Just Plain Good

Neat Tracks / Y La Bamba “Juniper”

by Amanda DK

I’ll admit it, often when I present you with a track that is neat, I’m really recommending the entire album.  So while I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy Lupon, the sophomore release from Portland’s Y La Bamba, it just didn’t grab me the way “Juniper” did.  As in “Juniper,” the best parts of the album were when the trimmings were simple – the combination of haunting lead vocalist Luz Elena, and a romantic acoustic guitar would have been enough to lure me in.

Neat Tracks / Thao & Mirah “Eleven (ft. tUnE-YarDs)”


Enter Thao Nguyen (“Thao”): Known for her raw, brassy riffing and sensuality.

Enter Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn (“Mirah”): A sound chameleon, each album subtly different from the next, but with the same throughline of airy, breathy vocals.

Their powers combine on Thao & Mirah, the bluntly named first collaborative album from the two earthy songstresses, released on yesterday on Kill Rock Stars.

The result?  I’ll venture to say the whole is greater than the parts (and I loved Thao’s Know Better, Learn Faster).  I adore this album in the same way I do Alexander Ebert’s “Alexander” – on the surface it’s simple, but unique flourishes both with the vocals and in the instrumentation on every track make the whole experience really special.  Thao’s trademark offbeat belting intertwines perfectly with Mirah’s sweetness.  Each track is a little different, some with twangy garage guitars, other with a foundation of fuzzy beats.  All of them feel intimate, as though listening in on someone humming along to themselves; recorded so close you can hear fingers brushing across the guitar strings.

And then there is the opening track, “Eleven,” which is on another plane entirely – in an awesome way.  “Eleven” is the most lush, produced track on the album, which may have something to do with the contributions from Merrill Garbus, better known as the bad-ass (and buzzy) tUnE-YarDs.  Whatever the reason, the song is an expression of joy in the form of tribal beats trimmed with dreamy electronic bells and whistles.  Play this at your next neighborhood summer block party.

Thao & Mirah “Eleven (ft. tUnE-YarDs)”

Purchase Thao & Mirah at the Kill Rock Stars store.  A digital download of the album is only $5.00!

Neat Tracks / Yellow Ostrich “WHALE”

Photo Credit: Sarah Mulligan

A couple weeks ago, I ventured to the Echo on my own to check out The Parson Red Heads, and arrived significantly earlier than expected.  I figured I might as well check out these Yellow Ostrich fellows, who have been experiencing some buzz on the Interwebs, but like many bands, I hadn’t actually given a good listen to their music.

And boy was I thankful I did.

Paper Crane Collective / Album Review / Alexander “Alexander”

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