May music review part 2

As I said last week, this has been an amazing month for music - well, the sort of music I like. Here is part two of my reviews; and I still haven't got to Broken Social Scene or the first new Teenage Fanclub album for years (and they are one of my top twenty bands of all time!)  All of these are avaiable to listen to on Spotify.

Band of Horses, 'Infinite Arms': third album from US indie / rock / country hairy blokes.  Sounds a little more polished and softer than their two previous albums; their bid for mainstream success?  A little CSN&Y, early Eagles, Crowded House at times - not a bad thing but I miss the rawness of  "Funeral" a little (their greatest song).  But a very enjoyable listen nonetheless.

Stornoway; "Beachcomber's WIndowsill".  This year's Mumford and Sons?  The Mumfords take traditional English folk as their basis, and although the reviewers generally make the Scottish connection with Stornoway,even though they are from Oxford, this reminds me more of a contemporary, poppier take on 60s US folk than anything Scottish; early Dylan, Tom Paxton, Peter Paul and Mary in their heyday, then through to Simon and Garfunkel.  Keyboard or horn driven in places, (nice Hammond organ), crystal clear vocals (so not so like Dylan then?), interesting lyrics about seabirds and atmospheric conditions ("lying in your attic, I can feel the static").  All very lovely but with an emotional weight so it doesn't slip into tweeness.  A very impressive debut and a guaranteed Mercury Music Prize nomination.

Diane Birch, 'Bible Belt': talented singer songwriter and pianist with Carole King / a Carly Simon / Amy Whitehouse pop / blues / soul / folk songs.  A touch 'background' in places but a great voice, rather lovely, relaxing and very impressive for a first album.

Mynabirds; "What we lost in the fire we gained in the flood"; some similarities with Ms Birch, blues and country tinged indie-pop-folk.  Less MOR though, with a wholly admirable edge (choppy guitars feature strongly) added to strong tunes and Dusty Springfield vocals...I am liking this a lot.

Anais Mitchell, 'Hadestown': a stunning and somewhat bonkers 'folk opera' concept album based on the Orpheus myth,  ranging through pretty much every musical style you can imagine, from pop to jazz to country blues to ragtime.  Featuring Bon Iver amongst others. I'd suggest you listen before you buy but almost certainly a work of genius.

Hold Steady; "Heaven is whenever". Just another really good Hold Steady album, and that is both the strength and the problem here.  One of the best live bands I've ever seen; driving Springsteen rock allied with some of the best rock lyrics of this generation.  The problem is, I've got their previous 4 studio albums, and they're all somewhere between good and excellent, and this new one does sound - well, a bit like the others.  Less dominant keyboards as the pianist left the band.  But a bit more of the (very good) same I'm afraid.

Phew! Let's see what June brings....

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First Voice

  1. Alan:

    Great selection. It sounds as if summer is on the way.

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