Millvale-bound Jayhawks release another fine album
‘Paging Mr. Proust’
The Jayhawks (Thirty Tigers)
Paging Jayhawks fans: The Americana band of renown has returned with a timeless gem that belongs among the best of the group and its loose, expansive genre.
“Paging Mr. Proust” kicks off with a one-two punch that’s a good guide for the rest of the collection. The leadoff, “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces,” shimmers with a beauty and familiarity that wouldn’t have been out of place on the band’s “Tomorrow the Green Grass” or “Rainy Day Music.” It’s followed by “Lost the Summer,” which equally rocks, but the jangle is replaced with a slightly less common funky syncopation and distortion.
Gary Louris, who leads a band that’s cohesive despite the at-times acrimonious comings and goings of absent co-founder Mark Olson and others, revels in musical dichotomy: For every song that’s straightforward and clean (the first track and “Isabel’s Daughter”), there’s something more crooked and cacophonous (“Pretty Roses in Your Hair” and “Ace”).
There’s plenty of polishing of the Americana apple here. But now in their fourth decade, The Jayhawks also want to expand the frontier, as REM did for 31 years before hanging it up. Appropriately, the album is co-produced by former REM guitarist Peter Buck and features musical appearances by Buck, his ex-bandmate Mike Mills and other REM associates.
“Paging Mr. Proust” finds a band supremely confident of where it’s been, where it is and, one hopes, will be.
The Jayhawks perform at 8 p.m. May 15 at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $22. Details: 412-821-4447 or mrsmalls.com
The Lumineers (Dualtone)
Before going straight to Billboard’s No. 1 album spot with this sophomore release last week, the usually chipper, now moody Colorado campfire folk-rock band was known as the headlining act for HBO’s fictional “Girls” duo Desi and Marnie. The Lumineers’ cheerful demeanor and jumpy, rustic aesthetic on singles such as “Ho Hey” made them perfect for a barnstorming in Bushwick.
Things changed, however, for this second record. Outside of the strummy title track and the swivel-hipped Shakespearean twist on “Ophelia,” it’s as though the Denver trio refused to look backward (except in anger), lest they be turned to salt.
Part of that holy-rolling thought process — their country-gospel lean — was nicely apparent on their eponymous first record. This time out, singing songwriters Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums) with cellist Neyla Pekarek find churchy, atmospheric swells and funereal tempos on mournful tunes such as the apolitical “Gun Song” and the aptly titled “Patience,” with Schultz occasionally sounding like a Nico-era Jackson Browne.
There’s room for love (“Angela”) and weird lust (the blue “Sick in the Head”) on “Cleopatra,” but mostly what there’s room for within its sonic palette is more room — a spacious, spare quality that may not feel contagious but that sneaks up on you with every listen.