Taking a listen

Taking a listen


— Elephant Sky

It’s easy to see why Simplified ( has been called one of the best local acts in Charlotte. Their music is highly accessible and melodic, while being very mature at the same time. The very same can be said for the band’s third studio and fourth overall release Elephant Sky, a collection breezy of bar-pop with Jack Jonson-esque reggae undertones. The opening title track wraps up in a nutshell what you can expect from the album with lines like “All I want is a beautiful girl/some warm sunshine to fill my world.” It doesn’t take a machete to slash through to some deeper meaning hidden in the lyrics; they are straightforward and satisfying, yet well-crafted and imaginative. I particularly enjoyed the album’s second track “Weeds,” which took me back to my college days waiting tables with its chorus “Won’t somebody help me/I’m deep in the weeds.” The band may not have intended to evoke a popular phrase among the service industry for being swamped with customer requests, but having that line to use like a chain-gang work song a few years ago would’ve been great. If there’s one complaint about Elephant Sky, it is that it lacks a lot of diversity from one track to the next. You could also argue that the same air-headed pop qualities that make it enjoyable to some would be a weakness to others, but it’s too much of a fun listen for me to back that case.

Days Between Stations

— Days Between Stations

Who knew that competent, non-indulgent space and progressive rock was still being created? Composers and multi-instrumentalists Sepand Samzadeh and Oscar Fuentes came together in 2003 to form Days Between Stations ( daysbetweenstationsband), though only recently releasing their self-titled debut thanks to a series of unfortunate setbacks. No doubt these events have become ingrained into the predominantly instrumental album’s darkly ethereal tone. The duo delves deeply into a variety of influences, among them classical, jazz, dub, ambient and fusion, to create a strange and mystifying alchemy of music that Samzadeh calls “art-rock,” while Fuentes brands it “postprogressive.” The opening track, “Requiem for the Living,” seems to rip through each of these in succession, turning on a dime just as the listener has acquiesced herself into one particular mode. It does seem a bit disconnected at times, but that’s the beauty of great progressive music: There really need be no intra-song relationship between movements, as its all about the feeling that the music elicits. “Either/Or” gives a heavy nod to the duo’s Pink Floyd influences with its soothing jazz sax and airy vocal vibrato. The last track of the album is a sprawling 22minute epic entitled “Laudanum” subdivided into four more manageable movements. The album as a whole would make for a fantastic film soundtrack, with a wide range of emotions woven throughout, yet it also has the musical legs to stand on its own.

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