Artist: San Fermin Album: The Cormorant I & II Year: 2020 Grade: B+
In Brief: Is it a rock band? A chamber pop ensemble? A composer using whatever instrumentalists and vocalists he has on hand to execute his creative vision? Whatever you want to call San Fermin, they’re quite generous with the orchestral adornments, the natural and mythical imagery, and the diversity of vocal perspectives throughout the 16 tracks on this 2-part record. While much of The Cormorant is a down-tempo exercise in pastoral beauty, there are several moments that will genuinely surprise you.
In Brief: These classical/electronic reworkings of old Evanescence songs work better than expected, for the most part. At times the song selection is lackluster, or else the arrangements aren’t quite ambitious enough to set them apart from the originals in memorable ways. But it was clearly a labor of love for Amy Lee, and I get the sense that perhaps for the first time, we’re hearing some of these songs as she had once envisioned them in her mind.
Artist: Future of Forestry Album: Awakened to the Sound Year: 2016 Grade: B
In Brief: It’s a stretch these days to call Future of Forestry a “rock” band. This album is much more like a film score. Exciting, climactic percussion sounds abound on a few tracks, bringing back fond memories of the Travel series, but as a whole this record is something else, weaving Eastern-styled strings, drums and vocals into a much more classical-oriented take on the Future of Forestry sound.
Artist: Timbre Album: Sun & Moon Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: A double album with intricate, harp-driven baroque pop compositions on one side and several lengthy classical pieces on the other certainly asks a lot of the listener, but Timbre has a foot firmly planted in both worlds and she clearly had no shortage of inspiration when exploring the relationship between the two. I may never fully understand this album, but I really appreciate the inherent beauty and interconnectedness of it all.
In Brief: Brooke Waggoner’s “mad composer” vibe continues to intrigue as it did on Originator, but I miss the choral backing vocals and the more aggressive material from the front half of that album. Sweven feels uneven and disjointed as a result of the starker sound.
Artist: the Last Bison Album: Dorado EP Year: 2015 Grade: A-
In Brief: These songs were left off of VA last year, but that doesn’t mean they were subpar. These are simply the songs that didn’t fit the theme. They’re no less eclectic, addictive, and in the case of the final track, downright beautiful than the album they were cut from.
My concert reports are becoming fewer and farther between as I get older, largely because I’ve become more selective about how much trouble I’m willing to go to in order to see a band live. Simply recreating the sound of the record isn’t enough. There has to be a little something extra about your live show – a special energy, an infectious personality that easily wins over audiences who might not all be familiar with your work, a tendency to change up setlists and sprinkle in surprising deep album cuts, etc. More of the bands I’m into nowadays are independent, so unless they call the West Coast home, they might not even make it out to L.A. terribly often. That’s why I made it a priority to see The Last Bison at The Mint last night, even though driving out to West L.A. on a weeknight isn’t normally something I’d be inclined to do. My wife and I hadn’t been to a live show together since Nickel Creek last May, and The Last Bison was one of those bands that might sound a little rough around the edges on their records, but in a live setting, that’s exactly what makes them so much fun. (Plus The Mint is a comfortably small venue with easy parking on the nearby residential streets, and their rather chill policy regarding cameras and will call and people getting to shows late and all of those other little details that can be a hassle at other venues makes it a place I’d highly recommend if you’re ever fortunate enough to discover that a favorite artist of yours has a gig there.)