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 →

Alex Chilton – Electricity by CandelightBar None Records-out now4 / 5 It’s a cold February night in NYC. Across from you is a legendary Memphis musician, reformed drug addict, and born-again folk singer. The lights go out – there is no electricity – and now it’s you and him, back and forth, the both of you trying to discover “that perfect folk song” to round out the night. This is not perfect, this is not mastered beautifully, and it’s not always the easiest to listen to. The audience and various noises overtake Chilton much of the time. What this is is one of those rareRead More →

Patty Griffin – Silver BellA&M Records-out now4 / 5 Our first listen to the much-delayed Silver Bell was one of relative disappointment. Compared to American Kid, the Maine-born folk singer’s latest release seemed less immediate, less pleasurable than the absolutely fantastic Kid. (Which we reviewed here.) Initially, we were thinking there was a reason it took thirteen years to get this album out there (you know, a negative reason), but again, that was our first listen. The reality of it is this: it’s different. Instead of going country on Kid, Griffin splays a laid-back, down-tempo rock groove throughout. And the fact of the matter isRead More →