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Album Reviews Springsteenesque cacophonies and arresting musical vision

This week IAN SINCLAIR reviews albums by Okkervil River, The Flaming Lips, and Aisha Burns

Okkervil River
In the Rainbow Rain
(ATO Records)
★★★★

WHILE their last record was a largely subdued, introspective affair, US indie-rock band Okkervil River’s ninth album is a poppy and relatively bright set. “I hope it’s something fun that makes people feel happier,” says songwriter and lead singer Will Sheff.

As with their mid-2000s career high point, In the Rainbow Rain is full of Sheff’s dense lyrics, many verging on short stories.

Accompanying his words is an often bombastic, Springsteenesque cacophony of sound, including synths, brass, strings and rollicking piano, upping the emotional ante and imbuing everyday tales with world shattering importance — check out The Dream and the Light.

With each song an emotional rollercoaster, opener Famous Tracheotomies is a particular highlight. Name-checking the famous, such as child actor Gary Coleman and Dylan Thomas, who had the surgical procedure, an instrumental refrain of Waterloo Sunset closes the track.

Outstanding.

The Flaming Lips
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition)
(Warner Bros)
★★★★★

WITH 1999’s The Soft Bulletin and 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Oklahoma's spacey indie-rock band The Flaming Lips can lay claim to creating two of the greatest albums of recent times.

This massive 52-track, 3-CD set incudes select songs from these records and their other Warner Bros releases since 1993, as well as studio out-takes, B-sides and unreleased tracks.

Highlights include the carpe diem mega hit Do You Realize?? — “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” — promising early single She Don’t Use Jelly and the kinetic positivity of Race for the Prize.

The Captain, a weighty leftover from The Soft Bulletin, is a revelation, as is the wistful We Can’t Predict The Future, from a 2000 John Peel session.

An exhilarating treasure trove of some of the most experimental, heartfelt and life-affirming popular music every recorded.

Aisha Burns
Argonauta
(Western Vinyl)
★★★

THE SECOND solo album from Texas-born singer-songwriter and violinist Aisha Burns deals with the death of her mother and the start of a serious relationship.

“I’m completely devastated and also in love,” she fantasised about answering when people asked how she was doing, as she didn’t have the courage to speak about her depression.

Adopting a slow-burn Beach House-style pacing, the music conjures up an affectingly gloomy folk-Americana atmosphere, reminiscent of artists like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and The Handsome Family.

This leaves plenty of space for Burns’s extraordinary vocals to sway across each track, her voice moving from graceful and whispering all the way to guttural noises and soaring, full-throated emoting, often all in the same song.

With Would You Come to Me showcasing some delightful finger-picked guitar, strings and layered singing, Argonauta is a singular and arresting musical vision.

 

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