The Lower Lights, Gusto, The No-Nation Orchestra 

Local CD Reviews: A Hymn Revival: Volume 3, Gusto, Coil EP

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The Lower Lights, A Hymn Revival: Volume 3
In the latest installment of their A Hymn Revival series, local gospel/folk group The Lower Lights have "revived" a collection of gospel tunes and hymns that will fill you with the spirit—whether or not you go to church on Sunday. The Lower Lights' A Hymn Revival: Volume 1 and Volume 2 were stellar, but somehow, Volume 3 tops even those excellent releases. It's flawless yet human, joyful yet solemn, a masterfully crafted album that welcomes listeners with warm, loving arms. Among the eclectic tracklist is something for everybody, from traditional hymns to foot-stomping Southern gospel. Volume 3 begins with a fiery rendition of "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder," complete with twangy electric guitar, jangly tambourine and heart-swelling group vocal harmonies, and that high energy is echoed in upbeat mid-album tracks "The River of Jordan" and mandolin-filled toe-tapper "Get Up John." The quiet moments really demonstrate The Lower Lights' power, though: Closing song "Where We'll Never Grow Old," which features angelic solo vocals by Debra Fotheringham, will put a lump in your throat. Self-released, Dec. 2,

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Gusto, Gusto
In a word, the debut album from Salt Lake City electro-pop/indie-pop duo Gusto (Stephanie Mabey and Taylor Hartley) is fun. Imagine a candy-colored world filled with cats, sugar, lasers and dancing—that level of fun. On Gusto, tight production—tag-teamed by Gusto and June Audio's Scott Wiley—spot-on lead vocals by Mabey, well-placed backing vocals by Hartley and witty lyrics come together to make an EP that's gleeful and playful (just look at that earnestly earnest album art). Throughout the six tracks, Mabey is confident and in complete control of her voice, and she's really proving her versatility here; Gusto's dance-party combination of electro, pop and hip-hop is a far cry from her typical dreamy pop material, but she nails it. Something about "Make Me Move" isn't as memorable as album highlights "Hypnotist," slinky/soulful "Thief" and infectiously catchy "It's Good"—with the winning line, "Your neighbor's freaking out like/ that there's the devil's volume"—but for the most part, Gusto will stick in your head and stay there. Self-released, Nov. 10,

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The No-Nation Orchestra, Coil EP
Instrumentally, the latest album from Salt Lake City afrobeat/funk/world wizards The No-Nation Orchestra is lush, sexy and spacey, with sizzling horns and snappy percussion. However, whenever voices are added to that colorful background, they can't seem to stand up to the big, brassy sound. Coil EP begins with the frantically energetic "Past Shadows," but lead singer Stephen Chai's hoarse-throated falsetto vocals are lacking and don't reflect any of the song's power. The musical mood on "Stay Low" is fantastic, a Middle Eastern-tinged groover that sounds like a psychedelic trip in the Martian desert, but even though the backing female vocals meld well with the track, Chai's falsetto is tinny. Perhaps it could've worked in smaller doses, with different styles of singing mixed in, but it's present throughout the EP, detracting from glorious musical moments such as the wails of guitar on "Fall From Space Into Time." As they've proved before, the members of The No-Nation Orchestra can play the hell out of their instruments. They just need the right vocals to do that musical prowess justice. Self-released, Nov. 14,

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