New Music Friday Vol. 12
After an extended holiday with many Christmas concerts of my own and not very many new releases to explore, I'm back with NMF and some great music to listen to this weekend. Thanks for joining me, and I hope we can all find some music we love in 2018!
First Aid Kit - Ruins
I first heard First Aid Kit in 2012 after the release of their album The Lion's Roar. The track that hooked me was a song called "Emmylou." Their style and lyrics were a beautiful tribute to the folksy/country music that clearly inspires them. The album itself had all of the ingredients of the beautiful Indie Folk Revival: Acoustic and pedal steel guitars, piano, snare-centric drums, tasteful tambourine, and the nearly requisite plaintive sister harmony vocals pushed through a quaint, warm compressor, giving their voices a brittle immediacy.
Autoharp was also present on that album, but it was subtle, yielding to the sliding, sighing atmospherics of the pedal steel. On their next album, Stay Gold, it occasionally claimed a spot closer to the front of the mix. If the vocals on the Lion's Roar album were tinged with youthful, brittle innocence, this Swedish duo came back with strength and maturity. And the arrangements filled out to match their confidence.
Their evolution has been subtle. The essence of their songwriting and their sound has remained consistent while they embrace the polish of time and experience. And like the good troubadours they are, they continue their wandering and searching for more.
On this new one, it seems they even throw in a bit more pain and vulnerability. Here's a live take on the title cut from the new album:
Glen Hansard - Between Two Shores
Did you ever see the movie Once? It was about an Irish guy who met a Czech girl, both musicians. Glen Hansard was the guy in that movie, and it was filled with adorable indie music. At the time, he was in a band called the Frames, and the movie launched its onscreen duo (offscreen, known as The Swell Season) into popularity. The duo broke up, and Hansard soon began releasing solo records.
His first was nice, slightly moody, as expected, and generally benign but good. I haven't paid much attention since. There's a lot of gentle melancholy that occasionally leads to open-chested, growling melancholy. The characters from High Fidelity would probably call this sad-bastard music. Which is fine, I like sad-bastard music.
On his most recent album, Didn't He Ramble, Hansard ventured further from that constant melancholy with bigger and bolder arrangements.
His new album, Between Two Shores, opens with a surprising blues rock feel, replacing his normal acoustic guitar sound with the smooth kick of electric, and adds some great late-‘60s-style horns. Though Hansard often sings with a bluesy howl, his accompanying instrumentals are usually sensitive and flowing beneath him, rarely achieving this kind of immediacy. I love the crisp, blues of this track.
Have a listen:
Tune-Yards - I can feel you creep into my private life
I have trouble writing about certain artists because maybe they should just be listened to. I'll write something anyway.
Merrill Garbus is a Bay Area musician, and I'm completely in awe of her work. She and her bandmate Nate Brenner make up Tune-Yards. Their sound is often edgy, experimental, fierce, whimsical, and aggressive all while keeping a danceable groove. Their lyrics often reflect on society and are politically charged.
There are actually many things I want to say about Merrill and her ability to use her voice in thrilling ways, but I think her recording should just speak for itself. I think she makes primally modern music.
From what I can tell, this new album seems a little less experimental in form, and a little more straightforward in its danceable poppy-ness without sacrificing the energy or the commentary. I can't wait to hear the whole thing.