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Archive for October, 2011

CD Review – Soley (Atmospheric Icelander)

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

We Sink

Morr Music

If you’ve ever heard the beautiful musical landscape that is Seabear, then you’ve heard Soley. You just haven’t heard her sing. On this, her first full-length album, the multi-instrumentalist takes the same basic Seabear sound (think lying in the grass, staring at the clouds passing by) and adds a wispy female voice to the fray.

Musically, her sound is a lot like fellow Icelander Bjork, but Soley’s vocals are less, well, weird. She actually sounds more like Jonsi from Sigor Ros (also from Iceland), especially on “Smashed Birds.” Consider Soley Icelandic folk. Take away the fluffy pseudo-electronic backdrop and add a guitar and you get Katie Herzig. But then, Soley’s debut LP wouldn’t be as unique. There is something about Iceland that brings a musically soothing quality to almost everything. Soley is no different. If you’re looking for a folk album that is nothing like anything else you’ve heard, then check out We Sink.

CD Review – Foo Fighters

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Wasting Light

Columbia Records

The straight-ahead rockin’ Foo Fighters are back! Gone are the contemplative softer songs like “Walking After You” and “Ballad of the Beaconfield Miners.” This is the way a rock record is supposed to sound. It has throat-shredding metal (“White Limo”). It has fantastic rock radio ready tracks (“Rope” and “Walk”). And it has a perfectly placed cameo where former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould echoes Grohl’s chorus on “Dear Rosemary.” Bottom line: From the opener “Bridge Burning” to the closer “Walk,” this is the first album where every song is not only solid, but great. It’s their best album since The Colour and the Shape. I’m not sure that I am ready to call this my favorite Foo album, but it is close. Really close. And the more I listen to it, the closer it gets. If you’re a Foo fan, you probably have this already. If you aren’t, then you are a fool. And fools should buy this album. You’re welcome.

CD Review – Harry Connick Jr.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

In Concert, On Broadway

Columbia Records

Harry Connick Jr. is this generation’s Frank Sinatra, except more talented. Sinatra could sing and make the ladies swoon. Connick Jr. can sing, make the ladies swoon and make his fingers dance on the piano like Fred Astaire could dance in general. Proof of that is this live recording at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in New York City. He dances all over the ivory on “Besame Mucho” and reincarnated Sinatra on “The Way You Look Tonight.” But, as Sinatra sang, the best is yet to come. The three song paradise that concludes the concert, dedicated to this home of New Orleans, is a straight up party. What else would you expect from the area that knows how to live it up. “Take Her to the Mardi Gras,” “Bourbon Street Parade” and “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” close out a stellar show that has the audience screaming in delight and will leave you doing the same, even if you are enjoying a night in your favorite easy chair. Of course, if your still sitting after this is over, you’re already dead.

CD Review – Chris Bathgate

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Salt Year

Quite Scientific Records

What do you get when you combine tragedy with optimism? You get one of the best folk albums of the year. The opener “Eliza (Hue)” starts as a beautifully quiet introspective track, but then it expands into a musically swaying folk-circus before calming back down to a lone piano. You become a like a fish, entranced by the bait and then he has you hook, line and sinker. But it is completely worth it. “Poor Eliza” continues the theme with a more countrified (and darker) sound complete with a prominent fiddle making it the first song I’ve ever heard that sounds like it was partially written in the back woods of Alabama and partially  in a cave.

Bathgate has taken the Richard Buckner lonely folk baritone and somehow made it simultaniously darker and optimistic. Bathgate said that recording this album was a “painful and joyful experience.” That experience has created a beautiful gothic-folk record that must be heard.

CD Review – Tyler Ramsey (Band of Horses guitarist goes solo)

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

The Valley Wind

Fat Possum Records

Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey knows how to transport me to the Sandhills of Nebraska. The title track from Ramsey’s latest album repeats the line, “Do I have to wait until it’s gone?” over and over in front of a light alt-country rhythm that puts me in the middle of nowhere, listening to the wind blow over the rolling golden hills. If you ever go there and are driving along Highway 2, play this album. You’ll get it then.

The entire nine-track album has a rustic and lonely feel to it, but it still sounds familiar. Maybe that’s because Ramsey’s voice is very similar to both Avett Brothers. This is a beautifully lonely album that is perfect for those looking to drink away a former lover.

CD Review – Marissa Nadler (What Sarah McLachlan wishes she was)

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Marissa Nadler

Box of Cedar Records

Upon first listen, Marissa Nadler’s self-titled album is very much like getting transported to that time in your life when you wish you would’ve gone with your gut and asked that girl to the dance. The opening song, “In Your Lair, Bear” is like the end of an episode of The Wonder Years where Kevin wanted to ask Winnie to the dance, but didn’t and he ends up standing in the middle of the hallway in school, all alone while the camera pans out to encompass his emptiness. Yeah, that’s how vivid that song is.

“The Sun Always Reminds Me of You” and “Baby I Will Leave You in the Morning” are devastating in their emotional honesty as Nadler’s atmospheric voice dances around like an angel floating among clouds. This is what Sarah McLachlan could sound like if she traded in her piano for a plucky guitar and attempted emotional connectivity like she did 15-20 years ago. Marissa Nadler fills that void and much more. Anyone looking for that song to describe their emotional confusion will find (at least) one on this album.

CD Review – Sarah Jarosz (Americana chantuse)

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Follow Me Down

Sugar Hill Records

Sarah Jarosz already has an accomplished music career. She’s been nominated for Grammys and Americana Music Awards and has performed on A Prairie Home Companion and Austin City Limits. Now, barely twenty, she’s already releasing her second album and it just builds on the growing catalogue that this Americana chantuse has to offer.

“Come Around” sounds like Nickel Creek at their best (which makes sense since the record was produced by Gary Paczosa, who also produced Nickel Creek alum Chris Thile.) Paczosa also has produced Allison Krauss, which is probably how Jarosz snagged Union Station members Dan Tyminski and Jerry Douglas. Legendary banjo picker Bela Fleck and another Americana icon Shawn Colvin also contribute to this unnaturally star-studded affair.

Her take on Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” is Grand Ole Opry worthy. She also covers Radiohead’s “The Tourist” and turns it into an entirely different, but still brilliant track. Jarosz is just getting started, but you wouldn’t know it by her voice, or the adoration being lavished upon her. She really is the next big female voice in Americana…and everyone is going to know it (if they don’t already.)

CD Review – The Sea and Cake (indie-folk magic)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

The Moonlight Butterfly

Thrill Jockey Records

The Sea and Cake have been making beautiful independent music for 20 years and they show no signs of slowing down with their new mini-album The Moonlight Butterfly. The entire album has a soothing feel, but each song exhibits an underlying tone that adds a depth that attaches to your soul. The title track is an aberration from the acoustic set in that it is completely electronic. It sounds like an audio-pixilated butterfly and while it doesn’t sound like it goes with the rest of the album, the track is a refreshing break from the laid-back grooves that permeate the album.

“Up on the North Shore” is more upbeat, while “Lyric” takes a darker tone and the 10+ minute “Inn Keeping” has a Phish-like jam band feel until it fades into an electronic dream ala Sufjan Stevens. All of this is wrapped in a cozy audio blanket and served warm for your listening pleasure. Enjoy is a nice cup of tea or coffee and let The Sea and Cake take your cares away.