The Great Whale/Say It, Don't Spray It
Local songwriter and musician-about-town Bill Carson's new, nine-song solo album creaks, moans, and swings with stylish peculiarity. Carson started tracking The Great Whale/Say It, Don't Spray It over a year and a half ago, engineering songs on his own gear, adding tastefully-executed overdubs with antique instruments with assistance from musician friends like drummer Nick Jenkins and percussionist Ron Wiltrout. Mixed and mastered with engineer Josh Kaler at Hello Telescope studio, it's the first official release on Shrimp Records, the newest record label in the Charleston scene.
Carson's singing sounds more confident, if not a little despondent and worried, than his previous recordings. His voice oozes warmth, though. He comes across as a sagely troubadour who feels a bit older and wiser.
The melancholic collection flows nicely, gaining careful momentum. It shifts from the more spare and airy songs in the first half, like the repetitive, acoustic guitar-driven opener "In the End" and the echo-y, slow-moving "Santa Monica," into a more dynamic, full-band style that rocks and bounces with a louder style, as with the droning "The Miller's House" and the peppy, melodic, bell-accented "Tiny Creature." (myspace.com/billcarson)
In Common Places
Busy singer/guitarist and songwriter Aaron Levy's rich sense of romance and optimism comes across effectively on local band White Rhino's misty-cool new album In Common Places. An undercurrent of weepy country-rock (by way of fiddle and pedal steel) adds unexpected elements as well.
Produced by the band and Tim Holbrook (with assistance from engineers Eric Rickert and Jeff Leonard at the helm in the Ocean Industries facility), In Common Places took time to come together. Judging by their smooth and solid delivery, Levy, violinist Katie Coleman, keyboardist Ben Jacobs, and drummer Daniel Crider must have spent considerable time and effort tracking the 12 songs. From the acoustic guitar-driven opening ballad "And When the Sky Was Opened" to the closing slow-waltz anthem "Cinnamon," the songs swirl dynamically while Levy's nasally tenor blends nicely with sugary harmonies from Jacobs and Coleman.
Levy tries a little too hard to cram his lyrics into some of the verses of "Miss California," the most "alternative rock" tune of the bunch. "Damn Her Charm" scoots with a country shuffle and vibrates with some of guest pedal steel player Charlie Thompson's more colorful licks. Coleman's sweet violin melody within "Repeat, Repeat, Repeat" (another slightly upbeat track) adds a pleasant vibe as well. Overall, the mix of melody, harmony, and atmospheric instrumentation makes for a jangly, luscious sound. (whiterhinoband.com)
Exotic, cleverly textured, and hypnotically repetitive, local musician and studio wiz Josh Kaler's latest solo album Auditorium (released simply under the name Kaler) is an experimental and unconventional piece of work.
The brief "3rd Grade Science" buzzes with a vintage synth intro that would have made Brian Eno and Mark Mothersbaugh grin. Things suddenly get funky on the instrumental "Phil vs. Ned" with a sampled kick/snare/cymbal dance beat and a synth bass groove (think Devo-meets-Stereolab). The bright and pulsating "Man from U.K.E." incorporates a different blend of electric and acoustic sounds by way of ukulele, snare drum, and layered synth, resembling some of the modern Euro-mischief on the 4AD label. The hypnotic "Wells and Wells and Wells" features echo-y spoken-and-sung lyrics from guest musician Nick Jenkins.
With extra guitar, uke, and full drum kit tracks, the closing songs — the crisp "Apart from Clouds" and the distorted and muscular "Her Pet Lion" — stand as two of the more "rock" tunes in the collection. (joshkaler.com)