Another week of desperate cold and snow meant another week dominated by singer songwriter folk music. It certainly fit my speed and schedule of this mid-Winter week, but as things begin to kick into gear again next week, I've already switched my mood and it will see a lot of rock and hip-hop returning to the Roundup. Until then, you'll have take pleasure in the easy sounds featured here. There's some great records on this list, ones that I've been cherishing for days, so hopefully something on here will inspire you to pick it up and give it a play or two or three. As always...enjoy.
José Gonzalez - Vestiges & Claws: It's been eight years since the Swedish indie folk artist's last album. His third album is finally due out this week and it's pretty much a triumph. After such a long break after his first two phenomenal records, this was one of those albums that seemed set up for a letdown, but it's anything but. The fragile beauty of Gonzalez's songs is as striking as ever. In many ways, this record seems even closer to Nick Drake's music than before. It has the same kind of simple and honest charm. Easily the most exciting release of the week and one I've waited far too long for. "The Forrest," "Let It Carry You," and "What Will" are my personal favorites, but the album should really be enjoyed as a whole.
Iron and Wine - Archive Series Volume No. 1: Due out at the end of the month is this collection put together by the singer songwriter consisting of unreleased home recordings that date back to the time of his debut. These songs are similar in feel to those found on 2002's The Creek Drank the Cradle. I love that record and to hear these songs which feel like a companion album, is simply fantastic. There's a softness and an innocence that permeates through these recordings. On later albums, Sam Beam's work matures into more elaborate and compelling themes, but that doesn't take anything away from the brilliance of these simpler times.
Goblin Hovel - The Roots That Broke the Stone: A few weeks ago I reviewed this band's other 2014 album, one that made my honorable mentions for the year. I figured it was time to give their second album of last year a proper review. Released in October, this is another dark folk record made by the ever-changing band made up of different collaborating musicians. Though I preferred Wonders Gone Dark, Shadows Brought to Life, this is also a wonderful record. More than any other music, these two records have shaped the revisions of the novel I'm currently working on. They capture the haunted mood that I've set out to recreate. "Ground Rot," "Chthon," and "Song of the Shade" are highlights for me.
Grateful Dead - Live Acoustic Family Dog at the Great Highway 4/18/70: Released two years ago on the inaugural Black Friday vinyl release day, this double album captures the fractured 1970 Dead in rare form. The band was just about to begin it's holy trinity of Workingman's Dead, American Beauty, and Wake of the Flood and this show really captures that country folk sound that will eventually make those albums so perfect in my opinion. The acoustic setting and ramble style recording only add to the magic. Of all the hundreds and thousands of Dead bootleg concerts, I can see why this one got the deluxe vinyl release. It's got such a relaxed and organic feel that it becomes flawless in its own way. "Deep Elem Blues," "Mama Tried," "Don't Ease Me In," and "New Speedway Boogie" are amazing, and the last side of the record is Pigpen's bare bones blues at it's best. A true gem and a must have.
The Lone Bellow - Then Came the Morning: Two weeks ago the Brooklyn indie folk rock band released their second album. The trio adheres to the current style of folk pop, blending country, rock, spiritual, and folk into a condensed sound that is enjoyable to listen to, but sounds nearly indistinguishable from a whole host of other albums. It definitely has a radio friendly feel that reminds me of Hozier. For me, this album suffers from its strive to sound so genre perfect. It hits all of the right notes in all of the right places, yet feels somehow soulless to me. Perhaps it's just one of those records I couldn't connect to, but I can certainly see this becoming a favorite of other people. So if you're into indie folk rock, certainly give it a shot. "If You Don't Love Me," "Telluride," and the title track were standouts for me.
The Shivers - Forever is a Word: The seventh album from the Brooklyn band is one that's hard to define. It opens with the indie soul sounding "I Got Mine" which feels like an updated hipper version of '70s AM radio soul. There are pub rock influences to be sure, but this is a soulful album with some to spare...too bad The Lone Bellow couldn't have borrowed some it. It reminds me a bit of Future Islands last album, and a bit like Richard Ashcroft's later solo work. At times it can be jarring, but at other times it's quite awesome. "Black Shades," "More Grey Than Green" and the title track are my personal favorites.