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Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

Goose — Dancing With Athena

Being planted on a barstool in a coffee house corner is no longer a mandate for laidback folk singer John Adams, better known as Goose (www.myspace.com/johngoose); he’s gone electric with the addition of a four-piece backing band and the first album with his new cohort can often be described as just that. The May 30 release of Dancing With Athena is an ideal introduction to the Winston-Salem band, as it takes the listener on a forthright investigation through his predominant influences. Adams über-mellow voice and sunny acoustic strumming instantly brings the likes of surffolkster Jack Johnson to mind, though there are a few moments on the album where he brings his new band’s obvious talents to the forefront. Bass is often an overlooked aspect of acoustically dominated music such as this, but Pocket Grooves bassist Josh Senic’s smooth walking lines stand out from the opening track “Never Let Me Go.” Of course, the consistent focal point is Adams smooth croon and sanguine songwriting, but it doesn’t hurt that he has so much polished accompaniment. Former Daughtry guitarist Jeremy Brady grabs the spotlight on more than one occasion, from his gentle hammer-downs and howling stabs on “Naturally” to the soulful wail on “When They Both Came Down.” It’s easy to get lost in the placid vibe of Dancing With Athena; even when they really try to cut loose, it’s somewhat thwarted by Adam’s blithe vocal timbre; but that only adds to the album’s charm.

72/100

The Love Language — The Love Language

Lo-fi recording is somewhat of a thorny c and only the most humble practitioners truly get away with it. Take soul singer Cody Chesnutt, for instance. He exercised a great deal of modesty before his four-track tape recorder when creating the aptlytitled The Headphone Masterpiece and the result was an R&B classic. Over-ambition will certainly ruin a noble effort in that aesthetic and it almost happened on the selftitled debut effort for Stu McLamb’s solo vehicle The Love Language (www.myspace.com/thelovelanguage). Almost. Yes, its production is rather slapdash and sounds like it was thrown together in an afternoon in his bedroom. McLamb wrote, performed, recorded and mixed the record, but the result is like the best expectations of a mad scientist throwing together potentially explosive chemical combinations in search of some theoretical solution. It’s without a doubt an incredibly personal album; McLamb haphazardly throws himself into the line of fire with such a daring effort. He contrasts jaunty cabaret piano with his spiking vocals on the album’s opener “Two Rabbits” to set the emotional tone, before taking the Kings of Leon approach to ’60s guitar pop on “Lalita.” Romantic discord is the centerpiece on that one, much like it is on the majority of the album and that’s what really makes his methods work so well. Look well past the intentionally amateurish production values and you’ll find something so mature and heartbreaking that giving it the expensive studio treatment would have only served to derail the inspiration behind it all.

76/100

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