Welcome to a new feature where AUK will cast a brief eye and ear on several albums we’ve received recently which just didn’t make the cut for a full review. Like most major music websites we can’t mention every album or EP we get sent but we reckon the picks below deserve a nod. Click on the links to hear a song.
Alicia Blue is described as an indie folk artist but her latest EP, ‘Inner Child Work Part 2′ (the follow up to ‘Inner Child Work Part 1′ of course) finds her edging towards pop territory with the help of John Paul White on one song (‘Young‘). The five songs here have a shiny studio gloss to them which unfortunately reminds one of 1980’s polish.
Closer to home is Manchester’s Chloe Jones, a rising star in the UK country scene whose latest EP, ‘Sundown’ contains her last three singles along with two new songs. With a sound honed from the desert climes of America’s south west, Tucson in particular, Jones’ strong voice commands attention while there’s some great pedal steel on show on ‘Crocodile‘.
On ‘Inequality Blvd’ Australia’s Dave Johnson inhabits similar territory to the likes of Bruce Cockburn on a set of songs inspired he says “from my time working in a juvenile corrections facility.” While he does display empathy as on the title track about a teenage shoplifter, overall the album doesn’t stand out especially despite being undoubtedly well crafted.
Young Jesus’ ‘Shepherd Head’ finds John Rossiter as the sole member of the group after the band broke up due to the pressures of life on the road. Rossiter has fashioned the album from found sounds and heavily synthesised snatches of music he had recorded over some years and pieced them together using GarageBand. The result is a labyrinthine collection of songs which range from ethereal to dance floor ecstasy. It’s a bit of a cheek to consider this in any way Americana music but there’s a Bon Ivor like sense to ‘Ocean‘.
‘Sentimentalist’ is the debut album from artist turned songwriter Emma Worley from Toronto. It’s a lovely low key affair with fine arrangements and some terrific songs such as the pedal steel leavened ‘Jigsaw’ while her voice is just perfect throughout. The closing number ‘Homesick‘ (which has an excellent lo-fi introduction) is worthy of the likes of Nanci Griffiths. A very fine album overall.
We’re back in Australia for Tanya-Lee Davies’ ‘Dreamland’, a sparkling set of pop psychedelia infused songs. With arrangements which recollect the work of Burt Bacharach and John Barry, at times Davies’ multitracked vocals allow her to sound like a lost mid 60’s girl band. There are also hints of Phil Spector to be heard on ‘Kiss Someone’ along with a whiff of Lee Hazlewood on ‘Only A Breath Apart‘. Recommended.
For a rollicking good time fuelled with gut bucket blues and somewhat whacky odes to the likes of Jesse James, look no further than ‘Contemporary Blazin” from LA’s wino-strut & Friends. Stoner country blues stomps such as ‘Peace Love & Shade’ rub shoulders with Mojo Nixon like romps on ‘Master Plan’. The tipsy combination of Keith Richards and Jeffrey Lee Pierce meanderings on ‘Keep Climbing‘ is worth the price of admission in itself.
Rapt is the brainchild of Jacob Ware, a sensitive soul who cites Damien Jurado and Jason Molina as his greatest influences. ‘Wayward Faith’ is an opalescent listen, the opening song, ‘Only Water‘ shimmering with a pearlescent beauty. With delicate guitar picking and a voice which is as soothing as warm honey, Ware wanders into a twilight world peopled by Nick Drake and his aforementioned heroes.
From up north we have ‘Small Wonders’, the fourth album from Starry Skies, a collective led by Warren Starry Sky who is the also the brains behind Glasgow’s popular 7 Song Club events. They follow in the footsteps of several fellow central Scotland bands such as Teenage Fanclub and Dropkick with their infectious jangled rock songs such as ‘Spitfire Susie’ (which also has a hint of The Undertones to it). There’s an overall tone of optimism contained within the grooves here, most evident on the soaring chimes of ‘Kind Hearted People’.
Finally, Jeremy Nail takes the listener on a melancholic journey via the 12 songs on ‘Behind The Headlights’. It’s a thoughtful album with Nail in a contemplative mood, pondering on the vagaries and also the benefits of solitude. The slow burn of ‘Almost Home‘ with its brooding guitars catches perfectly the sense of isolation on a lengthy highway while ‘Open Door’ is a delightful acoustic meditation ornamented with a fine string arrangement.
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