In yet another week where free time was at a premium, my time to listen to music was limited. This situation, combined with the embarrassing wealth of new music out there in the last few months, has left me to choose among many anticipated releases to digest and review. This week is heavy on folk music, which is to be expected given the chilly nights and the galaxy of colors contained in the autumn leaves, a season which always pulls me toward the soothing sounds of folk music. This week's list is also focused on new material from old favorites of mine. I didn't want to take any chances with my choices and picked among the albums I'd been wanting to hear most. Some impressed me, meeting and exceeding expectations, while others didn't. Regardless, a nice gathering of material here for you to explore. Hopefully you'll find something interesting. Enjoy.
O'death - Out of Hands We Go: It has been a long three years since my favorite gothic country band released a new album, but that wait ended this week with their fifth album. Since their debut, the Brooklyn band's unique sound catapulted them into my favorite bands, and with each new album they deliver a masterpiece of spiritual death folk. If there were a soundtrack to Nick Cave's And the Ass Saw An Angel novel, O'Death would be the band cast in its strange, horribly beautiful world. Their last album felt like a redemption from the violence of the preceeding album. If that holds, then this album feels like the wandering through the underworld of forlorn soul. Stunning, epic, and undeniably brilliant. "Roam," "Wait for Fire," "We Had a Vision," and "Isavelle" are standouts on a stellar album.
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues: Last month the Americana legend gave us his 15th full-length solo album. Ever since founding Palace in the mid-90's Will Oldham has been one of the best singer songwriters of his generation. Recently I've felt that his output has trailed off a bit from the amazing work he'd done during the first decade of his career. But with this album, he once again has impressed me with the personal songs, and the delicate care put into them. The last two albums felt rushed to me and lacking the effort I know he's capable of. Not this time. I thoroughly enjoy this record, it has a nice and easy Sunday morning feel to it. A bit sunnier than some of his albums, but it suits him. "Mindlessness," "New Black Rich (Tusks)," "Old Match," "Night Noises" and "So Far And Here We Are" are my personal favorites on this beautiful album.
The Melvins - Hold It In: After releasing two extremely disappointing albums last year, I wondered if the kings of sludge metal had finally reached their end. Then came this year's amazing solo record from King Buzzo and it gave me new hope, enough to take a chance on this new album due out this week. I happy to say that this album sees the band return to form with heavy sludge bliss. This is the heaviest they've sounded in some time, and definitely worth checking out if you've ever been a fan of these guys. My current favorites are "Eyes On You," "Sesame Street Meat," "Bride of Crankenstein," and "Brass Cupcake."
Tricky - Adrian Thaws: Throughout his career, Tricky has been an intriguing figure. From his beginnings as a member of Massive Attack and then into his early mid-90s solo career, the Bristol artist has been a pioneer in trip-hop. The past several years have seen a revival of his signature grimy style, and it continues with this album released last month, his 15th solo record. This time, Tricky delves into his hip hop roots, more so than he has since his Grassroots EP in 1996. One of things he's always excelled at is the use of other artists, especially female artists, to prevent a record from ever growing stale. "Sun Down," "Lonnie Listen," "I Had a Dream," and "My Palestine Girl" are among my favorites.
Mark Fry - South Wind, Clear Sky: In 1972, the then 20 year old folk singer songwriter released an amazing debut entitled "Dreaming with Alice" and then nothing else until 2008. I've owned "Dreaming with Alice" for over 20 years and was unaware of his return until I came across this album released two weeks ago, the singer's fourth. This sound remarkably authentic in the sense that it stays true to the music he was making over 40 years ago. It's a very British sounding acoustic folk record, which reminds me of moments on Pink Floyd's "Animals" and other mid-70's albums. Soft and beautiful, this is one of those great relaxing albums. It's so nice when an artist resurfaces with the same results that they had disappeared with. "Aeroplanes," "Along the Way," "River Kings," and "Dials for Home" are standouts.
Johnny Marr - Playland: A year after The Smiths guitarist released his first ever solo album, Marr is back with a follow-up. Like the last one, this record infuses indie rock with power pop, creating an uptempo dance rock record that fits with the contemporary Brit-rock trend. One of the problems with this is that Marr doesn't really have the voice to pull off a cheerful Smiths record. But as one would expect from any quality musician, there are a moments where everything comes together. Overall a pretty generic indie rock record and slightly disappointing with the exception of "Back in the Box," "Speak Out Reach Out," and "This Tension."