Luck or Magic (Double Feature)
Though Luck or Magic is her first album, Britta Phillips has just about done it all. After providing the singing voice of Jem (of the “Jem and the Holograms” cartoon), she appeared alongside Justine Bateman and Julia Roberts in the lightweight girl-band film Satisfaction. Joining alt-rock darlings Luna in their late period, Phillips subsequently released albums with Luna bandleader Dean Wareham as Dean & Britta. Wareham and Phillips married, and scored several movies, including Noah Baumbach’s The Squid & the Whale. To boot, the couple appeared in Baumbach’s Frances Ha. Their label is aptly named Double Feature, and Luck or Magic is nothing if not cinematic, with Phillips’ voice soaring over lush, elegant arrangements. It doesn’t rock at all—the prevailing vibe is indie-for-minivans, and there’s a clutch of covers ranging from inspired (Evie Sands’ “One Fine Summer Morning”) to pointless (Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and The Cars’ “Drive”). But with the dreamy, shambling “Ingrid Superstar,” Luck or Magic closes on a high note; here’s hoping Phillips’ next act provides more of the same.
Music for Listening to Music to (Polyvinyl)
With his cover of the 1989 album, Ryan Adams broke through to a few million Taylor Swift fans who had never heard of the scruffy North Carolinian. Adams’ comrade for the stunt was guitarist Todd Wisenbaker, and if the world is just, those fans will check out La Sera, the husband-and-wife band comprising Wisenbaker and singer Katy Goodman.
Goodman first earned notice as Kickball Katy in the wonderful Vivian Girls; their specialty was punky garage, but they could also slow it down—it’s this dreamier side that Goodman emphasizes in La Sera. Produced by Adams, the goofy album title, Music for Listening to Music to, belies a wistfulness better indicated by the song names: “Begins to Rain,” “Take My Heart,” “I Need an Angel” and “Shadow of Your Love.”
Adams could have put a bit more air into the recordings—nothing here glows like “Love That’s Gone” from La Sera’s Sees the Light (2011). But Goodman still sings like a Shangri-La; there’s pleasing twang and jangle aplenty; and it’ll probably sound great when La Sera tours with Titus Andronicus later this spring.
The Dandy Warhols
Distortland (Dine Alone)
In the marvelous rockumentary Dig!, The Dandy Warhols’ main mover Courtney Taylor-Taylor came off as a brazen careerist—and who wouldn’t, with a foil like The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s unhinged Anton Newcombe? Indeed, while BJM crashed and burned, the Dandys broke through in 2001 with the advertising anthem “Bohemian Like You.” But after this blasé hit, they pretty much fell off the radar, despite releasing several albums of dependably slick, catchy-if-disposable indie-pop. So, if nothing else, The Dandy Warhols get points for staying power.
Happily, there’s more to recommend Distortland, a loose-limbed collection of stripped down, melodic jams touring through shoegaze (“Doves”), upbeat stoner rock (“Pope Reverend Jim”) and country- tinged noir (“Give”). Taylor-Taylor almost sounds like he’s trying not to impress, but the result sounds comfortable and assured rather than complacent. Distortland may not be essential, but it’s a solid set of crowd-pleasers that would work well in a busy lunch joint, in your car at 5pm on a Friday or maybe at the 9:30 Club in D.C.—the Dandys will be there on April 17.