ON THE RECORD By Nick Pittman
Things Left Unsaid
Taylor Verret and Taylor Swift share more than a common first name, blond tresses, youth and good looks. There’s a heavy similarity between the music made by the two. Verret’s album Things Left Unsaid follows Swift’s vocal delivery of her life’s experiences but with less reliance on sing-a-long choruses and more singer-songwriter leanings.
Verret’s accompaniment style stays true to Swift’s earlier pop country — something along the lines of “You Belong with Me” but with less pop rock influences. Her vocals also draw comparisons to Joy Williams and Grace Potter but younger and Southern. With Verret, however, the feel is she’s singing straight from her honest-to-God diary. It doesn’t hurt that Verret has quite the handle on songwriting.
These well-formed songs and delivery make it hard to believe she’s still a teen. She’s comes off as vulnerable but still puts her heart out there for someone to trample. On “Arrows,” she croons the dangers of falling in love, asking “Who needs a gun when you are playing with arrows?” while “Some Days” tells its aftermath, sleeping in to heal a broken heart.
Eventually, her Swift comparison may boost her career or limit it: There is likely room for only one Taylor on the radio. Still, this album does alright regardless of the commonalities they share.
Well-produced and ready for the radio in both quality and content, Verret is on solid footing. Yet, her stronger suit may be her guitar-only, singer-songwriter-esque live gigs. There, she breaks away from the Swift comparison and shows her own style without competing with her backing. Through a much more personal delivery, Verret shows her singing isn’t studio magic. Covering Leonard Cohen and The Lumineers proves that, though Swift may be a blonde, it is not Verret’s natural color.
Not only is Plush Claw a great contradiction and a name for a band, it’s a fitting moniker for the music on this project’s first release.
With a soft (but always moving) ambiance, Plush Claw is plush. With the gravelly voice of James Van Way III, it has a bit of a claw.
Pulling together Van Way (Markings, The Frames of Reference), Christiaan Mader (Brass Bed), Greg Travasos (The Object at the End of History), Chad Viator (Direwood, Arbor Vitae) Allison Bohl-Dehart (Carbon Poppies), Aaron Thomas (Dimestore Troubadours) and Patrick Gibbens (The Frames of Reference), Plush Claw has a misleading résumé.
The record proves the group is not just the sum of its parts. Instead, it’s an incredible turn from their previous material. Nowhere near the catchy rock indie, post punk or indie Americana, Plush Claw lives in the neighborhood of simple yet not-lo-fi smooth shoe-gazer rock. Melodic but not overly sweet, the songs are almost like audio residue leftover from previous sessions.
Though somewhat similar to American Analog Set, they possess a better command over listeners partly due to the unique and well-written songs and partly due to Van Way’s attention-grabbing, almost spoken-word vocal delivery.
The icing on the cake is the last track, a charmer called “Sportcoats.” A harmonious college radio/ indie rock cut that displays more of their past projects, it keeps its head just low enough to not stand too far out from the more solemn, brooding and mature sounds of the record but is definitely a catchy, stand-out track.
From start to finish, Plush Claw is similar to the moments before the sun rises: not quite light, not quite dark, impossibly intangible but definitely mesmerizing.
It used to be pretty black and white: Christian music was Christian music, secular music was secular. Today’s Christian music is often lambs in sheep’s clothing. Like country musicians who can only be identified as country by the stylish cowboy hat and overly expensive boots they wear, some Christian music needs an asterisk to denote its genre.
Steven Joubert’s The Entrance exists only partly in this new world. His message is definitely that of faith but with a glossy, sometimes classical music-addled pop backdrop. Some songs, like “Daisies,” have a more subtle approach to declaring his faith. Others, like “Glory (Blessed are You),” even with its heavy thump-thump of drums and low-key rock guitar, would slip right into a Sunday morning service unnoticed.
It could be argued that “Holy Spirit” either borrows blues guitar riffs or simply continues the tradition of God in blues music, but with an ultramodern, well-polished approach. There’s no secret key needed here: Despite foreboding sounds and a serious rock vibe, it “Clings to The Rock.” In a tortured voice, Joubert begs “Send down the spirit, Let it fall like a fire, Bring life to the world.”
“Open Up” and “Strong,” which both bear witness without exactly quoting scripture — instead providing positive messages — could stand toe-to-toe with any song on contemporary Christian radio in terms of quality, sound, structure and style.
Paul Broussard of Leap Studios, where the album was recorded, calls it some of his best work. Having heard most of his releases, there are other records that will wind up on my playlist more often, but this one’s production — and message — is on a higher plane altogether.
Pour Les Générations À Venir
It’s not every day that you hear Johann Pachelbel’s ubiquitous wedding song on a Cajun album. Lee Benoit’s album Pour Les Générations À Venir — though not a departure from the sounds of dancehall/restaurant Cajun music — is not your typical Cajun record.
A follow-up to his more cover-laden release, it collects originals and new songs (with help from some friends) that he hopes will be standards for generations that follow. Benoit never comes out and says it, but this is something of a record for kids. That is not to say it is childish or silly, simply catered toward the younger fans of Cajun music and the generation that will follow them. Yet, it is an enjoyable listen for older fans as well.
A new grandfather, Benoit looks to sustain the music for his grandson and others like him. For starters, there are no drinking songs or songs mired in the sorrow or tragedy that is often the daily bread of Cajun music. Instead, it has a light and playful sound.
Cajun fans young and old are fortunate to have Benoit looking out for their future with Pour Les Générations À Venir.