Short Takes on 2 Albums and 1 Single

Afternoon Naps - Summer Gang 7"

Afternoon Naps – Summer Gang 7”

Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records

The two cuts off the new 7” from Afternoon Naps have a gentle, sweet innocence to them, in sonics, vocals, and subject matter.  Placidly wistful vocals of the male variety are accompanied occasionally by light female harmonies amid jangle-pop guitars and beat. On “Short Sleeves” there is a hint of the jaunty tempo of upbeat songs by The Smiths, with brisk acoustic guitar strum and tinkling crystal notes mingling with wavering organ drone. Tom D. opines with slightly muffled vocals “I’ve been told you can’t ever go home.” (Hmmm, I wonder if Morrissey told him that?)  The chorus is a sweet, nostalgic sway with Tom sighing “Short sleeves…such a luxury on your arms…” as he reminisces about the object of his affection on a sunny summer day.  The simply lovely cover art of the single illustrates the pleasant and sincere nature of the songs by Afternoon Naps.

Milk Maid - Yucca

Milk Maid – Yucca

FatCat Records

Milk Maid is the new sonic venture of Martin Cohen who was bassist in the U.K. band Nine Black Alps.  He is joined by Adam Carless and Ian Hodson and they generate lo-fi, laid-back, beach blanket pop meets Jesus And Mary Chain distorted guitar vibe.  Martin’s vocals are half-buried and hazy, with a detached attitude like that of the Reid brothers.

“Not Me”, one of the best songs of the album, was recently released as a 7” single and it showcases the dual nature of Milk Maid’s tunes: sunny pop melodies mixed with darker guitar distortion recorded in a grainy, lo-fi setting.  “Back of Your Knees” is another highlight, with Martin stringing out the words “You know you won’t change.” as the song gets positively psychedelic near its end with wigged-out guitar fuzziness.  Martin and company strike a more contemplative note on a few low-key numbers like “Girl” which swaps out the electric set-up for acoustic guitar strum and subdued vocals from Martin.

Chapin Sisters - Two

Chapin Sisters – Two

Lake Bottom Records

The Chapin Sisters consists of sisters Abigail and Lily, daughters of folk singer Tom Chapin.  Abigail and Lily released this album on their own label called Lake Bottom Records last autumn.  The common and compelling thread that runs through Two is the sisters’ voices which are strong and clear and not wispy or delicate.  To paraphrase Morrissey, Abigail and Lily’s vocal tones are ‘not happy, but not sad’, and they bring a solemnity to the arrestingly pure harmonies that twine ‘round each other like ivy, lifting and dipping with a hymnal quality.  The album starts off with the ethereal “Sweet Light” and then steadily gets more “grounded” as the sisters travel through different styles of alt-folk and alt-country, passing through country-rock and even a 70s-sounding number titled “Left All Alone”.

The austere, engrossing opener “Sweet Light” is sung a cappella for its first half, and then spare instrumentation accompanies the sisters to the end.  “I Can Feel” is formed from mournful vocal tones, a steady beat, picked guitar pattern, and the occasional jingle of tambourine.  On the verses one of the sisters draws out her vocals, lamenting “If I can feel the things you feel / why can’t I make you want me?”  amid lifting guitar lines and harmonizing ‘Ahhs’.  Contemplative piano, measured tambourine tap, and light, delicate vocals comprise “Paradise” as one of the sisters sighs “Paradise is not as nice as you.”  The aural space is filled up with harmonizing vocals that mirror, and sometimes drift off of, the main vocal line.

Country guitar twang resounds through “Palm Tree” as one of the sisters sings in a rueful tone “Why won’t you hold me / like the stars I see are holding the sky?”  A harder-edged, folk-rock sound informs “Rose In Winter”, with its electric guitar refrain and the despairing lyrics “It’s over / It’s over my head / How did we get here?”  “Trouble” brings in a vintage bluegrass style with banjo, tapped cymbals, handclaps, and mid-range vocals.