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'Nevermind I Love You'

by Annalibera

Annalibera’s "Nevermind I Love You," set for release in March from the Des Moines-based Sump Pump Records label, is a beautiful, haunting collaboration between some of Iowa’s best musical talents.

The heart of the album is Anna Gebhart’s powerful but airy vocals that float effortlessly across full octaves. Her reverberating vocals, haunting keyboard accompaniment, strings arranged by Dustin Harmsen and dissonant minor flourishes combine to create a work that feels like a vivid and strange, yet pleasant dream.

The album’s first single, "Black Cat White Cat," has a heavy, beautiful arrangement. The lyrics carry a sense of nostalgia -- “desperate to go back in time.” Its structure is complex but easy to follow. Ryan Steir (of the River Monks) adds a bright ringing guitar melody to a cacophony of echoing sounds.

Most of the songs are by Gebhart except for "Clouds," which was also penned by Steir. The two also share lead vocals in the song. The pop-sounding track, "Bloom," is the most upbeat song on the album. It’s also in some ways a break-up song or, more accurately, a get-lost song.

In the final track, "Honesty," Gebhart showcases her musical training and talents. Although this song is probably the most obvious display of her talents, the whole album is testimony to her songwriting and arranging talents.

"Nevermind I Love You" is expertly written and performed, and immaculately composed with exceptional musical skill.

'Running Wild'

by The Michael Reed Band

Iowa-based The Michael Reed Band has an old-school rock sound. Their album, "Running Wild," released late last year, features nothing complicated or surprising, which is kind of refreshing.

The album starts with a ballad that would work as a soundtrack for driving around town on a summer night. Band namesake Michael Reed strums acoustic guitar while Neil Matthias plays electric guitar to create the timeless blended rock sound.

The title track is a danceable song, the kind a band would end a show or set with in a live performance. Reed’s vocals could use more backing to give it the final piece it needs for a rock anthem sound. The children’s choir taking the chorus at the end is unexpected but, given the song’s flavor, is not entirely out of place.

The Christian overtones are hard to miss in the rest of the album. In "Write Your Name," it’s clear whose name the song is about. The band plans a series of shows in March to support the album release.

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General assignment reporter for the Courier

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