Crime and the Forces of Evil – Bone WalkerSelf-Released– out now2.5 / 5 We like it when ambitious projects come our way. And when the nook-hidden fantasy indie group Crime and the Forces of Evil offered their latest project for review, we didn’t want to decline. Bone Walker is a soundtrack to a fantasy book series by the name of The Free Court of Seattle, the city from whence these Newfoundland folk (self-described) elves come. Usually what happens with these kind of ambitious projects is we complain about overreaching scope (17 Pygmies’ Even Celestina…); muddled storytelling (The Decemberists’ Hazards of Love), or just crazy, crazyRead More →

End of Love – Ghosts on the RadioDevise Music-out tomorrow2 / 5 Age old question: is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? If one were to sum up even a fraction of the talent on this record – which boasts members of Sonic Youth, Wilco, and yes, even Big Star – one would assume that having some of the musicians behind the seminal music of the ’70s, ’90s and 2000s would ignite the kind of music-gasm one might have should Jimi Hendrix open up Chick Corea’s piano and start strumming some of Arthur Lee’s tunes. Yes, that kind of talent. And yet…Read More →

The Oh Hellos – Dear WormwoodElektra– out now4.5 / 5 We’ve anticipated this follow-up to 2012’s bright folksome Through the Deep, Dark Valley for far, far too long – since Newport ’14. On their sophomore full-length, these southern Texans have put us in the awkward position of having to promote their first LP above their follow-up; and yet, if this is that supposed “sophomore slump” that so many bands seem to go through… then only “wow” can be said of it. If it weren’t for Dark Valley, which we’d give a more than solid 5 of 5 (the third in our 6 years of blogging),Read More →

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – Self-TitledStax Records– out now4 / 5 We caught him at the Newport Folk Fest nigh two months ago, and this grimy, (night) sweaty fellow showed us how to boogie your tired soul out. The Herman, MO-born Rateliff is indeed soulful, smoking, burning on his self-titled Stax debut, his fourth full-length. If you haven’t heard “S.O.B” on the radio, humming in the bar, in the bottom of that bottle, then maybe you should sober up and clean your ears out. Seemingly his anthem, Rateliff’s strength here, and on this album, is the grit he blows through his lyrics. TheRead More →

On an On – And the Wave Has Two SidesRoll Call Records– out now3 / 5 Minneapolis trio On an On comes back to our blog with their sophomore release, and we’re going to say they’re getting better. A pastiche of pop and electronica, the Minnesotans have refined their sound, honed it to where it hits directly, no frou-frou, just click on the dance switch and let it jam. But while we appreciate the effort, and there are certainly highs to the album, we’re going to say that And the Wave Has Two Sides isn’t as deep as it seems: despite a few singles, andRead More →

Talk in Tongues – Alone with a FriendFairfax Recordings-out tomorrow3 / 5 We’re going to have to admit something: we’re a bit stumped when it comes to reviewing the L.A. quartet’s debut LP. Alone with a Friend is one of those psych-rock albums that is put together well, that is overall pretty good, that definitely has some singles in it, that… Still merits only 3 stars from us. Here’s why. We’ve had this album on our listening shelf for almost a month. Ultimately, we spun it up only about four or five times in that length of time, and we’re still feeling a bit onRead More →

Ivan and Alyosha – It’s All Just PretendDualtone Records-out now3.5 / 5 Five-some Seattle-ites Ivan and Alyosha come with a strong sophomore album centered on singable melodies, earnestness, and rockin’ simplicity. It’s All Just Pretend is easy to get into, straightforward, and perhaps not as deep as we’d truly like. But what’s here is pleasant and good, filling, and satisfying. Our favorites come at opposite ends of the spectrum. First, “Modern Man.” It’s a 70s rocker laden with a bit of reverb, the kind of guitar hook way from left field out of an acoustic ensemble. It’s gritty and good. The closer, “Don’t Lose YourRead More →

My Morning Jacket – The WaterfallATO Records-out tomorrow3.5 / 5 It’s an improvement, is what we’re going to say. Disappointed with 2011’s Circuital, which was an album-long slow build (into what?) The Waterfall feels something like a concept, using natural imagery (Spring, the tropics, …and of course a waterfall) that we can’t quite piece together. The title track immediately reminds us of CCR, and that band’s repeated use of rain: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” et al. But while Creedence very ably used (and re-used) water in terms of political change, “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” seems to be a strange conglomeration of someRead More →

Calexico – Edge of the SunAnti / City Slang-out April 144 / 5 It’s a return to everything we love about Calexico: swirling sand dunes, flamenco beats, mariachi swagger. The Tuscon, AZ sextet to their ninth studio album in a nearly twenty-year lifespan. How many things last twenty years? A good car? A stable marriage? If a band is in part a marriage of musicians, then we’d have assumed Calexico’s marriage to have grown quite stale and predictable by now. And on Edge of the Sun, band co-founders Joey Burns (vocals, guitar) and John Convertino (percussion) show that Calexico’s spark is alive and well. ToRead More →

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & LowellAsthmatic Kitty Records-out now4.5 / 5 Stylistically, Sufjan Stevens’ seventh studio full-length falls somewhere between Michigan and Illinois: it takes Michigan‘s somber mood, a quieter, more introverted desperation than that album’s more externalized search. It takes not Illinois’ lush orchestration, but its polish, its perfectionism and completion. Add acoustic guitar, piano, and Stevens’ soft vocals, and the result is an achingly beautiful album about life and loss, death and ghosts. Yes, we gave high marks to his previous “Age of Adz,” but quite frankly, if we could take that back and give them all here, we would do that inRead More →