About that catchy title: The Mignonette (pronounced Men-yon-ette) was an English yacht that capsized off the coast of Africa back in 1884. After 19 days, the four surviving members drew straws and summarily killed and ate the weakest member of the crew. Rescued five days later, Captain Tom Dudley admitted to the killing, and was soon convicted in an attempt by the British government to stop what they saw as a horribly barbaric seafaring custom. The only evidence? Dudley's honorable (in his eyes, at least) confession.
While not a concept album proper, Mignonette was arranged around a central theme offered by the tale: relying on The Truth, and trusting that internal North Star to always lead one down the correct path, despite the consequences that may follow.
Mignonette begins with "Swept Away," the kind of up-front love song the Avetts (Seth Avett, guitar and vocals; Scott Avett, banjo and vocals; Bob Crawford, standup bass) have become justifiably known for. By song two -- "Nothing Short of Thankful" -- the boys are ruminating on their blessings (another strong suit, it seems) while deconstructing their music into a stop-and-start jamboree of time changes. "Hard Worker," another standout, is one of many songs on the disc that deal with the concept of hard work and the struggle of the working man. And of course, there's plenty of the "pretty girl" songs -- "Pretty Girl at the Airport," "Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane," "Letter to a Pretty Girl" -- that have appeared on every Avett album since the band's debut (frankly, there's plenty of songs period -- Mignonette could have quite easily been two albums).
"Complainte D'Un Matelot Mourant (Lament for a Dying Seafarer)" a mournful instrumental meant to relate the story of the ship's sinking, might be the truest distillation of the Mignonette vision. At once mournful, pretty, and shrieking with ghastly import, it's also a look at a band in their prime not willing to lay down anchor in the same familiar ports of call just for the sake of keeping afloat. (www.theavettbrothers.com)
Grade: A---Timothy C. Davis
It's Like Magic in Reverse
With some 80 minutes of CD time available to a musician these days, it's always somewhat refreshing to get a briskly paced record you can be in and out of in under the time it takes to watch a King of the Hill rerun. After all, canvases come in different sizes, as do written works -- the short story, the novella, the novel.
It's Like Magic in Reverse, the sophomore release by The Talk, clocks in at a mere 26 minutes for 12 songs. This is low-carb rock at its finest: no fat, no long instrumental interludes, and lots of meaty hooks to satisfy one's bloodlust.
Singer/guitarist Justin Williams' Anglo-fied delivery is often placed back in producer Mike Mogis' (Bright Eyes, The Faint) wall-of-noise mix, but the lyrical candor -- coupled with a refreshing lack of woe-is-me histrionics -- simultaneously skewers any Emo association with Mogis' Nebraska/Saddle Creek clique while also one-upping anything Cheap Trick (another frequent comparison) has done in the last 20 years or so ("The Flame," anyone?).
Never does the instrumental maelstrom overshadow the song, however, making this record a quantum leap up from their last (but still rather good) release, No, You Shut Up. To paraphrase James Brown, this Talk might be loud, but they're also saying something. (www.the-talk.com)
Grade: A --Timothy C. Davis
Nicole Atkins & Los Parasols
Summer of Love EP
The New Jersey native has made the most of her winter Southern sojourn, holing up with some of Charlotte's top musicians at the Faircloth brothers' Cougar Camp studio to record this engaging six-song EP. Richly fleshed out compared to Atkins' more sparse country-oriented solo shows, the disc's best songs -- "Turn It Up," "Caught In the Way," and "Hate Asbury" -- have a twangy garage rock feel suggestive of hot summer nights, muscle cars and cold PBRs. Atkins' smoky vocals serve her well here, as does the soulful crunch of Randolph Lewis' guitar and Justin Faircloth's all-purpose keys, which range from saloon honky tonk to Attractions' farfisa; Shawn Lynch (drums) and Kerry Brooks (bass) provide the rhythm. The disc hasn't been mastered yet, which actually works well with the rockers, though it does diminish the effectiveness of the otherwise pretty slow numbers, "Wake Up" (with Fischer-Spooner's David Muller helping out) being the strongest of these. In all, a nice addition to the Charlotte songbook. (www.nicoleatkins.com)
Grade: B--John Schacht
It's Just Addiction
From the opening riff of "Modern Sickness," Elevator Action crank the amps with raw 70s rock while giving stiff nods to, but not aligning with, later decades. The debut recording from the band (Eric Gilstrap, vocals, guitar; Laurie Ruroden, bass and vocals; Gary Guthrie, drums), It's Just Addiction, was produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Mark Lanegan), and brings back vibes of a hip, defunct Brit band called Thee Hypnotics. The riffs rumble, soar and purposely crumble into rocking, yet melodic, defiance. Most songs are short. They are punked up, teased with psychedelics and surely rocking enough to be cut loose and played loud -- way loud. If "Fistful of Drugs" and "Come On Hate Me," don't get your socks sweaty, crank this baby to revisit those rocking days of youthful abandon. The track "Local Celebrities" has such a catchy sing-along chorus that it's a cryin' shame it can't be played on the radio. Otherwise it would clinch as an early summer anthem. (www.elevatoractionband.com)
Grade: A--Samir Shukla
Bellglide (self-titled EP)
Back when ex-Laburnum members Adam Roth, Taylor Short and John Cates were looking for a vocalist to front their new band, Bellglide, they auditioned more male musicians than anyone since Winona Ryder.
They finally decided to ink a female singer, Kate "Slappy" Gregory. New to the stage, Gregory was a bit raw, and too often attempted to sing over the music instead of with it. Meanwhile, the menfolk were busy making sure they had enough E-bow room for their late-period-R.E.M take on shoegaze.
On this 3-song EP, Gregory sounds remarkably more assured, as do her band mates. Produced by Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement) and mixed by Greg Calbi -- two guys who know more than a little about spit-shining melodic rock -- it's a great appetizer to the full-length the band is currently shopping to potential suitors.
Anytime a woman fronts an all-male band these days, everyone compares them to Evanescence. However, there's a difference in having quiet-loud dynamics and actually being dynamic, a lesson it seems Slappy and Co. have learned rather well. (www.bellglide.com)
Grade: B+--Timothy C. Davis
My So-Called Band
Weapons of Mass Distortion
Punk's popularity may ebb and flow, but My So-Called Band could give a shit. Chockfull of righteous three-chord mayhem from guitarist Ryan McGinnis, Kevin Gavagan's pummeling drums and the liquefying bass-lines of founder Chris Peigler, Weapons of Mass Distortion finds the band more inspired than they've been since 1997's self-titled debut. Not surprising, perhaps, given the incompetent clowns in the Oval office, but Peigler and Co. don't stop there -- cell-phone toting SUV drivers, soul-less suburbanites and computer message-board junkies also get the well-deserved evil eye. Songs like "Killed By Classwar," "Patriot Act," and "WMD" may leave little to the imagination, but then the time for being coy and cute has pretty much passed when it comes to political music. Peigler's voice may lack a lot of range, but there's no doubting his -- or this record's -- conviction. (www.mysocalledband.com)
Grade: B--John Schacht
Delancey Street Band
Against The Night
Top Shelf Records
Although this is Delancey Street Band's second release, it's their first bonafide studio album as the debut, Obsession, was a live recording from a gig at Charlotte's Double Door Inn. Guitarist Keith Shamel is exacting on the guitar (albeit a little too postcard-perfect at times), while vocalist Melinda Hansen stokes smoky, jazz singer vocals. Shamel can go from the confines of classical perfection to psychedelic rock (think Steve Howe, maybe Adrian Belew) and can dash off to distant lands of Afro-Cuban sounds with ease. Against The Night is at once a jazz record, which rolls over into world-folk and winds up rocking and swaying. The quartet's musical interplay clearly delineates their writing and composing as that of veteran musicians. The rhythm section -- Rob Knox, drums, and Bill Buck, bass -- perks things up with ever-so-slight modulations to bring to light the camaraderie of musical brethren. Delancey Street Band are like a cool indie radio station, which spins jazz, blues, world and pop into a seamless segue. (www.delanceystreetband.net)
Grade: B+--Samir Shukla
Creative Loafing periodically reviews local artists' CDs. We encourage musicians to send in for review finished copies (no demos, please) to the address listed in the front of the paper, while cautioning that we can not accommodate all submissions.