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 →

Dutch Uncles – O ShudderMemphis Industries-out Feb 24 (UK Feb 10)4 / 5 We are fans of this Manchester, UK five-some. Their fourth full-length brings them back into the e-sound that we prefer: lush popchestration, dense layering, a wide spread of variety. It’s a “pop electronic’d” that champions musicianship (and oboe, and other woodwinds), the kind of a ride that’s built on a solid four (we should say five) wheels. It’s got vocals, lyrics, instrumentation; it’s got joy, it’s got memory. Dutch Uncles is one of those bands that slips off the radar, but mostly because they haven’t come off the island and hopped aRead More →

Hozier – Self-TitledColumbia Records-out tomorrow4.5 / 5 Andrew Hozier-Byrne, the Irish soul singer/guitarist known simply as Hozier, is one of those rare acts who translates so well into studio and live and back. (Check out our much, much too brief blurb at the Newport Folk Festival.) It’s talent, pure and simple, that it boils down to, but more than that: the man can make a song about the infidelity of the heart bouncy and singable. His color reminds us a lot of the late band Morphine – dark, a bit smoky, somber – but at any turn, he can pull out such a playful sexinessRead More →

My Brightest Diamond – This Is My HandAsthmatic Kitty Records -out tomorrow4 / 5 Shara Worden returns with a (drum roll please) drum roll. Marching band drum roll, to be more specific (care of the Detroit Party Band). Her fourth album as My Brightest Diamond has us reminiscing of St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, in that both ladies take counter-intuitive routes to accessible poppiness. And that’s the way we like to get there: the road less traveled. The anchor to these songs is, of course, Worden’s vocals – strong, feminine – but to say that’s why we like this album is to deny the underlying impetusRead More →

Sleeper Agent – About Last NightRCA-out now4 / 5 Sleeper Agent (with The ‘Mericans)Aug 1, 7pmWaterplace Park, Providence, RI(Free – all ages) There are few things we appreciate more than a burning beat that soothes our hungry dance-heart. And Sleeper Agent’s (hailing from Bowler Green, KY) pop-centricity pulls us right in, gets us singing through their sophomore. It’s not bass-heavy electronica (think *ahem* Chain Gang of 1974) or pure saccharine pop (a la Sondre Lerche), or lightning-storm-cloud electro-buzz (St. Vincent, we look at you) but it strikes a pleasant, palatable medium: easy to get into, easy to get through, and somehow, pure blissful joy. WeRead More →

Syd Arthur – Sound MirrorHarvest–out now4 / 5 Psychedelic foursome Syd Arthur know good music. Taking their moniker from ex-Pink Floyder Barrett and mashing it with one of our favorite albums by the Kinks, the Canterbury-based rockers’ sophomore full-length is replete with poly-chromatic instrumentation (including piano!), soaring choruses, and shifting time signatures. It is educated, conscious of bands not only before their time (Pink Floyd, The Who, perhaps the Doors) but also of contemporaries (Portugal. The Man). It is vibrant: pulsating with life, entertaining, fresh. It is, in short, a delight. When the piano hammers out the opening lick to “Hometown Blues,” we definitely feelRead More →

Lake Street Dive – Bad Self PortraitsSignature Sounds-out Feb 184 / 5 We think it comes down to Rachael Price’s voice. We think that’s what it is: Massachusetts-based quartet Lake Street Dive is so heavily anchored on Price’s strong, feminine soul voice that it’s hard to imagine the other fantastic pieces (guitar, acoustic bass, percussion) fitting together without that crux. You may look around at other reviews that try to describe their sound, and they’ll say it’s a mix of this, a hodgepodge of that, but truly, it comes down to a tight trio supporting a fantastic, colorful voice. And these songs – songs mostlyRead More →