by Mary Hamilton
Now that we’ve settled into the new year, we can reflect on the past (lovely) and look the future (blue skies ahead). Musically, the view is a postcard horizon.
2004 made my toes tap and my eardrums do a little dance:
Jeffrey Simmons and the Symptoms
Almost…all the way…down (2004, Sodapop Records)
From his introspective funk-infused torch ballad sung by a whisky swilling Romeo (“3000 Ways”) to the pure rock soul of “bbib, “ this group of 11 songs brings the listener on a tour of Simmon’s multi-faceted writing and singing talent. My personal favorite: “Unkind” a sugary breakdown of the heart.
The Light and the Dark (2004, Unstoppable Records)
Like a teenager who just took a breath of their first cigarette, The Operators’ sophomore effort brings the band’s blend of innocence and knowledge to its now-or-never moment. The good news is the The Operators are now, bringing a new vitality to the indie-pop atmosphere in Boston.
The Gutter and the Garden (2004) Orange Twin Records
Lovers, led by vocalist/lyricist Carolyn Berk, released a heartbreaking teddy bear with “The Gutter and the Garden” a collection of 10 tracks about love, loss, and the usual guitar-driven stuff of song. But when the words are written and phrased by Berk each song becomes a stolen diary entry. Each lyric as accurate to feelings seemingly one’s own alone as they are to Berk’s broken voice.
The Crossing (2004)
Hutchinson’s fourth album in 8 years shows no sign of a musician wearing thin on motivation or inspiration. This album mixes the introspective with the unexpected. Using the unique (but undeniable) beauty of her voice to its fullest, Hutchinson has created an album of delicate songs that will last well beyond the album’s copyright.
Heavy Structured (2004)
In the midst of the winter doldrums, one needs music to shine a light on the snow, sleet and slush outside. Soulfege has provided such refuge. Their album, Heavy Structured is light on inhibitions and heavy on spirit. Rejoice, dear listener, summer is here!
Where the Humans Eat (2004, TeamLove)
This Martha’s Vineyard native has opened for the likes of Ben Kweller, Death Cab for Cutie, and The Grateful Dead. Oh, and by the way, Willy Mason is only 19 years old. Keep that in mind when you hear the wise-beyond-his-vocal-cords “Oxygen.”
2005 promises to be a great year for local music. My ears are itching for:
New album anticipated for release in April.
It seems every member of this band is also a member of seventeen other bands. But somehow, when they come together, they create songs as easy and comfortable as a hug from mom.
Strawberry Lover (Rykodisc)
Jess Klein left good ol’ Massachusetts for the grimy streets of New York City. We should be angry, mad even. But one listen to her nymph-like voice and your heart just melts. Her last album, Draw Them Near showed promise. Let’s hope the follow-up is rewarding.
Hell Train (anticipated release Feb 2005)
Tim Howard’s had to do some finagling to get his newest effort Hell Train into the hands of his fans. But if past performances are anything to judge by, whatever he gives us is well worth the wait.
And now a few names to remember so when they blow up all over the radio and MTV and all that you can say “I knew them when:””
Neil Young and Leonard Cohen’s love child as nannied by Bob Dylan. Uncle Shaker is an Americana band able to rock the electric as easily as they can break a lady’s heart (awww.)
The Westward Trail
Jake Dempsey and Joe Wawrzyn have been picking up the pace in the last months of 2004. Armed with a new website, new demo, and a beefed up tour schedule these two unassuming fellows should prepare themselves for a big year in 2005.
California native Rachael Cantu posses a diamond-edged voice that cuts straight through the heart. Having finished up the year opening for Tegan and Sara, Cantu is back in Somerville (hooray!) where we can enjoy her OC-style up close and sensational.