Lucette: Black is the Color

Lucette’s debut album, Black Is the Color, is a dark, haunting Southern Gothic masterpiece.

The standout tracks are Lucette’s trippy cover of the traditional folk ballad “Black is the Color,” the moody original “Muddy Water,” the “Jolene”-esque “Able Mae” and the album’s sultry first single, “Bobby Reid.” The latter features singer-songwriters Sturgill Simpson and JD Wilkes.

The first half of the album is especially mesmeric and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite releases of the year.

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Lucette Official Site


Fiona Bevan: Talk to Strangers

Fiona Bevan’s debut album, Talk to Strangers, more than lives up to the promise of its first single. The British singer-songwriter’s quirky soul-pop style falls somewhere between Sheila Nicholls, Joanna Newsom and Corinne Bailey Rae, but these are tenuous reference points at best. Fiona is really carving a niche of her own here.

Fiona’s rich lilt and jaunty instrumentation are particularly charming on “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Slo Mo Tiger Glo” and the lovely “Us and the Darkness.”

The standout track “The Machine” dives into murkier, funkier waters.

Other highlights are Fiona’s exquisite, multi-faceted vocal on “Monsoon Sundance,” the enchanting, buoyant “Pirates and Diamonds” and the simpler beauty of “Forwards.”

I expect Fiona Bevan’s Talk to Strangers to make it on my best of the year list for 2014.

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Fiona Bevan Official Site


Goodnight Texas: Uncle John Farquhar (Exclusive “Dearest Sarah” Song Premiere!)

Goodnight Texas’ sophomore album, Uncle John Farquhar, was just released today and is a top contender for my favorite album of the year. Goodnight Texas have written songs about moonshiners, coal miners, loggers and steel workers, songs about the struggles and comforts of rural life, songs that would make Woody Guthrie proud, songs that are like Steinbeck novels set to music.

Conceptualized as a scrapbook, Uncle John Farquhar was inspired by stories, letters, books and archives from the band members’ respective family histories – particularly Patrick Dyer Wolf’s titular great-great-grandfather.

The followup to their debut, A Long Life of Living, is so magnificent that all of my praise of that album is just as applicable here: “…who is this band and how can anyone make an entire album of music this good?” The new album recaptures and builds on that impressive foundation, this time with a bit more pep akin to Wildflowers-era Tom Petty.

While bands in the Americana/folk revival genre have become a dime a dozen in the post-Mumford era, Goodnight Texas stand out with a brillance and authenticity far above the rest. I adore the dark, ferocious undercurrent to their multi-layered, cross-genre arrangements and especially the rustic poetry of their lyrics.

The exquisite ballad “Dearest Sarah” is written as a letter from a Civil War soldier to his wife. Avi Vinocur perfected the song over a period of 8 years, culling the story and poignant lyric “my love for you is deathless” directly from an actual Civil War letter – written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his “very dear wife” just days before his death. Vinocur expertly mimicked and expounded on the letter’s eloquent, genteel language for the rest of the song’s lyrics and set them atop some truly gorgeous instrumentation. I’m very excited to premiere the song here on Muruch at the end of this review.

Other highlights include the moody backwoods outlaw anthem “Moonshiners,” the heartwarming ode to country life “Uncle John Farquhar,” the rugged finale “Knock Em Stiff” and the album’s jaunty first single “A Bank Robber’s Nursery Rhyme” – the free, legal mp3 of which you can download here.

It’s a shame Goodnight Texas haven’t performed at Mountain Stage yet, it’ll be a crime if they don’t do so within the next year. This is a band destined for greatness.

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Goodnight Texas Official Site

Goodnight Texas on Soundcloud


Bastille: All This Bad Blood

Bastille’s Bad Blood was named one of 2013’s best albums by more than one Muruch writer last year, long before the single “Pompeii” began ruling the radio. On the heels of the song’s success, Bastille released an expanded, two-disc version of their hit album called All This Bad Blood. I’m not usually a fan of such “deluxe” editions, but this is an exception. I can’t get enough Bastille.

If you’ve heard any of the songs from the original Bad Blood album, you already know Bastille’s music is a refreshing and rare blend of catchy pop melodies, rock instrumentation and intelligently poetic lyrics.

“Pompeii” is the prime example of Bastille’s talent for masking exquisite lyrical depth with an irresistable pop hook and, in this case, a chanting backing male choir. Even after what must have been a thousand listens, I’m still enchanted and enraptured by the song to the point of obsession. I mean, come on, a pop song about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius? What’s not to love about that?!

Beyond their accessible and incredibly infectious arrangements, songs like “Pompeii” and the equally haunting “Things We Lost in the Fire” cleverly use material losses as a lyrical metaphor for emotional damage.

Other standout tracks are the mythical, theatrical ode to self-destruction “Icarus,” the wistful ballad “Oblivion,” the rolling, rollicking, Biblical piano anthem “Daniel in the Den” and the dark, pulsing, Lynchian rock tribute “Laura Palmer.”

The new songs, b-sides and demos included on the second disc of the reissue don’t deviate from the sound established on the original album, though it’s easy to understand why the band chose to release these somewhat lesser songs as bonus tracks instead of as a separate album.

The exception that makes All This Bad Blood worth purchasing is the mesmeric incorporation of “Oh Holy Night” into “Tuning Out.”

Other highlights include “Sleepsong,” “Durban Skies, “The Draw”” and “Of the Night,” which is an unexpected electro-rock mashup cover of “Rhythm is a Dancer” by Snap! and Corona’s “Rhythm of the Night.”

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Lykke Li: I Never Learn

Lykke Li’s debut, Wounded Rhymes, often wasted her enchanting voice on vapid pop songs, but had plenty of strong, stunningly eccentric arrangements and eerily sparse ballads to make up for its uptempo weaknesses. Unfortunately, her sophomore album, I Never Learn, seems to suffer from the opposite affliction – an overabundance of lifeless, melancholy tracks.

I love Lykke’s unusual voice and thus keep hoping her new album will grow on me like Bat For Lashes’ slow-burner The Haunted Man and Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow. The album had the misfortune of arriving at the same time as Mirah’s exquisitely poetic Changing Light and Tori Amos’ eccentric whirlwind Unrepentent Geraldines, so it definitely suffered by comparison. Even after repeated listens, I Never Learn has neither the dramatic intensity nor the heartbreaking delicacy to make it memorable.

Thankfully, there are some exceptions. The haunting singles “No Rest for the Wicked” and “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone” as well as “Gunshot” are by far the standout tracks.

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