Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
The Casiotone keyboard has been implicated in music both laudable and criminal, from sulky New Wave synth pop to the saccharine perkiness of songs like Rick Astley’s “Together Forever,” which were sometimes programmed, in their entirety, right into the machine.
Whatever cruel beatings the Casiotone once endured (and inflicted), it is fully back in favor within most indie rock circles; for the one-man-band Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, it’s the star of the show. On his fourth album, Etiquette
, musician Owen Ashworth plays to the melodramatic nature of the instrument and, though his songs evoke painful aloneness, they aren’t painfully self-indulgent.
In fact, Ashworth delves into what makes the Casiotone so great: what sounds like an orchestra of drum machines, pianos, organs and strings that produce multitudinous layers while retaining the feel of a solo puppeteer. Titles like “Don’t They Have Payphones Wherever You Were Last Night” illuminate Ashworth’s sense of humor, and “I Love Creedence” smartly masks a song that is less about a band and more about a girl.
is an exquisite example of what a machine can do given a capable master. (Erika Fredrickson
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone plays Crazy Daisy Tuesday, March 20, at 8 PM. $5.
Over the Hills
Red House Records
On her new album, Lucy Kaplansky sings with the quick, mellifluous style that folkies like Dar Williams and Nanci Griffith pull off so gracefully. On pensive songs such as Kaplansky’s original composition about looking back and moving on, “Manhattan Moon,” this effortless charm gets under a listener’s skin in a warming, nostalgic sort of way only supplemented by Kaplansky’s contingent of solid backup musicians on pedal steel, accordion and mandola. This easy musicianship is unfortunately absent from Kaplansky’s cover of June Carter’s “Ring of Fire,” a rushed and strangely unrattled rendition of a tune about going off the deep end.
Kaplansky can, however, slow down and shadow her sound ably. At these times, probing the dark corners of her original work, Kaplansky’s sound is more than just pretty—it’s steadfastly resonant. “Today’s the Day” addresses the death of Kaplansky’s father with intensity and nuance but without quite falling apart. “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go,” a gravelly duet Kaplansky shares with Buddy Miller, is similarly accomplished, a roughed-up tune evoking Lucinda Williams.
Over the Hills
is sweet and slightly stormy, keeping the fluctuating climate of Kaplansky’s music in satisfying balance. (Erika Fredrickson
Lucy Kaplansky plays the Masquer Theatre in UM’s PARTV Center Friday, March 16, at 8 PM. $16/$14 advance/$2 off for Missoula Folklore Society members.
The compact disc version of Public Property’s second album is mocked up to look like a vinyl record: black disc with a yellow center label and concentric circles made to look like grooves. The artifice is a fitting conceit: a gloss with novelty and shine but missing the one thing that would make it what it masquerades as.
What’s on Movement,
digitally encoded on the underside of what was just described, is unobjectionable and occasionally engaging roots reggae, ska and hip-hop. Public Property’s instrumentalists are all competent, each playing well the role allotted them by the cosmology of the genre they’ve chosen to emulate. But their combined efforts are just not that involving.
The reason is that the vocals aren’t there. While the three female backup singers are melodious enough, the lead vocals are all sung with a strained nasal baritone that shouldn’t normally be fatal, but is deadly in this case. Some musical styles can go without a compelling vocal presence, but action-oriented reggae beckoning audience members to chant down Babylon through peace, unity and good vibrations needs a charismatic presence at the microphone.
Lacking that, Public Property comes off as undeveloped. (Jason Wiener)
Public Property opens for Great American Taxi at The Other Side Thursday, March 22, at 10 PM. $10/$12 18-20.
All Good Things
The time of year for backyard congregation is nearly upon us. So where are you going to find music for mingling to at twilight, the sort that promotes the proper blend of groove and glide, filling lulls in conversation with nodding heads and swiveling hips? Pacha Massive’s All Good Things
seems a likely culprit.
The recipe for the album, the New York duo’s debut, is one part bass-heavy swagger and another part ticking up-tempo drum tracks, seasoned through with keyboard and guitar textures—all cooked up with some spicy Spanglish vocals. The sound is an exotic hybrid, incorporating elements of trip-hop, dub and Latin music into something like chipotle Morcheeba.
That extra kick makes All Good Things
an album tough not to just feel rather than hear, especially on tracks like “Don’t Let Go” and “Drive” that aim for the funky good fortune of a party at its peak. And, while it’s not perfect—sometimes the drum tracks dominate at the expense of the emotional aims of the album, a little too twitchy to be smooth—All Good Things
will make everything seem swankier than before the stereo started. (Jason Wiener