Lord Huron - Strange Trails
On their follow-up, Strange Trails, Lord Huron settle into the Western themes and sense of open prairies that marked the band's debut, Lonesome Dreams. Frontman/songwriter Ben Schneider fully embraces the American West/Troubadour character, illustrated even in song titles like "Dead Man's Hand," "Meet Me in the Woods," and "The Yawning Grave." The album's lyrics tell haunted stories of adventure and survival, with nature imagery and the occasional old-time turn of phrase ("Before I commence my ride/I'm asking Lily to be my bride"). With warm electric guitar sounds, soft and constant reverb, harmonized vocals, and a faint but persistent twang, it's a contemporary, specifically Fleet Foxes-reminiscent, indie folk-influenced rock haunted by allusions to the Old West. The record takes a few interesting musical routes on its journey: the reverbed rockabilly and surf sounds of "The World Ender," the campfire-gathering feel of "Meet Me in the Woods" with handclaps and female vocal harmonies, and the pulsing, ramblin' road tune "Frozen Pines" all contribute to an impression of timelessness as well as a certain folksiness befitting the album's well-established rural themes. There are no big surprises here; fans of Lonesome Dreams will surely be pleased, and Strange Trails' serene ambience and unconventional narrative may capture the imagination of inclined first-timers. ~ Marcy Donelson, allmusic
Calexico have had a chiaroscuro career: after each of the band's more somber efforts, they tend to return with something lighthearted. Such is the case with Edge of the Sun: arriving after Algiers' journey into New Orleans noir, it feels like a working holiday -- probably because it was close to one, with Joey Burns, John Convertino, and company spending ten days in Coyoacán, a Mexico City borough, for inspiration. Despite its Mexican beginnings, Edge of the Sun often tips toward Calexico's affable Americana, with particular success on "Falling from the Sky"'s tumbleweed pop and on the gently insistent "Tapping on the Line," which is elevated by Neko Case's clarion vocals. On these tracks, Edge of the Sun recalls Garden Ruin and Feast of Wire, although the latter album negotiated its sonic and emotional twists with more drama. It's almost as though these songs are so sunwashed that they just can't be truly dark, even when the band tries its hardest. Edge of the Sun's brightest highlight is "Cumbia de Donde," a celebration of the footloose life.. ~Heather Phares, allmusic
Laura Marling returns with her fifth studio album in seven years Short Movie. The album, a follow up to 2013's Mercury Prize nominated Once I Was An Eagle, marks a new chapter in her sound and artistic development. Short Movie sees Marling move into new musical territory and may surprise fans with its prevalence of electric guitar. The album is freer and looser sounding than anything she has done before. Marling produced the album, was recorded at Urchin Studios in London and aided by her long time drummer Matt Ingram and studio engineer Dan Cox.
From Nate ChinenThe New York Times: "Ms. Marling sings with lean, responsive accompaniment: cello, violin, keyboards, bass and drums. (She produced the album in London with her drummer, Matt Ingram, and his fellow engineer Dan Cox.) The fundamentals of her style are unchanged: the austere beauty of her singing; the grace and propulsion of her fingerpicking; the drones that underscore both Indian ragas and pensive British folk."
A convincing argument that rock & roll doesn't need reinvention in order to revive itself, Courtney Barnett's full-length debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. falls into a long, storied rock tradition but never feels beholden to it. By almost any measure, Barnett is a traditionalist -- a singer/songwriter supported by a guitar-bass-drum trio, cranking out ballads and squalls of noise. Barnett's thick Australian accent carries an unstated pride for her homeland, but her sly twists of phrase, alternately wry and melancholic, give a greater sense of place, time, and character. Offhand observations mingle with understated insights, a nice trick of songwriting that the music cannily mirrors. When called upon, Barnett and her band can be furious -- "An Illustration of Loneliness" and "Kim's Caravan" both work themselves up to a knotty, gnarled head -- but they can also slip into a soothing sadness ("Depreston," "Boxing Day Blues"). Usually, they're punchy but not precise, hammering the hard hooks of "Aqua Profunda!" and "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" into place, giving "Elevator Operator" and "Pedestrian at Best" an urgency that mimics Barnett's cloistered, clever words. There are no frills here but there is a distinct, compelling voice evident in Barnett's songs and music alike. That's what makes Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. so invigorating: it may have roots -- perhaps even some inadvertent ones -- but it's music that lives thoroughly in the moment. ~Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com
It's hard to believe that it took Nick Gold and his World Circuit team to plunder the vaults for unreleased Buena Vista Social Club recordings. This loose-knit group of all-but-forgotten all-star musicians from pre-Revolutionary Havana was assembled by Juan de Marcos González and American guitarist Ry Cooder -- and supported by a cast of players they influenced -- to record its self-titled 1997 album that went platinum in the wake of Wim Wenders' 1999 film of the same name. Lost and Found compiles unreleased vault tracks from the original 1996 EGREM studios sessions, live tracks, and rehearsal sessions from subsequent albums. But this music is anything but a hodgepodge, half-baked assortment. It is assembled with care and attention to the group's legacy. The somgs were recorded after-hours during the 1997 album recording sessions. Ruben González is represented handsomely and poignantly: first by his last ever recorded solo on "Bodas de Oro," a swinging danzón from a session led by trombonist Jesús "Aguaje" Ramos; by the elegant live piano solo "Como Siento Yo"; as well as by his informal scat singing on set closer "Rubén Sings!" Lost and Found is better served as a companion volume to the painstakingly curated Buena Vista Social Club album than as a general listener's introduction to the various musicians. That said, for anyone who ever wished there was more music in the can, this all-killer, no-filler program is indispensable. ~ Thom Jurek
Ghostface Killah's 2015 collaboration with Toronto jazz/hip-hop trio BadBadNotGood seems to be turning his 2010s work into a themed trilogy, as his 2013 LP, Twelve Reasons to Die, found the Wu-Tang rapper partnering with Adrian Younge for a '70s slasher-themed release, while 2014's 36 Seasons was action movie-inspired and recorded with Brooklyn band the Revelations. Sour Soul is more abstract, as the title track tells the tale of a character that's a cross between Johnny Mnemonic and a pimp, while the music touches upon a wide range of soundtrack styles from the '60s and '70s, including the soft-porny "Stark's Reality," where vibes and strings float about the speakers. "Tone's Rap" is either semi-drunk funk or the sound of a warped Fat Albert record, and to their credit, BadBadNotGood are more soulful than usual, laying down grooves that could complement any adventurous MC. Out of all of Ghostface's recent albums, this one stuns with its features, as MF Doom ("Ray Gun"), Elzhi ("Gunshowers"), and Danny Brown ("Six Degrees") all spit and kick with left-field excellence. In James Bond terms, Sour Soul is the almost addendum-ish Quantum of Solace as it offers adventurous fans the same opportunities for a quick fix while sacrificing a bit of weight. In Toronto jazz terms, it's verygoodgoodnotbad. ~David Jeffries, allmusic.com