Yellow Dubmarine: Abbey Dub (Goldlion Records)

Yellow Dubmarine: Abbey Dub

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Honky-reggae-ized Beatles tribute band from Maryland set up like a NOLA jazz octet. Beatles fans are universally despised creatures, still gobbling up anything to do with a band that broke up forty years ago; so this is for them, as only they could find a cute one-drop family-barbecue version of ‘Octopus’s Garden’ a worthwhile novelty to have in their bottomless collections. The songs are done with real reverence – a blow-doors solo to ‘Something’ does stand out – so their local-band hackdom can be forgiven I suppose, not that every Beatles tribute of whatever sort didn’t come from the heart. Not everything here sticks strictly to reggae style (‘Oh Darling’ highlights the funk abilities of the horn guys), which gives the live show (obviously the real bread-and-butter function of this operation) some much-needed breathing room.

Grade: B

Dark Loft: Dark Loft (self-released)

Dark LoftReviewed by Eric Saeger

Comprised of big-deal sidemen who’ve been involved with everyone from Alicia Keys to The Drifters, this project makes arena-rock that should be palatable to Minus the Bear fans, which is not to say that there are that many curveballs here, but the band’s retro-ness does exhibit the notion of a plan embracing moderately modern conceits – I mean, I can’t say I’ve ever heard a cross between the come-to-think-of-it-closely-related Bread and Chris Isaak (‘Osprey’), or Sgt Pepper-era drums bonding quite nicely with basic Radiohead ideas (‘Willow Seeds’). The lead guitar bob-and-weaves on most of the tunes make you think of David Gilmour, a good match given the Dark Side of the Moon steez wafting out of ‘Sleeping With Bullets’. Aside from all that stuff, they’re equally capable of doling out ’70s fusion (‘Backlash’) and weird-beardy Bon Iver frostiness (‘Lullaby’), both of which, despite how it may look, work in the context.

Grade: A

Vince Mendoza: Nights on Earth (Horizontal Records)

Vince Mendoza

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Someone has to be responsible for the orchestral backgrounds provided to Sting and Björk… wait, it’s this guy, who did an LP of originals with the London Symphony in 1997 titled Epiphany, and has since been busy working with the small-potatoes mentioned above. This time the composer swivels toward the jazz world, putting on an organically meandering clinic in Zawinul styles swashed here and there with Caribbean fetishes. Pattering and puttering along, the all-star guitars of John Abercrombie and others exchange casual niceties with sax players Bob Mintzer and Joe Lovano, forming the musical aura of a stray leaf caught in gentle but unpredictable winds. Nothing disagreeable or too edgy, but it’s a complicated listen, not mercurial but certainly flighty, a thing for neoclassic heads with a lot of downtime to figure out.

Grade: A

Camille Bloom and the Recovery: Never Out of Time (self-released)

Camille Bloom

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

I dunno, Scandal meets zzzzz, um, huh, something or other, and at some zzzzzz points there’s cello, like a bunch of shapeless ’80s-pop B-sides had a polite outdoor Chardonnay-tasting and Perfect Circle were throwing Nerf balls at them from the bushes. Bloom, a Washington state native (if I’m reading the random-factoids sheet correctly), has accumulated a Gibson guitars endorsement, some touch-up work on such-and-so cable TV show soundtracks, and a few other accolades that, in lockstep with the tuneage itself, make you just sort of sit and think, “My, what a wonderfully obedient songwriting person – I wonder if Lifetime needs some soundtracking done on Who Stole My Infant Daughter III”. Nothing spells mediocrity more legibly than when an utterly vanilla singer/songwriter finally does something expressive on their album of way-too-long songs and immediately destroys it with lyrics from a nursery rhyme (‘You Still Fall Down’). And lose the skunk hair. And state your sexual orientation immediately for the public record, young lady.

Grade: C-

Brite Futures: Dark Past (Turnout Records)

Brite FuturesReviewed by Eric Saeger

Jeez, man, the way this album was described, I was expecting something that wasn’t completely mediocre – “Abba pop with chainsaws”, I think it was. Instead, we get the remains of Seattle band Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head worrying away at the too-optimistic sounds of Los Campesinos and all those crappy Bowery Ballroom bands from 2 or 3 years ago – oh, and nu-rave, too, remember that? And post-punk Kaiser Chiefs sports-bar-rock, presented simply because one of that band’s producers is here collecting a leisurely pay check for re-murdering The Buzzcocks. If Abba-pop with chainsaws sounds like a K-Tel retrospective of 2008, then the head of the nail is hit with superhuman force here. Good frigid’ grief is this useless – lemme see your war face, okay, echo-boomers, or is a blank Skelanimal stare the best you can do?

Grade: D+

Duda Lucena Quartet: Live (self-released)

Duda Lucena: Live

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

With a pro PR effort breathing new life into its perceived relevance, Brazilian jazz guitarist Lucena’s late-2010 live collection (mainly comprised of Latin classics such as ‘Corcovado’) will reach many more ears, and deservedly so. This is further proof, not that any was needed, that Latin guys just cold own chill-guitar. Sublime almost to a fault, Lucena cooperates with pianist Gerald Gregory all through the set, never relying on dissonance for reality-checks (acoustic bass player Kevin Hamilton is the designated diversion, thrumming out technically profound and melodically explorative runs accompanied only by the barely-there brushes of drummer Quentin Baxter). The interpretations are quiet and romantic, speaking more to unique, oaken world tastes than ones geared to chill-combo, though both areas get plenty-enough pampering in this endlessly pleasurable record.

Grade: A

Obadiah Parker: The Siren and the Saint (self-released)

Obadiah Parker

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Famed for his apologetic, unplugged cover of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’, Obadiah Parker is the adopted name of Phoenix busk-rocker Mat Weddle, who apparently popped in at the Howard Stern show, I’m assuming to talk about his addictions (now that Stern’s on pay-radio, isn’t it hilarious watching him squirm while trying to get Leno audiences and everyone else all caught up?) On his first full-length, Weddle’s got a Train-like backing band spouting shuffling, angular, Dave Mathews-ish faux-jazz, over which he croons/sighs in a vague cross between Robert Palmer and Amos Lee. What’s most amazing here is that it’s all DIY; the production makes it sound like Weddle couldn’t make a single move without the consent of such-and-so bloated New York AOR hack producer. Nothing wrong with the songs, either; apparently the guy simply has the ideal DNA for urban dinner-jazz-pop.

Grade: A

Heart-Set Self-Destruct: Of Nightmares (Soundmine Musicworks)

Heart-Set Self-Destruct: Of Nightmares

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

This Chicago neo-hardrock four-piece has a tough nut to crack, mainly because they do stuff correctly. They’re equal parts Gravity Kills (the on-the-phone-patch hollering part), Offspring (the singer’s a dead-ringer when in normal mode) and Avenged Sevenfold (the riff part), in other words they’re pretty much the perfect prescription for white anger-management kids who can’t deal with rap. But the budget bins are fully stocked forever with guys who apply logic to their outstanding music while meanwhile refusing to work on their knuckleball. No, not joke songs, who the hell needs any more of those, I’m talking (again) about things like samples, glitch, white-noise, Bavarian polka, I don’t care, just something to make the stuff stand out, a value-add. I sense a lot of intelligence here, however, and trust that they could weave something wacky into this stuff as long as the whole team’s on board.

Grade: B+

Malefice: Awaken the Tides (Metal Blade Records)

Malefice: Awaken the TidesReviewed by Eric Saeger

Despite the fact that the words “awaken the tides” look like they came together by way of a heavy metal album title randomizer (I know, I know, by “tides” they probably mean “legions of downtrodden blue-collar dudes who’ve finally had enough of The Man’s oppression and are about to, um, I dunno, watch more Meet The Press to, you know, know more stuff, and stuff”), this British lineup has Britishness in its corner, meaning there are melodic, Iommi-style guitar solos and that certain urgent bombast, passages that make you think the tanks and troops are coming right around the corner. Dale Butler’s vocals are right out the Tom Araya outraged-yelling handbook, but wait, calm down, yes, there is Cookie Monster, are you crazy, you can’t have thrash metal without that absolutely groundbreaking sound – it just refuses to get old, doesn’t it? Some math stuff in there for people who hate their own ears, and even something for me, the one-note syncopated groove at the coda of ‘Dead in the Water’ (I hate to let on that I can be kept endlessly entertained by shiny objects, but there you have it).

Grade: B+

Gothsicles: Industrialites and Magic (Wtii Records)

Gothsicles: Industrialites and Magic

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

This Chicago duo-or-however-many-some invented Tosh.0 for the goth scene before there was a Tosh.0. They can be forgiven, then, for fixating on old NES games and internet memes the way twelve-year-old boys worship virus-riddled free-porn sites. Singer Brian DarkNES (that right there is an adorable little jab at Skinny Puppy, in case you’re new) sounds like Weird Al trying to mock Hanzel und Gretyl, his voice cracking as he yells his impotent geek-fetishes from the rooftops, whether the loops be 8-bit (‘Save That Mermaid’, in which he discovers that the Goonies video game is difficult), disposable hardfloor (‘Voicebox Botox’) or Front Line Assembly-esque trance (‘My Guy Died’). So there you have it, cool techno and (honestly hilarious) jokes, its scope limited to the goth kids, whose collective sense of humor, as you may know, would lose most comedy-club battles to any given crew of accountants. And thus it is doomed, though certainly fun (and long, long overdue) while it lasts.

Grade: B+

Forty Winks: Bow Wow (End Sounds)

Forty Winks: Bow Wow

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Every six months or so some foreigner finds my eclectic, willy-nilly output and assumes I’d be super-psyched to receive a big-ass stack of random LPs from their country. Poland, Belarus, Singapore, whatever – they’re always big stacks, CD-case-inserts written in foreign languages all crimped into thin plastic sleeves to save on postage, like a crash-course in the mediocre music of the sender’s country. If I’ve learned anything out of it, it’s that almost no band based in a non-English-speaking country can compete with your basic everyday US/UK/Canada band, but there are exceptions, for instance Forty Winks, an Italian indie-rock band whose name is not, despite what you’re thinking, ironic. The effort here is patchwork-ish, one minute psychedelic skronk (‘Beneath her Feet’), the next a musical mash-note to The Hives (‘Way Out’), but it’s consistently loud throughout, as if they’d just discovered the distortion knob on their Peavey amps, precisely the scenario you’d want to hear in this case.

Grade: A

Correatown: Pleiades (Another Room Recordings)

Correatown: Pleiades

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

As a Californian, Angela Correa routinely winds up on TV and movie soundtracks (Ugly Betty et al, the vocal double for Darlene in Dewey Cox), which is something to envy unless you factor in the conformity that’s required to succeed in such pursuits. Her surf-dream-pop band’s first full-length (she’s done shoegazier solo stuff before) is Raveonettes without the skronk and without the deep dark teen angst, and also sans the sick fetish for Everly Brothers. Correa’s sleepy, zonked-out voice isn’t the least bit new, making this a dream-pop Ramen noodle kit, some strummy Americana guitars, accessible but not astounding hookage, skeletal production, half-hearted attempts at glitch. It’s a DIY effort on Correa’s part, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t a glorified demo for the producers of True Blood or whatnot – is this generation ever going to rebel against anything, or are you really fulfilled selling smartphones and listening to commercial jingles?

Grade: B-

Samiam: Trips (Hopeless Records)

Samiam: Trips

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

The eighth album and third Hopeless Records release from this Berkeley, CA punk crew finds them relaxed in their age but not hurting for slam-dunk old school emo melodies. Matter of fact, there are countless newer bands who would have made one of half these tunes into the showpiece track of their most recent albums (not actually saying much given the track record of bands like Good Charlotte and such). Anyway, think of a more Ramones-ish Thursday and that’s this, in terms of both songwriting and engineering, neither aspect of which is weighted down with overhead here. I could insert a pious tangent here about Green Day, unsung heroism, the gloriousness of ancient straight-edge, etc., but you know the drill – if you’re just looking for a reason to take the plunge and buy this LP, there are plenty, all in the forms of solid, hook-ass songs here.

Grade: A

Jenn Mierau: Hush (Galactique Recordings)

Hush

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Montreal-based Mierau has her google-eyed-chick moves down, but with so many google-eyed chicks around there’s little to do to set oneself apart from the pack but slow it down a little more and get more spacey, which she accomplishes in ‘Hushabye’, a series of half-whispered loops over backward-mask loops and all that stuff. Martina Topley-Bird shouldn’t worry too much in the here and now – Mierau’s strongest track here is a cover of Cure’s ‘Lovesong’, a move not exactly screaming originality from the mountaintop – but she has some formidable strengths, including classical piano training, a fetish for Rhodes (‘Shine’), and a good grasp of what to do with wide-open spaces on trip-hop canvasses (the title track). Grown-up fans of Collide would be all up in this.

Grade: B

Mambo Legends Orchestra: Ten Cuidao! Watch Out! (Zoho Music)

Mambo

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Being the remaining contingent of Tito Puente’s band, Mambo Legends Orchestra is essentially the Latin reply to today’s Count Basie Orchestra, aiming to preserve the vibrancy of 40s/50s core mambo and salsa – there’s no better band to do the job, obviously, than the one on this two-disker. Frankie Vazquez’ heavy/slithery tenor is as authentic as you could hope to encounter in such a preservation project, his vocal on Hugo Gonzalez’ ‘Vamos Pa’l Guateque’ just one of several barrio-authentic turns, a few heartfelt “Hey! Jose!” bromantic shout-outs thrown in to good effect. Like the recent Basie efforts, there’s a little too much empty digital space and antiseptic aftertaste that one doesn’t find on vinyl versions, but I suppose that’s a complaint you could lob at pretty much any genre that wasn’t invented yesterday. Whatever, if you like this genre, this is essential, no question.

Grade: A

Wyld Olde Souls: Ensoulment (My Generation Productions)

Wyld Olde Souls

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

With Florence and the Machine making Grace Slick cool again, it’s important to pay attention to every bunch of second-hand hippy fashion plates that barge in. Album opener ‘Ferris Wheel’ dredges up every 60s acid-pop trick in the book, including an irresistible Spanky And Our Gang vocal round and phase-shifting the whole mix for maximum mushroom effect (they pull that again in the dirgey ‘The Dam’, immediately bringing Zep’s ‘Kashmir’ to mind). The Jerry Garcia-esque solo-flecked ‘Give It To You’ wants to be a female Crosby Stills & Nash, and such-and-so, but if anything sticks out it’s these girls’ love of mellotron, the distinctive prehistoric keyboard that never fooled anyone into thinking it was a full orchestra but died trying – you get it, the Flower Power authenticity level is through the roof. While all this is going on, they give a sideways nod to King Is Dead-era Decembrists with Celtic banger ‘Wyld Maiden’.

Grade: B+

Dida Pelled: Plays and Sings (Indie Europe Records)

Dida Pelled

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

My great hopes for this jazz-guitar record were negated, but that’s a preference thing, so don’t let that stop you if you’re into standards as examined by subdued, dreamy, barely-plugged guitar. Dida Pelled studied at Thelma Yellin High School Of The Arts in Tel Aviv, the go-to school for jazz talent in Israel. That boded well, and my ears were recently enchanted by jazz singer Yaali Ballin, who, like Pelled, is female and Israeli by birth – you get where I’m going, I’m sure, so I was a bit surprised how thuddingly average this stuff was. Pelled’s core vocal sound is similar to Ballin’s but without the range; you’ve probably been disappointed yourself by all the cookie-cut Betty Boop-y backgrounders who’ve taken the Billie Holiday ball and headed for the end zone without a plan B. Obviously you should be thinking of Wes Montgomery, whose ‘Fried Pies’ receives a particularly grating Miles-wannabe trumpet solo out of nowhere, breaking up the until-then liveable chill permeating the entire record, like having a drunk suddenly burst into your yoga class.

Grade: C

Steve Lipman: There’s A Song In My Heart (Locomotion Records)

Steve Lipman

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

What rapturous justice that this Sinatra-loving dentist (from Connecticut!) has released a terrible vanity album that I can torture with impunity! Just like all of you people, I’m staring down the barrel of tens of thousands of dollars of dental work – do all those guys honestly think people have brand new Volkswagens growing wild in their gardens? But anyway, I can dig that even dentists might have garage-band projects, and I don’t begrudge Lipman for sort-of attempting to become some sort of local-cable “Singing Dentist” or whatever this is as long as he never sings at me again, but gawd, the only two things worth a damn here are the song selection (‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’, etc.) and his passable rendition of ‘Fly Me To the Moon’ (at least I wasn’t contemplating mass murder while that one was playing). Past that, Lipman has one tonal color, a dark gray crayon of Steve Lawrence, often off-key in the way of a kindly oaf. I must say furthermore that it’d be nice if dentists wouldn’t make vanity albums with their bloated bank accounts but instead take seriously the concept of “do no harm,” as in finding a way to lower their costs so people wouldn’t die, or even just making patients aware of Ora-MD (a natural oil mixture that actually does stop gum disease in its tracks and won’t poison you with fluoride). Wait, wait, one last one, I can’t resist: would you let Harry Connick do your root canal?

Grade: D

Mike Bloom: King of Circles (Little Record Company)

Mike Bloom

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Though mostly a one-man operation run by a Julian Casablancas solo band associate, this project has a money trail leading to actor Tobey Maguire, who funded it up to the time it was picked up by a new record label from Pierre de Reeder, itself bankrolled in turn by de Reeder’s bass slot with LA child-star band Rilo Kiley. Although that’s enough LA incestuousness to make me puke in my mouth a little, Bloom does seem to want to make some nice southern Americana, with arpeggios and finger-picking wisping around his airy and alienated Thom Yorke tenor on opener ‘Til It’s Over’. Essentially it walks a tightrope over the two opposing sides of Rhett Miller’s last album, not too bar-rock-hard and not too google-eyed-stagnant (even if ‘Afterthought To War’ dawdles a bit before settling on a southern-gothic hook). The songwriting is impressive, reaching deeper levels than you’d associate with your everyday LA hack, this despite ‘Devil’s Island’, an eye-rollingly contrived major-chord strummer that found a soundtrack home on *The Roommate.

Grade: B+

Last Winter: The Heart and the Broken Compass (Six Degrees Records)

Last Winter

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Last Winter have a lot of things not-going for them. One, they’re from Florida. Worse, they’re from Orlando. And last, they’re trying to find safe haven for their unadventurous rawk in the plain-vanilla waters of the emo-rock Bermuda Triangle, hoping to survive the soulless vortex that’s swallowed so many Vans Tour wannabes that, come on, it’s fricking sad, man. Straight-up stuff here, overly compressed guitars, government-issue vocals that’ll be mistaken for Taking Back Sunday as often as for Bowling For Soup. Intro song ‘Copper Bones’ whips out the melodic strength associated with Good Charlotte et al, and then comes ‘Nightlaunch’, a careless fail of filler native to bands that have one song to offer the world. ‘The Northern Lights’ fades out nicely on a spastic fractal, leading into chick-magnet sort-of-ballad “’Neptune’ – basically Avril Lavigne with (a certain amount of) testosterone. Faint signs of life here, but almost nothing to differentiate this lot from any other pack of rich suburban yahoos who’ve ever shown up at a studio brandishing dad’s Amex.

Grade: B-

Karmacoda: Eternal (Sola Musa Music)

Karmacoda

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

This column offers safe haven for all trip-hop comers, even this debatable effort from the stubbornly DIY San Fran threesome. Obviously the fetish is there, being that they kinda-sorta named the band after a Massive Attack tune, so points for fanboyism get chalked up from the get-go. But the electronics are really thin, no bleeps or cavitation or even (despite the annoyingly omnipresent slow-breakbeats and the band’s professed interest in the genre) D’n’B attributes. Drilling down, far from being trip-hop, ‘Into Each Life’ is Mohegan Sun-getaway lounge patter in which Heather Pierce comes off like a Gen Y soccer mom doing a Justin Bieber chilldown. Matter of fact, you know what a lot of this stuff reminds me of, right, is when Gwyneth Paltrow sang with Huey Lewis, and, gahh, kickoff song ‘If You Give It To Me’ is like a toned-down version of Roxette’s ‘She’s Got the Look’. I know, I’m being mean and rotten to this (nicely produced and actually quite pretty at times) album, but there’s a point to my bringing this up, that being a lesson in marketing for DIY bands without major label support. See, pay attention for a second, this could actually be accepted in different circles, like if they dressed the chick in nothing but a few strategically placed pieces of torn cardboard and peddled it to the acid jazz contingent . Cripes, I should offer this as a service and just take the money – my God WTF is wrong with me?

Grade: B-

Arrica Rose and the …s: Let Alone Sea (pOprOck records)

Arrica Rose

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

This stuff is just a few DNA strands away from being something you’d picture your mom doing with her for-the-hell-of-it bar band. Said genetic sequences are comprised of faraway spaghetti guitars, a few puffs of synth, and a debatably desirable gift for Chris Isaak alcoholic-Americana. ‘When The Clouds Hang This Low’ is a dobro-dotted lullaby that winds down in a wintry synth-orchestral bum-out, but if one is really motivated enough to take her up on her publicity bullets, yes, ‘Summer’s Gonna Burn Me’ does exhibit her nebulously professed fetish for throwback torch – like Peggy Lee after too many drinks with Tori Amos, the percussion held down by tom-toms, a phlegmatic “la-di-da” chorus making it a near-Siouxsie exercise. Past that it’s scarily average chill-rock, a vehicle for addressing her quirky, overblown issues, whatever the hell they are.

Grade: C+

In One Wind: How Bright a Shadow (Primary Records)

In One Wind

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Rooted mostly in twee-folk, these too-long-in-the-city Brooklynites erupt in occasional Boredoms no-wave (‘Death By Sea Air’) and play to their inarguable strengths with dweeb-prog (opener ‘Tuck Me in with Bells’), all the while dabbling in the cracks in between and offering singing that should have stayed in the shower, save for a few Anthony Kiedis-like vocal deliveries from leader/guitarist Angelo Spagnolo. It’s like Versus after listening to way too many Yes albums, as urban as a gallery full of unnecessary verist art, but that’s just me talking. Some will hear Belle & Sebastian possessed by The Pixies. What the hell do I know?

[They’re fans of fellow Brooklynites Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective, as far as these ears are concerned – Ed]

Grade: B-

The Front Bottoms: The Front Bottoms (Bar/None Records)

Front Bottoms

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

Microwaving the Dead Milkmen for Generation Text pretty much on schedule, although this unplugged New Jersey guitar/drums punk duo have a darker edge, obsessed not with booger-fingered AIDS jokes but uber-emo concerns, from taking steroids in the hope of impressing a Snooki-like bimbo to the joyful fantasy of beating dad to death with a baseball bat. From what I see, the quandary posed by these two fellers revolves around whether such a thing can be taken seriously, demanding a vague measure of artistic respect while hawking sounds right out of Presidents of the United States of America’s dweeby playbook, Brian Sella’s schoolyard-punchbag vocals evoking Weird Al and not Pavement. Eh, you get it by now, skater-boi tongue-in-cheekiness without a whole lot of humor, an idea mounted on the broken-down deconstructionist vibe that’s common as bong hits at Bonnaroo. Someone’s going to hit this shtick out of the park; may as well be these guys, sure.

Grade: B

Driftwood Fire: How to Untangle a Heartache (self-released)

Driftwood Fire

Reviewed by Eric Saeger

I suppose at the least we can now say it’s no longer a mystery how a pair of chick scientists (as in females utilizing glorified vocational training in various scientific McJobs, not scientists who try to understand chicks) would interpret modern Western-Americana. Their best feature is their Sarah McLachlan yodelling, while their worst is the simplicity with which they handle emotional hues – there’s little real nuance or irony in this touchy-feely granola bucket. Of course, that’s in the ear of the beholder; some might say ‘Small City Nights’ rides monotonous minor chords into a mawkish abyss, others might exclaim something about a “cool Tori Amos impression.” There’s little debate, however, that ‘Let It All Go’ works a few obvious Starbucks-chill-folk angles before suffering from a poorly recorded grunge guitar. Points added for their complete independence, and ‘Backdoor’ is possessed of a settled prettiness one would have wanted for the whole LP, but vanity-release warning bells do go off.

Grade: B-