January 22, 2015
At a time when Internet hype threatens to smother any semblance of genuine talent, it’s difficult not to be cynical. Rest assured, however, that Zola Jesus deserves all the praise. Nika Roza Danilova is the real deal.
For those wondering if Danilova can replicate the powerful vibes of her latest album, TAIGA (review), in a live setting, the answer is yes. Her already-amazing voice is actually better in person than on record, which is kind of astonishing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By Tyler Hodg
On the surface, The Westies appear to be nothing more than a generic soft-rock band, but when examined more closely, they are much more than what meets the eye (and ear). The stories behind the band and their music are equally intriguing, and both lend a hand in creating a more extraordinary picture, in the form of their debut album West Side Stories.
Tribute cover albums occupy such an odd space. If a band covers a song too faithfully, they’re destined to be compared, probably unfavorably, to the original. If you add nothing to your interpretation, then why cover the song in the first place? If a band goes too far afield in their musical choices, and they make the song truly their own, then they have the purists who complain that they haven’t hewed closely enough to the source material. It’s a tightrope.
On Stoned – A Psych Tribute To The Rolling Stones, the artists from the neo-psych scene (the Allah-Las, The Tulips, Clinic, Tashaki Miyaki, Yeti Love, et al.) tread that tightrope. Some of the covers are straightforward, faithful renditions (with more reverb, because it’s neo-psych music), and some take the songs in a much different direction. It’s an intriguing record.
Jim White’s collaboration with The Packway Handle Band is an early entry in the “most delightful albums of 2015” list that I am currently compiling (in my head). Full of clever, cinematic lyrics and ripping bluegrass, Take It Like A Man is a joy from start to finish.
By Tyler Hodg
In their 15th year as a band, The Decemberists continue to release albums that sound nothing less than pure, and What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is no exception. It’s modest. It’s relatable. It’s fantastic.
Elephant Micah’s (Joseph O’Connell) songs on Where In Our Woods sound archaic and primal, but in a quiet kind of way. They’re hushed and spare, connected to the earth and the air and the migratory patterns of birds. Where In Our Woods haunts and moves me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
It’s difficult to describe the sound of the UK’s The Vagaband. They’re a little folky, with a dash of vaudeville, a generous dollop of rock, and a not fleeting resemblance to Pink Floyd. They traffic in pastoral sounds with interesting instrumentation. Their second album, Medicine For The Soul, is a pleasant surprise; it’s chock full of banjos and horns, jaw harps and fiddle, and charming, ear-wormy tunes, as well as a smart cover of a Ween song.
By Ben Van D
For many, Acid House is inextricably linked to a place and time—the dim, sometimes garish, and impossibly vibrant rave culture of the early ’90s. It harkens back to an intoxicated era of manic excess, quasi-spiritual tribe mentality, and devastatingly harsh comedowns. If you missed it, imagine Cirque de Soliel performing in 1960s revival costumes in an underground parking lot at twice the BPM through a set of broken speakers.
By Tyler Hodg
Thanks to Dan Mangan + Blacksmith’s new album Club Meds, the year 2015 has gotten off to an impressive start musically.
But before you listen to it, first thing’s first: grab your headphones, find an isolated area, and make sure to turn off all of the lights. Some albums deserve proper atmosphere for an optimal listening experience, and Club Meds is a prime example.
I liked Tony Lucca’s self-titled album better when I wasn’t paying full attention to it. Full of chunky guitar and “whoo”-ing backup singers, it’s decent, if pedestrian. The songwriting reflects nights out in California and frisky women, and Lucca’s voice is pretty swell; husky in the right places, soulful where it needs to be. The problem is listening to it closely. His voice deserves better than these songs. He can sing, and sing well, but the material isn’t strong enough.