February 3, 2017

On First Listen: Vol. 1

We Take A Look At Some Of The Great New Music Out Now & Coming Out Soon

We have an ever growing wall of promotional CDs sent to us by different labels for in-store play. We try to give them all a good “once over” but sometimes they’ll get lost in the shuffle, so we wanted to start a new series that can help these stick in our brains a little better. Some of these are titles that just came out, and others are soon to be released. Some of them are bands we’re familiar with and others, not so much. Of the five titles we picked, all of them are new to our ears, with a couple of them being heard without any context at all. These are not being reviewed after weeks of listening. These are our first impressions…but, aren’t those always the most important?

Tim Darcy – Saturday Night [Jagjaguwar]
out 2/17/17

Tim Darcy is the lead singer for another Stinkweeds favorite, Canadian band Ought. If it wasn’t clear by his past efforts, Tim Darcy is a bit of a 70s post punk fetishist. The music of Ought takes on some of the darker material of the era, like Wire, Gang of Four or some of the more serious side of the Talking Heads. On his solo effort, there is more of a resemblance to the more classic rock based artists, like Lou Reed, Modern Lovers or Television. With all comparisons aside, I find Tim Darcy’s voice and lyrics to be fascinating and refreshing. There’s nothing contrived in his delivery. There is a true love for the music he emulates and offers plenty of his own voice to what has already been set in place. On first listen, It wasn’t totally clear to me that this was Tim Darcy, but once I knew, I was thrilled to have a whole other side of him that I could enjoy.

Leif Vollebekk – Twin Solitude [Secret City]
out 2/24/17

Twin Solitude falls right in line with the growing trend of soulful folk artists, blurring the lines between folk singer songwriter and soul music. However, Vollebekk takes a more subdued approach, different than his contemporaries like Sturgill Simpson. The instrumentation is stripped down to it’s core elements. There’s no flashy guitar solos or organ riffs. It’s Vollebekk’s voice that takes center stage, drawing more attention to the lyrics and the subtlety of his delivery. His voice has a similar timbre to M. Ward, with that painful rough restraint, but the inflection takes on more of a traditional R&B, with all it’s flourishes and dynamics. On first listen, I would say this is a very pleasant album that stands apart from other more shiny presentations of this style and sound.

All Them Witches – Sleeping Through The War [New West]
out 2/24/17

Past efforts by All Them Witches have gotten considerable playtime in Stinkweeds. We’re suckers for that crunchy classic psych-rock sound. Sleeping Through the War, however, seems to be a bit of departure from the typical heavy riff-laden tracks we’re used to from this band. They seem to have found something that shapes an identity of a band not leaning on all the trappings and trends of so many others. All the riffs are still there and it’s just as stoney and heavy as ever, but there’s a confidence that has peaked out from behind the tie dyed curtain and could only serve to advance this brand of music in a forward direction. On first listen, I didn’t recognize it as All Them Witches. I just knew I wanted to hear more.

Elbow – Little Fictions [Concord]
out 2/3/17

Elbow is another band that is no stranger to us. In fact, they’re probably one of the more well known bands that we give a lot of attention to. Some may remember seeing them play the closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics where millions of home viewers collectively thought, “who the hell is this?” (On a side note, there’s something really awkward about a rock anthem being performed to a stadium full of people who probably don’t know the song.) Even with their wide reach, they still fit into that brand of music that doesn’t get a lot of radio play or commercial attention. They’re just really good. Little Fictions is right in step with this brand of flawless, epic rock n roll that is maybe just a little too sincere for mass appeal. On first listen, Lindsay made up her own lyrics to one of their songs, adding “I wear my heart on my sleeve” which was all too perfect. This is fantastic music for the sappier side of us all.

Mind Over Mirrors – Undying Color [Paradise of Bachelors]
out 2/17/17

It is always growing more difficult to pin down exactly what the Paradise of Bachelors label “does.” There is an undefinable continuity to the bands on their roster, but it’s something more personal, as if all the bands are favorites of just one person. Mind Over Mirrors’ Undying Color sounds like a lost album right out of the avant garde/baroque folk of the 60s and early 70s. There are elements of Steve Reich and Meredith Monk, with swirling repetition and unfamiliar unease, and an underlying folk element that peaks just above the surface. The use of vintage synths, wind powered organs and acoustic instruments, like violins, drums, horns and flutes creates a crisp contrast that is beautifully at odds with itself. On first listen, this one will be in the running for my year end Top Five list. And it’s only February!