Take a deep breath and close your eyes. As you let out the hot, freon-saturated air, open your eyes and look out the nearest window. It’s October. Go outside. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Roll your windows down. Use your oven. Make a pie. Put on your favorite sweater. It doesn’t matter that it’s 90 degrees. Open that window and put on a record. “But, which record should I listen to?”
Here are 5 albums, all released this week, that serve to blend the dramatic change in our environment, as we welcome the rain, the darkness and the cold, all wrapped in wool and an urgency to enjoy our short lived double digit temperatures.
Adrianne Lenker – Abysskiss [Domino]
Adrianne Lenker is best known as the voice and broken heart beat of the band Big Thief. Two albums in, Big Thief has secured their importance in modern music. In our age of digital and synthetic music, they have remained steadfast as a true-to-form “rock” band. But, with that bold, sloppy aesthetic that serves to push the art form forward and reject the old, clean, solo heavy “rock” music of the past. The point of Big Thief is the songs. Lenker has been writing songs for most of her life and shows no sign of slowing down. Adrianne Lenker’s solo effort takes a more intimate approach, putting her songs and voice behind acoustic guitar and subtle arrangements, that still maintain the feel of a person, alone in a room. Much like Big Thief’s music, there is a beautiful blend of heartbreaking lyrics with the perfect amount of uplift in the music. Lenker’s guitar playing is undeniably great. This is apparent in Big Thief, but is often blended and sometimes overshadowed by the talent of their (other) guitarist, Buck Meek. But, hearing Lenker on her own (with a little help from our friend, Luke Temple), you really get a true sense of her amazing talent and just how beautiful her songs really are.
Molly Burch – First Flower [Captured Tracks]
Molly Burch became a mainstay of the coveted Stinkweeds rotation of instore play, with last year’s Please Be Mine. This was solidified by a lovely lunchtime in-store we managed to arrange as the band was on their way from a gig in Flagstaff to Tucson. We’ve been waiting patiently for that new album and our waiting has paid off. First Flower picks up right where Please Be Mine left off. It keeps with the classic sound, with that Lee Hazelwood swing, that torch song sway and a warmth in the arrangements that is hard to find in modern bands. In fact, if this album shows growth from the last, it is in the way the instruments play with their dynamics. Seeing them live, there was a subtle difference in the album in that the players held WAY back, giving Burch all the room in the world to reel you in with her voice. It seems the year of touring has helped hone this style. All of my fears that Burch would abandon that classic sound for a newer pop sensibility were alleviated, along with any fears that the band would lean too heavy on the comfort of any such style.
Exploded View – Obey [Sacred Bones]
Exploded View’s first album came with that sort of mythical backstory that serves to enhance a listening experience. As legend has it, the album was recorded as a purely improvisational session. Berlin singer/musician, Anikka Hendersen teamed up with Mexico City musicians Hugo Quezada, and Martin Thulin for a run of shows. A common language for improvisation was recognized and translated in a studio setting. The results were a brilliant collection of true to form songs, with just enough structure to recognize that common language, paired with the chaotic energy of improvised music. Their sound is reminiscent of the more improvisational music created by the late/great band, Broadcast before the passing of Trish Keenan. You hear the clear influence of 60s deep psychedelic music, played with a blend of organic and synthetically produced sounds. It is dark and dreamy and best played loud.
Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes [Carpark]
Perfect Shapes is another fine example of how dream pop doesn’t have to be escapist, “white noise” for background listening. The “pop” element is sometimes drowned out by the “dreamy” elements. But, with Madeline Kenney’s second album, the songs are as good as the sounds are dreamy. This is no surprise, considering that this album was produced by Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak. Wasner is, in our opinion, one of the best artists currently creating music in the genre. Like Kenney, she starts with the songs. Everything else is just sprinkled gold dust. Like Wye Oak, the music itself is emotional and evocative. Paired with heartfelt lyrics and a voice you can believe, Perfect Shapes delivers an enveloping listening experience worthy of a comfy chair and a hot drink.
Nathan Bowles – Plainly Mistaken [Paradise of Bachelors]
With now four albums under his own name, and a slew of credits attached to other estimable projects, Bowles has established himself as a pioneer of a new kind of intellectual primitive music. This is no doubt, folk music with folk instruments and folk progressions and folk idiosyncrasies, but with a sound that demands more of the listener. There are hypnotic elements that are fully enjoyed with a curious ear. The instrumentation on Plainly Mistaken leans more on the ensemble than previous albums, which put Bowles banjo playing at the forefront. They play with traditional formats of folk music, leaving a lilting space that resembles jazz trios. Sometimes the music takes on a repetitious nature that resembles minimalist composers, like Steve Reich or John Adams. With all these elements, Bowles has created something very “American.” It pulls from a blend of culture and history, but is grounded in a sense of “home.”