Irish-American stars Liz Carroll and Liz Knowles throw their considerable talents and energies into a mix that also includes the folk/industrial rock licks and strongly accented vocals of Sweden's Emma H?rdelin (Garmarna), the eerie Hardanger strings of Norway's Annbjorg Lien, the dance Scotland-meets-Scandinavia cadences of Shetland's Catriona Macdonald, and the swingy Donegal rhythms and sweet vocals of Mairiad No Mhanaigh (Altan).
Each musician takes a turn in the spotlight to showcase regional wares, but when they combine, there is no label to capture the musical boundaries they cross or the standards of excellence they establish. This CD is way beyond "good"; it's jaw-dropping awesome. —Rob Weir
Lisa O Piu
When this was the future
This Swedish band, helmed by singer/songwriter Lisa Isaksson, creates a captivating melancholy. Songs flow more than play, and the slow accretion of sounds evokes a sparse, sleepy feel that's hard to avoid equating with a cold Scandinavian beauty. The instrumentation is mostly acoustic, although somewhere in the mix a theremin and electric guitar lurk.
Isakkson's vocals intertwine with flute and violin, doubling and tripling at times, or breaking into harmonies on the first track that truly bring to mind—and it's not a comparison to make lightly when it comes to Scandinavian bands—Swedish forebears ABBA. On Lisa O Piu's Myspace page, under "sounds like," you'll find the image of a lone buffalo wandering in a sunlit forest, and that's about as eloquent and accurate a description as possible. The band exists somewhere in the delicate folk realm of bands like Death Vessel, making music that should be corny but somehow rolls out instead like a pleasant cloud of dreams. —James Heflin
According to their website, Brooklyn's Swimclub have "re-dedicated themselves to the art of selling out" on their debut release. What exactly does that sound like?
For starters, a whole lot of fun. The album is filled with all manner of catchy surf-rock riffs and melodies that would be right at home in an old Annette Funicello beach romp. It's an upbeat affair with backing vocals aplenty, including lots of "oh oh ohs," and "da da da-duhs." There's even room for tambourine, hand-claps and drums whose beat at one point resembles a '60s take on "My Sharona."
Best of all, it doesn't overstay its welcome. The longest song of the bunch comes in at a mere three minutes and 41 seconds, and the whole record is only a shade over half an hour. It goes by quickly, too. If this is the sound of selling out, bring on the corporate ogres. —Michael Cimaomo