Juracán shows flashes of post rock on acoustic guitar-filled sophomore album, Jarineo

Photo Courtesy of Anima Recordings

An album that has a lot of guitar playing on it still might not fit the label of a “guitar album.”

But, Juracán’s latest LP, Jarineo, which spans 20 tracks of fingerpicked melodies and reverberated echoes, could most definitely be categorized as such.

Juracán is the musical project of Portland-based musician Pierre Carbuccia Abbott. Originally from the Domican Republic, the multi-instrumentalist blends Latin-tinged acoustic guitar playing with reverbed-out post rock leads to craft a sophomore album that gives off a relaxing, end-of-the-day feel. Janireo carries along like mellow evening, a laid back mood interrupted only by the staccato power chords of the sludgy outlier, “Tensión” (Juracán’s sole member also plays bass in the Portland metal band, Flood Peak).

Carrabuccia Abbott’s lyrics pair well with the reflective feel of Janireo’s songs. Although most of the songs have Spanish titles, he sings all of his lyrics in English, save for his vocals on the piano-lead song, “Valor.” On album highlight “Psychotherapy,” he introduces his confessional-style vocals with lines such as “I haven’t felt this lost/Since my teenage years” or “I wanna tell you more/But I don’t know what to say.” The abundance of beatdown lyrics — which can also be found on other songs such as “Anxiety Riddles” or the Elliott Smith-indebted track called “More Space” — bolster the ruminative and plentiful instrumentals on the record.

In fact, the majority of songs on Janireo are free of vocals. An early instrumental track titled “En Casa” sounds like one of Led Zeppelin’s folk ballads with its intricate guitarwork and brooding sonic backdrop. “Complacencia,” the album’s longest track at four and a half minutes, dives headfirst into an ambient style by employing rumbling effects and soothing electric guitar melodies. Elsewhere on Jarineo, short interludes fill out the album by adding new textures and soundscapes to explore.

In addition to his favored instrument, the guitar, Carbuccia Abbott also introduces several other instruments on Jarineo such as a deep-sounding clarinet on the song “Clarinete” and a South American-sounding flute on “Flautéamo,” with the latter track featuring dynamic bass lines, as well.

The saxophone playing of collaborator Eric Leavell on “Flying Again” is another welcome addition to the album’s musical diversity. The single is also notable for having that album’s most uplifting chorus. “Sometimes it feels like you can fly/And sometimes you give flying a try,” Carbuccia Abbott sings atop his loudly strummed acoustic guitar.

Looking past the sometimes unpolished production on Janireo, Carbuccia Abbott’s practiced guitar animates every track on Juracán’s sophomore release, even when songs don’t fit conventional rock or pop structures. Jarineo is a textbook “guitar album” that notably incorporates a number of other instruments in support of its skillfully layered six-string sketches.

3.5/5

SPICE leans into uncertainty on its sonically rich, cautiously optimistic self-titled debut

Photo Courtesy of Dais Records

The self-titled debut of the Bay Area band SPICE sounds more like a third or fourth album from an accomplished rock group. The five piece carefully balances post-punk and indie rock while powering through nine cathartic songs with an underlying thread of optimism. Continue reading SPICE leans into uncertainty on its sonically rich, cautiously optimistic self-titled debut

The Beths’ sunny new LP, Jump Rope Gazers, is everything you could hope for in a sophomore album

Photo Courtesy of Carpark Records

The Beths rock, and the simplest way to back up that assertion comes in the form of its catchy new album, Jump Rope Gazers.

On the Auckland band’s second full-length, The Beths not only refines the charged indie pop songwriting and production that made its 2018 debut so charming, but also retains the witty lyrics and sun soaked playing that’s made the quartet one of the most exciting groups to emerge from Oceania in recent memory.

It’s difficult to listen to the lyrics of lead singer and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes without being taken by their cleverness. Stokes animates Jump Rope Gazers with a variety of thoughtful lines that explore love and interpersonal relationships, and are fittingly more cheeky than self-serious.

“I keep a flame burning inside/If you need to bum a light,” she offers on the excellent single, “Out Of Sight.” Elsewhere, on the chorus of the album’s closer, “Just Shy of Sure,” she contemplates unrequited love, a major theme throughout the album, most perfectly in the lyrics, “You still want me/I’m the one you adore/But I’m just shy of sure.”

Stokes also uses her conversational tone on the new LP to exorcise feelings of self-doubt, with several of her lyrics functioning as a reassuring balm to listeners feeling the same way. “Like an arrow always missing/I’m always missing,” she sings on the tropical sounding track, “Acrid.” Likewise, on the self-critical anthem, “Do You Want Me Now,” she relates, “I can’t remember if I like myself at all.” Lines such as these add personal depth to an otherwise lighthearted album.

All of Stokes’ lyrical observations are bolstered by catchy guitar melodies, steady bass lines and unobtrusive drumming. When he’s not plucking spacey notes or palm-muting verses, guitarist Jonathan Pearce breaks out into a number of brief but raucous guitar solos such as on the opener, “I’m Not Getting Excited,” or during the bridge of “Acrid.”

The Beths’ rhythm section composed of bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Tristan Deck keep each song tight and lively, and especially shine on the song, “Dying To Believe.” As far as the album’s tracklist and production go, there’s little left to be desired. Every track feels polished and nearly all of them add momentum to the album’s runtime of close to 40 minutes.

The album’s title track, “Jump Rope Gazers,” is arguably the catchiest song on the whole thing. In addition to strong imagery and emotions, the song’s cryptic but intriguing chorus lyrics, “How could this happen/We were jump rope gazers in the middle of the night,” gives it an impressionistic hook that will lead listeners to come up with their own meanings. Of all the title tracks I’ve reviewed for this site, “Jump Rope Gazers” is the most memorable I’ve come across so far.

But not every song on the album rises to the greatness of its title track. Two songs on the back half of Jump Rope Gazers — the choppy “Mars, the God of War,” and the sparse, fingerpicked outlier, “You Are a Beam of Light” — lack the energy of the previous songs and feel slightly less developed. Luckily, the spirited closer, “Just Sure or Shy,” reignites a sense of excitement, ending the record with the oomph absent in two tracks leading up to it.

But, aside from a few sonic experiments gone awry, The Beths’ new LP is everything you could ask for in a sophomore album. It builds upon what worked for the band on its debut and branches out into new styles and musical territory while offering a string of catchy singles.

Early in the album, Stokes sings the succinct lyrics, “It burns me/But I’m smiling through the heat.” And, with its relatable lyrics on love, uncertainty and self doubt floating atop sunny, pop rock instrumentals, Jump Rope Gazers might have you smiling through the heat, as well.

4.5/5

Vile Creature’s ambitious third album, Glory! Glory! Apathy Took Helm!, expands the palette of doom metal

Photo Courtesy of Prosthetic Records

Despite being a duo, Vile Creature might be mistaken for a much larger band, especially considering the Ontario group’s lumbering thunderclouds of sound arranged over elaborate song structures.

And, on the band’s third album and Prosthetic Records debut, Glory! Glory! Apathy Took Helm!, drummer Vic and guitarist KW balance lightness with heaviness and catchiness with aggression to craft a doom metal album that pushes past the genre’s standard formula.

Spanning five lengthy tracks that add up to 44 minutes, Glory! is composed of sludgy riffs, slow, pounding drums and dual vocals that use both black and death metal style deliveries. Vic perfectly controls the melodies of their black metal howls either alone or accompanied by KW’s deep, commanding voice. KW takes solo vocals on a few parts, but Vic is often looming in the background waiting to interject a shrieked lyric.

The album’s opening song, an 11 minute track called “Harbinger of Nothing,” was previously included on an Adult Swim metal compilation. Because of that, “Harbinger” feels like a self-entity in its structure and polish, more so than any of the later-penned tracks that make up the rest of the record. To start off the album with a high profile song with colossal riffs is an easy choice. But, to follow it with another 11 minute track, “When the Path Is Unclear,” really shows the band’s confidence in its material.

“When the Path Is Unclear” and the shorter, third song, “You Who Has Never Slept,” pad out the middle of Glory! by deploying sludgy, crawling chord progressions and conjuring up a heavy atmosphere. “When the Path Is Unclear” turns it up a notch from “Harbinger” by introducing an even rawer sound with more feedback and including the record’s only chugging guitar part.

“You Who Has Never Slept,” on the other hand, features some inventive drumming with a distinct galloping feel. And toward the end, KW applies a noticeable bend to the song’s guitar chords, creating a cool, quivering effect. With lyrics such as, “Don’t want what’s to come,” these two songs make up the heaviest part of the album and keep it engaging before the experimental finale.

The album’s final two tracks, which make up a suite of sorts, are interconnected by a heavenly choir of voices that take center stage on “Glory! Glory!” and reappear in the middle of heavy guitar riffs on the dynamic closer, “Apathy Took Helm!” It’s an ambitious sonic combination that ultimately sounds amazing and was worth the risk. By alternating saccharine voices with Vic’s anguished singing, the two songs not only contrast the idea of lightness with heaviness but also strive to marry heaven and hell.

Glory! Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is the rare doom record that isn’t afraid to throw a dramatic curve at the listener every now and then while staying true to the roots of the genre. Vile Creature takes all of the best parts of metal and repurposes them into a work that feels entirely original.

5/5

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