Album Reviews

TMOE_byCameron-Wittig

I can’t believe its been seven years since The Tallest Man on Earth, aka Kristian Matsson, released Shallow Grave. Matsson came out of the gate sounding like a youthful Dylan. The follow-up, The Wild Hunt was solid but mostly similar to Shallow Grave. I slowly lost interest in TMOE which tends to happen with me and singer/songwriters. Frankly speaking, his third album, There’s No Leaving Now came and went, barely registering on my radar.

So when Dark Bird Is Home was announced, I shrugged it off. I don’t even think I clicked on the email to hear the first track. It wasn’t until the combo of a Shirk text and a Strand of Oaks tweet hit me that I decided to give this album a spin. And holy smokes, was I blown away?

I won’t Dark Bird is Home to Dylan going electric at Newport; but I will use his good friend Tim Showalter as comparison. I believe that Tim, aka Strand of Oaks, fully found his voice when he brought in a band. That allowed Tim, and now Kristian to use sonic palettes that prior were left unused. Helping Matsson flesh his sound is HearYa favorite BJ Burton, the man behind taking Stu McLamb of The Love Language from bedroom project to full realized band,

The album was born from the ashes of Matsson’s divorce. Needless to say that life on the road is tough on performers and their families. Field Report dug into that on his latest, Marigolden and Matsson doesn’t shy from that either. That lends the album to starting off under a dark cloud and slowly coming out of the fog. The slow build leads to the time tested adage, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.

The three songs in the middle are the heart of the album. Little Nowhere Towns beings with just a piano melody and Matsson before a backing vocal arrangement makes a cameo, taking the tune to another level. Sagres is an unadulterated pop melody that Matsson & Burton handle wonderfully. It is the tune that is Matsson’s personal phoenix and that is followed up by Timothy, which I can only hope was inspired by Showalter.

I expected this album to pass me by with no fanfare. Instead it has become one of my favorites of 2015.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

The Tallest Man on Earth is here.

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NapEyes

Upon spinning Nap Eyes for the first time, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Parquet Courts. It might not veer off the rails like some Parquet Courts tracks do but the nine tracks off Whine Of The Mystic share that quality of rumbling forward with little care of what stands in its way. Recorded live as opposed to being littered with overdubs, you really feel like you’re in the room with them.

Hailing from Halifax, Nap Eyes are led by Nigel Chapman; a bio-chemist by trade and judging by his lyrics; a voracious reader. Their PR piece labels them as literate guitar pop. If literate means that you may need a dictionary while listening, a la listening to The Decemberists, then yep – that’s accurate. Throughout the album, science and religion intersect as often (Delirium and Persecution Paranoia & No Fear Of Hellfire) as Pearson seems to reference a battle with the bottle (Dark Creedence & The Night of the First Show). Between the lyrics and constantly shifting sounds & tempos, you’ll never get tired of exploring Whine Of The Mystic.

Whine Of The Mystic was presented to me with the following statement, “Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes is the greatest band you’ve never heard, and Whine of the Mystic is their first full-length album.” Well, now I’ve heard of them and I can confidently say that it is a tremendous listen. Released last year in Canada, the fine folks at Paradise of Bachelors got hold of them and have re-released the album. Look for a new album next year in 2016.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Nap Eyes is here

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Fraser

You have to have balls of steel or gobs of talent if you’re going to come off looking like Bob Dylan on your debut album cover. Fraser A. Gorman is a 24 year-old from Melbourne, Australia and while I can’t speak of his balls; I can most certainly speak to his talent. Like fellow Australian and good friend, Courtney Barnett, Gorman has delivered one of 2015′s outstanding debuts.

Unlike Barnett, who’s album routinely gets tagged with labels of slacker-rock and fuzzed-out, Gorman’s album is rooted in country and folk. The tie that binds these young Aussies together is their ability to craft some pretty stellar lyrics. Both Barnett and Gorman have this knack of paining vivid pictures in one verse, albeit Gorman’s seems to come from a person with an old soul.

On the opening track, Big Old World, Gorman opens the tune by singing over a gently strummed acoustic.

Its a big ol’ world out there this morning / It’s a tiny universe in an afternoon.
It’s a strange ol’ time to be in love with Elvis/ You better drink it up, it ain’t coming back around soon

The excellent lead single, Book of Love, is a very sarcastic play on a love tune which is made even more evident by the video. The closing verse is brilliant on this one.

I see you brought your mother along, oh no / I know she doesn’t like rock n; roll, but let’s go.

The opening verse of Broken Hands is another gem.

I’m a man but lately you don’t seem to wonder who I am / I’m a boy so won’t you let me be your evil toy; voodoo I’m alright
I got no soul cause country music sounds to me like rock n’ roll / turn up ol’ Hank up

Gorman’s debut is brilliant. He is a troubadour in every sense of the world. If you consider yourself a fan of Justin Townes Earle, Luke Winslow-King or Ryan Adams, run don’t walk to pick this one up. Once he makes his way over to the USA, he’s going to blow up.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Fraser A. Gorman is here

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umo_large

Ed Droste recently tweeted that music reviews that mention an artist’s social profile are pointless or something akin to that. Respectfully I disagree with Ed. While I would never jump on board with a band because I liked their tweets, sometimes they provide a different perspective of what you thought they were about.

Following UMO’s front-man Ruben Nielsen on Twitter is one such experience. He is funny, self-deprecating, political, heartfelt, etc. While Ruben and I are probably not destined to be friends, I do feel like I get a peek into the man’s psyche. And based on the mish-mash of genres throughout Multi-Love, that is an active and fruitful space. Its almost as if Nielsen is trapped in a bubble straining to record a song in just one genre, be it folk, funk or disco. But the confines of the bubble means that he can’t fully commit to one sound. So while a song might be more funk-based, the other genres are always in there somewhere, sometimes subtle as can be. The more and more I listen to UMO, the more and more I am reminded of Beck. Another artist who has boundless influences and who’s creativity knows no boundaries.

The album’s driving force was the ending of poly-amorous relationship. Not your run of the mill breakup album but like most things about UMO, it is unique. Kate Hutchinson of The Guardian wrote a great article on the genesis of the album and what was going on in Nielsen’s head. Multi-Love is one of those albums that just gets better with every listen.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

UMO can be found here

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Bully – Feels Like [album review]

June 22, 2015

While I may be a 45 y/o married father of three, sometimes I like to connect with my inner twenty-something feminine side. To be honest, I didn’t know I had one up until a month ago when Bully’s debut LP entered into my world. Fronted by Alicia Bognanno, Feels Like travels at warp speed for [...]

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The Deslondes – s/t (album review)

June 9, 2015

During this past SXSW, I had the pleasure of standing in the rain and watching Run The Jewels absolutely kill it. Thirty minutes earlier I was standing in the historic Continental Club watching New Orleans act, The Deslondes, finish up an amazing set of Country-Soul Americana. It was like taking a 5 minute cab ride [...]

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Other Lives – Rituals (album review)

June 1, 2015

In the span of five years, Other Lives went from having me obsess over them; to having Thom Yorke obsess over them. I’d like to imagine there are a few things I do better than Thom Yorke, but music certainly isn’t one of them. Much like a Radiohead album, Other Lives albums swallow you whole. [...]

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Banditos – s/t (album review)

May 20, 2015

The old saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” If there was ever an instance to contradict that statement, the cover of the Banditos’ Bloodshot debut would be it. Take a look at that cover and really let it sink in. Dig into the details and you know you’ll be getting a [...]

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Michael Rault – Living Daylight [album review]

May 14, 2015

Photo by Meg Remy Michael Rault plays an infectious brand of psychedelia-tinged power-pop. Hailing from Edmonton and now residing in Toronto, Rault was lucky enough to have his music heard by the tastemakers that are Burger Records. As Rault joked in an interview, Burger is a bit of a cult with their fans. If you [...]

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Torres – Sprinter [album review]

May 11, 2015

Dense. That’s the word that comes to mind when I listen to TORRES. After a spin of her latest, Sprinter, I feel like I’ve been hit in the guy with a medicine ball. Her music is powerful, raw and intense. It doesn’t let up for one minute. Its not meant to be listened to casually. [...]

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