Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: File Under Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
For an album titled Bright and Vivid, Kathryn Calder's sophomore solo effort sure starts out pretty murky. With its thick, squalling guitars, thudding drumbeat, and smeared, muffled vocals, "One Two Three" initially suggests that Calder is taking a page from the voguish, lo-fi girl group playbook (Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, et al), but that soon turns out to be a bit of a miscue. There's a sense of polish and deliberateness in spite of all the hazy, swirling sonics; what emerges here, and throughout the album, is indeed quite vivid and bright -- but on the order of a lush, richly saturated Impressionist painting (or, perhaps, the album's autumnal-hued cover), an aesthetic far removed from the crisp, neatly delineated formalism of her work with the New Pornographers and Immaculate Machine.
Supergroups are peculiar entities in that they often end up sounding like the egos of their stars battling it out for the listener’s attention. I would guess this is the reason why a band like New Pornographers has always sought to distance itself from such a term. Although it’s true that many of the members of the band had solo projects or previous band experience (Dan Bejar’s Destroyer, Neko Case and Carl “A.C.” Newman’s solo careers), The New Pornographers was many of these indie stars’ first widely successful project, where they encouraged each other to expand out in their solo careers.
If you’re looking for words to describe Kathryn Calder’s sophomore set, you could definitely do worse than “bright” and “vivid.” Calder’s follow-up to last year’s occasionally somber Are You My Mother? maintains some of the melancholy of its predecessor but trades the intimacy of its modest arrangements for bigger and occasionally blinding flourishes of electronic grandeur. Lead single “Who Are You?” is perhaps the best example of the album’s dynamic, all awash in day-glo harmonic vocal samples and belching electronic bass. It’s a shining moment where the former cog in The Immaculate Machine turned New Pornographer slots all the pieces of her evolving aesthetic perfectly into place.
Kathryn Calder’s second crack at a solo album should hold up as an example on how to change your sound while still retaining your essence as a musician. Bright And Vivid takes enough elements from both Calder’s debut, Are You My Mother?, and her work as part of the New Pornographers to retain its very Calder-ness, while still evolving into a robust folk-pop record. The sound here is fuller and more electronic than her debut, yet it’s still covered in the singer’s sweet voice in a way that no New Porno songs are (except maybe “Sweet Talk Sweet Talk”).
Crooked Fingers “In my dreams, every time, your apocalypse is mine,” Eric Bachmann sings on his new album as Crooked Fingers, “Breaks in the Armor” (Merge). Disasters and sorrows — a typhoon, a landslide, illness, love going cold — fill his latest songs, which are true to form. Mr. Bachmann has been singing about how things go wrong since his days with Archers of Loaf, the 1990s band he reunited this year.