I previewed these albums earlier this year (with all sorts of lovey-dovey links and whatnots here) so now that they're out, are they any good?
4hero: Lush in all the right places, moving in its grandeur and up to par with their best work, "Play with the Changes" continues 4hero's exploration of earthly sensual grooves and warm orchestral compositions. Opening track "Morning Child" was the first single, now followed up by the anti-war protest song "The Awakening" featuring poet Ursula Rucker. The album sounds like running through grass with bare feet on a warm summer day, a flower stuck behind your ear and wind running through whatever's left of your hair. Love me some syncopated rhythms of "Sink or Swim (No Choice for Me)," the sensual break up song "Give In," and the sultry "Bed of Roses" with Jody Watley (previously featured on her sub par album "The Makeover"). Still, all those superlatives and I have to confess that the CD has not been on my high rotation list. I believe I-Tunes also have additional tracks on their album download which sucks for some of us who still buy CD's. Additional info on 4hero's MySpace page.
Tracey Thorn: To be sincere, aside from a great Martin Buttrick re-rub of lead single "It's All True," when the song was released in advance of the proper album it left me cold (ingenious video here) and made me think that Thorn's "Out of the Woods" would be a dud. A promised remake of the Pet Shop Boys "King's Cross" was left off the album and the supposed gay content of "A - Z" is not necessarily overt despite the obvious lyrical nods to Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." Turns out it doesn't matter: The album is amazing!
It's so great to hear Tracey's voice once again. There is a great webiste in support of the album and, of course, a MySpace page where the highlight is Ms. Thorn's lovely (and often very funny) blog (which is how I know that Arjanwrites has an exclusive interview coming up on his blog).
Some have complained that the album doesn't break new ground but I beg to differ (what did they want, Tracey Thorn sings the Britney Spears catalogue?). Sometimes during her vocalist years for Everything But the Girl her voice seemed at the mercy of Ben Watt's musical explorations but - while there are some echoes of past EBTG work - she definitely seems in full control of the new album's semi-retro concept, the themes and the choice of collaborators.
Rightly, the Village Voice calls it "Sublimely nonchalant electro-pop majesty." Standout tracks: "Easy," the glittering "Falling off a log," "Grand Canyon" and the gorgeous "By Picadilly Station I Sat Down and Wept."
Karizma: I was pretty stunned when I walked into Virgin Records this week and found a single copy of "A Mind of Its Own." I've been trumpeting Baltimore's Kris Klayton ever since I saw him spin at Li'l Ray's annual Brooklyn Clubhouse Jamboree back in September not being aware then that, along with DJ Spen, he'd been part of The Basement Boys (the legendary house music producing team behind some of Crystal Water's early tracks, among others). Still, the launch of Karizma's first album seemed to be a low key push by most sings which is why I was so shocked Virgin even had a copy. I quickly snatched it up and now it won't leave my stereo or my headphones.
Sure, it probably won't be to everyone's taste, the least of it being that these are mostly instrumental dance tracks. They also don't necessarily have the production shine of the Tracey Thorn or 4hero albums but, in some ways, that in itself opens it up to try new rhythm textures and moods which truly opens the album up as the sound of the future of dance (along the lines of Dennis Ferrer's recently released masterpiece "The World As I See It").
If the annoying word of the year is "pitchy," I hope you won't be annoyed by the characterization of this new sound as "techy." Then again, Karizma himself names two of the tracks "Tech This Out, Pt. 2" and "All Teched Out."
The one mistep, "K.O.N.G.," is nearly unlisteneable. But the rest more than makes up for it and, as a bonus, CD buyers also get a code to download two additional Karizma tracks off the r2 records online page. I love, love, love this CD. Wanna know more? Check out Karizma's MySpace page or r2 records MySpace page. Stand out tracks: "T W Y St This" and the thirteen minute "The Damn Thing."
In New York, Karizma will make a special appearance at APT on April 17th and return for a headliner gig also at APT on May 10th.