New View (Frenchkiss)
Eleanor Friedberger took a step back from the overstuffed exuberance of The Fiery Furnaces with her solo debut, 2011’s Last Summer. Friedberger didn’t blanch out her quirkiness, but unlike much of her former band’s output, the songs didn’t feel like riding a roller coaster with your eyes closed. You could actually bob your head to them.
New View is an even cozier affair. Friedberger’s lyrics wed the intimate and the oblique—at times it sounds like she’s reading dialogue from a precocious teen movie—and the settings are resonant updates of Dylan’s Woodstock period. Fitting, because Friedberger recently relocated from Brooklyn to upstate New York. Basement Tapes comparisons might additionally apply because Friedberger seems to have found her Band; backing her up on the album and on tour is Ice Water, a group that includes Charlottesville native Malcolm Perkins on guitar. The band brings a sun-dappled, Wurlitzer-driven mellowness to the tried and true chord changes, and, at its best, New View rolls on like a rambling lawn party.
Cate Le Bon
Crab Day (Drag City)
Don’t call her English. Cate Le Bon’s Welsh roots rightly place her a couple of clicks off pop’s beaten path. A detached chanteuse in the Nico vein, Le Bon released Cyrk and Mug Museum in 2012 and 2013 respectively, and her twisted guitar riffs and lithe melodies attracted a rabid following. She played Charlottesville to support both albums, and killed it.
Poised for a breakthrough, Le Bon teamed up with Tim Presley, leader of low-fi heroes White Fence. They called themselves Drinks and released Hermits on Holiday last year. It was monotonous garbage.
Le Bon rights herself somewhat with Crab Day, pulling off neat tricks such as the propulsive “We Might Resolve,” which sounds like a country cousin of Stereolab and ESG. On the touching “Love is Not Love,” brittle guitar and homey piano trace a swaying duet while low, mellow horns respond to Le Bon’s romantic lament like gruff but loving uncles. Sadly though, a lot of Crab Day sounds like Le Bon pacing at 4am—investigating, maybe. It’ll be interesting to hear what’s next, but hopefully Crab Day will prove an outlier instead of a harbinger.
Fitzgerald’s Paris (Feel It)
The ’80s seem like carefree days: Kids played outside! But the Reagan-and-yuppies era witnessed perhaps the richest outburst of discontented youth music in U.S. history: a proliferation of post-punk styles as varied as the scenes that spawned them. In Charlottesville, bands such as The Landlords, Beef People and Lackey Die played The Mineshaft, Trax and the legendary Muldowney’s on Water Street. Fitzgerald’s Paris is The Landlords’ shelved second album, freshly released by Sam Richardson, a Charlottesville native who discovered his hometown’s punk history as a high school student. The cover is a shot of The Landlords on Muldowney’s bunker-like stage, singer John Beers bellowing while gripping the mic stand like he’s planting a flag. This is hardcore, and fans will rejoice at the top-shelf quality of 31 absolutely ripping songs. Best of all is the band’s versatility, the dashes of art-punk and thrash moves. There’s even a cautionary tale about drinking too much Mountain Dew. Celebrate the album on March 26 at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar with Jolie Fille, a band that includes The Landlords’ Colum Leckey and Tristan Puckett.