Elizabeth Canino. Mercy (independent). This album stands out as one of the best production jobs coming from Syracuse in recent memory, as engineer Andrew Greacen at More Sound Studios brings out Canino’s strengths. Her songs are moody and thick with carefully placed strings, keys and vocal harmonies and musical hooks. With an Alicia Keys-like start pounding it out on the ivories, Canino instantly corrals the listener with a tune about getting over someone who spends too much time at the bar, not recognizing the lady they’re losing. The anthem, “I got news for you, I’m moving on,” can’t help but catch in your ear, as the pop melodies mix beside the accusing lyrics. “Mercy” is giant and sweeping, “For Love” grabs with its simplicity and “Shine Down” adds a completely different flavor with snaps over sparse chords. Her covers of Amy Winehouse and the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” also showcase her skill at interpreting, although Canino’s songwriting can stand on its own. Canino hosts a CD release party on Thursday, Dec. 3, 8 p.m., at the King of Clubs, 420 S. Clinton St.
Major Player. Grift & Grum (ears&eyes Records). Major Player’s CD is in a vein largely unexplored in Syracuse: Think Portishead with a male lead singer. The lilting songs are perfectly constructed to fit a rainy day, as Jeffrey York whispers poetry through the speakers. Harking back to bands like The Postal Service where less was more, York uses band members Liz Strodel (drums), Andrew Greacen (bass) and Nick Mazzeo (Hammond organ, electric piano and synths) to their full, understated advantage. “Static Noise” grows and contracts like a beating heart, “Slow Divorce” is haunting and “Grift & Grum” may well be the most laid-back pop track of all time. The players might not break a sweat on this CD, but they don’t need to, either, as they make your thoughts tick like a clock with the steady, slowed beat of the music. Just sit back, close your eyes and drift into dreams without sleeping at all. Major Player’s CD release party takes place Wednesday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m., at Funk ‘n Waffles Downtown, 307 S. Clinton St. Tickets are $5.
Kimberly Schad. Mystic Kingdom (independent). Hitting firmly on the pulse of the popular alternative/electronic movement, Schad’s debut EP could fit well with any of the monsters of the genre. Intricate and dependent on the thick production, it incorporates tastes and instruments that span the gamut. “Secret” brings a Latin-flavored sway, thanks to Kevin Farrel’s guitar, while “Mystic Kingdom” offers an electronic symphony of sound. Although Schad comes from a musical family and has been performing in Syracuse since 2010, she’s still getting out as a solo artist who plays an overwhelming majority of original songs. This EP marks a mostly solo effort, as Schad wrote and played nearly every track as well as produced, arranged, mixed and mastered. For more information, visit kimberlyschad.com. Schad hosts a CD release party on Friday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m., at Eastwood’s Palace Theatre, 2384 James St. Admission is free.