March Music Review – The Men, Dry the River and Anais Mitchell

Let's start with The Men - we mentioned this lot the other week. Retro-rockers by nature - the intro to the title track of their new album, Open Your Heart is a pretty close copy of  "Ever Fallen in Love" by the Buzzcocks. There are touches of the Ramones in here, Cube could be an 80's US hardcore band, while older rock icons also come to mind - Country Song and Candy could be from the Stones Exile on Main Street. It sounds simple stuff at times, but actually the effortless tightness of the band disguises just how good the writing and playing is here. 8.5 out of 10 we think.

I'm struggling to separate albums this year - everything feels a bit like an 8 out of 10. there have already been a good number of very good albums - but nothing has strck me as truly exceptional. And here's another very good, but maybe not quite exceptional album - Dry the River with Shallow Bed.

Heavily tipped in the "ones to watch" polls, it's a remarkably mature debut. The emotionally powerful folk / rock feel, use of varied instruments and strong tuneful songs means the the closest parallel is probably Mumford and Sons. "Shaker Hymns" could well pass for a Mumfords track for instance. But the lengthy "Lions Den" shows a heavier, guitar based side to them - it could be Mogwai blasting forth - which provides another welcome dimension to their sound. Like the Mumfords album, I suspect this is enjoyable at first listen but will prove even stronger on multiple plays.

Finally, Anais Mitchell with Young Man in America. Now perhaps this is the exceptional album of the year so far? But it comes with one proviso - her voice. I can understand some people - my wife amongst them - being discouraged from the whole experience by Mitchell's somewhat little-girl voice. Personally, once you get used to it, it works for me - and you should listen carefully, because the lyrics are important for her as we saw on her previous album Hadestown, a brilliant rock / folk / jazz  "opera". How could she follow that?

Well, with an exceptional, somewhat more conventional singer songwriter collection. This time it is a loosely linked "concept" album about children, parents, love and loss - the lyrics can be a bit heavy but the interesting and warm tunes and use of different musicians means its not a difficult listen at all. And the skill of her songwriting puts virtually any of her contemporaries in the shade.  Yes, I'm going for it - 9/10!


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  1. Amanda:

    so glad to see Dry the River getting so much coverage. I love the “weights & measures” and “new ceremony” videos, but I haven’t heard a song I didn’t love from the band!

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