Various Artists – 7″ for Planned Parenthood  A Dizzying Array of Artists -out now digitally, Nov. 17 for vinyl box set Can we state how important this is / 5 ?   First things first: 100% of the proceeds of sales go to Planned Parenthood. If you’re not aware of what Planned Parenthood is, they’re the most important provider of sexual health care in the US. They serve 2.4 million people a year, many and many of them in difficult financial situations (ie broke and working at Wal-Mart); and it’s estimated 1 in 5 women have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in their lives. Planned ParenthoodRead More →

RG Lowe – Slow Time Western Vinyl – out now 4.5 / 5 This Austin, Texan pianist/guitarist, who is the fountainhead for the instrumental group Balmorhea, decided to take a trip through the 70s and 80s. Citing Prince, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, his previous ten years of work came through the vocal-less, introspective, quiet Balmorhea. Thus, one would assume RG Lowe would be entirely out of his element on a pop-rock album. But you know the saying about assumptions: turns out Slow Time, Lowe’s debut solo LP, is pure, unadulterated bliss. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Lowe’s nine tracks here are some of the least self-conscious,Read More →

  “I Got A Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival” by Rick Massimo Wesleyan Press – out tomorrow 4.5 / 5   We are a hard sell on reads, especially nonfiction. We are incredible biased. And we feel that Rick Massimo, formerly of Providence Journal fame, is one of perhaps two reporters we could imagine who’d put together such a fine history of our favorite festival. (The other being the oft-quoted Jim Gillis in this book, retired from The Newport Daily News.) This history is coming out tomorrow. It is as exhaustive as it gets: several sources, dozens of interviews, archival reviews, et ceteraRead More →

Laura Marling – Semper Femina  More Alarming Records -out today 4 / 5 Laura Marling’s sixth album is not something we typically listen to. We like rock-outs, soul sessions, complicated layered what-have-yous. Stuff with a lotta moving parts. Contrary to our usual tastes, the Los Angeles native’s Semper Femina feels, to take the opener, “Soothing.” That is, sonically, it feels soothing; but make no mistake, behind the comfortable vocals, the sparse guitar, behind the illusion of a soothing album lies a quiet intensity. It’s an introverted LP, an album that begs multiple listens to catch the subtle effects that work here. In short, it is notRead More →

Dutch Uncles – Big BalloonMemphis Industries– out Feb. 174 / 5 We’re going to try a different approach for Manchester, England based quartet Dutch Uncles here. Their latest full-length, Big Balloon, is number five in their full-length discography. We’ve covered #3 – 2013’s Out of Touch in the Wild – which you can read right here. We also had to follow up with them in 2015 on their fourth full-length O Shudder (also read our review right here). If there’s something you, our readers, might have noticed about our reviews of Dutch Uncles’ last three albums, they’re all good, solid albums, at 4 / 5. (Four of fiveRead More →

Andy Shauf – The PartyAnti Records– out May 204 / 5 We have a strange relationship with Saskatchewan-ian Andy Shauf. We’re going to be honest: we caught a bit of his set at the Newport Folk Fest a year or two back, and we were entirely not blown away. Kind of underwhelmed. And so his fourth album, The Party, almost feels the same. But hear us out, because we believe the studio is his element. The Party is a concept album, a large cast of characters thrown together, each given a slice of the life of a house party. What seems underwhelming is here actuallyRead 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 →

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 →