Joshua James
The Sun Is Always Brighter
Intelligent Noise Records LLC/ Northplatte Records
Street: Re-released 06.06
Joshua James = Jason Mraz + Howie Day + Chaz Prymek
Okay, I’ve got to say it. Joshua James is hot. Really hot. Maybe it’s those blue eyes (they’ll get you every time), or perhaps it’s his great jawline, but this is supposed to be an album review, so let me get to the point. His swooning voice and lulling acoustics have made me fall head over heels in almost the same way that I did for Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys when I was in the fourth grade. But seriously, his album has got a good feel to it. In all truthfulness, it’s a bit too precious for my taste, but even in all my cynicism, I can appreciate the earnestness that oozes from the album. This guy wears his heart on his sleeve, and not just when it comes to love. Brighter is full of songs with dark undertones and serious topics like war and substance abuse, and the way they’re performed with such honesty makes them all the more meaningful. Joshua James will make your heart melt.

Navigator
Songs For Mei and Satsuki
Magic Goat Music
Street: 07.22
Navigator = The Future of the Ghost + Arctic Monkeys + The Olivia Tremor Control
This self-recorded album is a wonderful little discovery. Although its running time is hardly longer than twenty minutes, the songs are full of variation that stretch from extreme reverb to quiet acoustics to delicate, tinkling sounds. Upon hearing the first track, I was expecting the album to be a pretty quiet instrumental work throughout. The second track blasted into my eardrums, though with electric guitar, drums and wobbly vocals. Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a CD by its opening track. Braden J McKenna is literally a one-man band. He recorded and performed everything on the album (with the exceptions of track seven and nine where his fifteen-year-old brother plays drums and the trumpet). McKenna’s shivering vocals are similar to those of Salt Lake’s local music guru, Will Sartain. Songs for Mei and Satsuki is brimming with pleasant surprises.

TaughtMe
Lady
Kilby Records (domestic) & OWN Records (foreign)
Street: 09.01 TaughtMe = Built to Spill + Peter & The Wolf + Anthony Green
It starts with a bang and ends with bangs and bells. A story unfolds throughout this earthy-electro album, and it’s one you’ll want to pay close attention to. At times it’s quiet, other times it’ll shout at you. There’s a dreamlike quality present throughout that makes you feel as if you’re drifting out to sea in a small paddle boat. You’re anxious for what awaits, but still, there’s a calm that wraps itself around you. At least that’s sort of how it went for me the first time I listened to the album. TaughtMe’s vocalist provides a diverse performance, whether he’s singing alone or backed up by other vocalists, as on the song “Lady.” Apart from the vocals and lyrics, it’s the overall synthesizing quality that sets it apart from others of its genre , although I’m not exactly sure if Lady falls under just one musical category. It’s an eclectic album you can listen to while drifting off to sleep or with eyes wide open, and I suggest you do one, if not both, of those two things.

Chaz Prymek
Bicycles & Breakfast
Self-Released
Street: 08.01
Chaz Prymek = Iron & Wine – vocals + Andres Segovia
Bicycles and Breakfast is a followup to Prymek’s Everything Is Wrong, Everything Is Fine, and is music to my ears. Prymek could not have chosen a better title to describe the pleasant feeling that overcame me when I leaned back, closed my eyes and listened. It’s the little things that make this album really tick, like the shattering glass in the background of “To Kill A Man With Two J’s In His Name” intermingled with trumpets and of course, the prominent guitar that sweeps over everything toward the end of the song. Like the former album, Bicycles and Breakfast is mainly instrumental, except for the “secret” track of the album. Another bonus is that each album cover is unique and hand-drawn, so no two covers are alike. Bicycles & Breakfast enters a new realm of experimentation and beauty that’s not easy to find these days.