Every week, I’ll share an album or two I’ve been listening to. Feel free to list your favorite recent releases in the comments below.
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I’m adding a Spotify playlist to this column every week with new music I’ve been enjoying. It's at the bottom of this page. Just click to listen to some great tunes. If you're not on Spotify, you should be. Let me know what I’m missing out on.
This week, I traveled several times to Knoxville and once to Nashville. All of this driving affords the opportunity to listen to more albums than I normally would be able to get to during the week. At the top of the list, surprisingly, is a country/rock album by “Nashville Star” contestant Kacey Musgraves. I also listened to albums from Phosphorescent, Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, Palma Violets, Low, Josh Rouse, Marnie Stern and Suede. I’ve also garnered much more respect for Justin Timberlake after listening a few times to "The 20/20 Experience."
I’ll briefly review several of these albums below.
Notable releases next week:
“... one of the most fully-formed, arresting debuts Nashville’s seen in years.”—American Songwriter
Kacey Musgraves—a former “Nashville Star” contestant and member of Lady Antebellum—has created an album that bridges a much-needed gap between contemporary country music and Americana. It’s very easy to dismiss the trite lyrics of most “country” songs (dog died, wife left, drinking again, etc.), but you cannot ignore the quality songwriting Musgraves brings to this new album. These songs are country without being corny. You have no idea how difficult that is to do. What a great record.
“Phosphorescent’s 'Muchacho' is the kind of album that will take two listens to decide you hate it and then another three to realize how much you actually love it.”—Boston Globe
I’m glad the Boston Globe is struggling with the new Phosphorescent album, too. The first listen of this album caused me almost a violent episode. The first two songs are incredible: "Sun, Arise! (An Invitation, An Introduction)" reminds me of an indie version of an Erik Enocksson tune. The second song—"Song for Zula"—may be among the best of the year so far. The rest of the album I wanted to throw into traffic. It just wears thin. I’m hoping that after my next listen, I’ll have a better appreciation, perhaps even love, for this album.
“It is absolutely beautiful.”—The Independent
An album of incredibly beautiful traditional ballads for children. Anais Mitchell released my favorite album last year. This is a tad different—and Jefferson Hamer is completely new to me—so I didn’t know what to expect. “Beautiful” is an adequate description. But it’s just not the classic ballads, most notably “Willie o’ Winsbury,” that produce the beauty. It’s the childlike—jack and jill—quality of Mitchell and Hamer together. The two are playing with these songs. Mitchell, like Josh Ritter, is a contemporary performer if whose bandwagon you have not jumped on you should be shackled. Here is the duo performing a song called "Sir Patrick Spens."
"'The Chronicles of Marnia' is an album that demands multiple journeys through the wardrobe.”—All Music Guide
Marnie Stern is a technical god on the electric guitar. She is known for a unique playing style called “tapping,” which allows for very rapid notes in succession. The new album features a ton of this technique, but it’s also just the start. “Interesting” would be a good way to describe this one. Also, “sporadic and all over the place.” Stern’s voice is very small, and much of the album’s vocals remind me of those songs you hear played in Chinese restaurants. Not a good or bad thing. This is Pete Townsend if he were a Chinese lady. OK, I’m stopping now. This one is for the brave.
“This will likely be 2013’s most necessary debut and will undoubtedly stand as one of the year's best 10 months down the line.”—PopMatters
What a great week for music. This debut from U.K. rockers Palma Violets takes everything good from The Kinks and The Clash and combines them. We’re left with anthemic power rockers that make you jump up and down while shaking your fist. The song “Best Friend” is one the best songs I’ve heard in 2013. Palma Violets is sure to explode.