Happy New Year
Oneida evokes false nostalgia masterfully. Their 10th album, Happy New Year, carries the trappings of early European folk and tribal hymns leashed together by strings of contemporary experimental electronica. It’s familiar and haunting, and yet clearly reminiscent of music not of our time.
Oneida’s core members are Kid Millions, Bobby Matador and Baby Hanoi Jane, and Happy New Year features guest star Phil Manley (of Trans Am and the Fucking Champs) as well as others from the band’s Brooklyn-based musical circle. The lineup starts the album with “Distress,” a funereal canticle measured by processional drumming. From there, Oneida toys with various musical traditions, including what’s best described as East Asian chord plucking in “Busy Little Bee” and dark disco mania in “Up With People.”
The lyrics throughout are so stark in imagery and swift in line breaks that Emily Dickinson could have penned them. Syntax like “seen in every stranger’s face the one you recognize, think and you will understand no adversary I” may seem anachronistic, but the meaning isn’t. Oddly, it’s this timeless sensibility and the captivating experimentation with styles that makes the album sound so progressive. (Erika Fredrickson)
Oneida plays The Raven Cafe Tuesday, July 18, at 10 PM. Duel, Poor School and Volumen open. $8.
On veteran reggae vocalist Junior Reid’s latest 19-track effort, the former Black Uhuru lead singer bounces freely between party music and social commentary. The result is an album that’s musically enjoyable from start to finish, but filled with disparate lyrics that whip from poignant commentary to mindless fun.
The first four tracks are originals with heavy political themes, including “Propogander” and the standout title track. On the latter Reid stays true to his rough upbringing in West Kingston’s Waterhouse district and early “ghettoman causes,” singing, “Rasta government is the poor people’s government…our government is taking over.”
But in the middle of the album, Reid takes a left turn toward repackaged covers and lighter lyrical content. “Caribbean Girl” is a forgettable remake of Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen;” “Dreadlocks Lover” is an upbeat twist on Stevie Wonder’s “Part-Time Lover;” and “Survivor” is an intriguingly reggaed-up version of Destiny Child’s hit single—and destined to be a blast performed live. It’s initially a bit disorienting when Reid takes a stab at such mainstream covers, but ultimately he and the One Blood Band make them their own.
Reid is a reggae legend, and Rasta Government is a worthy showcase of his talents across the widest terrain possible. (Skylar Browning)
Junior Reid plays The Other Side Thursday, July 20, at 10 PM. Tickets cost $12 in advance from Rainbow’s End and Burley’s Mercantile. $15 at the door.
Look To The Sun
It’s easy to find adjectives to describe singer-songwriter Stacey Board’s voice: clear and crisp, soaring, easy and resonant. It’s the kind of voice that, if you close your eyes, could be coming live from right beside you.
But the Alabama-born Board has much more going for her than just a pretty voice and a pretty face. On this four-song EP, her sixth release, Board goes beyond the one-woman-and-six-strings label, letting simple drumming and vocal back-up build each song into something layered, restless and insistent.
Board’s music has a pure quality that comes through not just in the hint of country twang in her voice, but in the unblinkingly earnest lyrics. For instance, she sings the hopeful line, “I may not have an answer, but I have a song,” in “Home To Me Now.”
Look To The Sun isn’t music to sit back to, and it’s not really for dancing—it’s music for rolling down the windows and leaving town with a thoughtful soundtrack to keep you driving on. (Alyssa Work)
Stacey Board plays at Shadows Keep Friday, July 14, from 7 to 10 PM. Free.
The Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters
Florida rapper Astronautalis, aka Andy Bothwell, calls himself part of the “mix-tape culture,” where it’s not uncommon to go straight from Beck to the Wu-Tang Clan. His newest album reflects that influence, showing he doesn’t shy from the idea of obsessively mixing genres within his music.
The Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters is a multidimensional creature glued together by hushed hip-hop vocals, drum-n-bass, emo pop and acoustic country. For instance, “My Dinner with Andy” seems at times to reflect Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” while “Xmas in July” is a hillbilly rocker.
Even better than the musical mix-up is Astronautalis’ perfect vocal delivery, especially when a song like “Short Term Memory Loss” hits its dramatic peak: “The blood’s the thing that drives the dream that makes him think he can fall off. The blood’s the thing that boils to steam that makes machines out of our hearts.”
Some songs on Mighty Ocean are about true beauty while others make more juvenile references to “making out” and doing donuts on people’s front lawns. Despite the mashed-up content—both musically and lyrically—there’s nothing really fractured about the album as a whole. In fact, Astronautalis so seamlessly pivots from one sound to the next that it’s easy to ride the album’s emotional waves without being jolted by change—which is exactly the ride a good mix provides. (Erika Fredrickson)
Astronautalis plays the KBGA Soul BBQ at Caras Park Sunday, July 16. The barbecue runs from noon to 7 PM. $3 donation requested. Astronautalis also plays The Loft Monday, July 17, at 9 PM, with Shovel and Travis Sehorn and the Old Shoes of Folk also scheduled to perform. $6.