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MUSIC Album reviews with Ian Sinclair: June 22, 2020

Latest releases from Phoebe Bridgers, RVG and Erroll Garner

Phoebe Bridgers
Punisher
(Dead Oceans)
★★★

RIDING a wave of critical acclaim since her 2017 debut record and more recent work in two indie rock super groups — the all-woman Boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center with Conor Oberst — 25-year old Phoebe Bridgers returns with this solo album, which she describes as a set full of songs about the impact love has on our lives rather than love songs.

The Californian singer-songwriter clearly has bags of talent, with emotionally raw lyrics and a deceptively strong voice on tracks like the upbeat single Kyoto.

And she drops some brilliant turns of phrase, with the first line of the quietly pulsing Halloween lamenting: “I hate living by the hospital.”But the record feels a bit of a mess sound-wise. There aren’t a huge number of memorable melodies and the very busy production often seems to drown out Bridgers’s beguiling vocals.

RVG
Feral
(Fire Records)

★★★★

WITH their second long-player, Melbourne four-piece RVG have made a near-perfect indie guitar pop album.

There is little fat here, just great songs. Check out the emotional hit of I Used to Love You and the rush of Little Sharky and the White Pointer Sisters’s opening lines: “Well I spoke to Brando/And I spoke to Chrissie Hynde.”

The Go-Betweens and The Smiths are both cited as touchstones, which makes sense — there are some gorgeous chiming guitar and lyrical smarts.

Asteroid is inspired by a transformative moment in the life of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, while Alexandra concerns the difficulties trans frontwoman Romy Vager had telling her own family about her life — and the trials of trans people around the world: “They set fire to people like you.”

Romantically intense and with a real swagger, Feral is an exceptional album.

Erroll Garner
Feeling Is Believing
(Octave Music)
★★★★

BEST-known for his best-selling and swinging 1955 live record Concert By The Sea, US jazz pianist Erroll Garner was a legend in his own lifetime, though arguably he never quite received the critical acclaim he deserved.

A 1970 album of reinterpretations of popular songs, Feeling Is Believing is one of 12 Garner albums being restored and rereleased and it will hopefully raise the profile of the self-taught maestro a little. The song choices, such as The Look Of Love and The Supremes’ You Turned Me Around, very much feel like an attempt to stay relevant.

But what could have been embarrassing turns out to be a wonderful showcase of Garner’s distinctive talent, with his playing inventive, lively and accessible. The Beatles’ Yesterday is transformed into a bluesy stomp, while he blasts through Stevie Wonder’s For Once In My Life.
A joyous set.

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