REDUX: In which we revisit a smattering of our favorite artists and albums of the year, no particular order. One each day til the new year.
“I have a tendency to work small so this album is like my first attempt at a high kick,” says Nashville-based singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose of The Stand-In (March 5, ATO), her second album and, as her comment would suggest, the 25-year-old's first shot at a large-scale studio production. Rose's 2010 debut Own Side Now certainly had its own admirers (including us) garnering an annual Top 10 listing from that little indie rag Time Magazine and Q gushing "major star alert". But it only takes a few seconds when the band kicks in on the sterling "I Was Cruel" to realize that this Stand-In is both a complete original and a massive step forward. “Self-exploration isn't something to take lightly and I learned a lot about myself this time around," says Rose, "but this was more of a team effort than anything I've ever done.” Led by producer/players Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson and featuring bandmates Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum, Rose's A-team brings a fresh, richly textured Americana edge that draws on country and rock traditions and defies any too-mellow folk pondering. In other words, just turn it up.
"Fool," the latest single from Aussie songstress Sarah Blasko, becomes a video that clearly has something spooky going on at its mind-bending, "did-I-just-see-that?" core. Taken from her 2012 album I Awake, the song also arrives just a month before Blasko releases a new live album I Awake Live at The Sydney Opera House (January 10) recorded with full orchestra. Click through to watch some HQ videos from the show.
Two years after singer/songwritersPeter Bradley Adams and CaitlinCanty joined creative forces for the duo Down Like Silver and a debut EP we described as "gorgeous stuff," two new songs have arrived seemingly out of the thin December air. More to come? Details, details. We do know that Adams will be releasing a new solo album The Might Storm on February 4 (details here). And Canty, who re-released her excellent debut Golden Hour this past summer via Mishara Music, is now working on a new album with Jeffrey Foucault as producer for a 2014 drop. Stream the other new song (the A-side, actually) "Light The Match" at Bandcamp.
Somewhere between the dual definitions of a hook -- a sweetly addictive arrangement of musical notes or a sharp instrument for capturing prey -- lies the extraordinary songwriting of Minneapolis' Jeremy Messersmith. Following up his 2010 album The Reluctant Graveyard, a jaunty, vibrant collection of songs about death, new album Heart Murmurs (February 4, Glassnote) beats with the emotionally warm, often tender feel of a love song but, as on new single "Tourniquet," where there's a heart there's also the potential for something bloody. "I generally like to balance out the bitter and the sweet in my songs," Messersmith says. "The happier something is musically, the darker it can be lyrically -- you can kind of sneak it in there." With able assistance from producers Andy Thompson and Ben Allen, Messersmith is painting his new songs with a bold brush, juxtaposing bright pastels with dark swaths of emotional turbulence. "The heart," he says simply, "has a lot of secrets." Click through to stream "Organ Donor" and watch live performances of two new songs.
Jeremy Messersmith - "Tourniquet" (from Heart Murmurs)
Fleurie, also known as Lauren Strahm, only hit the DC RADAR a few weeks ago, but when she sent us this new, beautifully realized video for "There's A Ghost" yesterday we wanted to share it immediately. New Fear and Fable EP is "a wonder of mostly soft restraint," we wrote in our original post, "Strahm's cool, airy vocals the ideal dispassionate instrument for the direct, occasionally brutal, lyrics at the center of her songs." Ditto "There's A Ghost." The video was directed by Carl Diebold & Hunter Ney, with the editing and cool coloring by Ney. Check out our Fleurie RADAR musings here and stream the full EP at her Soundcloud page here.
Citing John Steinbeck right next to the likes of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell on his short list of influences is just one thing that distinguishes the fine Brit new-folk troubadour Sam Brookes. And you don't have to wade far into the ether of "Numb," the lead track from his forthcoming sophomore album Kairos (ancient Greek for an opportune moment) to realize that Brookes is crafting songs that come from a pretty deep and mystical place. Let's just say he probably won't be leading a rousing sing-a-long down at the local pub any time soon. Trained as an artisan gilder, the 26-year-old Londoner says, "I approach my music with the same ethic I held whilst gilding - working hard to create something beautiful." No doubt. Still being fan-financed via his Pledge Music site, Kairos should be arriving February 3. Click through to stream a stripped version of "Frequency" and catch the artful and perfectly moody video for "Numb."
In support of her self-titled 1988 album, Lucinda Williams performed a handful of songs live in the studio for radio, six of which have been revived for a deluxe 2-disc version of Lucinda Williams arriving January 14. Also of note is the inclusion of a full Williams concert recorded in 1989 in Eindhoven, Netherlands with a full band. We've always been taken with "Something About What Happens When We Talk" from the album commonly referred to simply as the "Rough Trade album," named for the British label that first released it 25 years ago. As a special preview of the new reissue, check out this live version from the original KCRW sessions. More on the reissue at the DC Music News Feed here. Of note to fans: look for a new studio album from Williams in mid-2014.
Lucinda Williams - "Something About What Happens When We Talk" (Live on KCRW)
Call us fashionably late to the party for Belgian alt-pop band Marble Sounds and their album Dear Me, Look Up. Led by singing, songwriting Peter van Dessel, Marble Sounds play up what some continentals might call "het melancholisch karakter" thanks to the downbeat vocal style of van Dessel and his gift for crafting a nicely formed melody without getting too excited about it. "Photographs" comes with a tasty assortment of trimmings, the gentle jangle of strummed guitars, sharply hooked chorus and van Dessel's weary but appealing singing. Click through for the lovely piano-backed new single (and video "Leave A Light On"), stream DC fave "No One Ever Gave Us The Right" and then ask yourself why these guys aren't bigger over here.
The groundswell of online hipster buzz for London-based eighteen-year-old indie chanteuse Flo Morrissey -- formerly known as 9mary -- is understandable and rather unsurprising. The bee-sting lips. The girlish pout. The air of cool, catwalk detachment. Clearly the camera loves her. Add to this a vocal delivery that can soar from lush, sensuous alto to quavering, near shrill tones that can elicit equal amounts of awe and annoyance. Or as one blogger penned, "unnerving...like listening to your best friend cry." From a family of nine children, Morrissey has been writing songs since she was 14, eliciting an odd "old soul" quality that merges Euro-cabaret bloodletting drama with spare, darkly hued folk/pop songcraft, Edith Piaf singing Leonard Cohen dirges in the wee, smoke-filled and hungover hours of the morning. Recently signed by bellwether label Glassnote (Phoenix, Mumfords, Daughter), Morrissey will finally get around to releasing some new songs next year. Click through to stream "I Was Born Backwards."
Flo Morrissey - "If You Can't Love This All Goes Away" (Demo)
“Writing ‘Ledges’ was a purifying process for me,” says Noah Gunderson of the title track to his upcoming February 11 album. “In three verses, I was able to sum up exactly where I was in life, with no real answer, but a declaration of hope and uncertainty.” That combination of spirituality and yearning is rooted in Gunderson's strict religious upbringing (he knew Bob Dylan only from his gospel albums) but now the 24-year-old songwriter looks at life with a less orthodox and more personal outlook on family, faith, relationships, redemption and, surprisingly perhaps, sex and sensuality. Joined by his sister Abby on violin and backing vocals, Gunderson makes "Ledges" a sublime entry into Jackson Browne-styled fusion of folk/rock melody and poetic introspection. Watch the video at Paste.