Five great albums that should have been reviewed

With only so many hours in the day and with so many albums being released, sometimes a stable equilibrium is difficult to achieve. But that’s no excuse. Here are five great albums that should have been reviewed.

Various Artists – Remembering Mountains : Unheard Songs By Karen Dalton

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Like sad songs? Like Karen Dalton? Then love this album. Some of the finest women performers take unheard Karen Dalton lyrics and put them to music. The only thing better than the idea is the delivery itself. With contributions from no lesser artists than Lucinda Williams, Sharon Van Etten, Patty Griffin, and Julia Holter, the quality is very high. And what’s really nice is that some of the best performances are by the not-quite-so-well-known figures. Diane Cluck’s offering is a particular favourite.

Pitchfork review

Consequence of Sound review

The Quietus review

Tomás Pagán Motta

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Tomás Pagán Motta is either a hard-bitten Mexican-Irish revolutionary leader with plenty of years of action behind him, or a fey folk singer who’s likely to be blown away by the merest breath of wind. Listen to only a few chords of his new album and the puzzle is solved. Channelling Nick Drake, Tomás Pagán Motta delivers a set of fragile and quite beautiful songs. They’re hardly rousing campfire songs for budding revolutionaries, but they’re affecting all the same.

Pop Matters review

Glide Magazine review

Sóley – Ask the Deep

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Another gem from the land of Eyjafjallajökull. Previously a member of Seabear, Sóley Stefánsdóttir sounds like Emiliana Torrini’s evil twin sister. The melodies are just as catchy and the phrasing on a song like ‘Ævintýr’ is very similar to her Emilananess. But there’s more of a creepiness to Sóley. On Ask The Deep, she shows us the dark underbelly of Icelandic pop. And it’s still very pretty.

The Line of Best Fit review

Consequence of Sound review

Pop Matters review

Little Wings – Explains

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Kyle Field, the brains behind Little Wings, is now on the excellent Woodsist label. Seems like a liberating experience. The musical palette appears bigger. Though these things are relative. The overall tone is still hushed. But the words just flow out. And on a song like ‘Fat Chance’ there’s just no stopping them. No idea what they mean, but totally compelling nonetheless.

Stereogum review

Consequence of Sound review

Dusted review

Vetiver – Complete Strangers

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Andy Cabic is Vetiver. And Vetiver are masters of gentle, catchy, folky, poppy melodiousness. Even though they’ve left Sub Pop label, Complete Strangers picks up where its predecessor, The Errant Charm, left off. Great production. The songs get stuck in your head in that good way that songs do.

Pop Matters review

Consequence of Sound review

Music OMH review

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-trackery

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

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The latest release by Unknown Mortal Orchestra has been getting plenty of headlines. And that’s at least partly because it includes songs about lead UMO Ruban Nielsen’s somewhat unusual polyamorous family relationship. In fairness, Nielsen hasn’t tried to keep things quiet. It’s come up in plenty of interviews. The album’s called Multi-Love after all. And plenty of songs reference the circumstances. However, it has provided the context for pretty much every review of the album. And that’s not surprising. When you shut the door on Enigma and open it up to Scrutiny, then you’re also inviting in her pals Comment and Judgement. But it’s all a bit of a shame. Because, inevitably, it’s taken some of the emphasis away from the big question of the day, namely ‘Is the album any good?’ And the answer to that question is a resounding, ‘Yeah, really not bad at all’. The previous UMO outing, II, was a wonderful, woozy affair. Sure, there were glammed-up Zeppelinesque riffs, but there was still a certain modesty to the overall sound. On Multi-Love, by contrast, there’s a brashness. We’re mainly in 70s and 80s funk and disco territory with more than a little bit of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Think Foxygen. There are some more reserved moments, notably ‘The World Is Crowded’ and the title track itself, but for the most part this is an explosion of beats and sounds. In fact, there’s so much going on that at times it’s almost overwhelming. There’s a sense that every gadget had been gauged, every pedal has been pressed, and that every available knob has been nurdled. There’s not quite the coherence that unified the previous album, but there’s a liveliness that more than makes up for it. In fact, it can all become quite infectious. Infectious enough indeed to banish the headline-grabbing background. That’s good.

The Line of Best Fit review

Under The Radar review

NME review

Consequence of Sound review

Drowned in Sound review

Today’s big new video release

If you’re addicted to Twitter and Instagram, you’ll know there’s a big new video release today. Containing some disturbing sequences and designed to shock, it is, of course, the new video from Jay Woodward. It’s for his splendid song called ‘Howl’. Actually, it features a wander through some lovely countryside, an expanse of water, and some fine wildlife shots. If it whets your appetite, then he also has an album out. It’s called Letters We Told, which seems grammatically or syntactically wrong, but works well enough anyway. What I like about the album is that even though the songs get you in a certain comfort zone, they’re always likely to give you a little poke every now and then. Just to keep your attention up. It works well in a sort of Elliott Smith way. Worth checking out. Letters We Told is on Bandcamp.

The five best Ryan Adams releases

What only five? Surely it’s impossible to choose just five from so many great releases? Well, it’s been difficult alright. But here goes. In reverse order.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cold Roses

Chock full of great songs and with the Cardinals at their peak, what could be better? Well, maybe the next four.

Ryan Adams – Gold

Ah, the big time.

Ryan Adams – 29

The third release in a single calendar year. Predictably ignored by the record company. This is a real treasure.

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

Neither the first nor the last argument concerning Morrissey, I’d wager.

Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell Pt. 2

Not being the greedy sort, I’m happy with just Pt. 2. For now.

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

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There’s more than a little shimmeriness to the wonderful new My Morning Jacket album. Whether it’s the keyboards on the opening track, ‘Believe (Nobody Knows)’, or the guitars on ‘Like A River’, this is an album that’s full of lovely little moments. The change of tempo a minute into ‘In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)’. The keyboards at the end of ‘Compound Fracture’. The steel guitar on ‘Big Decisions’. It all marks both a return to things past and a new departure for Jim James and the crew. For sure, there’s no shortage of typically anthemic MMJ moments that will get many a fist raising in the muddy fields of this summer’s European festival tour. But gone is the alt-country-meets-EDM experimentation of Evil Urges, never mind, whisper it, ‘Cobra’ from the Chocolate And Ice EP. Here, only ‘Spring (Among the Living)’ comes anywhere close to the sound that divided even the most ardent Jacketeers. Instead, what we hear is a fresher, sunnier, lighter-than-usual sounding album. But what lies beneath? There are hints of personal difficulties. “I hope you get the point, The thrill is gone”, we’re told on one song, “I hope you get the point, I think our love is done”. “I don’t quite feel like faking it again tonight”, we’re told on another, “Don’t really feel like saying everything is alright”. And title of the closer, the sublime ‘Only Memories Remain’, perhaps speaks for itself. But there’s surely more too it than that. Following on from his solo album in 2013, Jim James remains in fine transcendental form. And on The Waterfall he seems to have transmitted this vibe to his musical co-workers. In stark contrast to Circuital, it sounds like making music has once again become easier and much more enjoyable. Now that’s an uplifting thought.

Pitchfork review

The Line of Best Fit review

The Guardian review

The Irish Times review

Consequence of Sound review

Drowned in Sound review

Music OMH review

A new release by MMJ provides only the flimsiest of excuses to post the magnificent version of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ by Jim James and Tom Morello at the Music Cares Bruce Springsteen tribute in 2014. But it’s well worth it. Here it is: