Lurch & Holler
In the Cabin Below (Thick Syrup Records)
For more than 20 years, local luminaries Liz Downing and Michael Willis have been making beautiful music together in Lambs Eat Ivy, Radiant Pig, and now, Lurch & Holler. A unique blend of down-home twang and highbrow art song colors their work, and these 10 songs add a bit of lo-fi experimentalism and ambient field recordings to the mix. Bolstered by sturdy banjo and Willis's sonorous baritone, Downing's voice swoops wistfully through scenarios gleaned from kitchenettes, parlors, and motels before soaring into an ether of radio waves, literary ghosts, and prayer. In the Cabin Below channels the gospel of Flannery O'Connor and the maverick meditations of Pauline Oliveros. It feels, at times, like sacred music by sonic adventurers swigging from a Mason jar.
On the Water (Thrill Jockey)
Future Islands just might be the hardest working band in Baltimore, and the intense work ethic pays dividends on this CD. On 2010's In Evening Air, the band's electro-pop peppiness ran counter to singer Samuel T. Herring's melodramatic croon. But a pair of songs, "An Apology" and the instrumental title track, hinted at something with more depth and mystery to come. After a year of relentless touring, Future Islands has jettisoned the surface sheen and re-emerged a more mature band. The singing that sounded so overwrought now conveys genuine feeling, thanks to pulsing bass lines that compliment, rather than compete with, the vocals. It's most noticeable on "The Great Fire," as Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner shadows Herring's stately demeanor, and the song unfolds with a sturdy grandeur that's rare in indie rock.
Future Islands seem poised to join Wye Oak and Beach House in the top tier of the city's music scene.
Future Islands play the Ottobar on December 3.
Sea Notes (Odyssey Audio Media)
National Aquarium visitors might recognize this disc's second track, "Off-Axis: Music for the Jellies," which played on a loop in the Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance exhibit. Written and performed by Pierce, who produces music for commercials and videos, it immediately reminded me of FM3, the Chinese electronic music duo behind the Buddha Machine (Google it), and Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell." It's dream-like music that just might give you nightmares. The rest of the disc isn't as compelling, but it supports a good cause—a portion of the profits go to the Aquarium's Guardian Angel Society.