Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: A cool quartet of home brewed offerings.
There's been a flurry of superb local releases lately, proving that South Florida's hitting some right notes. Four albums in particular offer cause to celebrate the wealth of our diverse sounds. These include a bunch of guys you've probably heard of, scene staples, if you will. And though we may not get the attention we deserve down here all of the time, there's an abundance of really listenable music being made on this peninsula that isn't Rick Ross.
As always, at the top of the local list, one finds Fernando Perdomo, omnipresent musician, local entrepreneur and the singer/songwriter who helms the prolific outfit Dreaming in Stereo. Fernando apparently lives in California these days, but considering his involvement in the local scene and his ongoing musical presence, we'll still consider him a homeboy. On his latest offering, and, remarkably, first solo album ever, Home Is Wherever You Are, he takes ;a dramatically different tack than he pursued under the Dreaming in Stereo banner. Whereas his work with the band tends to glean from British rock forebears -- the Beatles, ELO and the like -- these sounds veer more to the mainstream, given its symphony of strings and orchestrated arrangements.
On opening track "Home," Perdomo adopts a soaring, wide-eyed wail, while the enticing "Lazy" gives ample cause to stay in bed and shut out the world. Still, despite its brevity, this is an ambitious venture to be sure, one that spotlights Fernando's finesse when it comes to crafting larger than life motifs. Here's reason to give a fervent welcome to home.
If ever there was an apt title for an album, then the Lee Boys' latest -- Testify -- would have to take the prize. A revved up and celebratory set of songs, it affirms their penchant for old school soul and a gospel-tinged attitude. The sextet, led by three Miami-bred brothers who, of course, share the last name Lee, sparks an instant celebration from the get-go -- thanks to opening tracks "Smile" and "Going to Glory" -- and doesn't let up from that point on.
Spiking the proceedings with ample dashes of funk and frenzy, they punctuate the proceedings with whoops, rhythm, and harmony. Oftentimes they bring to mind Robert Randolph and company, thanks in large part to their use of pedal steel in a similarly knowing delivery. There's no way to keep still listening to this gem, and even if one's a non-believer, it's all but impossible not to suck up the spirit regardless. Testify indeed.
Chris Alvy could be considered a veteran of the South Florida scene, with a resume that stretches back well over a decade to the 1990s. Since his signing with Fernando Perdomo's Forward Motion Records label, he seems to have stepped up his game by effectively reinventing himself as a reborn rocker. Not that he's never laid claim to that status before, but his recent efforts have clearly amped up his intents and retooled his hooks to evoke a prime power pop approach.
His new album, Art Noise, previously released in an abbreviated version under the aegis of the Chris Alvy Band, has him sharing the marquee with a band dubbed the Super Fuzz, but with Alvy taking the role of guitarist and lead singer -- as well as prime co-composer -- his imprint is firmly etched all over. Happily then, Art Noise not only lives up to its description, but Alvy's brand as well, given its abundance of effusive rockers and melodies that yield to old school indulgence. The title track, for example, sounds like Cheap Trick operating on all cylinders, and "Love" purveys a faint psychedelic sheen. Likewise, "Something's Missing" resembles nothing less than a Badfinger track that's been lost to the ages. A fine effort by Alvy and crew, it's easy to consider Art Noise his best noise yet.
I can never resist the temptation to tease Roger Houdaille and company about their communal handle, Ex Norwegian, although I console them with the fact I felt their earlier incarnation, Father Bloopy, sounded equally odd. At this point, my comments have become more than redundant, given that the music contained on the band's recent series of fine albums more than make up for my misgivings about their moniker. And indeed, Ex Norwegian's latest, simply titled House Music, finds them amping up their musical muscle and boldly coming into their own.
Houdaille's obvious fondness for retro rock devices doesn't so much dominate the proceedings, as it serves to affirm his own instincts when it comes to brash, high energy, over-the-top indulgence. There's a time-tested feel to the set overall, beginning with "Original Copy," a track that sounds like it was culled from the Velvet Underground's initial outings and ending up with "Have a Coffee on Us,' With its pervasive jangle. "Join the Fray" and "Tong As In Pete" heighten the intensity level and significantly add to the tumult. All in all, this makes for an explosive display, even prior to delving into the half dozen bonus tracks that extend the set. Suffice it to say, this Ex Norwegian makes the former brethren proud.
Fernando Perdomo performs at 7 p.m. on November 3, Magic City Casino, 450 NW 37th Ave., Miami.
The Lee Boys album release party with Teri Catlin at 9 p.m. on November 17, the Funky Biscuit, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Royal Palm Place, Boca Raton.
Ex Norwegian plays at 10 p.m. on November 6, Kill Your Idol, 222 Española Way, Miami Beach.
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