Jim Noir

Plus CD reviews of Robert Stillman, Heartless Bastards, and Evangelicals.

Jim Noir

Tower of Love

(Barsuk)

We need more eccentrics. Take, for instance, that guy in the bowler hat who wandered out of a Magritte painting, the one-man band with teenage symphonies to Brian Wilson running through his mind. Who does he think he is? Briton Allen Roberts may have adopted the enigmatic persona "Jim Noir," but his naïf odes to climbing trees and stealing footballs never step foot in the Beach Boy's dark shadows. Noir's throwback pop, equal parts mop-top and modern troubadour (like another guy in a funny hat, Badly Drawn Boy's Damon Gough), suggests he just materialized. Following two EPs, and with backing by Manchester's Beep Seals, Noir's debut, Tower of Love, is a tribute to bygone eras with enough polish to stand alone in the aughts. Tower's breeziness has been fair game for remixers Hot Chip and Fatboy Slim, who reworked standout "Eanie Meany," heard in Adidas World Cup ads. While "Tower of Love" is a throwaway (sounding like telephone hold music), the tambourine-led "Tell Me What to Do" swings like Davy Jones with a glimmer in his eye. And the rich multitracking on "I Me You I'm Your" and "Turbulent Weather" adds harmonies like folk duo Chad and Jeremy with the push of a button. Now there's a technological innovation. KATE SILVER

Robert Stillman

Horses

(Mill Pond Records)

Music writers eager to coin a phrase for a new genre will salivate all over Robert Stillman's Horses. Prairie jazz? Saxo-folk? The possibilities abound, for the disc does not fit snugly into any jazz category, and its wordless saxophone melodies are certainly not folk-purist fodder. Yet an undeniable Americana jazz element is at work, one that is equal parts Copland classicism and Waitsian weirdness. Improvisation takes a backseat to tight melodic structure on Horses, with snare drum slapping a lazy backbeat akin to a cowboy's swagger or, naturally, a horse's lope on "The Dance 1" while a barroom piano is tickled romantically throughout. Things pick up a bit with "Half-Luke," on which electric piano dances and drips sprightly around the snare-driven shuffle, and the aptly titled "Love Theme" is a blossoming, wavering wheat field of a song, where cymbals shimmer and saxophone unfolds as slowly as the hidden melody. These are masterful melodic exercises all, ones so soothing and eerie it's easy to imagine them on a David Lynch soundtrack. But since that isn't the case with Horses, it'll do fine as accompaniment to the weirdness of your own life, of which you surely have plenty. BRIAN J. BARR

Robert Stillman plays Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611, www.thecrocodile.com. $12 adv./$13 DOS. All ages. 8 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 10.

Heartless Bastards

All This Time

(Fat Possum)

The Heartless Bastards' 2004 debut, Stairs and Elevators, hit listeners like a ton of bricks. Full of stripped-down, no-bullshit rock with an utterly unique female lead vocalist (the diminutive Erika Wennerstrom), it didn't sound like anything else being released at the time. Unlike albums by the White Stripes or Strokes, Stairs was minimalist and punchy without sounding derivative. Thankfully, the Bastards' sophomore effort, All This Time, doesn't abandon the Cincinnati three-piece's roots—it just flowers them up a little, especially during the album's first half. This isn't to say these slightly more florid tunes abandon all sense of rust-belt 'tude. To wit, "Into the Open," the album's lead track, begins with a piano tinkle that eventually explodes into a spirited glob of hair-tossing thrash. "Searching for the Ghost" features a more layered guitar section than Bastards fans are accustomed to, but doesn't get so lush as to approach, say, Built to Spill territory. All in all, the album is a better showcase for Wennerstrom's vocal chops, yet still sufficiently raw as to not sacrifice the band's inimitable quality. MIKE SEELY

Evangelicals

So Gone

(Misra)

Those mourning the demise of the Meat Puppets, SST Records' 1980s glory days, and that patron saint of mind-warp music Syd Barrett have cause to rejoice. The Evangelicals, a Norman, Okla., trio, maintain the tradition(s) of the aforementioned icons without being derivative. Whereas far too many bands are one-dimensional—you hear their fast one and their slow one, and you've heard everything they've got—Evangelicals are deucedly difficult to pinion. Track two, "Another Day (and Yoor Still Knocked Out)," begins with a brief blast of hardcore noise followed by a prog-rock synthesizer wail before settling into a yearningly pretty, peppy melody recalling early Dinosaur Jr. in their poppier moments, punctuated by eerie industrial noise—it shouldn't work, but improbably, it does. Elsewhere, terse, jazz-flavored and/or psych-fuzzed guitar riffs accompany forlorn, honeyed vocal-driven melodies, and bass and drums buzz 'n' howl in a punchy manner recalling the Minutemen and Saccharine Trust. These fellows have indeed got potential. MARK KERESMAN

The Evangelicals play the Paradox, 1401 Leary Way, www.theparadox.org. $7. All ages. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Aug. 11. E

 
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