Friday, November 30, 2012

First Aid Kit -- The Lion's Roar

Lately, we've been blessed with a sudden wave of Scandinavians adapting Americana (I'm looking at you, Of Monsters and Men.) But First Aid Kit bring something new to the table. They have a much earthier tone than what I typically associate with music from countries that are riddled with SAD.

The songs feel lived-in, which is no small feat considering how young the two sisters who comprise First Aid Kit actually are (22 and 19. Ugh. Now I feel old and unaccomplished. Also, since when were people born after 1990?)

The sisters' spot-on harmonization and intricate musical layers bring The Indigo Girls to mind, but where Amy Ray goes for the emotional suckerpunch, First Aid Kit prefers to stay above the fray. Intimate but detached, contemplative but immediate, The Lion's Roar deserves multiple listens.

First Aid Kit -- Official, Spotify

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mike June -- Talkin' Revolution Blues

If someone had described Mike June's music as "heartland rock with a sharp political bent" I would have been sold before I even listened to the album.

This album is an instant favorite and I'm so glad Von featured it on Americana Rock Mix.

Not much to say about this album without sounding cheesy: poignant, humorous, intelligent, incisive. June's powerful sense of melody allows the bitter pills of his lyrics to go down easily. It does not get better than this. Talkin' Revolution Blues is just one of those albums that's part of The Basics.

Listen and then purchase it for whatever price you choose.

April Showers
The Pauper's Princess
Hard Times

Mike June -- Official, Facebook

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chuck Ragan and Austin Lucas -- Bristle Ridge

This isn't so much a review of Bristle Ridge as it is some meditations about Austin Lucas.

To be honest, I didn't really like his music at first. I was mostly annoyed by all of his songs about how he was sorry he was so terrible to his ex etc. etc. I figured, "If you're going to be a co-dependent jerk, she's better off without you." Let's just say he hit a sore spot. But I liked the music enough to include his discography in one of Suburban Home Records' 10 for $10 specials a few years back. For some reason, I didn't try him again until this past summer.

The deeper I got into A New Home in the Old World, I could feel, as King James would have said, the scales fall from my eyes. The man's a freaking genius. I don't usually have visceral responses to art; "Go West" made my bawl my eyes out the first time I listened to it. Austin hit a sore spot again -- but in a good way this time.

I'm happy to say I saw him perform this past Wednesday and his live shows are no less intense. As it turns out, his sister lives in New York and the whole family was in town for her wedding. They joined Austin on a number of songs. That, and combined with the intimacy of Rockwood Music Hall, it felt that we had been invited to a Lucas family sing-along. It was one of those beautiful moments that makes live music worth it.

As for Bristle Ridge? Clearly everything the man touches is golden. And I know Chuck Ragan is also a big name in these here musical parts. I enjoyed his songs on the album, so he'll be next on my listening queue. If you have any suggestions on where I should start in his catalogue, drop me a line.

Austin Lucas Official, Chuck Ragan Official, Listen on Spotify

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cahalen and Eli -- Our Lady of the Tall Trees

If the volumes of text praising Our Lady of the Tall Trees were stretched end to end, we'd have a bridge to Mars. Here's my little snippet to add to the bridge.

This is beautiful, breathtaking acoustic music and it is a fair bet that you will see this album on a certain list at the end of the year. The sparse vocals and multilayered instrumentation give Cahalen and Eli's music a timeless quality. Original songs like "Stone to Stand" could just as easily be a hundred years old. The duo really has captured the essence of folk music -- high and lonesome, intimate and warm -- and crafted an astonishing album for the rest of us mere mortals.

If you're still looking for something to be thankful for, we should give thanks for the human capacity to create beauty like this.

Cahalen and Eli -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Spotify

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hero Jr. -- Backup Plan

This is my reaction to Hero Jr.'s debut album: holy shit.

The debut track, "Ann Boleyn" is worth the price of admission alone. I picked the other two songs featured here basically at random -- there is no dead weight on this album. Each song is a powerhouse of hook-laden melodic rock. It's the magical blend of '70s groove, '80s brashness, '90s hooks, and millennial pop.

Considering the volume of music I listen to (and the metric tons of other things occupying my mind), it is an Olympian achievement that Hero Jr. has been a constant earworm since my first spin of the album. In short, it's unforgettable.

Ann Boleyn
Strongest Weakness
Bottom of the End

Hero Jr. -- Official, Facebook, CD Baby

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sonia Tetlow -- Own Way Home

I apologize for the radio silence this past week. Public schools had Veterans' Day off, and on Sunday I decided I'd simply ignore any and all obligations. That meant lots of work for my real job on Monday and catch-up for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, it appears that my laptop has crashed. I'm forced to use my Department of Ed-issued laptop at home. Doing without my music collection has been difficult.

Fortunately, I received a press copy of Sonia Tetlow's latest album, Own Way Home. The shifting moods and textures on this album have kept my thirsty ears quenched.

Unless you've just joined us, you already know that this blog will champion anything Ms. Tetlow attaches her name to. I know she's proud of Own Way Home and she has every reason to be. It's not exactly revolutionary to observe that the artist's task is to encapsulate their soul in whatever medium they're working with. To the extent that I know Sonia, I say she did exactly that.

Skillfully weaving the horns of her New Orleans upbringing with the primal punk of her early songwriting years (and, in some moments, even the pop from her stint with Cowboy Mouth) Own Way Home presents a musical narrative of Sonia's career. Not that we should be surprised -- Sonia's colleagues from Paul Sanchez's Rolling Road Show and Roxie Watson accompany her here.

The album is appropriate for Thanksgiving -- most of the songs are concerned with moving beyond the pitfalls we face and coming to terms with oneself.

Highlights include "What Good Is It?", a stunning combination of moody horns and the jumpy, pulsing bassline that make Sonia's punk so distinctive; "K Flood Blues," a powerful indictment of FEMA's response to Katrina, and "Rodeo," which is a refreshing kick in the face.

Sonia Tetlow -- Bandcamp, CD Baby, Threadhead Records 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Browan Lollar -- For The Givers And The Takers

It doesn't get much better than this.

In five short songs, Browan Lollar spans the full range of rock'n'roll and nails it each time.


The EP deserves more praise than I have time to write about it. However, it's worth pointing out that Lollar's been around the block more than a few times. He's played with Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, and you've heard him on this blog playing with The Pollies. If For the Givers and the Takers is a sampling of his songwriting chops, I look forward to hearing more of this guy's considerable talent. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creole String Beans -- Shrimp Boots & Vintage Suits

It's Election Night and I'm virtually biting my nails here. Good thing I have the Creole String Beans to calm me down.

Co-founded by ex-Cowboy Mouth bassist Rob Savoy, the Creole String Beans have reportedly won a Grammy nomination (or first-round, anyway) for their latest album, Shrimp Boots & Vintage Suits.

I don't profess to know much about swamp pop, but I do know this is a great time bottled into a compact disc (or, if you prefer, a set of mp3s.) Though the majority of the songs on this album are originals, some, like Ernie K-Doe's "Here Come the Girls" are truly outstanding covers. However, not being a scholar of the genre, it's hard to say what's what, and that's a good thing. If Muscle Shoals can have its own soul revival, then the Gulf Coast deserves to get in on the action, too. The String Beans may be wearing vintage suits, but their music keeps swamp boogie as fresh as tonight's acceptance speech.

The Creole String Beans -- Official, Buy Shrimp Boots & Vintage Suits, Spotify

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rebuild, Renew

I recently reviewed Paul Sanchez's Nine Lives. As we learn more about the devastation caused by Sandy, the closing number is a prescient reminder of the work we need to do.

If you can spare it, the Ali Forney Center -- the only drop-in center and shelter explicitly for NYC's LGBT youth -- has been destroyed. Read here for more info on how you can help.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Delta Routine -- Cigarettes and Caffeine Nightmares

The Delta Routine's third album begins with a bold promise: "I won't waste your time."

And the band delivers. Clocking in at 35 minutes, Cigarettes and Caffeine Nightmares is a kick in the pants of blues rock, garage rock, power pop, and America. Brash and irresistibly fun, The Delta Routine refuses to allow you to be in a bad mood by the time the last notes on "People Like You" ring out.

You don't want to sleep on this album. The Delta Routine is here to stay. Hopefully it's only a matter of time before they get the appreciation and following they so richly deserve.

The Delta Routine -- Official, Facebook