Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Welch album far more harvest than harrow

Gillian Welch - "The Harrow and the Harvest"
Acony Records
-out today
4 / 5

Eight long years. Almost a decade, if you've been keeping track since her last solo release, "Soul Journey." The traditional folk duo of Welch and David Rawlings release a spare, bare-bones treasure trove of below-the-dixon-line croons, and if you're a fan of banjo and whiskey in the moonlight, then it's safe to say this album should be in your collection. There are several reasons, not the least of which are the haunted "Tennessee" and the sheer drive of "The Way It Goes"; we might site the clarity of the hard-luck images, the ease with which the performances flow; the fact that Welch and Rawlings aren't looking to impress or overwhelm, just to sit down and tell a story set to song. We admit, we're not often soft to traditional folkies, but her performance at last year's Newport Folk Fest (did we mention she's coming back, too?) was sublime enough to melt even our hardened, dance-beat heart. This album should do much the same, even if you don't consider yourself a grass-chawing river folk. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Emergency post! Newport Folk Fest plug!

Hello all and (every)one,
We just received info that the Newport Folk Fest (July 30 + 31) is almost certainly going to sell out early for Saturday, and most likely for Sunday, too. If you're in the N.E. area, we're wondering what other things you could possibly do if you can't get a ticket:

-Complain about how the weather's hotter than Florida, just like a native (it's really not)
-Get pinched by a lobster when you try to put it in the boiling pot, then proceed to drop the crustacean and watch it scramble away
-Reminisce about how beautiful the fall leaves are, and complain (again) about the summer heat
-Get stuck indoors because it's really just pouring out for your VACATION WEEKEND (no, we're not bitter)

Actually, the Folk Fest is most fun when wet. But gosh darnit, if you want to show especially for Saturday, get those tickets ASAP. Especially considering they've got Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Middle Brother and an acoustic set by Tegan and Sara. And if you need to live vicariously through this blog (and that's just sad, plain sad) we've got some pre-and post-Fest coverage coming up, with pics C.O. the lovely and talented Allie Runnion. Will keep you New Englanders updated on this important story as it unfolds. Gotta find where that little red guy went to...

PS Don't forget the weekend after, which happens to be the always awesome Newport Jazz Fest (Aug. 5-7)!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cassettes won't listen, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't

Cassettes Won't Listen - "EVINSPACEY"
Daylight Curfew
-out June 21
3.5 / 5

After all's said and done, this is what Los Angeles-based Jason Drake has to show for his latest full-length: a handful of catchy, electronica/ pop pieces ("Perfect Day," "Wave to the Winners"), some hip-hop inspired beats, and a cease-and-desist. So certain famous actors don't appreciate the shout-out; we do, and here's why: despite Drake's demonstrated cheekiness, he's also got a good ear for pop, simple, enduring melodies, and a sense of joy and playfulness. Drake never bogs himself down with oversampling and overlayering (all the more impressive for the hip-hop producer), and each track maintains a clarity and directness about it, even with synth and bass and beats (amongst other electronica). The highlight here is that "Perfect Day," but to say we didn't also enjoy the dance beat of "The Night Shines" and "The Echoes." Enjoyable, breezy electronica that comes recommended.

Listen to "Perfect Day," and, what the heck, "The Echoes."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mid-year recap!

It's that time of (mid-) year again! Keep in mind, we're something of a limited blog here; we haven't gotten TV on the Radio (thumbs up), the Decemberists (thumbs down), or Iron and Wine (definite up and up). But other than that, here's our picks based on our (admittedly) limited selection; still, there are definitely some you should check out - and avoid.

The Civil Wars, "Barton Hollow" - A gorgeous, tender album lifted with male/female duettery. But honestly, if you enjoy earnest, bare folk with vocals that strike deep, then this is your album.

Panda Bear, "Tomboy" - The much-awaited solo from Animal Collective's frontman has arrived. Delayed for a number of years, it's dense with their trademark electronic-layering and sonic depth, making it recommended. Though with a caveat: it's something of a difficult album to get into.

The Low Anthem, "Smart Flesh" - We'd forgive the weird title, and we'd forgive that it took three years to come out. But what we can't forgive is that our only favorite track is "Apothecary Love," and the rest is... sad and mopey. Kinda too much, even if you're an angsty teen, so you'll most likely keep their brilliant "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin" on your ipod instead.

Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues" - While not as scintillating and titillating as their eponymous debut a few years ago, their sophomore is still a fantastic baroque-pop thrill-ride teetering with harmonies and violins and just general awesomeness.

Middle Brother, "Middle Brother" - A brainchild of frontmen from Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Force (wow, alphabetical order!), this little country peach is anything but warm and fuzzy. It's definitely one of our favorites so far, because, let's face it, each singer is in probably their best form. Ever. They complement and refract off of each other, so much so, that we're hoping they'll abandon their bands and stay together. Oh well, at least they're playing the Newport Folk Festival.
We didn't just plug them, right...?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dawes struggles to find something right on "Nothing Is Wrong"

Dawes - "Nothing Is Wrong"
Ato Records
-out today
2.5 / 5

We're still reeling from brilliant folk collaboration Middle Brother which, we admit, led us to Dawes. Taylor Goldsmith's performance as 1/3 of Brother is certainly one of his finest ("Blood and Guts," "Wilderness") and now that we've calmed down from getting the Los Angeles band's second full-length, that opening, "Time Spent in Los Angeles," is certainly... definitely... something of a letdown. "Nothing Is Wrong" feels too complacent, too placid, especially in light of Goldsmith's serious vocal chops displayed earlier this year. Lyrically, Dawes is hit-or-miss, but our biggest complaint comes from Goldsmith himself, who doesn't stretch himself out on these vocals. And we know he can definitely belt one out (did we already mention "Blood and Guts?"). Yeah, we still like "Million Dollar Bill" on this one, and it certainly is written well, but even there, we've got to say Middle Brother caught him at the right place, right time; "Nothing Is Wrong" just seems to have caught him tired and off-guard. Take a pass.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Corea, Clarke and White revisit the band that will last "Forever"

Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White - "Forever"
Concord Records
-out tomorrow
3.5 / 5

There's just such a breezy way that Chick Corea dabbles on those ivories that, we're certain, melts even the un-jazziest of hearts. And on this reunion album-slash-tour of his eternal Return to Forever band, it's all there: drummer Lenny White, bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke (btw, check out his "School Days"), and some jazz/ RTF standards (plus a handful of new ones). Replete with guests (Jean-Luc Ponty, "Upon the Wings of Music" for one), this album can't help but to measure itself again the catalog of 70s releases, and in that respect, "Forever" still meets the test. With a nimble band, light, delicate performances, there is little to complain about (though they forgot "Spain"! - can't win them all) on this live, acoustic two-disc set. It is, in fact, an excellent primer to those unfortunate enough not to have been introduced to one of the premier fusion bands of all time; furthermore, we're certain that you (the jazz-discerning part of our audience) will enjoy the precise, yet warm performances within. For neophytes or fans, we're most certainly recommending it, and especially urging a look (yet again) into their classic albums.