Open Air Currents: Wet Leg, John Cragie, Lucius, Envy of None, Game Under
Each week we review hundreds of releases from a wide variety of musicians. Here are a few of the new albums you'll hear on Open Air this week.
Wet Leg—Wet Leg
Since releasing their song Chaise Longue last December, Wet Leg, a band from the Isle of Wight founded by Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, has become an international sensation. They even landed a Tiny Desk Concert. Their upbeat, gritty sound may take you back to the '90s and bands like The Offspring, with shades of ironic punk and absurd innuendo like early Beck. This album is fun, light-hearted and ridiculously catchy.
John Craigie—Mermaid Salt
Pacific Northwest singer songwriter John Craigie has a new release with songs created during the pandemic when a lot of artists were able to slow down and stretch out without so much energy spent on touring. These new tracks are a little more musically involved than his previous releases while remaining subtle and understated. Combined with his storytelling, the tracks make you want to pull up a seat and listen more closely. The break out single Helena is a tragic ghost story about revenge, like an X-Files episode with great background music. The main character is based on his previous release Montana Tale. If you listen closely you can hear the Shook Twins providing fittingly haunting background vocals.
Envy Of None—Envy Of None
Envy of None is billed as the new project from Alex Lifeson, the legendary guitarist from the progressive rock band Rush. He joined forces with a singer from Portland, Maiah Wynne. While you will hear ethereal, expansive rock sounds and psychedelia, a little like the Rush albums from the '80s, Signals and Grace Under Pressure, it is not an attempt to sound like Rush. In fact, Lifeson joined the band after Wynne and bassist Andy Curran were already working on the album. Maiah Wynne is known for her orchestral folk and atmospheric sounds. Her breathy vocals are woven nicely into the larger rock sound of Envy of None.
Game Under—It's Not Over
Game Under is an indie folk duo from Michigan out with their first release, the DIY ep It's Not Over. The project began during difficult times in 2020. The origin of their name, they say, was an attempt at gallows humor. "'Game over? More like game under' was our half-serious, half-joking response to the times we were living through." The result, is a collection of very personal, sparse folk tunes with multi-layered vocals and strings throughout most of the collection. The song I Love You But brings a surprise, morphing into a big indie rock banger about a toxic relationship.
There are days on Open Air when you hear the phrase "featuring Lucius" several times. Lucius singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig have worked with Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Brandi Carlile (who, along with Dave Cobb, produced Second Nature), Jeff Tweedy, John Prine, Sheryl Crow, War on Drugs, Mavis Staples, and recently toured in Roger Waters' band. Though produced by Carlile and Cobb, known for more of a Nashville sound, this album is bright and poppy and sounds more like Studio 54 than the Grand Ole Opry. The album kicks off with the title cut, a funky danceable tune that acts as a keynote for the others. It slows down with the third track, 24, which begins a cappella with the signature harmonies that helped put them in such high demand. Like Wet Leg, Second Nature, provides some much needed levity during stressful times.
Next week we're looking at new releases from Charlie Crockett and Kurt Vile.
Open Air is curated and hosted by Noah Bran-Linsday, Danielle Kelly and Dave Jackson. It airs weekdays 9am-3pm on JPR's Rhythm and News Service.