Music

CD Shorts

Elsten Torres; The Source Family; The Waterboys

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Source Family

The Source Family

(Drag City)

The Source Family is the soundtrack of the same-titled documentary about the followers of Father Yod, a spiritual leader of the early 1970s. Father Yod describes himself as “the father you always wanted but never had,” serving as a spiritual “father” to a group of young people living communally in California. The album includes snippets of music from Father Yod’s various bands, as well as The Source Family’s chants and speeches made at high schools in recruitment attempts. While the album’s music was “designed to be a vehicle that would attract those who relate,” the album seems to serve primarily as a promotional piece for the film, resulting in a fragmented and random compilation.

—Olivia Wrobel

Elsten Torres

Waiting for Clouds

(Real/Artificial)

Elsten Torres, a mainstay in New York’s 1990s Latin rock scene, has moved to the acoustic side of the ledger, though he cites as influences everyone from Billy Joel, Paul Simon, U2, and both Elvises (Presley and Costello). On “A Perfect World,” Torres channels a chilled-out Bono, but mostly Waiting for Clouds is a confessional album that deals with love and its aftermath. He dodges a potential redundancy problem by blending genres. “Sitting on Your Throne,” evokes the Lesley Gore hit “I Will Follow Him,” but with a reggae backbeat; “Bleeding Hearts Club” conjures a quirky string band; and “Keeping Me Waiting,” is rockabilly meets hand-jive. Torres also thoughtfully pairs darker songs with shimmery and hopeful ones. The same consideration underlies placing the experimental, not-for-everyone title track last. It opens quietly and mysteriously, and Torres slowly unpacks voice and emotions for an effect that’s dramatic and dreamy, but off-kilter. I like it all.

—Rob Weir

The Waterboys

An Appointment with Mr. Yeats

(Proper)

Though Mike Scott has set W.B. Yeats’ words to music before, this full album of Yeats poems set to music marks a high point in the Waterboys’ long career. There could hardly be a better choice for interpreting Yeats—Scott’s unusual, old-gods-meets-New-Age spirituality encompasses Christian mysticism, Pan-fuelled abandon, and elemental Celtic timelessness. Throw in blazing guitar, folky fiddle and Scott’s earnest singing, and you get a set of songs that blends all the phases of Scott’s sound. Early on, his music was a tough if rewarding listen, a bombastic and skronky kind of pop that wandered unusually spiritual ground. The Waterboys found international success in the late ’80s with Fisherman’s Blues, an album that offered an exuberant, original take on traditional Irish music. Those flavors and more infuse Mr. Yeats, and the result is an uneven, surprising and splendid mix of tunes with very different textures. It’s an energetic inhabiting of Scott’s wide-ranging, hard-to-describe aesthetics. The words are pretty good, too.

—James Heflin

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