What Am I Listening To? – February 2014

Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Sleeping at Last, Kye Kye, Vertical Horizon, Matt Wertz, Lost in the Trees, and St. Vincent.

2014_SleepingatLast_AtlasLandEPSleeping at Last – Atlas: Land EP
A disappointingly short and sparse EP, even by Sleeping at Last’s mellow standards. Musically, the songs don’t really capture the spirit of travel, or life on the far reaches of the map that they aim to describe.


2014_KyeKye_FantasizeKye Kye – Fantasize
Kye Kye makes dreamy electronic music that can be captivating, but also a bit diffuse when examined more closely. Fantasize comes across as more coherent than its predecessor Young Love, but it still seems to be more about mood than meaning.

2013_VerticalHorizon_EchoesFromtheUndergroundVertical Horizon – Echoes From the Underground
Vertical Horizon continues to define what the middle of the road was over a decade ago. At times they know how to craft a solid pop/rock song by employing all of the oldest tricks in the book, but especially since the minimization and subsequent departure of sideman Keith Kane, it feels like the group has been even more gun-shy than before about wandering off the beaten path. I keep trying with this band, but nothing much of theirs has interested me since a few stray tracks on Go over a decade ago.

2013_MattWertz_HeatwaveMatt Wertz – Heatwave
An intentional throwback to the sorts of feel-good summery guitar pop albums that might have been released in the 1980s, this one’s a bit shallow, but kind of fun. Lead single “Get to You” is undeniably addictive, and there’s a solid guitar solo at the climax of “Take It or Leave It” that catches me by surprise just when I thought the album was running out of wild cards to play. There are times when this reminds me of John Mayer before he was known to the world as a massive jackass.

2014_LostintheTrees_PastLifeLost in the Trees – Past Life
“Less is more” seems to have been Lost in the Trees’ mantra this time around. The huge baroque arrangements and labyrinthine time signatures may be mostly gone, but even in this stripped-down setting, Ari Picker’s musings on death and what lies beyond the doorway just up that staircase are still every bit as intriguing.

2014_StVincent_StVincentSt. Vincent – St. Vincent
She’s a mad genius who throws together quirky electro-pop songs in her lab, and then lays down some of the weirdest sounds you’ll ever hear from a guitar on top of them. The woman is just brimming over with talent and personality. So why do some of these arrangements still feel frustratingly sterile, and why do her lyrics make me feel like a total perv for listening in?

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