Damien Jurado — Maraqopa: psychdelic, ringing, and bleak, this is my first encounter with Jurado beyond a perennial favorite promo photo of him smoking a cigarette in a bathroom, and I love it. It’s scary and huge, and the guitar work on it is otherworldly in both talent and sound.
Estrogen Highs — Irrelevant Future: surf punk guitars and punk vocals and hardcore vocals and danceable bass lines, I would go shoot this band in a miniskirt just so that when I was done I could shake my ass to their eminently danceable, totally uncategorizable sound.
Netherfriends — Middle America: dreamy pop songs about Midwestern cities, these are songs that turn stolid and steadfast haunts of middle America into ethereal landscapes of hopes and horn sections and Polaroid photos. Gorgeous work from one-man-band-and-DJ Shawn Rosenblatt.
I See Hawks In L.A. — New Kind of Lonely: three-man fiddle-heavy Americans out of Los Angeles, there’s something very the Band-ish about Hawks in L.A.’s sound; harmonies, maybe, or just something atmospheric about the lovely and lonely “Dear Flash and the title track. There’s so much good and innovative roots music being made these days, it’s refreshing to hear a band that relies on nothing but the stripped down bones of it — great playing, good songwriting, otherworldly harmonies — to be original.
Punch Brothers — Who’s Feeling Young Now?: Thile and his merry band of hipsters have added a layer of harmonies and a layer of mandolin freakouts to their already clever avantgarde classically trained bluegrass, and it lends the new album a level of ’70s acid trip psychedelia to their sound; violins filling in for electric guitars and Thile’s mandolin wailing over all of it. Lovely, odd, brilliant.
Andre Williams — Hoods and Shades: red clay sandy dirt part-spoken-word blues; Williams is a master of this, and Hoods and Shades is no exception. It’s sultry, rough-edged, smart and funny, a little dirty in exactly the right way — another, unsurprisingly, winner from Bloodshot Records and a great bluesman.
Dot Hacker — self-titled EP: psychadelic guitars with swirling and breathy vocals and electronic danceable sensibilities, this is a quick shot from a project that’s worth keeping an eye on; it’s the stuff that I used to love about Placebo without any of my teenage drama, and “Order Disorder” should be a club hit yesterday, with its shimmying, driving drumbeats and shining guitar work.