Album reviews: Sarah Neufeld, Christa Wells, American Authors

Ethereal and optimistic tunes. Ethereal and optimistic tunes.

Sarah Neufeld

Hero Brother/Constellation

With Hero Brother, Arcade Fire violinist and composer Sarah Neufeld has created a strikingly beautiful release. Ethereal and elegiac, this instrumental masterpiece transports you to another world and conveys its mysterious story in a unique way to each listener. “Breathing Black Ground” is a haunting piece of work that feels like a funeral dirge, and Neufeld’s frenetic playing on the title track invokes a dangerous urgency. The movements within “Dirt”—an otherworldly intro leads into a racing violin interlude before concluding as if an epic disaster has taken place—are breathtaking in their diversity. Neufeld proves herself a masterful player throughout tunes that are down-tempo and meditative, lively and upbeat, bringing a variety of moods to this album. Hero Brother promises to be one of the best albums of any genre in 2013.

Christa Wells

Feed Your Soul/Self-released

Raleigh-based singer-songwriter Christa Wells’ new album, Feed Your Soul, is a heartfelt release where she grapples with everything from God to our humanity and what makes life worth living. The swelling mid-
tempo pop track “For My Child” acts as a balm of reassurance concerning God’s ability to love, and “This Thing is Not Going to Break You” is a Sara Bareilles-like track offering encouragement in spite of difficult circumstances. “Vanity Vanity” is a groovy, bluesy number about the pitfalls of a life lived on the surface, and on the head-
bobbing title track Wells lets her hair down as her rich vocals head for the sky as she sings about nourishing your inner being. Wells aims for the heart on tracks like “More Than I Am” when she sings, “I’m made of more than my own flesh and bones,” and the album as a whole is a search for meaning. Feed Your Soul plays out in a deft exploration of the frailty and beauty of the human condition.

American Authors

American Authors/Island Records

If you enjoyed the debut from Imagine Dragons, but wished that they would lighten up a bit and add more pop, then American Authors is the band for you. The band’s debut EP is filled with epic choruses, loads of energy and skyscraping vocals, and is about to make a splash. From the happy anthemic pop rock debut single “Believer,” to the upbeat “Best Day,” which features tribal percussion and propulsive beats, a heavy dose of optimism fills this record. And even when a song deals with heavy subject matter (“Luck” centers on the struggle to chase your dreams even if you defy the expectations of those who love you), the content is juxtaposed with engaging rock riffs. “Hit It” is a driving bluegrass rap-pop track with lively chorus calls and a number of rapid-fire vocal deliveries throughout, and the closer “Home” is a swelling rocker that wraps up the album with a neat little bow.

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