Todd Snider “Eastside Bulldog” (Thirty Tigers, 2016)

"Snider-Todd-2016"Apparently, Todd Snider has a doppelgänger, an East Nashville musical hooligan who goes by the name of Elmo Buzz and who has three rules on playing music. 1. “Play the bones of some Fifties or Sixties-sounding thing and make it just barely original enough to start a song.”2. “Only sing about fighting, fucking, getting fucked up, kickass cars, East Nashville or Bocephus — all other songs are stupid.” 3. “When in doubt, yell, ‘baby,’ and see what happens.” Continue reading “Todd Snider “Eastside Bulldog” (Thirty Tigers, 2016)”

Modern Studies “Swell To Great” (Song, By Toad Records, 2016)

modern-studiesThe sea surges and froths throughout these songs. They have all of the delicate beauty of an early morning coastal mist, they drift and coalesce or coalesce then drift. Like tidal surges, the asthmatic wheeze of the bellows haunts them like a ghost ship at sea. Above the drones as the mist burns away it reveals beautiful music that leaks out, morsels of chamber pop lovingly orchestrated, swelling like a Sufjan Stevens song on ‘Dive-Bombing’ which is typical of Emily Scott’s vocals, drifting above marshy strings and woodwinds. Then ‘Bold Fisherman’ with male vocals and repeating patterns is more akin to the avant-folk of David Thomas Broughton; with minimal backing its prow barely breaks the waves. Continue reading “Modern Studies “Swell To Great” (Song, By Toad Records, 2016)”

Paul Goodwin “The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube” (Independent, 2016)

"Goodwin-Paul-2016"Four years in the making but The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube is not the result of endless hours spent tinkering in the studio, budgets be blasted. Instead the gap is explained by Cambridge musician Goodwin as due to him being, “incredibly slow at doing things.” Well, good things come to those who wait and Goodwin certainly delivers here with a melancholic set of songs that he has handcrafted virtually by himself as he plays all instruments bar drums, the songs recorded at his home. Continue reading “Paul Goodwin “The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube” (Independent, 2016)”

Virgin of the Birds “Secret Kids” (Song, By Toad Records, 2016)

virgin-of-the-birdsJon Rooney records are documents of how songs are captured at the moment of recording. I always suspect that the next time I hear the song it could be significantly different, and in this respect he’s like Howe Gelb. He shares the immediacy (but not quite the Bandcamp catalogue) of Car Seat Headrest, moving between lo-fi and art-rock seamlessly. Some songs are fully realised, and if they are not, they may be at some future point. There’s an affinity with the Silver Jews and Clem Snide and it is the mark of the man that Jon Rooney holds his own in such company. Continue reading “Virgin of the Birds “Secret Kids” (Song, By Toad Records, 2016)”

Seth Faergolzia “High Diver” (Blang, 2016)

seth Faergolzia 2016When I received this, I was intrigued. A bunch of songs taken from a larger bunch of songs, the results of a period where Our Seth was writing a song a day for a hundred days. Wow! Get that!, I thought. Let’s go! Press ‘play‘, “High Diver”: title track, good, decent; though something’s definitely off. Then “Rubbing It In” happens and there it is. Two tracks in and he’s had himself off. It made me think of the imperious Chilly Gonzales jamming with Kiwi ledges, Flight of the Conchords but sadly, it’s not. It’s a bad thing, and the cod Celtic mess that follows is worrying – despite saving itself after a couple of minute, I was left thinking, after the third song, “this guy’s made 20 albums? How come he doesn’t know what he’s good at yet?” because the absence of cohesion and identity just makes it a mess and unbelievable.  Continue reading “Seth Faergolzia “High Diver” (Blang, 2016)”

Laish “Pendulum Swing” (Talitres, 2016)

laishThese songs are laced in equal measure with cynicism and charm – at his best Danny Green can produce songs that are lyrically and musically spot-on. ‘Vague’ is a world weary slightly melancholic exploration of ageing with an insidious tune that pushes its way into my affections. It’s a kind of post-millennial slacker-rock, Malkmus by way of Richard Ford. Continue reading “Laish “Pendulum Swing” (Talitres, 2016)”

The Handsome Family “Unseen” (Loose Records, 2016)

handsome-familyUnseen is a good word to describe the Handsome Family – they are ludicrously underappreciated and often their songs deal with the internal world or take place in the darkness that from time to time envelopes us all, there or in the natural world, away from our eyes. We’re lucky that they continue to pursue their idiosyncratic vision and serve up their worldview for us to share. Perhaps typical of them is ‘Tiny Tina,’ a song about ultimately regretting going to see the world’s smallest horse at the State Fair. Continue reading “The Handsome Family “Unseen” (Loose Records, 2016)”

Kemper Norton “Toll” (Front and Follow, 2016)

Kemper Norton 2016My old boiler used to sound like ‘Mladic’ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, so the musicality in machinery’s tonal shifts and sighs, and how it can create melody, isn’t new to me and is, I believe, in our DNA. Try watching Bjork in Dancer in the Dark (without bawling) for another example, and it’s perhaps because of this that I enjoyed much of this record, but inevitably with music like this, there’s a rub, because if you can’t hear sadness and a deep, inexplicable weariness in the hum of your fridge freezer, or find the sound of your boiler oddly beguiling, you should probably stop reading here.  Continue reading “Kemper Norton “Toll” (Front and Follow, 2016)”

Keegan McInroe “Uncouth Pilgrims” (Independent, 2016)

keegan-mcinroe-2016‘Uncouth Pilgrims’ is Texas-based singer-songwriter Keegan McInroe’s fourth studio album. The fourteen songs on show deliver some great storytelling and musicianship. At first listen, some of the songs maybe don’t appear that original, with relatively familiar chords structures and feel. It might also be said that Keegan’s vocals aren’t necessarily the strongest. However, whilst his pitching might not always be musically perfect, it is offset by the gruff charm and style of his delivery. That and some great lyrics carry the day and repeated listens highlight more depth to the songs than is first apparent. Continue reading “Keegan McInroe “Uncouth Pilgrims” (Independent, 2016)”

Andy Ferrell “At Home And In Nashville” (Independent, 2016)

"Ferrell-Andy-2016"As football commentators love to say, “It’s a game of two halves” and the same goes for North Carolina’s Andy Ferrell’s debut album. Comprised of 12 songs the first six were recorded in Nashville with a band complement while the remainder are a capture of a solo show in his home town of Boone effectively reminding this reviewer of the days when one had to flip a disc over midway through listening. It’s not only the reminder of this old ritual that recalls the “good old days” when listening to At Home And In Nashville as Ferrell is yet another of these youngsters who are looking to singers and songwriters from the seventies for inspiration. Ferrell notes Townes Van Zandt as one of his heroes but on listening to the album there are reminders of Arlo Guthrie and Loudon Wainwright to be heard while the live tracks span a tradition that goes back to Woody Guthrie. Continue reading “Andy Ferrell “At Home And In Nashville” (Independent, 2016)”