Album reviews: The Essex Green, Judy Dyble, Daniel Bachman, Spider Bags, and Ohmme

Ohmme's fervid but accessible art rock relies on barbed hooks and bonkers musicianship. Publicity image Ohmme’s fervid but accessible art rock relies on barbed hooks and bonkers musicianship. Publicity image

The Essex Green

Hardly Electronic (Merge)

I know I’m not alone in pronouncing this spring and summer a total bust—for every nice day, we’ve had a week of muggy, gloomy, rainy weather. Which gives The Essex Green’s Hardly Electronic both a wistful pang and a vicarious thrill, because the album’s 14 graceful indie-pop tracks collect a vibrant bouquet of spring and summer scenes, from the convertible cruise of “Sloane Ranger” to the country getaway of “Bye Bye Crow” to the dappled hammock sway of “January Says.” The prevailing sweetness and faux-Britishisms come off a bit precious in spots, but you do get the feeling that The Essex Green knows how to make the best of the season.

Judy Dyble

Earth Is Sleeping (Acid Jazz)

Judy Dyble is like some mythical English auntie, a loner who nevertheless has a way with children. Unrecorded as the original vocalist for Fairport Convention, and barely recorded as a bandmate of pre-King Crimson Robert Fripp, Dyble’s second act almost counts as her first. She began releasing solo records in 2004, including last year’s Summer Dancing, a playful, ornate collaboration with Andy Lewis. Earth is Sleeping is a far more stripped-down and melancholy (though not mawkish) affair. Accompanied mainly by piano, Dyble connects with a disarmingly open-hearted and enchanted folk mezzo, even while relaying sad tales about Elvis impersonators and rainbows trapped in glass.

Daniel Bachman

The Morning Star (Three Lobed Recordings)

Inspired and not for the faint-hearted, The Morning Star is a seven-song, 74-minute suite that finds Fredericksburg native and freshly arrived Charlottesville resident Daniel Bachman venturing further into drones and space than on previous releases, which didn’t exactly pander to the masses. Here, the inventive acoustic guitarist employs radio and field recordings along with harmonium and fiddle, and responds to the troubling energy he’s finding in the world with performances that alternate between exorcism and meditation.

Spider Bags

Someday Everything Will Be Fine (Merge)

Friends in Chapel Hill call Spider Bags the best band in the world, which I guess means their live show is transcendent. It’s always been hard for me to hear the magic on a record, and the songs on Someday Everything Will Be Fine still feel kind of baggy (except for the ones that are, like, a minute long). But I can see how they’d work in a bar—there’s a diffident Midwestern desperation in Dan McGee’s sensitive-drunk tirades that makes them curiously endearing. And there’s plenty of boisterous energy from the garage-meets-cowpunk band that sounds like dudes in a warehouse on a winter’s day, tearing it up just to stay warm.


Parts (Joyful Noise)

Vocalist/guitarists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart have loaned their talents to various Chicago artists over the last few years, appearing on Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, playing in bands with Vic Mensa, and touring with Tweedy. For Parts, their debut as Ohmme, Chicago returns the favor, supplying players like bassist Doug McCombs (Tortoise), virtuosic cellist Tomeka Reid, and MacArthur “Genius” fellow/saxophonist/composer Ken Vandermark. Parts is fervid but accessible art rock, its barbed hooks and bonkers musicianship conveying an earthy swing instead of immaculate lifelessness, as Cunningham and Stewart’s voices blend into a solid, radiating force. The crowd will be in good hands at the September 3 show at Richmond’s Strange Matter.

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