Monday, June 10, 2013

Frequent Spins (2013.3)

Iron & Wine - Ghost on Ghost
Sam Beam will probably never make the album I've been anticipating for all these years, but that's my problem, not his. He just keeps making consistently good music, even if much of it feels a little unsatisfying to me.

Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God
Speaking of unsatisfying, it's probably unrealistic to expect an artist to ever recreate the emotions you felt when you first discovered him/her/them. That is, when they're one of those bands who make you want to seek out everything they've ever recorded, as My Morning Jacket was for me about a decade ago.

Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle - Perils from the Sea
A surprising collaboration between Sun Kil Moon's Kozelek and The Album Leaf's LaValle yields very pleasing results. As a bigger fan of the former, this one adds a certain freshness to Kozelek's otherwise fairly predictable formula. I would describe it as Postal Service for the slightly older crowd, although I might be a little off base in saying that.

Local Natives - Hummingbird
This is actually one I've been listening to on and off for a while. There's been a little controversy going on in my mind regarding whether or not I like it, probably because it reminds me of a lot of music I love but falls short of evoking that emotion. Still, it's worth a few listens if for no other reason than it was produced by The National's Aaron Dessner and has drawn comparisons to Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes.

The Men - New Moon
A much mellower affair than their previous albums, New Moon might risk putting off fans of their noise rock sound, but to me this one shows a Replacements-esque versatility. Nothing here is as charmingly sloppy as that band's trademark sound, of course, but what is? Come to think of it, Silkworm is probably a better reference point.

Mogwai - Les Revenants
This album's penultimate song, "What Are They Doing in Heaven," reminds me a bit of Mojave 3 and makes me wonder why this band doesn't add vocals to more of their songs.

Shout Out Louds - Optica
For some strange reason, I like discussing the demographics of the bands I listen to. Because of this, it was a little surprising when, a few years ago, I realized Sweden is my fourth favorite country for music (behind the U.S., Canada and England). In addition to the SOLs, there's Jens Lekman, The Tallest Man on Earth, First Aid Kit...OK, maybe that's it. So, perhaps I should bump Sweden to #5 in favor of Scotland. Teenage Fanclub might be all the reason I need for that. Anyway, this one's probably not borderline top ten material like the SOLs last, but when they're on this melodic indie pop band is seriously on. And they are for at least half this album.

Various Artists - The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver
Sometimes tribute albums work better when they're paying homage to artists who aren't among your favorites. After all, why would you want to hear lesser versions of songs you love. I'm overly generalizing here, of course, and this isn't intended to be a knock on Denver. It's just that perhaps it took a bunch of other artists to make me realize how good of a songwriter he really was. Take your pick regarding what this album's highlights are, because they're are plenty. My personal favorite is J. Mascis and Sharon Van Etten teaming up on "Prisoners."

Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison - Cheater's Game
A friend of mine was the product manager for Kelly Willis's What I Deserve in 1999. That album may have bridged a gap for me. I was fully ensconced in the more rocking side of the upstart alt-country genre at the time, but had yet to fully embrace its country side. Not coincidentally, Willis is one of only a few artists I've successfully turned my dad onto. This one is her first full-on duet album with her husband, Bruce Robison, and it succeeds much more than previous collaborations between the two. It's not quite Emmylou and Gram, but it's certainly better than the former's recent duet with Rodney Crowell.

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