Album Reviews

Lina Tullgren – Won (album review)

by Woody on December 5, 2017

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photo credit: Michael Winters

I’d been itching for this debut for over a year. But oddly enough it is one of those albums that I have a hard time conveying how much I enjoy it into two or three paragraphs. Won is a unique album, sort of like another great album this year, Infinite Worlds by Vagabon, in that I had a tough time putting together the proper words to describe the album.

Tullgren, a Maine native, crafts a sound that has evolved from folk roots into a lo-fi sound. She’s a wonderful songwriter that is able to use some subtle electric guitar hooks to propel her tunes forward. The 10 tracks are uncluttered as Tullgren lets her songwriting take center stage. There’s a great point two minutes in on Perfect (the second track) where Tullgren puts the breaks on the tune and lets a chunky riff balance her fragile voice before easing out in an outro awash in synths. Its very cool and very well executed.

Later on the album, a contemplative Tullgren examines the delicate balance of relationships and friendship with an acoustic and a gentle cacophony of horns, synths and strings. Again, the brilliance is in the restraint in not muddling the water too much.

Won is a wonderful debut LP on a label, Captured Tracks, known for that.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

Lina Tullgren is here

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Photo by Brigitte Henry

The Barr Brothers, comprised of Brad & Andrew Barr and Sarah Pagé, move the needle forward on their third LP. The trio tried something new on this one. Heading into the studio (i.e. snowy cabin) with nary a tune. These were long days. Nights turned into dawns and days turned to dusk as the band worked in inspirations from West Africa and India. They leaned heavier on the electric guitar, a staple in rock and liberally incorporated some new inventions by Pagé – humbuckers, Kleenex-box signal-splitters, hacks to make her harp into a versatile, sub-bass-booming noisemaker.

The album opens with the stunning Defibrillation, featuring the haunting vocals of Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig. Andrew had spent a night in the hospital tending to his mom. There he became ensnared in two separate heart monitors; beating together, separate, weaving around each other like we do every day; highlighting how hard it is to make that permanent connection.

Kompromat has a Low Anthem covering Radiohead feel to it. The tune has a nice punch as Barr takes aim at the current state of his home country, the good ol’ US of A. “I think we’re in love with your abuse,” “You got one hand on the driver’s wheel / in the other a noose.” It Came To Me is another guitar-fueled tune that really highlights those West African influences on the riffs.

For me their second LP, Sleeping Operator, didn’t deliver the same wow that their debut did. In talking to other fans, I believe I’m in the minority. Either way, Queens Of The Breakers is getting it done for me.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

The Barr Brothers are here

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Montana Elliot

Bethlehem Steel are the Brooklyn trio of Rebecca Ryskalczyk (vocals/guitars), Jon Gernhart (drums) and Patrick Ronayne (bass). Their debut, Party Naked Forever, gets up in your face in a bold manner and never lets go.

The trio makes quite the racket, delivering a brand of brash fuzzy rock inspired by the 90s. Ryskalczyk’s vocals combine the confessional nature of Katie Crutchfield with the ferocity of Miranda Winters. She has a ton of range; always melding to the vibe of the tune.

The opener Alt Shells sees Ryskalczyk has some blistering guitar work as Ryskalczyk sings of dealing with depression. I don’t want to say she makes light of a disease that cripples thousands but she does it a manner that shows that sometimes it easy to almost self-sabotage yourself in a funk that paralyzes. My description might not come across well but it is a really well crafted tune and message.

Finger It Out was inspired by the passing of Annie Elverum. The track that follows couldn’t be any more timely in Untitled Entitlement. Ryskalczyk delivers her message sternly and it packs a wallop.

Bethlehem Steel certainly delivered on their first LP. Bummed I missed them on their recent trip to Chicago. Going to need to rectify that at some point,

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

Bethlehem Steel is here

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Photo Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins

On the Thursday night before Newport Folk Fest started, my buddy Nick and I stumbled into a Langhorne show at the Newport Blues Cafe. I hadn’t been listening to alot of Langhorn at that time. But it only took a few songs to be reminded that Langhorne is a larger than life figure (especially on stage).

For this album, Langhorne pumps the brakes and take a breath. The album has a soulful, reflective feel to it. Ocean City (For May, Jack & Brother Joe) recounts a happy memory for Slim; when his brother and him spent time with his parents. The tuba adds to the wistful flavor to the tune. However, Private Property has a tired rueful feel; as the protagonist sings of getting busted for growing weed on his property.

The back half of the album sees my two favorites of the album. Alligator Girl buoyed by its New Orleans flavored piano and its gospel-tinged backing vocals. Zombie is probably the catchiest and bounciest of the tunes. The pedal steel winding around throughout the tune, never overpowering the proceedings.

Overall, Lost At Last Vol. 1 is my favorite Slim album since his s/t effort in 2008. I’m anxious to see how these tunes translate to a live setting. As a veteran of many Slim shows, I can’t imagine anything that leaves me wanting.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

Langhorne Slim is here

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Porter and The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes – Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You (album review)

November 8, 2017

Photo by Alex Hooks I first caught wind of Chris Porter’s death a few weeks after he passed on Twitter; immediately thinking “there’s no way that could be him, he’s just too young.” Unfortunately the news was true, Chris and his bandmate, Mitchell Vandenburg, had passed away in a tragic accident outside of Baltimore. I […]

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Curtis Harding – Face Your Fear (album review)

November 7, 2017

It would be easy to label Curtis Harding as a retro-soul act, say his new album is excellent and move on with your day. And while that is the foundation for all that is good on this album, it’d be doing Harding a disservice to stop right there. On his Anti debut, Harding incorporates elements […]

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Quiet Hollers – Amen Breaks (album review)

November 6, 2017

Photo by Nik Vechery Quiet Hollers are a five-piece out of Louisville. We’d previously covered their 2013 effort, I Am The Morning. At that juncture, they were easy to label – a damn good alt-country band. Since then, they released an excellent s/t effort in 2015 that started to open up their music to other […]

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Goon – Omen EP

November 2, 2017

Had the good fortune of catching LA’s Goon this past SXSW. It was a loud scuzzy set of 90’s inspired college rock. As my buddy commented, I feel like I’m in the middle of an episode of 120 Minutes. I was really hoping that a debut LP wouldn’t be far behind. Alas, no LP. But […]

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Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights (album review)

October 27, 2017

photo : Nolan Knight There are going to be articles that will dig deeper into this album. Some of these journalists will have spent time with Julien, or they’ll know more about her or more about music. So I’ll just tell you how her music makes me feel and how I got to where I […]

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Bully – Losing (album review)

October 25, 2017

Credit: Alysse Gafkjen 2015’s Feels Like catapulted Nasville’s Bully on to the scene and into the waiting arms of Sub Pop, a label born in Seattle the home of grunge. It is a marriage that seems all too perfect, and Bully delivered a wonderful sophomore effort to get the honeymoon off on the right food. […]

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