Sonic Reducer: Micro Album Reviews

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I once went to a club in Amsterdam called Abraxas. My girlfriend and I were admitted through an anonymous alley door and asked to remove our shoes. We were led upstairs and into a large airy room filled with the light of the evening’s sunset. Around the perimeter were pods of white cotton futons occupied by reclining couples and groups of the happiest looking people I had ever seen. Their soft laughter could just be heard over music. Our waitress brought us the prix fixe menu, which consisted of three courses, mineral water, wine and two tablets of pharmaceutical-grade ecstasy. Drawing critical comparisons to Ariel Pink, Phèdre’s good-feeling electro-pop debut album would have been perfectly at home on the Abraxas DJ’s turntable. (Geoffrey Plant)

John Wesley Coleman III The Last Donkey Show (Goner)

JWC III brings on more tales of death, love, poverty and weirdness just in time for summer. The whole record might actually be about pawn shops and the things that drive people to patronize them. More country than Little Miss Keith Richards —and a better record overall— The Last Donkey Show contains a minimum of the silliness that can override Coleman’s rock. JWC III is at his best here, plaintively singing loss-filled lyrics and playing sentimental rock and roll. “Hanging Around” and “Flower in the Dark” stand out on Side 2. If you don’t have the “A Clown Gave You a Baby” single, it’s on the first side. Although Goner says the album comes with a download code, there isn’t one. (Geoffrey Plant)

Kate McGarry Girl Talk (Palmetto Records)

On Girl Talk, vocalist Kate McGarry continues to transform songs we thought we knew into profoundly articulate new works of art via arrangements by herself and/or guitarist Keith Ganz. With deft assistance from Gary Versace (organ, piano), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums), McGarry reimagines “We Kiss in a Shadow” as a plea for equality across all sexual orientations. The title track offers a fun, bluesy anthem of self-worth, while the “Man I Love” plumbs desperate, unconvinced optimism. As unassuming and accessible as she is warm, compassionate and playful, McGarry stands in the first rank of today’s vocalists. (Mel Minter)
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