Quick hits: Chairlift, Savages, De Rosa, Shuyler Jansen, Eleanor Freidberger

I’ve listened to a bunch of albums over the last week, thinking about what I was going to review. All of these were albums that I wouldn’t rate Run Away, but for one reason or another I can’t really bring myself to listen to them enough to do a full review:

Adore Life – Savages – Savages is a pretty popular post-punk band from England, that has been pretty well received. But this album just didn’t hold my attention. I felt like there was kind of one speed and one volume across the album.  Recommendation: Stream It

Moth – Chairlift – I actually liked this album when I actively listened to it. But if I put it on to listen to while I did something else, it faded completely into the background. It was an album that didn’t work for me as background, and frankly, not one that I liked enough that I would want to spend 10+ listens actively concentrating on it. Recommendation: Stream It

Weem – De Rosa – this is kind of a folk-rock band that felt like they had an identity crisis to me. Most of the album would have felt more enticing if it had been either more lush, or more sparse. They are kind of in a space where they want a lush sound without lush instrumentation, to me. But I know that a lot of critics really liked it. Recommendation: Strean Ut.

New View – Eleanor Friedberger – This album had the same problem that Chairlift’s album had for me. It just got totally lost when I tried to listen to it while doing something else. I didn’t like it as much as Moth, either. It was okay, but it didn’t hold my attention.  Recommendation: Stream It

The Long Shadow – Shuyler Jones – Jones has put out a folk album with schizophrenia. It has some nearly bluegrass sounding songs. It has some pretty standard folk fare. And then it’s got the psychedelic metal with Jethro Tull influences. There actually isn’t anything bad about any of this, but it really didn’t fit as an album for me. Give me a straight forward folk rock album. Give me a folk metal album with touches of psychedlia. But they don’t mix terribly well for me. Recommendation: Stream It.

Album Review: Jet Plane and Oxbow by Shearwater

Honestly, I didn’t think bands were making albums like this much anymore. Jet Plane and Oxbow is Shearwater’s 9th studio album. I’ve not listened to any of their other albums, but I will probably start working my way backwards through their catalog.

Jet Plane and Oxbow is a quiet, focused album that reminds me of nothing so much as Steve Hogarth-helmed Marillion, from the period around Blind to about Marbles. Late 70s Peter Gabriel would also be an apt comparison. I like the admittedly throwback feeling sound.

This album feels instrumentally lush, but the focus is squarely on supporting and lifting the confident vocals of frontman Jonathan Meiburg. Not every song is a homerun, like the percussive Filaments where the vocals can feel a little overwhelmed, but even at it’s least impressive, this new Shearwater album is still pretty impressive. It makes me want to dig out some late era prog rock to compare and contrast.

Recommendation: Buy it

Songs I have a Play list for: Quiet Americans, Pale Kings, Wildlife in America, Stray Light at Clouds Hill

Clunkers I will thumbs down: Nada…I honestly like every song on this album.

Song Spotlight: Blossom by Noah Gundersen

I looked for a decent concert version of this song, but the only one I found was in the middle of a 26-minute video of a KEXP appearance. And while I like the KEXP appearance, I only wanted to play this song. This song being Blossom, from Noah Gundersen’s latest album, Carry the Ghost. Fans of the Vampire Diaries have probably already spent a lot of time obsessing over this song. I can see a very melodramatic love scene played out against this in the background, and I know it was used in the Vampire Diaries at some point.

Song Spotlight: Bright Lights and Cityscapes by Sara Barielles

 

If you like pop music and you don’t now Sara Bareilles yet, where have you been? over 5 albums (one self-released) and an EP, she has managed to generate some of the most consistently good song writing in the last decade.  Is she the best? I would say probably not. But she’s always good, her songs are alway listenable, and her concerts are some of the most fun you can have in any state of dress in the US.

Bright Lights and Cityscapes is probably my favorite of all her songs.

Album Review: Confessions of a Romance Novelist by The Anchoress

I want to say I liked Confessions of a Romance Novelist a lot more than I think I probably really did. So I’ll say I really wanted to like the solo debut of Catherine Anne Davies a lot more than I did.

With a husky voice, an alt-pop sensibility, and a sound that is reminds me of a cross between Kate Bush and Tori Amos, there’s a lot to like with The Anchoress’ album. There’s some decent song writing, strong musicianship, and wonderful singing on this album.

What then is my problem? Well, really, it comes down to the fact that it’s just not an album that I am inclined to sit down and just listen to. I found I enjoyed it most when I had it on as background music to doing random tasks. I played it while loading servers. I played it while playing computer games. I played it while reading. And when I played it, it fit my mood and make the task more enjoyable. All good things.

But when I sat down to just listen to the album, I often found my attention wandering in other directions. Still, it’s well made and I really do like Catherine Anne Davies’ voice. And there weren’t any songs that I really didn’t like. No songs that made me instantly hit the skip button.

Recommendation: Stream it

Songs I have a playlist for: You and Only You, Chip on Your Shoulder, Rivers of Ice

Clunkers I will thumbs down: There weren’t any.

New Albums being released starting January 22

January 22:
Weem – De Rosa
The Hour of Bewilderbeast (15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) – Badly Drawn Boy
Adore Life – Savages
ATGCLVLSSCAP – Ulver
M:Fans – John Cale
Third Law – Roly Porter
Each Other – Aidan Knight
Information – Eliot Sumner
Abbath – Abbath
Something About April II – Adrian Younge
And Only The Melody Was Real – Swahili Blonde
The Waiting Room – Tindersticks
Night Thoughts – Suede
Moth – Chairlift
Jet Plane and Oxbow – Shearwater
Emotional Mugger – Ty Segall
New View – Eleanor Friedberger
Perfect – Half Japanese
Infinite Summer – NZCA
The Catastrophist – Tortoise
Here Come the Rattling Trees – The High Llamas
Dystopia – Megadeath
Paradise – Pop. 1280
Feed the Fire – Promise and the Monster
In the Magic Hour – Aoife O’Donovan
A Complex Colliseum Museum – The Besnard Lakes
The Long Shadow – Shuyler Jansen
Skilled Mechanics – Tricky
Love Over Will – Alex Smoke
Songs for our Mothers – Fat White Family
Coasts – Coasts
Drawn with Shadow Pens – Yves De May
Original Machines – Conrad Kelly
Graspers – Akase
Wild Youth – Steve Angello
Hive Riot – Hive Riot
Bloom – Rufus Du Soul
Wild Stab – The I Don’t Cares
Alive – Trevor Moran
Marble Mouth – Pillar Point
Love Don’t Live Here – Lionheart
Misty Shrub – Bird Dog
4 1/2 – Steven Wilson
Sounds of Revival – William McDowell
Empire Underground – The Big Pink
Gamble For A Rose – King Charles
Before Sunrise – Modern Space
Dr. Um – Peter Erskine
Jah Cure: Masterpiece – Jah Cure
32 – The Janet Margolin
Pond Scum – Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Do Nothing Til You Hear – The Mute Gods

Song Spotlight: I Really Like You by Carly Rae Jepson

 

Here. Have a dose of upbeat unadulterated pop goodness, with a touch of slightly cheese video.

Emotion was the album that nobody wanted to admit that they liked last year, but, deep down, they did, and they got up and danced when no one was looking. And this song was one of the reason. Because, yes, it makes us want to get up and dance. Though, we still prefer to do it when no one is looking.

Album Review: Not To Disappear by Daughter

I’ll admit it. Everyone once in a while, there comes along an album that isn’t just okay, an album that I don’t just like, but rather an album that I unabashedly love. For a lot of people, albums like this are usually pretty peppy with upbeat songs and messages. Well, I love Not To Disappear by Daughter, and it is not peppy and upbeat.  Still, it is wonderful and beautiful and mesmerizing.

Daughter is a London based trio comprised of Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli, and Remi Aguilella. Their first album, If You Leave, was one of my favorite ten albums on 2013, and has been in steady rotation in my playlist since then. This follow-up had, in my mind, a lot to live up to, and it does so magnificently.

It amazes me that this trio can get such variation in their sound, at once punchy and ethereal. Their lyrical storytelling is more certain this time around, and though their songs probe a number of dismal subjects – dementia, disconnection, loneliness – the music behind them buoys you through the storm. I have seen others review this album as dream pop, and I understand why though they have a hardened edge to them that can always threaten to burst the bubble that seems to come with that label.

Recommendation: BUY IT!

Songs that I have a playlist for: New Ways, Numbers, Alone/With You, Fossa, Made of Stone

Clunkers I will thumbs down – there is no such thing on this album. N/A

Song Spotlight: Youth by Daughter

Daughter is an indie band that some classify folk, some as alt-rock, even some as dream pop. To me, it doesn’t matter what the genre is, I think they are a brilliant three-piece with wonderful lyrics and excellent composition. They have released 2 studio albums (If You Leave (2013) and Not To Disappear (2016)), and 4 EPs.

Fans of Skins might recognize this song. I love the way it starts out with a single guitar and a gentle lead into the cacophony in the middle of the song. This description of love from the point of view of the young is both plaintive and reassuring to those of us who remember it but have grown up enough that we can see that it isn’t that way for us anymore.

Album Review: Ron Pope & The Nighthawks – Ron Pope & The Nighthawks

I’ve listened to Ron Pope off and on for several years. I like his Americana roots sound and I think he’s at his best singing over a single guitar in front of a crowd.

Ron Pope & The Nighthawks was released on January 8, 2016. It’s his first album with his new band, after a decade long solo career. Ain’t No Angel is the first single off the album. Videos for Bad Intentions and Hotel Room have been released as well.

I wanted to like this album a lot more than I did. There is some really nice Americana/folk pop on this album . I loved tracks like Hotel Room and Lies and Cigarettes. But then I get hit with songs that I really don’t like, like Bad Intentions.

Also, I felt like Pope hit kind of a rut at some point when writing this album. It felt like there were too many references to cocaine, to the point where I started wondering if this was a Johnny Paycheck album.

Overall, this is a stream it album for me. I’m going to take the songs I like and put them in a playlist and revisit the ones I don’t like again in six months to a year and see if I still feel that way.

 

Recommendation: Stream It

Songs I have a Playlist For: Hotel Room, Lies and Cigarettes, Leave You Behind, Take Me Home

Clunkers I will thumbs down: Bad Intentions, Ain’t No Angel