Potential Broken Windows
(Sleepy Owl Records) Considering its creator's young age (20) and relative musical inexperience (she only recently began writing songs and playing guitar), Potential Broken Windows makes for an impressive debut for the emerging indie/folk artist and native Memphian Michaela Caitlin.
This EP was born out of a collaboration between Caitlin and fellow Memphis musician Logan Nickleson, who recorded and mixed Potential Broken Windows, contributed extra instrumentation, and released it on his newly founded Sleepy Owl Records imprint.
Still, the star of the show is Caitlin's confident songwriting and vocal delivery, which shine on tracks such as "Arson" and "The Opportunist." A few overproduced moments muck things up here and there, but overall, Potential Broken Windows is an excellent beginning for this developing talent.
Bad Lady Goes to Jail
John Wesley Coleman
Local garage/punk/indie powerhouse Goner Records has had one hell of a year, releasing excellent material from Harlan T. Bobo, the Overnight Lows, and the Limes, among other things, over the course of 2010. So it would seem logical to assume that they might throw up a brick with at least one project.
Which brings me to the debut solo offering from Austin, Texas, musician/songwriter John Wesley Coleman, a member of the lo-fi country-rock band Golden Boys (both were featured performers at this year's Gonerfest 7). The album is not quite a dud and definitely has its moments, but it doesn't quite hold up in comparison to the label's other recent output either.
The album starts out strong enough, with early highlights including the Lou Reed-ish title track and the utterly ridiculous but catchy ode to sports "Oh, Basketball." But after a while, the songs start to sound a bit same-y and the lo-fi/noise aesthetic becomes tiresome. By the end, I found myself drifting off.
The solo debut of former member of the Warble Judith Stevens is a ramshackle affair, bouncing back and forth between shimmery, primitive synth-pop and stripped-down acoustic confessionals but mostly succeeds on the strength of Stevens' songwriting and strong, up-front vocals.
Anyone who's seen Stevens perform knows how fearless she is in terms of subject matter, intensity of performance, and the risks she takes with her vocals. One certainly gets a sense of this fearlessness on Welcome Home, which feels like a very personal record and draws you in from the very beginning.
I tend to prefer the acoustic songs on the record, particularly track 6 (the song titles are not given in the liner notes), which features gorgeous double-tracked vocals atop a simply strummed guitar, and the short but raucous track 8.
Grupo Jobu is the brainchild of Jobu Babin, a fixture on the Memphis singer-songwriter scene. Babin was recently joined by vocalist Amy Chan and percussionist Jason Vawter to form Grupo Jobu, and so far, the trio has produced two ambitious LPs this year alone: Mytheme and now Kuru, which came out earlier this month.
To describe the sound of Kuru is a challenge. One minute, they're channeling Jeff Buckley-esque moodiness; the next minute, they're off on a funk/hip-hop side-trip.
For that reason, Kuru could be a difficult listen for those looking for a more consistent vibe or less crazy atmospherics. But for those open to experimentation, the album is definitely worth looking into.