Music

CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Allah-Las, Tim Eriksen, and Chandler Travis Three-O

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Allah-Las
Allah-Las
(Innovative Leisure)

The debut from Los Angeles' Allah-Las can be safely slotted into the current retromania craze. The band expertly mixes sleek garage rock with traces of pop, surf, and gentle psychedelica. In a blindfold test, most listeners would probably identity these songs as B-sides from vintage mid-1960s Sunset Strip bands such as Love and Dino or Desi & Billy. But while the band's immaculately crafted and concise songs like "Catalina" and "Don't You Forget It" are unfailingly breezy and pleasant, there's nothing at stake emotionally in any of them. The true drama seems to come from whether the group can dial up just the right amount of reverb, whether the mix of tambourine, high-hats, and kick drum sounds perfectly authentic. To their credit, Allah-Las pull off their sonic fetishization without it feeling belabored, resulting in an album that plays like a perfectly genuine forgery. —Jeff Jackson

Tim Eriksen
Josh Billings Voyage
(Tim Eriksen Music)

Josh Billings Voyage is beautiful and captivating from the very first notes. Eriksen's haunting voice carries most of the songs, however, the album also relies on the varied instruments that sit like ingredients in a pantry where Eriksen goes to carefully select what sounds he needs for each track. Banjo, fiddle, bowed glockenspiel, great fife and tambourine all mix together to make a perfectly hearty stew—each song is like a bite of some fantastic dish with sounds that warm the soul. There is something distinctly Irish in the well-proportioned melancholy of the lyrics, but while the album pulls heavily from Celtic traditional singing and songwriting, Josh Billings Voyage is rooted in America—it's in the banjo, the electric guitar and the twang that Eriksen often gives his voice. From the " Bonny Bay of Biscay" to " The Mountains of Pomeroy" to "Philadelphia," the album is a journey around places that are familiar, even if you've never been there. —Kathleen Broadhurst

Chandler Travis Three-O
This is what bears look like underwater
(Iddy Biddy)

Cape Cod's prolific pop madman Chandler Travis seems to spawn projects and albums at giddy speed. His latest, the Three-O (with four members), differentiates itself quickly, with an opening track that mixes a circus of instruments into a peppy, somehow amusing ride. From there, he heads to more usual territory, somewhere between back-alley swing and guitar-fueled pop balladry. Travis possesses a quirky sense of lyrics and a comfortable baritone, and it's a reliable pleasure to hear the tales he weaves. On this disc, Travis seems to favor a more introspective, even nostalgic brand of songwriting, and a pervasive air of melancholy blows through nearly all the tunes. The disc feels at times like a back-porch session somewhere near Morocco, at other times like a lazy ramble through a smoke-filled pawn shop. All that salt air seems to produce a devil-may-care approach that results in songs that are nonetheless incisive and compelling. —James Heflin

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