Music Reviews: February 2016

The latest from Thrushes, Charm City Junction, and Symphony One.

By Lydia Woolever - February 2016

Music Reviews: February 2016

The latest from Thrushes, Charm City Junction, and Symphony One.

By Lydia Woolever - February 2016


Thrushes
Exposing Seas (New Granada Records)

This Baltimore band is aptly named. Thrushes are small, simply colored songbirds known for their sweet, sometimes-melancholy sounds, and this four-person flock is known for its similarly sweet brand of somewhat-melancholy music, under the genre of shoegaze pop. Like those little birds, this band has caught the attention of local passersby, becoming a regional favorite for more than a decade now with its heart-aching homage to late ’80s, early ’90s alt-rockers like Mazzy Star, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, and My Bloody Valentine. This past fall, after a half-decade hiatus, the band returned with a new record—its fourth—on which lead singer Anna Conner’s low, longing voice lilts as softly as ever between the thick-as-molasses reverb of grunge guitar. The album is steeped in that beautiful contrast, and, through roaring rock anthems (“Joan of Arc”), badass breakup ballads (“Salt & Stone”), and rumbling nostalgic knockouts (“Katydid”), Thrushes reasserts itself as a band that never left—and one that is certainly here to stay. We could listen to “Night” any day.


Charm City Junction
Charm City Junction (Patuxent Music)

From local legends like Caleb Stine and Bumper Jacksons to talented newcomers like Letitia VanSant and The Manly Deeds, the Baltimore folk and bluegrass scene has grown into a mighty, talented guild that won’t be putting its fiddles down anytime soon. Meet the newest addition: Charm City Junction, which released its debut album this past fall. The young acoustic quartet combines traditional instruments—namely accordion, banjo, fiddle, and upright bass—into a pretty, pastoral medley of Celtic, folk, and bluegrass music. Largely instrumental with perfectly placed vocal passages throughout, the group has an accomplished sound that’s well beyond the players’ years. At times, the songs are pure backwoods Americana (“Last Chance”), straight-up Appalachian mountain music (“Frog on a Lily Pad”), or the kind of boot-scootin’ stomp heard at a country dance (“Train on The Island”). At others, they’re old-timey and Irish, evoking the plucky ditties of a cozy corner pub (“Torn Jacket”) or some seaside ballad from the shores of Galway Bay (“Joe Bane’s Barndance”). It’s the perfect music for the approaching spring days.


Symphony Number One
Symphony Number One (self-released)

In an era of uncertainty for orchestras across the country, we are pleased to introduce Symphony Number One (SNO), the latest addition to Baltimore’s already accomplished classical music scene. SNO isn’t simply the stuff of white-haired, blue-blooded music halls; instead, it looks forward, forging a road ahead by combining great compositions of the past with expert performers of the present and promising composers of the future. Founded in 2014, the 30-member collective (many from Peabody) has just released its debut album, Symphony Number One. It starts in the late 1700s, with Mozart’s bright Concerto for Flute and Harp, before moving into the 19th century, with Gabriel Fauré’s graceful Pavane, which acts as a tribute to innocent lives lost as the album was recorded at the Baltimore War Memorial in the days following the Freddie Gray unrest last spring. Though we didn’t want it to end, the album finishes in the future, with the world premiere of Pittsburgh composer Mark Fromm’s Symphony No. 1, a dark opus that twists and turns in an ominous instrumentation that will haunt us for some time to come. See the ensemble perform April 2 at the inaugural Light City festival and look out for its second album, coming this month.

See our Q&A with Symphony One founder Jordan Randall Smith.





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