Path - Undefined
Spurred by the success of the rotating concert series/arts collective Tha Movement, neo-soul and its various offshoots might be Memphis' most fertile musical growth industry right now. The scene has added another potential star in the form of Candice Ivory, a 21-year-old former vocalist for popular local band CYC, who wrote, arranged, and produced the vast majority of this extremely promising debut album.
At its core, Path - Undefined is a vocal jazz album (a genre whose commercial prospects have been considerably heightened in the wake of Norah Jones, of course), with elements of neo-soul, rock, and hip-hop. A recent student at the New School University in New York (where Path - Undefined was recorded last summer and fall), Ivory flashes considerable chops on the record's most straightforward vocal-jazz cuts, floating around her band's low-key atmospherics like a butterfly on the title track and "Mama Said To Let Him Go," the former an opening meditation that flirts with Oprah-style self-help-speak without going over the edge. ("I'm at this crossroads in my life/Should I go left or should I go right," Ivory sings at the outset.)
While Ivory handles this material with aplomb, she refuses to be pigeonholed on Path - Undefined. "Schoolgirl Crush" reverberates with echoes of Brazil, while Ivory has the confidence to end the album with a self-penned instrumental bop number that she doesn't actually play on ("Proximity").
The richly percussive "You Don't Have To Say It Back," where Ivory accompanies herself on piano, is adventurous but also radio-ready neo-soul. And the romantic duet "Searchin'," where the light dexterity of Ivory's jazz-schooled vocals blends with the insistent straight-soul style of partner Tony James, is almost as successful. Later in the album, Ivory goes for a more intimate feel, stripping her sound down to only guitar and acoustic bass for the paired all-nighter "Late Night Quarrel" and "Morning Light."
But the highlight of Path - Undefined may be "Scorpio Song," which melds rock and hip-hop onto Ivory's sound. Ivory opens testifying to a would-be lover over some portentous guitar and drum interplay, the music opening up with a chorus that demands, "I want you to feel pain like I feel it/Hurt like I do." It's a track where you might expect the tension to be resolved by a guitar solo, which sort of happens, but not before the object of Ivory's ire gets his own response in the form of a rapped verse from collaborator Akil Dasan.
At nine tracks in 50 minutes, the songs on Path - Undefined frequently stretch past six minutes, and some may wish that the elegant atmospherics that come from the record's jazz pedigree would give way more often to such tangible joys as head-bobbing beats and bass lines; in other words, that she'd explore her hip-hop, soul, and rock sides more, a feeling underscored by seeing Ivory live with her local band over the weekend.
Quibbles aside, Ivory is a dynamic, earthy, likable live performer and one who, with Path - Undefined, has delivered one of the more exciting local debuts in recent memory.
Candice Ivory has three performances scheduled this weekend to celebrate the release of Path - Undefined: She'll perform at Precious Cargo (show time: 8 p.m.) Friday, January 16th; at Tower Records (show time: 3 p.m.) Saturday, January 17th; and as part of Tha Movement at Prime Minister's later that night (show time: 9 p.m.).
A local punk fixture for the past few years, the Final Solutions make a proper album debut this month with Disco Eraser, a raw, blistering, high-speed mix of tribal punk-rock drums, shrieking synths, runaway-train guitars, and barked (or sometimes yelped) vocals.
At 14 tracks in a mere 22 minutes, Disco Eraser's stun-gun songs stay around just long enough to give the listener a jolt but not so long that the effects lose their power. Only "Eat Shit, Hologram" inches above the two-minute mark at a comparatively epic 2:01. But the band also laces this formula with more than a few surprises, such as the danceable garage-rock wallop and almost-pretty vocal hook on "I See You on a Path" or the hand-clap break that underlines "No Final Solution."
The band's at least theoretically controversial moniker seems to derive from the Rocket from the Tombs/Pere Ubu proto-punk classic of the same name, which would only make sense. This band's off-kilter and defiantly untrendy approach to post-punk rock owes a great debt to those seminal Cleveland bands. --CH
?The Final Solutions perform at Murphy's Saturday, January 17th, with the Dutch Masters and the Coke Dares.
(Guerrilla Monster Films)
Local auteur John Michael McCarthy has a nice line in nudie exploitation films. (Actually, his cool flicks are more "nekkid" than nude; lots of gratuitous skin shown for no socially redeemable reason.) This is the soundtrack to his latest entry in the field, Broad Daylight. Rather than serving as a pale sonic afterthought, this soundtrack turns out to be a great throwaway compilation and a fitting introduction to McCarthy's newest project, a garage-rock Internet record label where the consumer can pick and choose tunes from a burgeoning catalog of musical artistes. (See McCarthy's Web site, GuerrillaMonsterFilms.com, for more details later in the year.)
On Broad Daylight, you get gal-group rockabilly from the Sophisticats and the Gore Gore Girls, a great remake of Flash & the Casuals' Memphis classic "Uptight Tonight" by the Reigning Sound, Joan Jett-style rawk from the Buxotics, and a really spirited version of the old chestnut "Nighttime" by the Bluff City's Grown-Up Wrongs. Every song on the record is tuneful and playable, which is surely a first for any kind of garage compilation. Let's hope McCarthy not only keeps showing and shooting skin but can get his record label off the ground if it's going to be anywhere as tasty as this soundtrack.--Ross Johnson