Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco’s eighth studio album, The Whole Love, is an exciting and enjoyable cruise through familiar territory. Of the dozen tracks on the album, none veer the Wilco train wildly off the tracks, though there are some interesting and welcome detours along the way.
The opener, “Art of Almost,” gets wild early, though the rest of the disc fails to kick out the jams to such heights again. The arrangements throughout are tight, interesting, and, of course, catchy as can be. With the exception of the leading and closing tracks, each tune is a compact, easily digestible example of Jeff Tweedy’s pop song writing skills. The closing track, “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” is a meandering folk jam clocking in at the 12-minute mark that quite beautifully captures the feeling of a Sunday morning in autumn.
If you’re already a Wilco fan, you probably own this album already. If more than one person whose musical taste you trust has told you that you might like Wilco, you’ll probably dig this album. If you’ve already grown tired of Tweedy & Co’s act, well, you won’t be surprised if this album doesn’t grab you by the balls. Personally, I dig the album, but I’m not about to drop 30 bucks on the LP just yet. But the disc is certainly a creeper, with tunes lingering around in my head days after I’ve politely invited them to leave the party. After a few more spins, I may have to re-evaluate my position and invite The Whole Love in to stay awhile. (dBmp, dbpmrecords.com) Sheldon Birnie

ADAM AND THE AMETHYSTS – Flickering Flashlight

I’ve never owned one of those ordinary-looking rocks chopped in half with amethyst crystals bulging out like grape Kool-Aid, but in front of me is the Montreal-based band Adam and the Amethysts’ second album of indie pop, and it’s pretty darn nice. Genre-wise, it also fits under the euphemous description “psychedelic folk,” but it’s crafted from pretty familiar ingredients. Nothing about this record strikes me as particularly memorable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. Flickering Flashlight is delicate but never weak, and filled with little odds and ends that keep things interesting. Here and there are gleeful yells, and the tune to “Auld Lang Syne”; a rhythm reminiscent of music boxes, and strains of violin like sunlit ripples on the lake. “Gitchee Gumee Yeah Yeah” is an unabashedly fun song.  “Get me out of my clothes, and into the cool lake,” croons Adam over a funky bassline and all sorts of dizzying sound effects. “If it seems like I’m dreaming, don’t wake me,” is another lovely line from the song “Dreaming,” filled with low-key beachy sounds. The album ends with “Untitled,” a stirring 40 seconds of melancholy cello. This isn’t going to knock you off your feet, but  it’ll come up on shuffle while you’re riding your bike on a sunny day, and slowly the world will look and sound warmer, crisper, sweeter. The equivalent of apple crumble for your cochleas? Yeah, bring it on. (Kelp Records, www.kelprecords.ca) Adrienne Yeung

Say Hi – Um, Uh Oh

It was initially difficult to phrase how I feel about Say Hi’s seventh album. This was surprising, because my immediate reaction to the first track was “Oh, this song! Where have I heard this before?” Perhaps it’s just that: Eric Elbogen (formerly Say Hi To You Mom)’s low-key guitar-driven indie rock’s strongest point is its familiarity. This is easy to listen to and easy to like; there aren’t any big risks here, but the tracks are no less friendly and you’ll be no less ready to get down. Lyrics are where the songs are given that little bit of extra polish. “We’ve played our only record back to front infinity / When it’s dark, all I can see is the whites / Of her green eyes,” sings Elbogen on “Dots on Maps,” a song about waning passion. Things take a finger-snappin’ turn on “Devils” where there’s a great sarcastic chorus: “Woe is me indeed!” Although moody at times, this never fails to feel warm and approachable: “Trees Are A-Swayin’” is so good-natured that I can practically see a crowd strolling and singing through a sunlit city pg-13 rom-com style. Hints of minimalist blues, sunny pop, and soulful indie-rock reflection keep things interesting. The finished product feels very full, thoughtful, and unaffected – and there’s nothing wrong with that. (Barsuk Records, www.barsuk.com) Adrienne Yeung

New Music Tuesday Review: Elizabeth Shepherd, Heavy Falls the Night



Heavy Falls the Night

Elizabeth Shepherd manages to make music that’s eminently listenable without ever verging into easy-listening territory. Mixing pop sensibility in with strong jazz roots often leads to that land of watered-down sound, but Shepherd’s latest takes us along for the ride to a new, undiscovered country. Album opener “What Else” starts out percussive and bright, giving way to smooth vocal bridges. Title track “Heavy Falls the Night,” with it’s thrumming double bass, is a showcase for Shepherd’s vocal prowess—her voice is equally sure in a throaty, low register as it is scatting octaves higher. “High” loops vocals over electronics and compelling electric guitar, ending with Shepherd’s spritely piano. And then there’s her slowed-down, fresh take on the Anne Murray classic “Danny’s Song.” When she sings, “Even though we ain’t got money/I’m so in love with you honey,” it feels like the first time you ever heard that easy rhyme. The record is eclectic but completely cohesive. Spring’s arriving early in Winnipeg, and despite the title, this record is a perfect accompaniment for any and all seasonally-induced exuberance. Mark your calendars: Elizabeth Shepherd rolls into our town on Wednesday, May 26 at the Park Theatre. (Do Right Music, www.dorightmusic.com) Jenny Henkelman