An album years in the making tops the latest roundup of Vegas music releases:
Mama Zeus, “Mama Zeus” (facebook.com/mamazeus band): The passing of time greatly informs this long-awaited record from a band whose time once appeared to be past.
“I only hear the clock tick,” singer Nicole Sottile confesses on the album opening “Umbrella,” and who could blame her?
After establishing itself as a band of considerable promise and a strong local draw in the early ’90s, Mama Zeus eventually broke up in 2003, got back together eight years later and has finally readied what should be its definitive disc — only to have ace guitarist Charlie Vantine since relocate to upstate New York.
No matter. “Mama Zeus” belies the band’s tough luck by taking the weight of expectations and sublimating it into seven songs that all sound like potential singles. Sottile has a strong, supple voice whose upper register she occasionally tests, such as on dusky slow burn “Desiree,” while guitarists Vantine and Bill McCleary add muscle to the band’s ringing pop rock, soloing like they’re auditioning for a Guns N’ Roses cover band in places.
“I dreamed the ending,” Sottile sings over cresting guitars on the climactic “Falling,” but really, this sounds more like a beginning.
Pale Antique, “And All Our Woe” (paleantique.bandcamp.com): Joshua Chevere Cohen sings of ghostly shapes on the debut EP from this new Vegas music collective, and his voice frequently takes on those dimensions, haunting these viola-abetted death waltzes and saturnine chamber pop processionals.
Grim and gorgeous-sounding at once, “Woe” lives up to its title, with Cohen singing of the constancy of helplessness, sounding like David Bowie after his dog just died on “The Third Reich of Dreams,” his voice perking up just a bit on “Cherub Bomb,” where sprightly piano brightens those otherwise dark corners.
Consisting of members of groups like Candy Warpop, The Bounty Hunter Brothers, Ides Quartet and HiFi-Reactor, Pale Antique’s lineup seems fluid and open-ended.
The same could be said of their songs thus far.
Valyermo, “Long Ride Down” (valyermo.bandcamp .com): The album cover is a picturesque shot of the desert, and the songs are just as beautiful and desolate as such a visual implies.
That dusty, surf-meets-country one-man-band is the recording project of Richard Polk whose guitar playing, like Ry Cooder’s, is as expressive as his words, especially on the aching ballad “Alkali Flats” and the acoustic lament “Farewell, Western Belle.”
He picks up the pace on the reverb-saturated instrumentals “Roswell Rodeo” and “Zzyzx” and the outlaw testimonial “Ranchero Supreme.” The latter begs the question, is there such a thing as garage country? There is now.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.