Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams (Arts & Crafts; 2014)
Following their 2011 Polaris Prize nominated album, Creep on Creepin’ On, Timber Timbre have released Hot Dreams. Like the name suggests, Hot Dreams dances in the twilight, somewhere between dusk and dawn with an eerily cool and haunting sound signature to the Canadian folk trio.
Like their previous records, Hot Dreams is organic and cinematic. Taylor Kirk’s vocals border on disembodiment, featured against violinist Mika Posen’s string arrangements, and percussionist Simon Trottier’s lap steel drums. The title track is soft, moody and melancholic with traces of lamentation and yearning, elements recurrently felt throughout the group’s fifth album. Hot Dreams also plays with Western themes; “Grand Canyon” and “The Three Sisters” sound like the backdrop to a lone ranger riding through the Mojave desert. Hot Dreams is a blend of resounding rhythms and carefully composed melodies, proving that Timber Timbre are masters at musical storytelling.
Trial Track: “Grand Canyon”
Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars (Columbia Legacy/Sony; 2014)
The ’80s were a rough time both creatively and personally for Johnny Cash. Not only was he in and out of rehab, his marriage to June Carter was falling apart and he hadn’t had a number one single since “One Piece at a Time” in 1976. His record label decided to enlist the aid of ‘countrypolitan’ producer Billy Sherrill to update his sound. The results caused the album to be shelved until it was unearthed 30 years later. Out Among The Stars is not a bad album per se: Cash’s vocals are at their peak, but the hokey production drains all of the grit and darkness out of his storytelling; qualities that fans have come to expect from “The Man in Black.”
Regardless of its faults, Out Among The Stars is still an interesting piece of lost recording history and attests that even the legendary Johnny Cash struggled to find his creative direction.
Trial Track: “She Used To Love Me A Lot”
Shakira- Shakira (RCA; 2014)
Here’s a riddle. What blends the most generic sounds imaginable with one of pop music’s most recognizable and original voices? Shakira’s new album, that’s what. Self-titled record: that’s been done. Random stars du-jour (like Blake Shelton) featured on a totally forgettable track: predictable. Featuring a reggae, country, dance, rock and electro song for broader appeal: seen before. Did we mention the cliché romantic lyrics about love and heartbreak? Yet somehow everything Shakira creates manages to stand apart in the heavy-radio-play, about-to-be-mixed-for-the-club bracket. The originality is mostly due to some all-Spanish songs like “I Can’t Remember To Forget You,” which is included in its full Spanish version as “Nunca Me Acuerdo De Olvidarte.” That nasal thing she does with her voice also reminds you of how sensually powerful she is as a musician. So what Shakira by Shakira can offer is paradox. It sounds like déjà-vu but it’s also fun, bold and unique. Riddled indeed.
Trial Track: “Can’t Remember To Forget You”