Release Date: Apr 1, 2014
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Indie Pop
Arc Iris is the band singer, composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams established after leaving the Low Anthem. This self-titled debut album is nearly impossible to categorize. Though this bracing, fresh, nearly seamless meld of cabaret, folk traditions, country, rock, classical, cabaret, and jazz is eclectic and ranging, it's accessible to listeners of many stripes.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Jocie Adams has wrought a sexy, nostalgic album of complex, dissonant and radiant folk-jazz. The debut album by Arc Iris is a small wonder, perfectly designed and distinctively pop, while remaining impressively progressive for all its accessibility. It may well fill a similar role as last year's Loud City Song in this year's best of lists, showcasing an impressively diverse female composer and a compelling personality.
Jocie Adams left her spot with folk outfit The Low Anthem to stand out on her own, adopting the name Arc Iris for the swirling orchestral collective of technically gifted musicians that happen to be surrounding her at any given time. For Adams, though, part of standing out on her own was dragging in a range of sounds from cabaret to country twang, doo-wop to Broadway, and refracting them in a glittery, kaleidoscopic burst, her ability to send her own voice throughout that entire shining spectrum on this self-titled debut vindicating the decision to take sole ownership of the music. When I happened across Arc Iris at a SXSW showcase not long ago, Adams, in her sparkly lamé bodysuit and forehead jewelry, seemed to take on a different aspect with each new selection from the setlist.
Musicians leave bands for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of some irreconcilable grievance with other members. Sometimes it’s because they’ve grown tired of the kind of music they’ve ended up making. Sometimes they’ve just had enough of the whole business and want to get out of the studio, off the tour bus and into a more comfortable life.
After six years of playing with alt.folkers The Low Anthem, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jocie Adams has gone it alone as Arc Iris. Anybody expecting more of the same, however, might be pleasantly surprised. Arc Iris is a wildly ambitious ride, owing as much to cabaret and jazz as the expected singer-songwriter fare. Opener Money Gnomes is typical of Adams’ broadened horizons, starting as a sweet Dylan-indebted folky number before setting off on several flights of fancy and changing time signatures in its stride.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of catching a traveling mini-music festival dubbed Americanarama, featuring the likes of Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket. Just a cursory look at that lineup doesn’t lend itself to the traditional definition of “Americana”, but it had me thinking that a reevaluation, at least in my own head, was in order for what exactly that genre term means in the 21st century. Perhaps “Americana” is no longer simply a term encapsulating acoustic string music, flush with banjos and mandolins and such; maybe it is more an ethos than anything else.
Jocie Adams made her name as a longtime member of the Low Anthem, an acclaimed indie-folk ensemble out of Providence. She left the lineup last year in order to, in her words, “spread my wings,” a mission she masters with the majestic sweep and grandeur of her latest project. The songs on “Arc Iris,” her new band’s self-titled debut, are too fierce, too fleet-footed, to pin down to a single genre.
Arc Iris is singer/multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams’ fully realized vision. The band’s debut album offers a swirling journey within her mind, showcasing a deluge of ideas and creativity that were no doubt simmering during her tenure in The Low Anthem. Made up of several other skilled musicians, Arc Iris effortlessly weaves, twists, and stretches out in a myriad of styles, with Adams’ distinct and equally varied voice leading the excursions.