IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

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IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column which scoops up releases by international artists, in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column picks up New Zealand artists.

Comments will be brief.

Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop; Love Letter for Fire (SubPop): Yes he's beardy Beam (Iron and Wine) and she wears a Patsy Cline dress on the cover photo so we are very much in familiar territory, that of classic country duets with an alt twist and a reverence for the great tradition going back to the Carter Family by way of Gram Parsons and displaced Anglo-folk. It is all beautifully realised and the small band (percussion, keyboards, violin, cello) are the perfect match . . . but although the songs are almost all uniformly strong many will feel that -- depsite the acclaim this album has had in some quarters -- this is a path they've traveled many times before. That takes nothing away from it and it stands on its own account, and Hoop is certainly deserving wider recognition. But after a couple of plays, this sometimes just sits there in its intelligent, crafted familiarity.

Beam and Hoop, We Two Are a Moon
 

Trixie Whitley; Porta Bohemica (Essential/Southbound): The name sounds perfectly Americana and she is the daughter of the late Chris  . . . but she grew up in Belgium (where her mother came from) and her early career seems to have been in the visual arts, theatre and dance. Although when she turned to music she fell in with excellent company, she fronted Daniel Lanois' band Black Dub. Out of that melange of influences she brings touches of dark electronica to this, the second album under her own name. Unfortunately the opening piece Faint Mystery is a scene setter more than a song, but get past that throat-clearing and she impresses on material where alt.country buoyed up by smart electronica meets deft hip-hop beats and abrasive (where required) guitars: Eliza's Smle a standout for torch song-meets-country.noir cabaret. The closing track The Visitor -- an emotional piano ballad -- is well worth sticking around for. Very interesting.

Trixie Whitley, Hourglass
 

Waco Brothers; Going Down in History (Bloodshot): For what must be about their 12th album, the always great country-punk Brothers (fronted by Jon Langford, founder of Britain's similarly conceived Mekons back in the Eighties) bring their blend of wit, cynicism, a thrilling but faithful version of the Small Faces' All or Nothing, a cover of fellow traveller Jon Dee Graham's Orphan Song, and plenty of twanging punk rocked country rock'n'roll. The cliche "Cash-meets-Clash" still holds true and Springsteen could add Building Our On Prison to his live set just to give these guys more pocket money so they can do this all over again. Loud excitement bottled. The wheel is not reinvented but its rolling on its own fast track down a rough road.

Waco Brothers, Lucky Fool
 

The Navins; not yourself today (Green Monkey): Although Seattle's always interesting Green Monkey label releases contemporary artists quite a chunk of its output is reissues or previously unreleased albums from bands and artists out of the Pacific Northwest. This enjoyable but hardly essential album seems a bit of contemporary/unreleased because it seems most of this was recorded in 2014 . . . but looked like it would never see daylight until GM stepped in. Straight-ahead indie rock with a very large and welcome dollop of power pop with its ears on economic Sixties garageband pyschedelic rock. 

The Navins, What You Do
 

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