I spent most of last week in Austin scouring the local record stores for some choice vinyl. Naturally, I came home with a nice thick stack of new records, including a number of albums that were included on my Best of 2013 list and a few other gems. I haven't had much time yet to listen to those, so expect reviews in the coming weeks. Until then, you'll have endure my ravings on other albums that I've been listening to over the past few days and weeks. Enjoy.
First Aid Kit - The Big Black and The Blue: I first listened to this Swedish folk duo back in 2012 when their second album The Lion's Roar made my list of favorite albums. Foolishly, I thought that had been their debut album until I came across this 2010 album in one of the Austin record stores. This is their debut record, though an EP was released two years prior. Like their other album, this is a beautiful collection of contemporary folk, but with less country influence. It has more of a traditional European folk feel with minimal minstrel music accompaniment to the sisters' harmonizing voices. "Hard Believer," "A Window Opens," and "Heavy Storm" are among my favorites.
Bosnian Rainbows - Bosnian Rainbows: Released last summer, this is one Omar Rodriguez Lopez's many projects. As one of the creative halves of The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In, I've always admired Lopez and his endless scope of creativity though I've had trouble keeping up. I came to this after reading about the new band he formed with John Frusciante, Kimono Kult, which also includes Teresa Suarez Cosio, who provides vocals on this record. This is the band's only album, and with the formation of Kimono Kult, possibly their last. It has a very '90s feel to it, a kind of classic alternative rock with some electronic experimentation going on in the background. There's nothing revolutionary here, but it's pleasant enough. "I Cry for You" and "Turtle Neck" are my favorite tracks.
Sun Kil Moon - Benji: The sixth album from the indie folk band born from the ashes of Red House Painters will be released this week. I followed this band closely in the early part of the last decade when they arose, but missed the last few records. Their sound on this record is more country influenced with more direct vocals. Or maybe it's just because most of the songs on this album are about people dying that makes me think of country music. Either way, it's very refreshing and reminds me of Bonnie Prince Billy meets Lucero. There's a good reason this is currently the highest rated 2014 release on Rate Your Music. "Pray for Newtown" is a stunning song about the state of society and is a must hear.
Francis Dunnery - Frankenstein Monster: This singer songwriter from UK has been releasing music for over twenty years but this is the first of his music that I've heard. Released last Fall, this album has a classic rock feel to it. There's some nice guitar work that reminds me of Rory Gallagher with pretty solid rock vocals. As a whole, the album is a bit uneven, but still a good enough listen. Nothing really earth shattering, but worth a listen if you're into standard rock.
Mark Lanegan - Imitations: Over the past decade, Mark Lanegan has reinvented himself into a modern day Tom Waits with his throaty delivery. Released in September this is an album of covers, including songs by Nick Cave, John Cale and others. It has a smokey night club feel to it, and the all acoustic nature really suits him. I'm always a sucker for cover albums, and this is one is very good. He is able to reinvent the interesting song choices and give them new life.
Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor: For the past twenty years this Seattle trash metal band has been putting out much touted records, and this 2005 release is considered their best by most fans. After being on my wish list for years, I finally sought it out a last month. It's a dystopian look at society, and like most metal of the past several years, there's a melodic element that swirls over the pounding rhythm. As far as the genre goes, this is a pretty solid offering. Worth a listen if you're into modern metal.