One Mile An Hour is another remarkable band who sought Muruch out personally. They built their own ocean-view studio to record their brilliant, self-produced, self-titled debut album, which they accurately call a “complex, introverted outsider-folk record.”
The first thing I noticed about the CD was that the disc looks like a mini vinyl LP. Extra cool points for that. Then there’s the music – airy, panoramic, beautiful, unusual folk music.
Swirling, psychedelic folk guitar riffs, slightly raspy and softly plaintive vocals. A bit of Ray LaMontagne, a little Elliot Smith, even hints of Jeff Buckley and Pink Floyd and something totally Other – a ghostly, intangible mood. This is why I love music, why I love writing about music. This is inspiration.
Standout tracks are “Sunken Ships,” “Trouble’s Roots,” “You Are On Beach,” “Magpie Song” and “Nine Eight.” But really, it’s a singular, magnificent record from beginning to end.
Little Red Lung’s self-titled EP churns the haunting folk-pop lilt of Lia Ices with the creepy chamber-goth of Rasputina. Zoe-Ruth Erwin, the lead singer of this fabulous L.A. band, calls their sound “avant-indie.”
The standout is the chilling opener “50 Fingers.” You can download the mp3 below and also watch the video, which was directed by artist Sarah Sitkin.
“Ink Blot,” “Rare Bird” and “Fangs” are also highlights. Oh and I love the unusual finale, “Strangling Tree.” So basically, the entire EP is good.
Really, my only complaint about the EP is it isn’t a proper album. Six songs just isn’t enough. Thankfully, Little Red Lung is currently working on their full-length debut. They were also recently added to the Bonnaroo lineup, so it seems their star is rising.
Browsing Bandcamp, the Billie Holiday cover art to l’Orange’s Old Soul caught my attention. The music is not for everybody – some may find it repetitive – but I love it, film clips and all. You will hear Billie Holiday as never before, and another unique voice, that of Kelsey Lu. On “Lost Souls,” you’ll also hear Hassaan Mackey spitting those rhymes. I love the fact that “I’ll Be Seeing You” is sampled on the final track, “The Mourning.” The word transcendent is overused these days, but this one fits the definition: extending beyond the limits of ordinary experience. You can download the entire album for free below…
All Those Days to Feel Better is the latest release from busy Chicago-based singer-songwriter Derek Clegg. It’s a wonderfully twangy collection of songs. That album as well as several others by Clegg are available for free download at Bandcamp and the Free Music Archive.
Dayna Kurtz’ new album, Secret Canon Vol. 2, is a thing of beauty. The followup to last year’s Secret Canon 1, Secret Canon Vol. 2 is a collection of rare blues and jazz covers from the 1940-60s with a few originals in the same vein. Dayna calls the album her “New Orleans record.” It’s bluesy, it’s bold and so very, very classic.
I was shocked to discover that the opener “I Look Good in Bad” is a Dayna Kurtz original. The song structure, lyrics and instrumentation seem so classic it could easily be a Bessie Smith cover. It’s one of many songs on the album that showcase the rich and robust range of Dayna’s voice. M.C. Records was kind enough to allow me to share the song, which you can stream below.
Dayna also delivers a stunningly beautiful and emotive rendering of the vintage soul ballad “Reconsider Me” — originally recorded by Johnny Adams, but probably best known as a 1970s country hit by Narvel Felt. You can stream that song at MC Records.
Other highlights include “One More Kiss,” “Same Time, Same Place,” “All I Ask is Your Love” and “I’ll Be a Liar.”
I love, love, love this album. Fiercely, immensely, wholeheartedly. It reminds me of the first time I heard Dayna’s magnificent voice at Mountain Stage in 2002 (sadly my Muruch review of that concert was lost in the great archive disaster of 2005). I had never heard of Dayna before that concert, which I attended to see Natalie Merchant. Dayna walked out onto the stage, sat down in a wooden chair, and tuned her guitar for a few minutes without saying a word. Then she opened her mouth to sing “Love Gets in the Way” (from Postcards from Downtown) and her extraordinary, soaring voice commanded the attention of every single audience member. Like the classic songs she chose to cover on Secret Canon Vol. 2, Dayna’s voice just gets better with age.
Duquette Johnston’s new album, Rabbit Runs a Destiny, blends so many genres and influences you may find yourself thinking of Elliott Smith and surf rock in the same moment. Sometimes that’s really awesome, sometimes it’s a drag. Duquette recently launched a Pledge Music campaign to fund the album.
Rabbit Runs a Destiny‘s title track is by far Johnston’s most successful attempt to swirl psychedelic rock into his signature Americana sound. The song happens to be my favorite on the album, so I’m happy I can share the mp3 with you fine people…
Irish band Bell X1 will release their sixth album, Chop Chop, on June 28. The album’s opener and first single, “Starlings Over Brighton Pier,” is unusually, exquisitely beautiful. So much so, it makes the rest of the album deathly pale in comparison.
There are other highlights — the heavy drumbeats juxtaposed with Paul Noonan’s sweet falsetto in “A Thousand Little Downers” and the hint of retro pop in “Feint Praise” — but none of the other tracks comes even close to the initial level of brilliance found in “Starlings Over Brighton Pier.”
Whether due to the rush of its creation (the album was recorded, mixed and mastered in only two weeks) or the outstanding, overshadowing depth of its opening track, Chop Chop as a whole simply doesn’t excite me as much as its predeccessors, Flock and Blue Lights on the Runway. That being said, Chop Chop is still much better than anything you hear on the radio these days. The problem with truly great bands like Bell X1 is that they raise the bar so high that sometimes not even they can reach it again.
The Wailin’ Jennys is spawning some excellent solo albums. First Heather Masse, now Ruth Moody is set to release her sophomore solo album, These Wilder Things, on May 7th. Moody’s angelic, lilting soprano tangles with pop-polished bluegrass and folk. The new album also features guests Mark Knopfler, Jerry Douglas and Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan.
The standout tracks are the old-fashioned, slightly eerie opener “Trouble and Woe” and the spectacular Mark Knopfler duet “Pockets.”
Other highlights include the beautiful title track ballad, “One and Only,” “Trees for Skies” and the exquisite, Celtic-influenced “Life is Long.”
The album also features a pretty, slowed and stripped down cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” You can listen to the track, “One Light Shining,” in the following Soundcloud stream…
SoundCloud Stream Uploaded & Posted w/ Permission of Red House Records
Rykarda Parasol’s new album, Against The Sun, gives her signature noirish rock sound a modern polish without compromising its dark, artistic integrity. Recorded primarily in Paris, the title of the new album is the loosely translated English of Parasol’s name in Latin. I first posted the title track in March and I’m happy to say the rest of the album is every bit as exciting…
What impresses me most about Against the Sun are the little details, particularly the vocal embellishments woven into the arrangements. Rykarda uses her voice as much as any instrument: haunting moans and surprising ooh la la’s in “The Cloak of Comedy”; echoing yelps in “I Know Where My Journey Will End”; the chilling multi-tracked glory of “Island of the Dead (O mi, O my)”; melodic whistles in “Withdrawal, Feathers and All”; and Mamas & Papas harmonies in “I Vahnt Tou Beh Alohne.”
The outlaw anthem “Take Only What You Can Carry” is the standout track. There aren’t many songs that possess lyrical references to graves and a beat catchy enough to clap your hands along with.
At times the sound of the album reminds me of Wave-era Patti Smith — “Your Arrondissement or Mine?” in particular recalls “Dancing Barefoot.” And it’s all wrapped up in Rykarda’s remarkable, throaty voice and eerily poetic lyrics.
Against The Sun is the kind of richly layered album that immediately mesmerizes and still gets even better with each listen.
I expect Hem’s new album, Departure & Farewell, will be battling Foxygen for my Top Album of 2013. Hem have all but perfected their “Metropolitan Country” sound and singer Sally Ellyson’s voice is truly timeless. Depature & Farewell is every bit as panoramic as 2006′s spectacular Funnel Cloud (which is still available as a free download), but the new album travels in an entirely different direction. Whereas Funnel Cloud conjured up fantastical images of the wide open plains, Departure & Farewell is a dazzling transcontinental journey — by air and by sea.
our eyes open wide as the sky is turning red
we’re caught in the tides tangled on the bed
and we rise, and we fall
and we land where we’re led
Lyrically, Ellyson says, “This album is about loss, about the fear of loss and about the trajectory of life…it was one of the more emotionally resonating albums to record.”
The opening title track is a whimsical, albeit wistful, parting gift for a loved one left behind.
“Walking Past The Graveyard, Not Breathing” rises and falls on lush, gorgeous waves of intricate folk instrumentation.
“The Seed” is a beautifully string-accented lark song, while “Bird Song” is a pretty lullaby for grownups.
“Things Are Not Perfect In Our Yard” has a gentle breeze of a melody.
“The Jack Pine” is pure poetry, as the following lyrics show:
just like the rains in winter, when the leaves bear and bend,
the road has got a foot of water, but the fields are full again.
you fallen, broken seed. the day returned to you,
and shook you from your sleep, and laid the world to view.
you dreamt of fire and woke to find it true.
“Tourniquet” is a ruminative train ride visit home to Brooklyn. You can watch the video for that song and “Seven Angels” below.
The album’s centerpiece is “Gently Down The Stream,” which is a lovely, windswept seafaring tale.
Such a long, emotionally wrought sojourn leaves “Traveler’s Song” as homesick as a child at summer camp, leading “The Tides At The Narrows” to sail softly home.
“Last Call” is a toast to adventures abroad as well as home sweet home.
The gospel-tinged finale “So Long” confirms the metaphorical layer to the album’s themes of leaving and loss.