Sunday, February 8, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

After bemoaning the lack of folk music in my listening diet last week, this week has been exclusively devoted to new singer songwriter folk releases. It wasn't exactly a conscious doing. It just so happened that these were the new releases that appealed to me. Funny how things work out like that sometimes, and who am I to argue with fate. Given that this was the snowiest week of winter, I suppose it was for the best. There's few things I enjoy more than listening to acoustic folk music as the world outside turns cold and grey. These albums certainly fulfilled that need and hopefully you'll feel in a similar mood and want to check some of these out. Enjoy.

Andrew Bird - Echolocations (Canyon): Every once in a while, the Chicago chamber folk artist will release a minimal instrumental album between his brilliant singer songwriter records. This album, released this week, is one of those projects. It's extremely peaceful, with sounds of the gently strolling streams playing just under the surface of the music. It's calm enough to be a lullaby, with beautiful string arrangements and a wonderful softness about it. The songs play as if they are part of one long piece of music. Perhaps not want fans might be wishing for, but undeniably pretty. 

Josh Ritter - Acoustic Live Vol. 1: For the last 15 years, this Bostonian transplant has been one of those contemporary folk singer songwriters that has managed to stay just under the radar, while attracting a rather large indie following. Released two weeks ago, and recorded last March in Massachusetts, this is the first in what I assume is going to be a series of acoustic live releases and it's quite stunning. His voice shines like broken moonlight through the trees while the music creates an eerie atmosphere to complete the picture. "Best for the Best" and "Southern Pacifica" are my personal favorites. Serves as a nice introduction, or a good reminder for those already familiar with his work.

Mount Eerie - Sauna: The Washington state lo-fi band, also known as Phil Elverum, formerly of The Microphones. It's been two years since the last Mount Eerie release, which was a toss-off experimental album, but this week he returned with a proper album of his trademark avant-folk sound. Another sleepy sort of weekend album, this one has been great to listen to while the snow slowly fell this week. At their best, his works are atmospheric mood pieces that can truly spark the imagination. This is one of them, harking back to the best of The Microphones. Certainly one worth checking out for fans. "Pumpkin" and "Youth" are my favorite tracks on the album.

Ryley Walker - Primrose Green: The Chicago native's third album is due out this March and it's a '60s inspired gem of psychedelic folk in the style of Tim Buckley meets Jackson C. Frank. At first listen, one would think this album was recorded between '68 and '72, rather than a quarter of the way through the 21st century. It's extremely authentic sounding and one of the best psychedelic folk records made in the last 40 years. Every song on here is fantastic, but "The High Road," "Sweet Satisfaction," and the title track are real standouts. Easily an early contender to make my albums of the year. 

Alasdair Roberts - Alasdair Roberts: For his 10th solo album, released a few weeks back, the Glasgow singer songwriter, and former member of Appendix Out decided to go the self-titled route. Once again I feel compelled to mention how I'll never understand the self-titled thing, especially beyond a debut, but that aside, this is one I've been looking forward to. Over the past 20 years or so, Roberts has been one of my favorite songwriters and I always look to a new album with some anticipation. He crafts his folk songs in an old Scottish style, which gives them a fairy tale feeling that I always enjoy. In my opinion, this is his best in quite some time. A dark undertone has returned, which somehow seems to compliment his tales in wonderful ways. "The Mossy Shrine," "Hurricane Brown," and "In Dispraise of Hunger" are my favorites.

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