two sentence reviews of albums i listened to in january

tomorrow never knows there's an answer: birds & arrows

A Mad Affair — Retro Honey Pop: the title of this record, from a new-ish Triangle trio, is a pretty good descriptor; it’s noir-y, sultry, rootsy pop, all dominated by Valerie Wood’s gorgeous, enormous voice. Torch songs for the new generation, really, and I’m deeply impressed by this release, which hooks into the current Americana trend without repeating anything anyone else is doing. It’s all super original.

Anders & Kendall — Wild Chorus: a record of duets from Anders Parker and Kendall Meade, this has some gorgeous guitar lines, great songwriting, and Parker’s gravel-scratch voice paired with Meade’s airy yet powerful soprano. It’s a simple record, in the best kind of way — open and intimate songs, and gorgeous harmonies. When you’re good at those, you don’t really need anything fancy. You can get it at their Bandcamp.

David Ramirez — American Soil: rootsy pop that reminded me of the Waterboys in tone and Ryan Bingham in songwriting; it shimmers like the road in heat in the middle of the desert.

Kingsley Flood — Battles: sweetly, deliciously early Neil Young-ish, crossed with a ’70s Brit pop sensibility; catchy guitars and almost out of place horns and rough-voiced vocals and sweet harmonies. The kind of garage pop that makes you clap your hands and shimmy in your desk chair, while still having a oddness and an otherworldlyness to it. Basically if Neil Young had made a Buddy Holly record, it would have turned out like this. It’s gonna be one of those albums like the Smith Westerns’ Dye It Blonde and the Orwells’ Remember When that sneaks up on a lot of people.

Dorado — Anger Hunger Love & the Fear Of Death: because This Is American Music doesn’t put out bad records, I knew this would be good, but it’s not just good, it’s great; this is a roots record that shuffles and thunders and aches and pops and shines. In some ways, it’s the closest to that Buddy Holly / Everly Brothers pop sound that I adore, that TIAM has put out; the driving bass on “Molotovs”, the background chorused vocals, they all give the songs that hooky, pop sound, but it’s deeper and more complex from Dorado, and half the times the vocals are Bob Dylan, not Buddy. It’s glorious. Get it here.

The Highballers — Soft Music and Hard Liquor: sharp George Strait honky tonk pop from a DC band who put themselves on my radar last month, something I really admire in a band; turns out their songwriting and their boy / girl duelling vocals backs it up.

Elin Ruth — Elin Ruth: this one blew me away; opener “Bang” is pure retro soul, “Your Love Is Loaded” is old fashioned Nashville country, and the rest of the album is as varied as those two — and they’re all absolutely nailed. Stellar songwriting, stellar mastery of a multitude of genres, stellar record.

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