THE GHOST OF A SABER TOOTH TIGER
On their latest album, Midnight Sun, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, which is the project of partners Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, have produced an expansive, cinematic album that takes the listener on a musical journey that begins forty to fifty years ago. It is an album that is whimsical at times, maddenly psychedelic at other times, and groovy and funky on other occasions. Simply put, GOASTT’s second LP is an excellent album that shimmers and roars on its psychedelic tracks and creates a dreamy mood on its more melodic tracks.
Besides the sounds created by the guitars, keys, drums, and the occasional sitar and the complementary voices of Lennon and Muhl, Midnight Sun’s success comes from the imaginative writing of the duo. Like a great book, Lennon and Muhl are able to paint vivid landscapes, create amusing characters, and establish surprising plot lines with each song.
“Poor Paul Getty” and “Don’t Look Back Orphesus”, two of the album’s 70s-inspired folk-pop tunes, best exemplify Lennon and Muhl’s storytelling. “Orphesus”, in particular, would fit right at home in a Tim Burton film (maybe Johnny Depp and Helena Bontham Carter could star in the video). “Xanadu”, “Midnight Sun”, and “Devil You Know” are sizzling psych-rock songs that will have you roaring. “Animals”, meanwhile, is a zany, psych-pop tune with an equally quirky (and NSFW) video.
“Last Call” echoes of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club with its theatrical flourishes and circus-like feel (there are even references to a unicorn and the yellow brick road). “Great Expectations” is a funky, psych-pop tune that is haunting and engrossing at the same time.
Midnight Sun is more than just an album – it is an experience. It is fun and moody, it’s arty yet accessible, and it’s vivid and imaginative. Come the end of the year and when we look back on all the great music created in 2014, Lennon and Muhl’s album might just stand out as being among the most creative and daring.
***Not Safe for Work****
Somewhere in Dublin, J.P. Kallio is strumming his guitar and writing another song that brings us back to the ’70s and ’80s and the folk-blues that permeated throughout that time. Earlier this year, the Finnish-born Kallio released his debut LP, Northern Boy, and in June he will release his second album, Read Between the Lines.
Like some of the great contemporary singer-songwriters – such as Jason Isbell, Beck, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, etc. – Kallio’s songs are personal and his lyrics are poignant. They reflect on times of loneliness and lost on the most important family holiday (“November”), redemption (“Northern Boy”), coping with lost love (“Compulsive Songwriting Disorder”, which is a great title), and watching a friend or mate battle with addiction (“It Ain’t Easy”).
Kallio’s music isn’t rocking by any means – the songs are melodic, but each one is sincere and private. The songs are about experiences many of us are able to relate to and possibly even live through right now. Kallio’s ability to capture the conflicting emotions we all face each day is his strongest asset, and something that only a few singer-songwriters have been able to master.