Alibi V.24 No.15 • April 9-15, 2015 

Sonic Reducer

I have no idea how Kate Stables remained unknown to me for so long. But if there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that hers is the voice folk music has been waiting for. Imagine Sandy Denny was bitten by a radioactive spider or Christine McVie’s dressing room got bombarded by cosmic rays. Whatever origin story you go with, there's something undeniable about the new folk prime mover's vox and vision. Stables delivers hearty servings of her revolutionary, dulcet tones and themes on This Is The Kit’s third studio album Bashed Out. Her version and envisioning of the avant/neo-folk spirit captivates on standout tracks like “Misunderstanding,” “Magic Spell” and “Cold and Got Colder,” as well as the title track. In Stables' sonic world, brass swells, violin scrapes and surprisingly, her beloved banjo is restrained to one brilliant example, “Spores All Settling.” All hail Kate Stables. (Samantha Anne Carrillo)

British jazz band Polar Bear’s multi-genre tendencies make for a daring collection of recordings and performances. Their latest release Same As You finds finesse propelling the ensemble through six tracks. This collection of songs’ variety and tonal beauty rests on improvisation and is not afraid of innovation. Polar Bear’s rhythm section is at the center of it all. Drummer Seb Rochford is the leader of the band, and his focused percussion and interaction with the other players, especially bassist Tom Herbert, shine throughout the work. Influenced by electronica and worldbeat, Polar Bear commands on pieces like opener “Life Love and Light” and final track “Unrelenting Unconditional,” an epic that grounds the group in jazz while magnifying their potential across the entire musical spectrum of sounds and ideas. (August March)

Brian Wilson No Pier Pressure (Capitol Records)

Brian Wilson urged The Beach Boys past simple surf rock and into the dominion of art. Partly in response to his insecurity about The Beatles and wholly in testament to his genius, Wilson’s lush, sometimes experimental directions may have been personally satisfying, but they led to a band crisis. Accustomed to songs about girls and cars, The Beach Boys struggled with Wilson’s vision. Their audience didn’t find much comfort on the outskirts either. Decades after their popular downfall, Wilson continues to be a voice of harmonic, melodic authority. Latest No Pier Pressure marks a return to basics, highlighting Wilson’s output as a workman-like songwriter. It’s pure pop this time around on tunes like “On the Island” and “Guess You Had to Be There.” It’s no Pet Sounds, but it’s still Brian Wilson, as clear and formidable as ever. (August March)