Natasha D’Agostino’s Endings Rarely Are is the kind of album that can be damned with faint praise.
That is, there are so many things to like about the record but…
D’Agostino sings well, her accompanists read her well, and her own production indicates she knew what she wanted.
It’s comfortable and breezy with the scat-sung Flutter, the opening track, floating by and establishing the mood.
Maybe it’s too comfortable. There’s no push here. That might be the fault of D’Agostino as her own producer. She doesn’t demand much of herself or her trio. Guitarist David Blake, for example, is a stylist who seldom varies his approach from song to song. It’s a good approach but it becomes predictable by fourth track, Sorrow Song. So, for that matter, is D’Agostino, a stylist, exploring scat. The four of them settle into a groove and sound and stay there, although bearing down a bit during I’ve Never Been In Love Before
So the listener isn’t challenged because D’Agostino doesn’t challenge herself. Endings Rarely Are is a pleasant way to spend 45 jazz-flavoured minutes but doesn’t offer more.
Then again, as the title suggests, this isn’t the end.
Give credit to Anders Eriksson. He grew up with the rock of the 80s and 90s and has stuck with it.
His Man On Fire avoids modern beats a la hip hop, skips electronic pop and eschews anything that might be considered trendy. At the same time, Man On Fire isn’t retro as Eriksson isn’t recreating anything specific by time, look, or sound. It’s a conglomeration of a lot of things from Bon Jovi to U2, yet none of them. It just sounds like it came from another time.
This goes back to my old complaint that the recording industry is fickle and lacks imagination. While it moves on to the next trend, many music fans are left behind wondering where their music went. It’s still there, being made by people such as Eriksson, but it’s getting harder to find. Or the act must find it. A Vancouver band, Renegade, is doing just that, promoting to an audience that wants Renegade. Radio play and conventional marketing are things long past.
Man On Fire roars out of the gate with thunderous drums and chugging rhythm guitar that skirts metal.. Before the record finishes Eriksson drops in piano, pads his arrangements with synths. Melodically he is reminiscent of Def Leppard (another act that isn’t hip but which is faring well). Vocally, there is a cross section of Joe Elliott and Bon Jovi. The closest Eriksson gets to a current trend is Dreams but even this nod to electro is more like something Ultravox might have done in the 1980s. Still The Same is hip hop on Eriksson’s terms The nearest he gets to a ballad is For Less Than Stellar Crimes but even this has a heavy rock dynamic. So it isn’t that Man On Fire is unaware; more that this is an honest expression of Anders Eriksson.