California Sounds: New music from Haim, Alex Ebert and La Santa Cecilia
Haim, “Right Now (Live)” (Columbia). The first new track from Haim’s forthcoming album, “Something to Tell You,” arrived last week courtesy of a music video by director Paul Thomas Anderson.
A slow-grooving neo-R&B song that suggests the three Haim sisters steering toward the contemporary pop center without sacrificing their musical identity, “Right Now” bubbles with minimalist invention.
Recorded live and shot at Valentine Recording Studio in North Hollywood, the clip puts viewers in the studio with close, intimate shots of singer Danielle sitting at a grand piano, bassist Este offering foundation a few feet away and Alana delivering a few menacing guitar riffs at a key moment. (Warning: there’s an incidental cuss at the end of the video below.)
The song concludes with a rhythmic breakdown, one that gracefully unfolds with musical precision and through the eye of director Anderson. We watch as Este sets aside her bass, grabs some drum sticks and walks to some tom-toms, followed soon thereafter by Alana. The song peaks just before it ends, as if skidding to a halt a few inches from the cliff’s edge.
Alex Ebert, “Broken Record” (Community). Best known as the singer of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Ebert wanders afield on this captivating new single.
Now based in New Orleans, the artist rose to success in Los Angeles as part of the dance-punk band Ima Robot before assuming the Edward Sharpe identity and forming the Magnetic Zeros in the mid-00s. As a composer, Ebert won the Golden Globe for his original score to the 2013 film “All Is Lost.”
“Broken Record” doesn’t sound like anything else in his oeuvre. One reason is his co-producer here, Mark Bingham. A master of atmospherics, Bingham and Ebert shroud his voice with washes of delicate percussion, echoed guitar (courtesy of Magnetic Zeros member Nico Aglietti) and tinkled bells, and the result is a certain intimacy. A soprano saxophone gusts in like a humid breeze, courtesy of Joe Cabral (the Iguanas, Subdudes).
The song is the first single from an unspecified project born of heartbreak, he said in notes accompanying the release. He called it “the first of a whole thing. Not an album. An adventure. I’m leaning out. I can’t speak for other people right now. Just myself.” Fair enough.
La Santa Cecilia, “Amar y Vivir” (Rebeleon Entertainment/UMG). For their new album, the Grammy-winning Los Angeles band traveled to Mexico City to perform classic boleros and rancheras, as well as songs by Mexican rock band Cafe Tacuba, the late singer and songwriter Juan Gabriel and soul vocalist Smokey Robinson.
Recorded across five days at various indoor and outdoor locations in Mexico City, the result celebrates the band’s heritage with a kind of warm, familial embrace. The group is issuing “Amar y Vivir” as an audio-visual album, with each track accompanied by a site-specific performance.
Translated as “to love and to live,” the title track was written by Consuelo Velázquez, best known for penning the standard “Besame Mucho.” Like that song, “Amar y Vivir” is about passion, but that should be obvious after the first few syllables of La Santa Cecilia vocalist La Marisoul’s interpretation. Each phrase arrives as if wrapped in velvet.
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