Two sentence reviews of reasonably new albums I listened to in November, and reasonably new EPs I listened to in August and September. Behind the jump: Travel by Sea, Ray Davies, Kopecky Family Band, the Secret Sisters, Whitey Morgan & the 78’s, the Goodbye House, Megafaun, and the Honored Guests.
2AM Club — What Did You Think Was Going To Happen: picked up on the strength of the title, this may be an excellent dance/electronica/hip-hop album for someone, but it was not an excellent album for me.
Elvis Costello — National Ransom: I love Elvis Costello’s music, but I don’t always love Elvis Costello’s records. Momofuku, for example, did nothing for me, but this one, sounding vintage back to his time with the Attractions now with better guitars, is clever and catchy — except for the places where it’s kind of boring and draggy; I think it’s too long? I think that’s the problem. If you like Elvis Costello casually but not passionately, it would probably mostly work really well for you.
Travel By Sea — Two States And The Blindness That Follows: this imported into my iTunes as “Folk”, but it’s more Band of Horses than anything else; almost drone-y, dreamy, pedal steeled indie rock. Sweetly Southern and startlingly gothic-dark in some places, I took some excellent naps to this in November. RIYL anything Matt Stoessel has ever been involved with.
Ray Davies — See My Friends: it’s not, obviously, the songwriting here, because the Kinks’ songs are enduring and amazing, still, now, after all these years; but the collaborations are uneven (Bruce Springsteen good; Jon Bon Jovi painful and boring) and some of it is flatly uninteresting. Man, though, man — the Boss and Davies on album opener “Better Things”, one of my all-time favorite Kings songs, is unbelievable.
Kopecky Family Band — The Disaster: if you are impatiently waiting for the new Decemberists or a new album from Beirut, you might find that this meets your needs; the lyrics are a little more concrete than the Decemberists, the sound is a little less Eastern European flavored than Beirut, but it’s the same kind of lush orchestral sound, indie rock to Lost in the Trees’ chamber folk. Liked it way more the second time through than the first.
The Secret Sisters — self-titled: close harmony, female fronted country folk; these girls are better uptempo and swinging than sentimental (the opening track, “Tennessee Me”, feels almost too twee to be enjoyable), but it’s a promising album. Reminds me, actually, of one of my Mom’s favorite Simon Sisters albums from back in the day, albeit more country, so if that’s your thing, pick this one up. (This means you, Mama.)
Whitey Morgan & the 78s — self-titled: Bloodshot Records does good, dirty country; this is a solid but not stellar album, but I hear Morgan and his band absolutely kill it live. There’s a lot to like here, if you want trufax country music in this radio day and age, and they’re on my radar now and they’ll stay there until I get to see them live.
The Goodbye House — Little EP: the only release from the now-defunct project of members of the (now-defunct?) Greensboro band Eating The Invaders. This swings from cheerful classic surf pop to crashing guitars with punk undertones, pinned down by harmonica, sweet harmonies and the straightforward delivery of whoever’s singing lead. (Greensborians, was this James Marshall Owen? I know it’s not Matty Sheets.) The band’s defunct, which sucks because I’d have loved to have seen them, but the EP lives on for free here.
The Honored Guests — Into Nostalgia EP: think Wye Oak meets the Beach Boys, and I’ve got a new local band to follow, though I still haven’t managed to see them live — 2011 goal, for sure. This is super excellent.
Megafaun — Heretofore: exactly what it says on the tin, this is a strong EP full of their beautifully harmonized, weirdly orchestrated Americana-meets-Philip-Glass, now with bonus jazz horns and funk guitar. A++, boys.