Release Roundup 013

A chit chat about the week’s new releases in real time. Newest entries are at the top; scroll down to the beginning.

Rocky (Tuesday, 8:15 am PST): Are you ready for this? Please tell me you didn’t know about this yet. Are you ready for this?

That, my friend, is the first song on the new Waterdeep album. Yes, THAT Waterdeep, the one that we both worshiped at our Kansas college in the late 90’s, the one that hails from Wichita, the very one to whom you owe your original singer/songwriter inspiration after a midwinter performance at the New Earth Coffeehouse in Kansas City, and the one for whom your band opened at a show in the spring of ’98.

The nostalgia is killing me.

As for the album itself, it’s what we knew they did. Lori Chaffer whispers out carefully arranged lyrics backed by Don’s guitar, a piano, and some (shall we say artisinal?) percussion. It always worked, only now the field is more crowded by the likes of The Head And The Heart. Also, the religion in their music was always super nuanced, but I can’t detect it here at all after one listen.

So, you like?

Release Roundup 012

A chit chat about the week’s new releases in real time. Newest entries are at the top; scroll down to the beginning.

Rocky (Wednesday, 2:02 pm pst): Okay, then. You kicked around Louisville for awhile, so I’m sure you’re jazzed about the new My Morning Jacket effort. “Big Decisions” is doing good things for me.

Landon (Wednesday, 11:52 am pst): I have tried to like Best Coast in the same way I tried to like Buffalo Tom in college. Intellectually, I get what folks see in Best Coast, but it just doesn’t connect with me. There’s a garageband feel to it that I’ve never gotten into.

Rocky (Wednesday, 8:34 am pst): The images of you “grinning like a fool” and “cackling with glee” are a lovely way to start my morning. Thank you.

You may be right about those textural decisions. I’m not paying close enough attention. But I have to say that it’s not blowing me away. I clearly have far less emotionally invested than you do in Marcus and the boys, but still, the texture of the album isn’t disrupting my expectations or catching me off guard in the way that, say, the new Death Cab album is doing. I’m missing the Easter eggs, I think.

Okay, so you’ve got an album out this week by a band you’re irrational about, and so do I: Best Coast’s “California Nights.” I wouldn’t love these guys as much as I do if I didn’t live where I live, dig? Their whole vibe is a raspberry from the Golden State to the frozen masses. Even when their songs aren’t about the beach and LA, the music makes you want do hit the 405 with the top down.

“Heaven Sent” and “Feeling Okay” were released last earlier this year. Here’s my favorite new discovery from “California Nights” so far:

They make is sound so easy. Are you into this, or does it lack sufficient angst for your tastes?

Landon (Wednesday, 7:54 am pst): I fully acknowledge that the Mumford backstory plays into my response. It’s similar to my strong positive reaction to Field Report’s Marigolden last year. Because I knew where they had been, the new disc made my day. You, having not spent much time with them, weren’t as impressed. Narrative is all, baby.

I chatted up a friend on Facebook about the album who thinks that what Mumford has done is simply replace banjos for electric guitars. I had to disagree. As I listened to the album I was grinning like a fool because of specific textural decisions made in each and every song I listened to. They made arrangement choices that could only be accomplished by a shift in instrumentation. At one point I swore I heard a banjo, and cackled with glee. I also think their song structure throughout the full album is more nuanced than anything they did on SNM or Babel.

Rocky (Tuesday 8:45 am pst): I don’t know about you, but for me with this album it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s in the eyes.

I’m about halfway through it myself, and I like it. The pieces I like the best so far are the ones I’ve already heard, most notably “Snake Eyes.” Which makes me wonder about this whole industry practice of releasing individual tracks weeks, even months, before the full album releases. Because if I’ve been tracking records as they’re released, then when I get the album the first thing I do is listen to the records I haven’t heard yet. I’d almost rather just hear the whole thing at once. Is anybody doing that?

I don’t know how I would feel about Wilder Mind if I didn’t know Mumford and the whole back story. If this were the first you’d heard of these guys, would you find it so compelling? Or does the well-known drama around the transition away from mandolins and banjos add to your enjoyment?

There are a couple other albums to get to this week, but let’s stay on Mumford for a minute.

Landon (Tuesday 8:08 pst): One word: Mumford.

I’m slack jawed. This album (and I’m not even all the way through it) is incredible. Here’s what does it for me: I can hear the influences, but I can’t name them. Genesis? INXS? Certainly not Coldplay as many are wont to suggest. But Holy WOW.

This disc goes beyond what the three released singles would have ever suggested. I’m wildly impressed.

Seth Glier Is Awesome. Seth Glier Is Insufferable

I’ve been a half-hearted Seth Glier fan since I heard “Lauralee” in 2011. It’s that thing where a single song buys an artist a listen to pretty much anything (s)he makes for years on, but where you’re not able to really dig your teeth into any of those other songs. Glier knows his way around a melody, no doubt, but his lyrics are a bit dear, and his voice has a tinny down home quality that wears thin.

Once again, I added his new album to my Rdio favorites and my “April 2015 Albums” playlist. Songs from it keep coming up, and I keep not skipping them. He’s matured a bit, it seems. Also, he’s added other vocalists. His darling side still shows through, like in the video for “If I Could Change One Thing” that opens with the crooner at a piano in a darkened, candle-lit room.

He is the best and worst of the singer/songwriter breed. He’s just so darned . . . earnest.

Here’s a live version of the song I like the most from the new album, “Scars.”

Josh Garrels needs to run away from “Home”

I have long loved Josh Garrels. I consider 2011’s “Love & War & The Sea In Between” to be one of the finest pieces of art I’ve ever experienced. I have welcomed his penchant for giving his music away for free.

But he’s lost me. “Home” is not the album I was hoping for, and I’m well aware that I’m alone in this opinion. Unlike my critiques of Mumford, Garrels make a different mistake. Rather than double down on the sound that made him a breakout artist, he abandons it in favor of a “proper record.”

I’ve watched a number of behind the scenes vids of Garrels. I’ve seen his set-up. He records in a little studio in his house. These parameters made “Love & War…” a spectacular offering. His limitations forced him to make creative choices that we would not have otherwise been the beneficiaries of. Those choices are gone on “Home.”

The new album is lush and well written. It is beautifully arranged and performed. One cannot help but see the magic of Garrels the Songwriter. But it’s when we consider Garrels the Producer that we find the fault. Listening to “Home” feels like listening to Ray LaMontagne’s “Till the Sun Turns Black.” “Till the Sun…” was stellar in 2006. We don’t need a 2015 rehash.

Garrels has lost his limitations and he’s the worse for it. Horns, organ, and pedal steel did not make him what he was. Sounding like Mumford did not make him what he was. Sounding like the evolution of David Gray’s “White Ladder” was (and look what happened to that guy we he set out to make a “proper record”).

I’m glad Garrels got to spread his wings and explore. There are some really delightful tunes on “Home,” and some serious bits of arranging that cannot be denied as expert. But, overall, I want him to go back to the path he was on and dig deeper into that sound. The last thing the world needs is another folksy troubadour.

Release Roundup 010

Rocky: Oyo, Lando. We’ve got new stuff out today by established bands like Great Lake Swimmers and Passion Pit. But the first thing I’m getting to is San Fermin’s full release, “Jackrabbit.” Ever since January the single by that title has been on my “Best of The Year” list. In case you forgot about it:

There’s more to this album than the jaunty. Just listen to the first track. It’s freaky and I don’t like it. I hope “Jackrabbit” isn’t the outlier.

What you got?

Landon: Yeah, San Fermin did not do it for me at all. The guy lead singer sounds like he should be doing covers of 50’s Monster novelty songs. Creeptastic.

What do I got? THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS IS WHAT I GOT.

So, I’ve been having kids for the last decade and a half, and my only exposure to TMBG has been the kids music they put out in that time. I was never a particle man. But “Glean” is so very good.

Nothing else this week compares in my mind.

While I’m at it, since I missed the last couple weeks due to work I feel the need to give a nod to The Wombats’ “Glitterbug.” This Nuevo New Wave thing is working very well.

Did you find anything you dug?

Rocky: They Might Be Giants?! This changes the equation considerably. No surprise that the track you shared from Glean is clever, poppy ear candy and that I love it. I’m not a TMBG fanboy or anything, but “Flood” played a critical role in my adolescence, and that’s no exaggeration. I was in 8th grade when somebody shared the cassette with me (dubbed, of course), and it was the first music I’d ever encountered that was not on the radio (or not Christian). I played it constantly. I relished my status as a member of that secret society of teenagers in Aurora, Colorado who could tell you what happens when Particle Man and Triangle Man have a fight. And, to bring this all back around, I quite decisively introduced my six year-old to that song on our way to school just last week.

Sigh.

It shouldn’t really count as new music, but We Are Scientists put out an EP yesterday called “T.V. En Francais-Sous La Mer (Under the Sea).” It’s a collection of eight hazy, rearranged covers from the album we both prized above any other last year. I don’t normally give a lot of time to novelty projects like this, but dude. If these were the original versions of these songs they would be just as great. Check out “Overreacting”:

So here’s something: Rocky Votoloto’s “Hospital Handshakes.” I didn’t see this one coming. Again, not a fanboy, but I spent a lot of unintentional time with his last album, you know, the kind of time where it just comes on when you’re not really paying attention but you kinda like it so you leave it on? He’s pretty great. This collection has some more amped up stuff than was on that last album. Like “The Hereafter:”

We should say something about the new Mumford and Sons single that came out yesterday as well. I’ll leave that to you. You’re the Mumford expert between us.

Landon: I think I love the new We Are Scientists’ EP as much as I revered the Manchester Orchestra COPE/HOPE project last year. That’s some great work. I wish I could help people understand what kind of musical chops it takes to do something like that. If you think listeners get hooked on a certain sound of a band, let me tell you the band has a harder time than we do. To break out of the common sound like that is truly impressive. Which is why…

I’m still loving me some Mumford.

Again, as I posted last week: they’re not fully formed in their new thing yet, but it’s so encouraging to see them try. Three songs off the new project have allowed me to posit a theory: Marcus Mumford needs to go solo.

The difference between what he does away from the “& Sons” (cf. The New Basement Tapes, “When I Get My Hands on You“) and what he does with them is striking. I’m much more a fan of the former. I think the “& Sons” are holding him back. He could be the new Sting if he was brave enough.