Erin McKeown, Manifestra – Beth and I first saw McKeown perform live with the now-disgraced Jian Ghomeshi. She does catchy folk-pop music with some hints of jazz and an old-fashioned sensibility. We’ve followed her career since then, but didn’t get her 2013 album until recently. The songs on here are largely political in theme, but no less enjoyable for that. “The Jailer,” which addresses illegal immigration from Mexico, kind of reminds me of “Rascal” from her last album. The title song is sort of a beat poetry thing, which she’s done several times in the past. “Instant Classic,” which strikes me as an appropriate title for the song, has Erin doing a duet with Ryan Montbleau. “That’s Just What Happened” is a song about New Orleans with an appropriately jazzy sound. “Baghdad to the Bayou,” a call for accountability in politics, was co-written with MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow. I had previously seen a video of the two of them on stage together, which is kind of weird as they have a similar look, but McKeown is tiny and Maddow tall.
Rasputina, Unknown – Melora Creager, the driving force behind the band and its only lasting member, has been discussing being hacked and stalked recently. I don’t know how true it is, and I’m certainly not saying there isn’t real trauma involved, but it’s a little weird when she tries to claim Jack White might be behind it. I can’t help but wonder if her performing character has seeped into her actual personality. Regardless, this new album was apparently recorded in her basement. I don’t know whether that means it’s only her or whether other parts were recorded elsewhere and edited in, but it wasn’t released as a solo album. The style is pretty similar to her earlier material, gothic psychedelic cello-based rock with bizarre lyrics, and it still works. There’s a clear theme of paranoia throughout the record. “Pastoral Noir” is a mostly-spoken story about asking questions of Pan, presumably the Greek god. It uses vocal manipulation to represent the different characters. “Unicorn Horn Mounted,” another one with some conversation between different voices, seems to use the horn as a metaphor for Melora’s recent experiences, surviving but feeling violated. “Emily Dickinson’s Trophy Envelope” is another one of Melora’s pieces that puts real or previously established fictional people into a surreal situation, in this case some sort of relationship between Dickinson and the Wizard of Oz. Hmm, two people who were known for being reclusive for considerable periods of time. I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. “Psychopathic Logic” is about just what it says on the tin. At least as of now, you can only buy this album through this website.