Album reviews: Boogarins, Bill MacKay, Carmen Villain, and Faye Webster

There’s layers of satire in play on Faye Webster's Atlanta Millionaires Club. Publicity image. There’s layers of satire in play on Faye Webster’s Atlanta Millionaires Club. Publicity image.


Sombrou Dúvida
(LAB 344)

Brazilian band Boogarins is back with more heady psychedelia, adding a little bap to the mix this time. If the Google translations are on point, Dinho Almeida is repeatedly counseling us to eschew tradition, explore life, embrace fear, etc. Ironically, his vocals never leave their sleepwalk-serenade comfort zone, while shred-capable guitarist Benke Ferraz also plays it safe—and though the songs themselves wander, there aren’t as many hooks along the way as on 2015’s excellent Manual. Still, Sombrou has high points, like springy
leadoff track “As Chances” and “Dislexia ou Transe,” which sounds like Yes if they were from Laurel Canyon. ***

Bill MacKay

Fountain Fire (Drag City)

Coming off a dynamic collaboration with Ryley Walker, Chicago-based guitarist Bill MacKay continues to bring together the folky and the experimental on Fountain Fire. It’s a potent brew, with MacKay’s compositions gaining intensity via layered acoustic and electric guitars that radiate rather than pummel. Last year MacKay participated in a Nick Drake cover
project, and on the Brit-folky “Birds of May” MacKay’s vocals channel the tragic bard; elsewhere he sounds like a more laid-back version of Walker. But the focus is on artful guitarchitecture as MacKay constructs feedback shapes on “Arcadia,” and adds a David Gilmour-ish slide to the swirling closing track “Dragon Country.” ***1/2

Carmen Villain

Both Lines Will Be Blue (Smalltown Supersound)

Carmen Villain’s first two albums brought folk, rock, and lots of electronics into shifting soundscapes held together by Villain’s lovely if brooding vocals. This is the Oslo resident’s first instrumental album, and it sounds lovely and brooding even without the vocals. Instead, floating on top of most of the songs is Johanna Scheie Orellana, whose flute parts provide apt decoration for the atmospheric compositions. And overall, Both Lines Will Be Blue is far more atmosphere than composition, but the album plays out with a distinct character: steamy, verdant, and meditative, like what Yoda might have listened to while doing vinyasa on Dagobah. ***1/2

Faye Webster

Atlanta Millionaires Club (Secretly Canadian)

Precocious Atlantan Faye Webster has tools—charisma, an ear for melody, a pithy wit—and with pedal steel and Rhodes in tow, her sophomore album is an adept low-fi country-soul affair. It’s also relentlessly pitiful; on opener “Room Temperature,” Webster whines “I should get out more” about a dozen times in a row, and while the next song swings amiably, she whimpers “the right side of my neck still smells like you” over and over as it fades out. Then Webster has the nerve to begin the third track with “My mother told me one day she’s tired of my sad song.” Geez. As the pseudo-trap title and jokey cover suggest, there’s definitely layers of satire in play, and Webster’s wan vocals (awkwardly loud in the mix) have a sardonic undertone that occasionally surfaces, as on “Jonny”: “my dog is my best friend / and he doesn’t even know what my name is.” But Webster’s irony never undercuts her sorrow—on the contrary, it lets her wallow in it. The real irony might be that she sounds best when she plays it straight, as on the retro-country dirge “What Used To Be Mine,” touchingly murmuring “I miss your voice / you’re the only one with it.” That’s something a mother would understand. ***