This is Ken filling in for Jeff this week. I'll try not to let my crankiness from New England snow fatigue seep into my reviews, but no promises. It's an interesting and varied week, so let's get started!
Chadwick Stokes - The Horse Comanche: Chadwick Stokes is best known as a member of Dispatch and State Radio. I never really got into Dispatch, and I had dismissed State Radio as more of the same until I saw them at this insane Tom Morello/Nightwatchman show 7 years ago. Since then I've been converted. His solo album starts off a little slow and Jack Johnson-ish, but really picks up by the 4th song, "I Want You Like a Seatbelt." It's an upbeat singalong that sounds like it was perfected on one of his house show tours. "New Haven" features blog favorite Lucius, who are a welcome addition to any song. My personal favorite is "Walter (First Hello)," which closes out the album.
Murder By Death - Big Dark Love: I first became aware of Murder By Death when they opened for Clutch. Seeing them back then, they were this bizarre blend of gothic hard rock folk and became one of those bands I always meant to listen to more, but forgot to for the most part. I'm a little disappointed with this album, as it seems a bit more mainstream and accessible than I expected. It's almost like a lounge singer for arenas. The title track, "Big Dark Love," is fantastic and just builds to this epic by the end. "Natural Pearl" is more on the country end, and more in line with what I remember them being. It's still worth a listen, just not what I wanted it to be.
The Church - Further Deeper: The Church are right at the top of bands I'll hear something by randomly, make a mental note to listen more, and then never do. It might be weird to start with their 25th album, but here we go. I really like this album, as it combines the moodiness of gothic new wave with the noisiness of 80s/90s indie rock. "Vanishing Man" might be the strongest track. It does lose some steam towards the end, with songs like "Old Coast Road" being a little too orchestral for my taste. Still a solid album worth a listen.
The Notwist - Messier Objects: Jeff sent this one over to me when he asked me to cover First Listen this week, and I think I may be the wrong person to review this. I just didn't connect with this album at all. It's all this foreboding, instrumental, film score sounding music. It feels like the kind of local band Sonic Youth would have open for them in the late 90s, and I sat through way too many art school projects like this. Just not for me.
Barnstar! - Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!: I'm shocked that this is my favorite release of the week. Being in the Boston area, I've seen the name Barnstar! but have yet to hear them. They're a modern take on bluegrass and country, and just a cool, laid back record. The album features a number of covers (and you know we love covers), most notably The Hold Steady's "Sequestered in Memphis." Even if this doesn't sound like your thing, you should check it out.
Two Gallants - We Are Undone: I probably would never have discovered this album if I wasn't looking through the release schedule for the week, but I'm glad I did. It's countrified alt-rock, kind of like Wilco meets The Sheila Divine, with a little bit of The White Stripes thrown in. Be sure to check out "Fools Like Us."
Also out this week:
Butch Walker - Afraid of Ghosts
Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night
Diana Krall - Wallflower