Artist: Phoebe Bridgers
Album: Stranger in the Alps
Quick Description: Debut album from a buzzy singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You will love her. No question.
Overall Thoughts: I’ll be honest: I only added this to my playlist rotation for this week because the title of the album made me laugh out loud. Ken had the same reaction to it when I told him to listen to it, and if a good album title gets this into a few more hands, all the better, because this is a GREAT folk album. Easily the best release of the week, Phoebe Bridgers successfully balances an often-sparse instrumentation effort with some really melodic stuff and interesting… well, everything. It’s a hard space to innovate in, and Bridgers is making a definite effort in modernizing a genre that is very rooted in its past. She’s a little profane, a little fun, and ridiculously talented...
Recommendation: ...so make this a priority listen this week.
Artist: Cold Specks
Album: Fool's Paradise
Quick Description: New album from a favorite here goes a little more R&B.
Why You Should Listen: Cold Specks is always great, and the shift in sound is good.
Overall Thoughts: We really love Cold Specks here, and her third album continues the trajectory we’ve probably expected up to now. This is not a bad thing – she’s expanded her sound and instrumentation, and thus the complexity of her songs, but has not sacrificed the sparse structure that sets her apart. There’s definitely a smoothness to this album that is a contrast from the more jagged edges of some of her previous work, but don’t let that get in the way if that’s what draws you in for this.
Recommendation: It’s an excellent album, and certainly one of the best of the week.
Artist: Eilen Jewell
Album: Down Hearted Blues
Quick Description: Latest from the rootsy singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: She's been putting out essential stuff since Queen of the Minor Key
Overall Thoughts: I feel like it’s been a really long time since we had new music from Jewell. This is a great, fun, rootsy record, and I can’t honestly place what it is about this that makes me so much more enthusiastic about it than other rootsy efforts or even her past albums, but there’s definitely a share of fun aspects to this album that I was into.
Recommendation: It’s just a good listen, and you should give it some time this week.
Artist: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers
Album: "The Long-Awaited Album"
Quick Description: Latest bluegrass effort from the comedy legend and his band.
Why You Should Listen: It's the perfect mix of fun and funny.
Overall Thoughts: Steve Martin’s work in the bluegrass space over the last decade or so is infuriating if only because it’s just another thing he’s too good at. The latest album with the Steep Canyon Rangers continues along the line of great bluegrass music with a little bit of humor and a lot of musicianship. If you’ve liked their previous efforts, this will continue to impress you.
Recommendation: A must-listen this week.
Artist: Billy Strings
Album: Turmoil and Tinfoil
Quick Description: A near-perfect traditional bluegrass effort.
Why You Should Listen: If you like the roots stuff we feature here, you'll love this.
Overall Thoughts: Coming up behind Steve Martin is Billy Strings, who has a very traditional bluegrass record out this week, twang and all. This is very purist and I loved it. Really exactly what I was looking for out of a bluegrass record and really one of the better ones of recent memory. If you like this style of music and you don’t want a lot of frills, you need to check this one out.
Recommendation: Everything about it is nearly perfect.
Quick Description: New album from the modern emo act.
Why You Should Listen: Prawn is showing a lot of continued potential.
Overall Thoughts: The band is back after a while with an album that feels less aggressive than I expected, with results that are, frankly, a little hit or miss. On a whole, I probably liked more than I disliked here, but that might be due more to the genre as the post punk/rock thing is always a challenge for me. Prawn has their fans, though, and if you’re into what they do you’ll probably find something great to like here.
Recommendation: Might work for you.
Artist: Shout Out Louds
Album: Ease My Mind
Quick Description: Latest from the popular indie act.
Why You Should Listen: This band has always put out some interesting stuff.
Overall Thoughts: What’s interesting about the Shout Out Louds for me is that they do a lot of really good stuff, but their sound has just fallen completely out of sync with what’s typical these days. It’s sort of like a smooth indie rock all its own, and there’s a benefit to forging your own path, but the result is that it ends up being a little too out there. I know they have their boosters and I’m glad they have their fans, but the direction they’re going isn’t one I’m on board with.
Recommendation: You’ll know within the first song or two if this is for you.
Artist: Matt Cameron
Quick Description: Pearl Jam drummer's solo effort.
Why You Should Listen: I'd say it depends on your feeling on Pearl Jam, but it's better than that.
Overall Thoughts: When I saw this was from the Pearl Jam drummer (fast fact: Pearl Jam is one of my least favorite bands), I nearly binned it immediately, but then I remembered liking a PJ side project something like 15 years ago and gave this a shot. This is actually really solid alt-rock with a bit of an indie feel to it, and while it’s definitely not going to blow anyone’s mind, it’s a pretty great listen on a whole with some really good moments.
Recommendation: Worth your time even if you’re not a Pearl Jam fan.
Album: A Sentimental Education
Quick Description: Latest from the indie favorites.
Why You Should Listen: You're a big fan of what they offer.
Overall Thoughts: Luna has been around seemingly forever, and this new album? I dunno. It didn’t grab me, it didn’t excite me, and it didn’t come close to what I’ve liked about Luna. I don’t have much of anything to say about this, so I’ll leave it at that.
Recommendation: Skip this.
EPs of note:
* Sure Sure - Songs from 2014 (reminds me of Wheat)
* Jennie Vee - Suffer
Also out this week:
* The Clientele - Music for the Age of Miracles (I thought the Clientele was an electronic act, and this is not that. Didn’t really care for this.)
* The Bronx - (V)