Editor’s Note: This roundup will mark 100 consecutive albums reviewed by Craig Graziano. As much as he loves having reached that milestone, he is also in need of a well-earned sabbatical. The gang here at Whurk thanks him for his dedication and hopes to see him on the flip side.
Fredericksburg • June 1, 2018
On Karen Jonas’ third album, she nimbly transposes her simultaneous experiences as both musician and mother of four into a smooth collection of her trademark country songs. The dual role must absolutely be a challenge, but Jonas is such a natural that the output comes off seemingly effortlessly. The tracks draw from a number of genres and reference a litany of twentieth century notable personalities. The title track drips with jazzy horns as she decadently describes a mama who “looks like Grace Kelly” and “tastes like Betty Crocker.”
Guitarist Tim Bray dazzles as usual, soloing and shredding his way across the verdant plain, most notably on “Gospel of the Road.” The tongue-in-cheek “Mama’s First Rodeo” features an entrancing slide guitar as Jonas calls bullshit to an unseen spinner of lies while playfully toying with her own half truths, “It’s just like Abraham Lincoln said, ‘I pity the fool.’” The final track “Circus” is an encapsulation of the album’s overall theme: What is life like when you you have one foot in showbiz and the other in a domestic household? If these ten songs are any indication, Jonas is an acrobatic master worthy of the center ring.
Richmond • April 20, 2018
Since their self-titled debut release last year, Opin has assembled a full line-up for their Drifters EP. The four songs act as a sort of way station on the journey to their next full length, with new members Jon Hawkins on bass and Ethan Johnstone on drums contributing to a denser, more intricate dose of dreamy yet energetic new wave with abundant synth frills. Tori Hovater’s vocals on a spritely cover of Japanese band Mariah’s “Shinzo No Tobira” are particularly affecting. Available as a single-sided 12” on clear vinyl courtesy of Harding Street Assembly Lab.
Charlottesville • February 16, 2018
“While sucking tongues still sucking thumbs. Who knew love could do such funny things to you?” Ethan Lipscomb’s adoring and lovelorn ballad “Angela” sets up a scene of reminiscence and longing. Set to mournful piano, he drops evocatively descriptive, but narratively vague clues to the listener of an intangible muse. Despite the attention to detail, it is hard to determine whether her absence is of a physical or strictly emotional capacity. Regardless, Lipscomb’s delicate instrumentation and expressive wordplay draws you into a most intimate adoration of a ghostly presence. “In love with the idea of… not you.”
Your Ex’s Pets
Fear of Water
Harrisonburg • March 11, 2018
Fear of Water summarizes that feeling in your early twenties when you’re trying to be an adult, but not quite hitting the mark. “Easy Greasy,” for example, takes place in a frigid household where ennui is setting in. There are “mice in the kitchen, that’s okay I like Cinderella anyway.” Despite the ramshackle living conditions, there is also a sense of genuine youthful wonder pulsating throughout. “Hartford CT” captures an exhilaration of late night driving as twinkling city lights roll by. Fans of The Weakerthans will find solace in the gentle yet catchy pop hooks. Available on cassette.
Hearses Don’t Hurry
Fairfax • March 2, 2018
Shiver is an apt title for the first full length from Hearses Don’t Hurry. All ten of its songs contribute to a chillingly sterile atmosphere of electronic pulses as Tracy B.’s stoic vocals cut through the preprogrammed fuzz and static. Standout moments include the warbling and wavy opening to “Night Creatures” as well as the echoing cries of “Trapped Inside.” A greater exploration of emotional range in the future would be most welcome. The band has desperation and alienation down pat, but even the slightest moment of joy or hope would provide a much needed contrast to the dark proceedings.