Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Gregory Alan Isakov – Evening Machines – 12 songs / 43 minutes
Greg’s fifth record just might be his best yet, which is saying something.
Mr. Isakov (and his bandmates) make some truly beautiful music, the kind that you find playing at a coffee shop in Heaven, I suppose (do they have coffee shops in Heaven? Or can you just have coffee anytime without having to wait in line, pay your money, and then hear the barista butcher your name when your latte-mocha-whatever is done? I digress…). Their style of sonic delivery is so mellow that it only works for me in some moods, but they are as good at what they do as anyone else.
The rhythmic keys that dominate “Berth” lull you into a state of happy calm while Gregory sings in his lovely voice about this and that. Once the chorus hits and he directs us to “quit all that, quit all that, quit all that looking back”, it sounds like sound advice from an introspective songwriter. “San Luis” is so simple you wish you had written it, but then you realize that the seemingly simple song is actually genius. “I’m a ghost to you, you’re a ghost to me; bird’s-eye view, San Luis” just sounds so perfect. The backing instrumentation here is so minimal and restrained that every note is noticed, including the hushed snares in the background.
One of my favorite parts of the album is the hum-along ballad “Bullet Holes”, which features some of Greg’s most up front singing on the record. I have never heard the words bullet holes sang so beautifully and melancholy. “Was I Just Another One” leads off with sinister sounding feedback before melting into lovely finger-picked guitar and keyboards and Gregory asking several questions that it sounds like he already knows the answers to.
The highlight of the album is the three-song stretch of “Caves”, “Chemicals”, and “Dark, Dark, Dark”. Each of these songs were released as singles in advance of the album’s release, making this a rare instance of the record company getting it right. The pounding drums and ominous talk of a town that closes down at the same time every day on “Caves” lead to the darkest song on the record, and I dig it.
“Chemicals” is back to the signature Greg and acoustic guitar sound, and I swear when he sings the song title it is hard to imagine anything better. The chugging drums and guitar of “Dark, Dark, Dark” propel this track forward and the line “songs in my pocket just crumble apart, won’t you sing me something for the dark, dark, dark” is truly terrific.
This songwriter is well worth your time to get acquainted with if you haven’t already, and this fantastic record is a great place to start.
Key Tracks: “Dark, Dark, Dark”, “Bullet Holes”, “Caves”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5K7PZiOlAn8sxxhh0QTFuJ?si=yC6BWXrgSqK2zyDRD2QMIA
Also released (and not strong enough to recommend):
Atmosphere – Mi Vida Local
More raps about the joys of Minneapolis and making music with your friends, as well as some commentary about our less than stellar state of affairs, this album was very top-heavy. “Jerome” and “Stopwatch” start the thing off in solid fashion, but it dwindles from there. Still, their body of work is more than enough to have me looking forward to their March stop in Boise.