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The Quiet Ones
Nite You Surprised Me
Firefly Sessions

Whereas their first album, Your Inner Ear, felt more like stripped-down campfire songs or cafe rock, The Quiet Ones’ latest is far more textured and dreamy in a seafaring sort of way. Nite You Surprised Me is an often subtle effort, as most Quiet Ones’ compositions tend to be, with the exception of the remarkable “Why Does Love Feel Strange,” a marching, fired-up nod to unwavering and unironic love. In description the song’s sappy content seems worthy of puking in a bucket, but fortunately this band pulls off sentiment without being too sickly sweet.

Throughout, the band finds a comfortable balance between its misty ambience and anchored narratives. The breezy instrumental, “Se De’fausser A’Coeur” acts a mysterious intermission before singer John Totten steers the second half into less celestial climes with the line, “I lay wondering in a cheap-ass hotel what I should do with a bed all to myself.” Nite You Surprised Me is perhaps a less diverse but more cohesive album than The Quiet Ones’ first. But one thing that hasn’t changed with these one-time Missoulians is Totten’s ability to string together odd and delicate stories with enticingly shimmery guitar riffs. (Erika Fredrickson)

Kent Curtiss Band
Unlikely Places
self-released

Nobody casually listens to God rock. You either have a few Jars of Clay CDs in your collection and attend the occasional SHEC concert because you roll with that holy vibe, or you stringently avoid the genre because all references to Him make you squirm like a tongue kiss with your sister. There’s no middle ground. So, it’s a little difficult to talk about the debut CD from the Bitterroot’s Kent Curtiss Band without focusing on/warning of its spiritual bent.

Interspersed with pop-rock tracks bubbling with cutesy turn-of-phrase choruses (sample: “If timing is everything, I got nothin’”) that have nothing to do with seeing the light, Curtiss and company turn on a bright religious glow. There’s “Everywhere,” which could be read as a fabulous stalker ballad until you get to the more overtly inspirational tracks “Choose Jesus,” “Kingdom Come” and “With You.” It’s a little disorienting to come across spiritual conviction packed in among the rest of the professionally produced, well-performed (kudos especially to backup singers Janet Curtiss and Cyndy Hull), family-friendly and otherwise innocuous feel-good tracks.

Your ability to enjoy this CD will likely come down to your personal conviction on the separation of church and rock. If you can handle the message, the music is just fine. (Skylar Browning)

Kent Curtiss Band plays a free CD-release show Friday, Jan. 12, at 7 PM at the Hamilton Playhouse.

The Doyle and Debbie Show
The Doyle and Debbie Show
self-released

Music spoofs run the risk of listener burnout after a third spin, but The Doyle and Debbie Show is an example of unrelenting comedy so keenly matched with musical acumen that it’s hard to get enough.

As live performers the Nashville novelty act comprising singers Bruce Arnston and Jenny Littleton weave country music lampoons with deadpan banter. Song titles like “When You’re Screwing Other Women (Think of Me)” and “I Ain’t No Homo (But Man You Sure Look Good to Me)” clue you in—right down to the parentheticals—that you’re in for parody. Arnston is proficient at every possible country affectation, a talent illuminated in the gut-buster “Fat Women in Trailers,” wherein over-the-top twang is pushed to the limits with nonsensical yet skillful yodeling. Similarly, in “ABCs of Love,” when Littleton sings “I am GOP to your DNC…and FYI you are too PC not NRA or CBN enough for me,” she parrots Patsy Cline so well that the absurdity of the endless acronyms is actually palatable.

The live show must be a blast, because the album alone is unbearably funny and bursting with wicked energy. (Erika Fredrickson)

Albert Hammond, Jr.
Yours to Keep
Rough Trade

Forget whether you actually like The Strokes when judging Albert Hammond, Jr.’s debut. There’s a hint of the chart-topping, insouciant, faux-grunge New York rockers in their rhythm guitarist’s maiden solo voyage, but for the most part the band’s suffocating fuzz and apathy has been lifted to reveal a downright lighthearted and earnest indie rock experiment.

On Yours to Keep, Hammond employs falsetto la-la-las, whistling and music box samples alongside the usual drum/bass/guitar setup. The results touch on everything from New Pornographers-esque power pop (“101”) to a murky folk waltz (“Blue Skies”). There are still enough rawk-ish tunes to satisfy hungry Strokes fans, but they’re thankfully more diluted here, and don’t get in the way of the more creatively textured efforts. Case in point: Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas makes an appearance, but he is overshadowed by better cameos from Sean Lennon and Ben Kweller, not to mention Hammond’s own unsteady, barren vocals.

Yours to Keep reflects more of Hammond’s lineage (he’s son to the famous songwriter who penned “It Never Rains in Southern California”) than his present bandmates, and that’s a good thing. There’s less canned machismo and posing, more craft and sincerity. Certainly as far as a debut solo effort goes, especially from a guitarist, it’s much more George Harrison than Graham Coxon. (Skylar Browning)

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