Short Takes on 2 Albums and 1 EP

Low Sea - The Light EP

Low SeaThe Light EP

Lefse Records

On this 6-song EP, Bobby D and Billie of Ireland-based Low Sea stir up a strange, but intoxicating brew of atmospheric dreamscapes and cool-tone vocals that bring a chill to the air.  They mix a pinch of hazy shoegazer, a heaping helping of goth and industrial, and a sprinkle of New Wave pop, topping it all off with noir romanticism.

On the distorted dance number “Falling”, Billie’s distant, breathy, half-buried vocals float through the song, recalling Alison Shaw of Cranes.  A fast-thumping beat, echoed mechanical clacks and clangs, and bright, zippy electronic blips converge with an undertow of grand organ notes.

The looming, narcotic torch number “Some Kind of Strange” employs funeral-tone organ, occasional My Bloody Valentine-esque warped noise, and hushed and hazy vocals from Billie where is sounds like she’s channeling Julee Cruise on sedatives.  Her vocals are deeply buried in the mix with only a few phrases surfacing like “If I could tell you…” and “…we’ll stay here for a while…”

The sweeping, urgent pulse of “Never Yours” dazzles with dark synths, sizzling electronics, and a build-up of noise amid a constant, rapid beat and quick cymbal tap.  Billie’s vocals, again sounding a bit like Alison Shaw, are echoed on the verse of “You told me take my hand / You said we were in love.” and then exclaimed with menace on the repetitive chorus line of “I was never yours.”

Sharron Kraus - The Woody Nightshade

Sharron KrausThe Woody Nightshade

Strange Attractors Audio House

U.K. singer-songwriter Sharron Kraus delivers her 4th album, a mysterious and mesmerizing Medieval-flavored alt-folk work that turns on Sharron’s enigmatic, melancholic vocals, intertwining harmonies, and spare use of contemplative instruments including dulcimer, autoharp, and lap steel guitar.

There is a sense of wizened forbearance to the introspective mood and lyrics of these 10 songs, with the focus resting on Sharron as she sing-talks in a mid-range, cedar-tinged, longing lilt, deliberating pausing over certain words or phrases.  The emphasis is on Sharron’s lyrics-centric vocals as she spins subtle, but engrossing tales of love, betrayal, loss, and hope.  Nature and wilderness, as applies to human relationships and life, figure greatly into the lyrical texture of the tapestry Sharron weaves.  As she solemnly sings on the slow-paced “Heaviness of Heart”, “Winter and summer always cycle round / In the patterns repeated meaning is found.”

The instrumentation on the album is low-key and follows, supports, and sometimes meanders around the central vocals.  The quietly wistful “Two Brothers” is a prime example of Sharron’s style with its captivating running narrative of the protagonist being courted by two brothers and “…as time passed I could not tell / if I loved the one or the other.”

Sharron sings in a lighter tone on “Rejoice In Love” as other singers join her, harmonizing on the chorus amid three overlapping guitar patterns (with fingers glancing over the strings) and a deeper drum beat as Sharron sings “Rejoice in love / but don’t rely on it / Fall in love / but don’t be surprised / when you fall out.”

The album contains a lyrics leaflet and also a note from Sharron to the listener where she champions the format of the physical album as opposed to chopped up and quickly digested digital files.  In her own words: “An album is more than just the sum of its parts – it’s a cohesive artistic work.”  Her summation definitely applies to The Woody Nightshade, as it needs a receptive and reflective ear and the time to enter and pause among the meadows and forests of the imagination.

Lynn Miles - Fall For Beauty

Lynn MilesFall For Beauty

Red House Records

Canadian singer-songwriter Lynn Miles has released several albums since the early 1990s and Fall For Beauty is her latest, a mix and country and alt-folk numbers sung in a plaintive, heartfelt, straightforward style.  The album was released in Canada in October 2010 and is available in the U.S. this year on Red House Records.

Lynn’s sweet, sincere, and clear vocals and emotions inform all of the songs, lifting them up with an aching hopefulness that balances the bittersweet, to-the-point nature of her lyrics.  On country-tinged opener “Something Beautiful”, Lynn is both tender and rueful as she sings “…tired of the push and pull / We want something beautiful.”

The up-tempo, folksy “Fearless Heart” features a twangy lope of strummed guitar and upright bass as Lynn is backed by a second singer as she admits “I wish I had a fearless heart / I wish I wouldn’t fall apart.”  Lynn changes pace with the pure country torch number “Three Chords and The Truth”.  Plucked banjo and mandolin blend with strummed acoustic guitars and a measured beat of brushed drums as Lynn sings “I couldn’t pay my bills / but I was willin’ to pay my dues.”

Centerpiece “Cracked and Broken” works in the album title as Lynn sing-talks with upfront vocals “Poets fall for truth / and the soldiers fall for duty / and the girls fall for the bad boys / and the bad boys fall for beauty.”  Sustained hymnal organ notes start it off, until a faster banjo strum emerges.  A solemn snare drum marching beat and what sounds like extended accordion pull are added to the hopeful lament where Lynn reveals “My heart is cracked and broken / because I fell for you.”

Lynn brings some welcome mystery and fire to her album with the slinky “Save Me” that revels in twangy Western guitar lines and Lynn smokily sing-talking “I could not get rid of you / even if I wanted to.”