with Pink Floyd, with a healthy dose of jazz, gospel, blues and psychedelia thrown in for good measure. It’s lovingly crafted, densely layered music, with ghostly and often distorted sounding vocals hovering in the mix. The songs on Motion To Rejoin require a certain amount of patience and attention, but it’s patience and attention amply rewarded. Standout cuts: “Oppression Each,” “Another Reclaimation,” “A Rainbow Aims” and “Past A Weatherbeaten Fencepost.”

A side note: The music on Motion To Rejoin was recorded using power from four solar panels. If that isn’t being green, I don’t know what is.

Had Los Angeles based band Bodies Of Water just served up more of the same grandly scaled, gospel inflected and Americana inspired music found on their 2007 full length debut, I would have been more than satisfied. Happily, however, they’ve chosen to expand their sound with some punk and New Wave style guitar riffs, some Ennio Morricone influences, a lot of prog rock and even a bit of heavy metal by way of Black Sabbath on “Darling, Be Here.” The singing and playing is as passionate and thrilling as it was on their debut, though some of the big choruses have been dialed down a bit, but only a bit. I really love this band’s music, and I hope you’ll check them out. Standout cuts: “Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey,” “Under The Pines,” “Darling, Be Here” and “If I Were A Bell.”

Fleet Foxes

June 8, 2008

Gorgeous LP debut from Seattle based band Fleet Foxes, who describe their music as “baroque harmonic pop jams.” If you can imagine a collaboration between Bon Iver and My Morning Jacket, you’ll begin to get a sense of what Fleet Foxes sound like here. However, like Bon Iver, they manage to take familiar sounding influences, which include Americana and roots music, country, folk and gospel, among others, and make music that feels new and unique. The vocal harmonies are such that if the Beach Boys, in their prime, opted to go in a gospel direction, they might’ve have sounded like Fleet Foxes. The album meanders a bit in the middle, but the opening and closing tracks, especially “White Winter Hymnal,” “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” “Blue Ridge Mountains” and “Oliver James,” make it all worthwhile. Definitely recommended.

bodiesofwaterearswillpopI must be a sucker for bands with a big, overwhelming sound, because when the chorus of voices kicked in on the opening track of Los Angeles based band Bodies of Water’s debut album, I was hooked. By the third track, the epic length “It Moves,” I was totally sold on this band’s combination of gospel, folk, psychedelia, indie rock and choral arrangements along the lines of bands like Association and the Fifth Dimension, as well as contemporary peers like the Polyphonic Spree and the Arcade Fire. The music here is inspired and passionate stuff, and wrestles with mostly religious themes with all the attendant joy, confusion, doubt, and ecstastic release involved therein. I liked it a lot, clearly, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Standout cuts: “It Moves,” “I Guess I’ll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess,” “Doves Circled The Sky” and “Here Comes My Hand.”