For some, the term orchestrated pop is synonymous with syrupy overproduction. But a deft touch can occasionally yield remarkable results. Oakland-based Chrystia Cabral is on her third album as SPELLLING, and once you get past the voice of equal parts Kate Bush and Betty Boop, it’s clear she goes deeper in myth and ancient tales than does Bush. The Turning Wheel (Sacred Bones) uses a full ensemble for a deep dive into legends and romance, with Cabral’s captivating voice enveloping the listener in “Little Deer” and “Magic Act.”
In a less Victorian vein, two Australian releases take different routes to achieve a majestic veneer. Hiatus Kaiyote goes for sophisticated sound in Mood Valiant (Brainfeeder Records), not unlike Khruangbin in its sophistication, but the sly styles of singer Nai Palm keep the band from taking itself too seriously. Brisbane trio The Goon Sax was founded by Louis Forster, son of Robert Forster of Brisbane’s beloved Go-Betweens. They employ more synths than strings for orchestration, and use the male/female counterpoint of Forster and Riley Jones for a tense Joy Division atmosphere. Their third album, Mirror II (Matador) is burdened with more anxiety than the first two albums, but that underscores the critical nature of the sound.
Also New & Noteworthy
Nobody’s Girl, s/t (Lucky Hound Music) – This Austin trio shook the Americana world with 2018’s EP Waterline, and the self-titled full-length album proves the intro wasn’t a fluke. Nine of 11 tracks are co-written as a collaborative project by BettySoo, Rebecca Loebe and Grace Pettis (capped with covers of Carole King and Eliza Gilkyson). If the three-part harmonies don’t convince you, the lyrics of tracks like “Kansas” and “Promised Land” certainly will.
Wavves, Hideaway (Fat Possum) – Wavves were always more than the snotty punks from San Diego their marketing suggested. Songwriter Nathan Williams often throws in hints of XTC or Beach Boys, but this seventh album is downright bipolar. Side 1 features melodic 1966-era psychedelia, but on Side 2, Williams and Wavves want to prove their country roots, like Johnny Cash covering The Beat Farmers. Will the band follow a twang-laden path, or is Williams playing the dilettante? It’s fun, in any event.