The final Two Sentence Reviews of 2011! December is all year-end lists and Christmas songs. And maybe six paragraphs of gibbering about the new Black Keys. Maybe not, though. Anyway: two sentence reviews, boom.
Behind the jump: Grand Tetons, Los Campesinos!, Ian Cooke, Low Roar, Frank Turner, 13ghosts, the Miracals, the Violet Lights, Matthew Mayfield.
Bryan John Appleby — Fire on the Vine: on the strength of recommendations from Fuel/Friends and Songs for the Day, I picked this one up, and it’s a strange, haunting, vaguely creepy and joyful folk album. Opener “Noah’s Nameless Wife” shivers with sadness and the harmonized chorus leads into the rest of the delicately driving record. Understatedly complex and jangly and joyful.
Grand Tetons — They Do Move In Herds: if a punk band from a small town in Montana made a country album in Chattanooga, it would be this album, and it would be just as fantastically compelling as this album actually is. (I don’t think Grand Tetons are a punk band from Montana, that’s the only hypothetical here: this album is mindblowing and genre-bending and staggering.)
Ian Cooke — Fortitude: Cooke is a one-man chamber orchestra, and this sounds like something you should listen to while riding a train through Slovenia. There’s an odd Eastern European flavor to Cooke’s vocal delivery, and a late-Beatles feel to the guitar and string work; you should listen to this album while riding a train through the mountains, possibly while you are hunting vampires. I say that in all seriousness, you guys. SERIOUSLY.
Los Campesinos! — Hello Sadness: this sounds like, well, it sounds like a Los Campesinos! album, so if you like their thickly Welsh-accented version of electro-jangle-pop (I do), you’ll dig this album. (I do.)
Low Roar — self-titled: if you, like the guys on Sound Opinions, thought Björk’s new album was absolutely awful, you might want to check out another product of Iceland, Low Roar, and their debut self-titled album. It’s dreamy and feels like the Northern Lights and warm nights while things are cold outside and it made me feel sleepy and pleased with the world kind of zoned out like I was taking cold medication. I adore it sort of a lot.
13ghosts — Garland of Bottle Flies: if you’re sleeping on the indie roots rock that’s coming out of Birmingham, Alabama, here’s your 2 minute warning not to do that in 2012: Birmingham has produced some of the most amazing albums I’ve heard this year, and if you dismiss Alabama as nothing but dudes with beards noodling guitar solos in crappy southern rock songs, you are so far off the mark I can’t even. Such is the case with Birmingham’s 13ghosts and their sophomore album, which is an intensely creepy, subtle and inventively catchy piece of work. They’re part punk and part Pogues and all country and all Alabama and all catchy choruses and fuzzed out garage rock guitars, and it’s great. Get on it, rest of the country. Alabama’s doing something amazing and you’re all asleep.
Frank Turner — The Second Three Years: if you are not a Frank Turner completist, skip this and just go buy Love Ire & Song, for God’s sake. But for a Frank completist like me, this b-sides and unreleased tracks and covers album was an utter surprise and it’s utterly charming and lovely.
The Miracals — Give Me A Chance: if you wish more indie pop sounded like the surf pop of the Beach Boys, this EP is for you; it’s jangled up simple guitar lines and clean harmonies and sweet lead vocals and tambourines. Lovely.
Matthew Mayfield — Now You’re Free: what an excellent album of sweet pop songs about heartbreak and longing, set to guitars and piano that sound happier than they have any right to. Big choruses and Mayfield’s voice expand what would otherwise be a private and quiet sort of album in surprising ways, and somehow make the heartbreak all the more poignant.
The Violet Lights — Sex & Sound: two person Los Angeles melodic garage rock; not as dirty-blues as the Black Keys, not as poppy as the White Stripes, but somewhere between the two, and Lord knows I was surprised as hell when I found out it was just two of them making all this noise. Crashy without being noisy in that way I hate, catchy without being saccharine. Triangle residents, if you loved Veelee, you might love this EP.