two sentence reviews of reasonably new albums i listened to in august

goathouse cat refuge

Dash Hammerstein — Bito Cabrito: sort of slinky ’50s garage pop, lots of keyboards and drawling vocals and weird orchestration. Charming as hell. Great songwriting, loads of earworms, A+ recommendation from Fuel/Friends.

Have Gun, Will Travel — Fiction, Fact, or Folktale?: this is the fourth LP from Florida’s Have Gun Will Travel, and it’s just as lo-fi, lush, traditional, and unique as their first three have been; it’s got hand claps and multi-part harmonies and upright basses and banjos, but it also pushes the boundaries in great ways, like the shiver of growling electric guitar at the end of first single “Standing At The End Of The World” and the minor key distorted vocals of “Trouble”. A delicious new record from one of my favorite should-be-famous bands, this is what “Americana” should be, if you’re going to bother calling things Americana. I call this good music made by smart songwriters with loads of stringed instruments, an ear for the weird that could only come from Florida, and the brains behind the only good bathroom promo photo ever taken.

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages — Dig Thy Savage Soul: did you know there was such a thing as garage soul? I don’t know if there really is, but I made it up to describe this record from the latest addition to Bloodshot Records’ lineup: this is down and dirty fuzzed out feedbacky soul music, grimy and wild and absolutely made for dancing a little too close to the wrong person.

Doc Feldman & the LD50 — Sundowning at the Station: this record is haunted and haunting, and it sort of made me want to do a lot of drugs. It’s serious hopeful-melancholy-burnouts-on-the-porch Americana, waving away the bugs and smoking Parliment lights and drinking Pig’s Eye beer.

Cat Be Damned — The Top Of The Mountain Looks Just Like The Bottom: if you can make indie brat punk with an acoustic guitar and a banjo, that’s what Erik Phillips is doing as Cat Be Damned, and it’s kind of totally delicious — all feedback and whining plaintive vocals and plucked out acoustic guitar lines from the next great Americana record. This record feels all over the place, but the sneering, hopeful attitude at the heart of Phillips’ songwriting is what makes it stand out; it’s part protest and all love song, and I dig on it hard.

Heyward Howkins — Be Frank, Furness: this record from Philadelphia songwriter Howkins is a bit of a departure from his previous record, The Hale & the Hearty, which was fairly hazy dream-pop; his follow-up still showcases his unique voice and his songwriting talents, but it’s got a beat to it, a sunny sound in the guitars and the drumming. It’s an impressive follow-up to an impressive debut, especially with the change in tone and mood, both because it’s simply impressive songwriting and performing, and because sometimes a shift in tone makes an album feel alien, but here, both records feel typical of Howkins despite their differences. It’s really a delicious little summer record that I’m going to enjoy well into the fall.

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