Album reviews: Ella Mai, ing, Jacco Gardner, Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore, and Outrageous Cherry

Meet You In the Shadows offers more of the "same melodic garage psych Outrageous Cherry has reliably churned out since 1991." Publicity image. Meet You In the Shadows offers more of the “same melodic garage psych Outrageous Cherry has reliably churned out since 1991.” Publicity image.

Ella Mai

Ella Mai (10 Summers)

Ella Mai declares emotion “a roller coaster” in a brief introductory snippet, spoken in a fetching British accent. And if her full-length debut feels kinda samey on the slow-to- midtempo tip, her lyrics do, as implied, dwell on romantic turmoil— mindfucks swirl like autumn leaves on nearly every cut, including the hit “Boo’d Up.” She wants a real thing, and asks for it dozens of ways. But upon repetition even turmoil becomes static, and at 16 cuts, the album feels a bit long (the silly interludes constructing an acrostic out of her name don’t help). Still, Mai’s an appealing singer, strong yet sensitive, and some jams rise from the pack, like “Everything,” with delicious ’70s flavor provided by veteran R&B session guitarist Marlon Williams. ***1/2


self-titled (Citrus City)

You can’t accuse Richmond trio ing of pandering. They chose a well nigh un-Googleable name. Guitarist/ singer Hannah Balesi buries her sighing vocals such that the lyrics are basically indecipherable. The whole mix sounds like it’s covered in a blanket. And the songs constantly switch field, like squirrels crossing the street. But the disorienting trip is also a highly original, even gleeful one—the interplay between Balesi, drummer Will Mullany, and bassist Garen Dorsey is marvelous, and the knotty songs attain a weird catchiness—after a minute, “dust” starts sounding like “Bennie and the Jets.” Catch ing at Richmond’s soon-to-close Strange Matter on December 13. ****

Jacco Gardner

Somnium (Polyvinyl)

Holland’s psychedelic prince Jacco Gardner has built a tasty catalog since 2012, releasing a passel of EPs and three full-lengths, including the all-instrumental Somnium. It’s very much a mood piece—retro-futurist pastoral electronic music akin to early Boards of Canada, and not too far from cult faves Sensations Fix, or, in the sinister pulse of “Eclipse,” Obscured By Clouds-era Pink Floyd. The lack of lyrics doesn’t preclude a sense of narrative—these aren’t background patterns, they’re songs without words, personable and evocative, and they seem a perfect match for the high-skied winter upon us. ****

Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore

Ghost Forests (Three Lobed)

A collaboration between Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore sounds like a natural; guitarist-vocalist Baird brings versatile sensibilities from a history of playing everything from punk to British folk, while harpist Lattimore has cornered the market on dreamy, brazenly pretty instrumentals. On Ghost Forests, Lattimore provides sensitive backdrops while Baird assures things don’t get treacly—if levity’s your thing, steer clear, because these forests are definitely enchanted. “Between Two Worlds” aptly shifts from tranquil to menacing, and even the gorgeous harp trance “In Cedars” has an ominous undertow. ***1/2

Outrageous Cherry

Meet You In the Shadows (Burger)

If there’s less outrageousness here than in the past, it might be because the Cherry was laboring under the knowledge that founding guitarist Larry Ray was fighting a losing battle with lung cancer. That’s not to say Meet You in the Shadows is a downer—though the tempos are a bit slower and the timbres a bit less saturated, Matthew Smith’s vocals have never sounded more endearingly scruffy, and the album reverberates with the same melodic garage psych Outrageous Cherry has reliably churned out since 1991. Gems like the stamping “Last Nice Guy In Detroit” and the simply gorgeous “Sleepwalking” (plus its lively twin, “That Ain’t Why”) convey the joy of making timeless rock and roll. RIP Larry Ray. Long live Outrageous Cherry. ****

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