Album reviews: Vince Guaraldi, The Beths, The Love Language, Tony Molina, and Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis

Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee's sister get Wild Wild Wild together. publicity image Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee’s sister get Wild Wild Wild together. publicity image

Vince Guaraldi

The Complete Warner Bros. -Seven Arts Recordings (Omnivore)

In “Linus and Lucy,” Vince Guaraldi created one of the most universally beloved recordings of all time, but it’s hard to find his stuff besides A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. Omnivore helps with this nifty two- disc reissue, comprising three albums from 1968-69 plus four contemporaneous bonus tracks. Most of it is as sweet and light as you imagine—melodic with perva-
sive bossa nova rhythms and frolicsome solos. Guaraldi is backed by a spare guitar trio on Oh, Good Grief!, the first album of the set. Recorded in San Francisco on a single March day in 1968, it is exuberant and wonderful. And though The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi feels a bit weighed down by added strings, it provides plenty of highlights, as does Alma-Ville. Overall, a delight.

The Beths

Future Me Hates Me (Carpark)

Erstwhile jazz students from New Zealand, The Beths aren’t as showily virtuosic as you might imagine. Instead, they come out swinging on “Great No One” like a twee pop-punk Strokes, and they don’t stop. Singer Elizabeth Stokes is wistful but not wan, and the stripped-down jams, full of ’90s guitar crunch, sound like fun for everyone else.

The Love Language

Baby Grand (Merge)

Love Language’s low-fi production never hid the ambitious songwriting of bandleader Stuart McLamb, and he expanded his palette to impressive effect on 2013’s Ruby Red. Things are reined in just a bit on Baby Grand, but McLamb’s knack for ragged dramatics is still fully present. As cinematic as they are, “Southern Doldrums” and “Paraty” sound like Big Star’s splintered songs; “Juiceboxx” is funky in the modern meta way; and the mid-tempo “Independence Day” will sound great on AAA radio. Los Angeles, where McLamb recently moved, shows up as a character on several tracks written in a prevailing key of heartache. By the countryish closer “Glassy,” McLamb’s range is evident, and it will be on display at the Southern on August 13.

Tony Molina

Kill the Lights

The Bay Area’s Tony Molina cut his teeth in hardcore punk bands, but on his solo albums, he has aped Weezer and covered GBV, and he continues the power pop tour on Kill the Lights. The gorgeous “Wrong Town” is an acoustic number that nails Elliott Smith’s sad boy abjection (“Got to go back to the West Bay…cause there’s no place I can go to without running into you”). Smith’s ghost resurfaces on “When She Leaves”; Byrds fly in on “Give He Take You”; and for good measure, Molina nails John Lennon’s idiosyncratic piano style on “Afraid to Go Outside.” Kill the Lights is a lesson in brevity—10 songs in under 15 minutes—and it’s a low-fi bedroom pop jewel.

Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis

Wild! Wild! Wild!

Steamrolling vocalist Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee’s little sister) supplies a direct line to the swirling Memphis soul stew of rockabilly, barroom boogie, jazz, gospel, country, etc. And Lewis, Robbie Fulks and their crack band perfectly dial in these and other styles: “That’s Why They Call It Temptation” is sweet honky-tonk; the title track just straight rocks and “Who Cares” is Buddy Holly meets Hawaiian swing. On the hammy, hilarious “Till Death,” there’s even a Monkees turnaround. That Lewis threatens to blow away Fulks’ low lonesome crooning at any moment is no slight on him; besides, he wrote most of these great songs. Wild! Wild! Wild! transcends throwback status, sparkling like new.

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