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At Large

A roundup of the Capital Region’s recent recorded riches

 

The Luxury Flats

Wrong Side of the Cap Stand (self-released)

The debut album by this Hudson-based foursome is a testament to the joy of being in a band and creating music. The Luxury Flats came seemingly out of nowhere (Hudson, again) a few years back, recommended by a couple self-produced demo discs and ecstatic word-of-mouth over their live shows; on Wrong Side of the Cap Stand, they’ve distilled their many strengths into one excellent debut album.

Cap Stand finds the band balancing their hippie inclinations with a mean punk-rock streak: The Ritual-era-Jane’s-meets-Donovan vibe of “Rainy Days” sits comfortably alongside wild rockers like “Oh My Lord” (“Oh my lord won’t you take me away/Come up short almost every day”). The Southern vibe of album opener “Walk Down That Road” is revisited several times, notably on the ZZ Top-plays-the-Stooges (Iggy Top?) skronk of album standout “Ellis Endecency” and the throat-shredding heavy boogie of “Honey.” On the flipside, hand drums and harmonium propel the cathartic drone of “City of Gold,” and the chiming tones of acoustic guitar and electric grand piano adorn the intro to the crossover-worthy “The Pull On.”

They’re unafraid to take chances, to drop a bleating baritone sax into the mix (on two songs, even) or introduce a new melody over the fade, and it all works, thanks to their musical-chairs approach. With a musical arsenal that includes a warehouse full of stringed instruments, plus three lead singers and four drummers among them, the Luxury Flats are as dangerous as a band twice their size.

—John Brodeur

Sunset Aside

of what remains (self-released)

The full-length follow-up to their promising 2005 EP ghost stories, this magnum opus sounds like Sunset Aside locked themselves inside a studio for a year (in this case, producer John Delehanty’s Scarlet East), and recorded every good idea they’ve ever had rumbling around their Gothic-primed brainpans. The result is a grand sonic adventure down some Edward Gorey-conceived rabbit hole, whipping between guitars grown to Loveless proportions and keys that echo back to Nitzer Ebb. Lead conspirator W. Dasgift III shows a knack for David Bowie pop moves circa Scary Monsters, but sings like some unholy conglomeration of Iggy Pop and alt-rock crooner Mark Lanegan. Particular highlights include “A Crooked Veil,” a dreamy piano-driven song that enthralls for its full 10 minutes, and “The Fainting Room,” a charging ode to sexual climax as “the little death.” Not for the faint of heart, of what remains should please most anyone whose taste for the Gothic tends toward its heavier incarnations.

—Mike Hotter

The Lustre Kings

Way Out There (Wild Boar)

Take a look around at Albany’s long-lived rock & roll and rockabilly revival, and you will always see Mark Gamsjager in the mix somewhere, either leading his Lustre Kings, mentoring younger acts along, or playing promoter and cheerleader by bringing in nationally renowned players like the Paladins and Deke Dickerson to places like the Ale House in Troy. (Global sensation and guitar whiz Dickerson even pens some CD notes on the new Lustre Kings disc.) When he’s not doing things like that, he and the Lustre Kings are backing up the original queen of ’50s rockabilly, Wanda Jackson. So what’s the new album, Way Out There, like? It’s the band’s best CD yet, combining bright, sophisticated swing fare like “Empty Town” with twangy diesel numbers like “Mr. Big” and slinky rock & rollers like “Way Out There.” It’s exactly what you would expect from Albany’s standard bearers of rock & roll. And you always know that a new CD from the Lustre Kings is going to be like your favorite dark suit: holding no new surprises, but finely made and perfect for most occasions.

—Erik Hage

The Christine Spero Group

My Spanish Dream (Collective Works)

Pianist-singer Christine Spero wrote all nine tracks on this album, and it’s immediately apparent why she’s done well in national songwriting competitions. The songs deftly combine Latin and Brazilian sounds with percussive, piano-centered jazz to exciting effect. (This probably would be a good time to mention the contributions of her excellent rhythm section, bassist Mike Woinoski and drummer Jody Sumber.)

Spero’s voice is sleek and insinuating, whether she’s hewing to the complex rhythms or scatting. Her vocal arrangements are a pleasure in themselves: When she multitracks her vocals for a brief wordless passage in “My Spanish Dream,” or to back herself on the propulsive “The Festival,” the effect is shimmering. And more importantly for you purists out there, not distracting.

What’s interesting about My Spanish Dream is that while the rhythms—and the array of percussion sounds provided by Elliot Spero—are primarily Latin-influenced, the melodies (and harmonies) are all over the place. Examples: The standouts “Caribbean Dream” and “The Festival” have a Latin flavor; the instrumental “Raiisha,” a showcase for husband Elliot’s tenor sax, is classic jazz fusion; and “Therapy” is somewhere in between. The aplomb with which Spero and company pull this off makes this music sound fresh.

—Shawn Stone

Grainbelt

Trouble Coming Down (self-released)

Rising from the sawdust of Albany cowpunk outfit Coal Palace Kings is the debut release by Grainbelt, a group featuring two-thirds of CPK—with bassist Chris Blackwell the new addition—and sharing much of the earlier band’s appreciation for heartfelt roots rock, old time country and cheap American beer. The new album sounds “kind of like trouble coming down,” reads the group’s tongue-in-cheek press sheet. That could mean difficulty returning to a non-drug-induced state, or it could mean trouble coming down the pike. The latter seems more likely, given that songs like “The Ballad of Sled” and “The Drugs Don’t Seem to Be Working”—much like the best that Americana has to offer—are anthems for the unlucky, for those with no real shot at fortune and fame. But, that’s not to say the album doesn’t have moments of cautious optimism.

“Not making much but we’re getting by,” sings bandleader Howe Glassman, sounding a note of reassurance that resonates well on “A Little Faith,” one of the album’s best tracks. “Leave a Stone” is a gorgeous weeper recalling Son Volt or Uncle Tupelo and accentuated to great effect by pedal steel, while “War of Wills” and “Crooked Numbers” are straightforward, to-the-point barn burners.

—Kirsten Ferguson

Super 400

3 and the Beast (self-released)

On their third studio album, Poestenkill’s finest stick to what they do best, a throwback to the bell-bottomed blues-rock of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Some chances were taken on their excellent second record, Blast the Message (that album’s “I Wonder” is among the band’s finest moments), but here they’ve kept things lean, accentuating the simplicity of the trio sound. For this reliably excellent live act (see their last release, Live ‘05), putting the songs and the performances at the forefront was a smart move: Once the tentative opening notes of “Emergency” gust up into a flurry and the rhythm section kicks into high gear, you’re in for a 45-minute re minder of why rock & roll will never burn out or fade away. (There’s a reason kids are still wearing Zeppelin T-shirts.) If you’re short on attention span, skip to “The Leaves” for a bit of contemplative psychedelia or “The Brave Path to You” for a killer rave-up, or throw on the sinister slink of “Faces to the Sun” in all its drop-tuned glory.

—John Brodeur

Brian Patneaude Quartet

As We Know It (WEPA)

The third CD from the pride of Albany’s jazz scene finds the tenor saxophonist hitting his stride as both a writer and an instrumentalist. The clean, strong melodic lines of both disc-opener “Matters Not” and the gleaming ballad “Simple Truth” draw favorable comparisons to Blue Note-era Wayne Shorter, but Patneaude’s writing is simply stellar throughout. The seasoned quartet, comprised of drummer Danny Whelchel, guitarist George Muscatello, and acoustic bassist Mike DelPrete, are joined by pianist Dave Payette (featured here on Fender Rhodes) on all but two of the CD’s seven songs. Such a talented and experienced crew makes for a band unperturbed by the proverbial red recording light—the interplay throughout is relaxed and intimate, but never at a loss for inventiveness and surprise. This is a magical disc that yields a little bit more musical treasure upon each return.

—Mike Hotter

The Erotics

30 Seconds Over You (self-released)

Just in time for Halloween come the first two tracks on the Erotics’ new album: “Same Nightmare Everyday” and “Your Mommy Is a Monster,” which share more with Alice Cooper than just ghoulish themes and black eyeliner. Although the album starts rather incongruously with flamenco guitar (a more appropriate cowbell kicks off the title track), 30 Seconds Over You is full of Cooper-esque glam rock, stripped to its core of sleazy vocals, heavy-metal guitar and shout-along refrains. That trifecta of elements is used to great effect on the album highlight “Where the Action Never Stops,” an anthem to teenage rebellion that wouldn’t sound out of place pumping out of arenas everywhere. Currently touring in the U.K. behind this latest album, a follow-up to Rock-N-Roll Killing Machine, the Erotics should be giving U.K. rock fans plenty of head-banging material with tracks like the junkie-baiting “Ain’t Your Fix” and the vicious, but catchy, “It’s True.”

—Kirsten Ferguson

Sugar Cookie

Sugar Cookie Music (October Twelve)

Sugar Cookie is not actually a band. It’s more of a songwriter and producer’s project, helmed by Dan Sorensen. Interestingly, Sorensen first recorded drum tracks that he then sent on to four songwriters: Bryan Thomas, Ben Karis, Martha Kronholm, and Troy Pohl. The seven tracks were completed with the addition of a few other area musicians jumping into the pool. For an album that had none of the musicians performing together, it does offer a cohesive ensemble sound on individual songs. Given the concept at hand, the set plays like a compilation, with the sound varying widely depending on who wrote and is singing each of the particular songs. There’s everything from the pseudo Prince of Thomas’ “Anythang” to the fuzzy throb of Pohl’s “Big, Bright and Loud.” The most resonant songs were the two penned by Kronholm, offering hypnotically inviting layers of alluring mystery. If this was Sorensen’s way of auditioning future writing partners, hang on to Martha Kronholm and build a full album around her.

—David Greenberger

The Sense Offenders

The Sense Offenders (self-released)

Albany band the Sense Offenders play ballsy, macho rock that is led by the vocal growl and songwriting sensibilities of the undeniably talented Tom McWatters. “Razor’s Edge” opens up the album with an ominous rumble that builds into a booty-shaking, hard-rock scrum upheld by the slashing power chords of guitarist Eric Halder and the precision clatter of drummer (and Metroland editor) John Brodeur. But it’s McWatters’ feral, bluesy howl that truly marks this territory as serious business. “Loaded With My Love” mixes things up a bit by offering more of a rock & roll, not hard-rock, attack that lands somewhere closely in the neighborhood of 1970s Elvis Costello or Rockpile. Mostly though, this album is supreme “cock rock,” finely executed with balls to match. Few people could drop lines like “It’s cold outside/So come in soon/Join the revival in my bedroom” (from “Stiff Breeze”) and be taken seriously. But McWatters, with that dirty howl and all of that heavy artillery behind him (and some righteous organ), pulls it off quite well. Sure, this is dead serious “rawk,” but one also gets the sense that the Sense Offenders are having a whole lot of fun living it up like Free or Bad Company did back in the day.

—Erik Hage

Complicated Shirt

Compromising Compositions (Alone/NFI)

Complicated Shirt’s second disc is a rollercoaster of moods and time signatures; just when you settle in for some good old fashioned rock & roll bile, for example, the band offers something in 3/4 time that sounds almost pretty. That the Shirt accomplishes this in a compact 23 minutes is worth mentioning.

The opening song, “Re silient,” delivers the bile. Vocalist-songwriter Drew Benton furiously spits out slogans and non sequiturs as if his brain can’t keep up with his hate, while bassist Jason Jette and drummer Jonathan Pellerin are right with him in musical fury. The drums sound as ostentatious as the guitar.

“The Somnambulateur” is a melodic lament spiked with an angry outburst of intricate wordplay; one gets the impression that Benton doesn’t give a shit if you think it means something, because it damn well means something to him. “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is a reasonable, tortured musical representation of its ostensible subject; the Hunky Dory-esque vocal stylings help. And, God help them, “Today’s Front Page (the day of the mosquito)” is almost radio-friendly—that is, if radio were still friendly.

The disc ends on a strange note, with the church-organ sound of “Bad Plumbing Beneath a Spilled Philter.” Which, if you think about it, is perfectly appropriate.

So don’t think about it.

—Shawn Stone

Two Gun Man

King of Spain EP (self-released)

Reid Waring sounds like a cross between Ray Davies and Gene Ween on “Sunrise,” the opening track from Hudson-based quartet Two Gun Man’s debut EP. King of Spain is an even six tracks of palatable roots-rock, from the twee-Uncle Tupelo sound (one imagines their bottles filled with white wine rather than moonshine) of “Sunrise” to the locomotive-country of “Train Whistle.” On the 6/8 ballad “Helen,” Waring’s voice smoothes out into a croon that uncannily resembles Gordon Lightfoot, and a brief doo-doo-doo refrain warrants the song’s final 60 seconds. The group sound most comfortable in one of their two main modes, pleasingly manic or broadly evocative; they’re least convincing on the faux-soul bridges of “Black Cat,” which sound forced and never quite lock in. Still, a good train song is a good train song, and, for most of King of Spain, Two Gun Man are . . . wait for it . . . on the right track.

—John Brodeur


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