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Fiesta Brava, Walking Papers, Susanna and Ensemble neoN

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fiesta Brava

This Is Us Tomorrow

(Lost Bridges)

 

Valley band Fiesta Brava offers a blend of big guitar chords, vocal harmonies and emotion-fueled playing. The band’s brand of rock is decidedly pop-oriented, with layers of triumphant guitar sounds and earnest lyrics and singing. Vocalists Chris Rea and Ray Keane combine their efforts often in harmony, and the timbres of their voices are quite different. The liner notes don’t specify who sings which part, but one of the two vocalists possesses a particularly appealing, rough-edged and lower voice that seems more at home in the tunes’ textures. When that rougher voice meets the high clarity of the second singer’s tones, however, it adds up to a tasty combo. The band is at its best on tunes like “Open Up,” which offers intertwining vocal parts and a solid slab of guitar noise.

Walking Papers

Walking Papers

(Loud & Proud)

Coming from a band featuring bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), drummer Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season) and members of The Missionary Position Jeff Angell and Benjamin Anderson, this debut album has quite the rock pedigree. Add production duties from Seattle recording engineer Jack Endino and guest solos by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, and it feels like 1991 all over again. Fortunately the record’s material is more than refried grunge. Opening cut “Already Dead” is a tender intro, employing echo-laden guitar and piano to chilling effect. Elsewhere, “I’ll Stick Around” colors a strong blues foundation with Anderson’s atmospheric keyboard and lyrics concerning the ways strangers combat loneliness. Most interesting is the song “A Place Like This.” Mixing marimba, horns, and a tribal beat, Walking Papers conjures a latter-day Doors with Angell channeling Jim Morrison complete with lyrics about dancing with a ghost.

Susanna and Ensemble neoN

The Forester

(SusannaSonata)

If Tori Amos wanted to sound more like Bjork, but ended up listening to, and therefore becoming influenced by, a lot of Broadway music, she might sound something like Susanna Wallumrød (formerly of Susanna and The Magical Orchestra). The Forester features Susanna—as she is known in the music world—on piano and vocals, performing what is accurately described as “chamber folk music,” with the Ensemble neoN, whose instrumentation includes theorbo (a Baroque instrument resembling a guitar, or lute), cello, violin, alto sax, clarinet and bass clarinet, flute and alto flute, and percussion—though a minimal amount of percussion only—with Magnus Loddgard conducting. Aside from song length (the opening title track is 15 minutes long, nearly half the album), there isn’t much variety from track to track. Though “Oh, I Am Stuck” sounds especially Broadwayesque, in a Susanna sort of way.

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