Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Clearance – At Your Leisure – 11 songs / 34 minutes
Although you have never heard of them, this band is solid and their sophomore effort is a big step forward that is worthy of a listen.
After hearing leadoff single “Had a Fantastic” and its hooky, jangly sing-along glory, this album was one I was anticipating. It did not disappoint, and shows a band that knows who they are and finds them feeling pretty comfortable in their sound. With catchy, succinct song structures that are reminiscent of early Weezer and guitar riffs that are crisp and clean a la Real Estate, this music is sure to please fans of the nerdy party rock shtick. There is also plenty of fuzzy guitar distortion that reminds me of White Denim, particularly on the soaring solo on “Rumored Sequel”.
Key Tracks: “Had a Fantastic”, “Haven’t You Got the Time?”, “Rumored Sequel”
Amanda Shires – To the Sunset – 10 songs / 32 minutes
The artist most commonly known as Mrs. Jason Isbell takes a step into the spotlight on the best album of her ten year career.
Within a minute of the opening track “Parking Lot Pirouette” it is clear that Amanda is not fucking around on this record. The story she is telling is enthralling and when she belts out the chorus in that incredible voice, goosebumps ensue. While I would still call this a up and down record, the ups are very rewarding and show that Amanda’s experience as a solo artist and part-time member of her husband’s band has made her better at her craft. This is roots-rock meets singer/songwriter fare that has the power to move you in more than one way.
I prefer her up-tempo numbers and any excuse for her to raise that lovely voice, but there are softer moments that work as well. “Charms” tells the story of a bracelet given to her by her mother that she can no longer remember, because an unnamed lover’s father pawned it. She reflects on that lingering feeling of being an orphan in the world that haunts her to this day. A couple of songs later she is asking to “break out the champagne… and get on with the shitshow”. Indeed.
In a stroke of coincidence, I missed out on an opportunity to see Amanda perform live at the Neurolux in late August – because I was in Texas watching her husband perform at the University of Texas, where he and his band had sold out three nights at Bass Concert Hall. Jason and crew were as amazing as I expected them to be, but in talking to a couple of folks in attendance of her show I am aware that the opportunity cost of that trip was significant. Amanda is pretty incredible: she is a stellar violinist, an interesting songwriter who is getting better with each release, and a seriously gorgeous woman, to boot. Hopefully she will come back to Boise next year.
Key Tracks: “Break Out the Champagne”, “Parking Lot Pirouette”, “Charms”
Houndmouth – Golden Age
What the hell is this? Fans of the first few releases this band gave us are going to be disappointed that rootsy musicianship (and tremendous female backing vocals) have been replaced by the same techno-infused pop sound that is ubiquitous today. Sadly, this will probably be their most popular album and this electro-pop soulless drivel will be their new sound. Boo to you kids, says the old man writing on the internet.
Lucero – Among the Ghosts