Lawrence Arabia, Caressa

Lawrence Arabia
Chant Darling
New Zealand
Bella union
Engineered by  James Milne, Luke Buda,  James Dansey, Nick Meul,  Jo McCaughey, Samuel Flinn Scott.
Mastered by Olly Harmer

This second album from New Zealand’s James Milne mimics many vintage styles.
Some tracks recall the Kinks, others Elliot Smith. There are hints of breezy psychedelia and humor throughout. Though it was recorded at various studios in the Sweden, the UK, and New Zealand, over a period of a year, yet it sounds as if it came from a fever of dreams in a single night.
The distorted bass line and catchy melody  of Apple Pie Bed makes it sound like a lost track from George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.”
Dream Teacher makes a very chill beach boys mood with multilayered vocals, sparse arpeggio guitar and quite familiar melodies. There are no drums, merely some gently tussled tambourine.  Look like a Fool is a entree masterpiece, worth your time and attention.
The only dud is The Beautiful Young Crew, where its hook, which was never that great to begin with, is truly dug deep into the ground by being repeated a dozen times.
Here is a fun, retro album, full of shining happy moods and blissful 60s sounds. He may ape the sounds of other bands too much to make the album a true gem- but several of these will be awesome on your mixtapes- and you’ll love it when Apple Pie Bed  pops up on shuffle.
He has played with the Brunettes, another awesome New Zealand Band who is worth checking out. He may have been a part of the band when I saw them at a New Zealand showcase at CMJ in 2007. He has played with Okkerville River and Connan and the Mockasins as well as other New Zealand “supergroups.”  He also has been opening for Crowded House in 2010, one of the best known New Zealand bands.

Homer, Alaska.
Engineered by Matt Farnsworth and Atz Lee Kilcher.
Mastered by Tom Pfaelle.

Caressa has played in Homer for the past few years. She used to call Fairbanks her home, and before that, Los Angeles. Her friendly voices invites you into the world of her songs. This album was released in 2009, but I only recently got a copy when she came up here and played some shows with me.
There are intricate guitar picking rhythms and commendable performances from her rhythm section on this record. Her playful flirtation comes across in lyrics such as, “If you talk to me sweetly, I just might follow you home.” Illustrations of Alaska are in the poetry of her lyrics, local bars, trailer trucks, ocean waves, winter, wind and mountains are used as characters in her songs. The production is most exciting on Empty Nest, which is busy, but gives lapses in intensity and allows  the rhythm to be fluid to bring
Jazzy drums from Matt Farnsworth and banjo by Caressa herself on Wanderlust bring more fascinating textures and sonic accouterments. In Postcard from Homer, Ak, she demonstrates that she can balance tenderness and fury, “I never want to see you again, unless its all of the time.” In the last minute of this song, Caressa lets go of rhythm and plays some wild Kaki King-like guitar pyrotechnics. I hope a future album would explore these directions. I know she can play some wild stuff, and hope she doesn’t dismiss that kind of playing as “messing around.”
She has a percussive rhythm guitar style and carefully enunciates her delivery of clever lyrics, in these ways she has been compared favorably to Ani Difranco. It’s a good comparison if it helps more people listen in, but I like Caressa better.

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