Noah Gundersen – Carry The Ghost
The great thing about summer albums is that they’re often recorded in autumn or winter. Reflecting the season in which they were created, they can bring a damp slice of miserableness to the sunniest of days. Noah Gundersen’s new album, his second, sounds like it might have been recorded in deepest December. Slow, dark, and super-serious, it’s totally unseasonal and, of course, utterly wonderful. We’re in early Damien Jurado territory. High praise. The core is folky acoustic guitar. And the sadness on songs like ‘Silver Bracelet’ is palpable and unutterably beautiful. Yet, more so than on his first release, there’s an electric element to this album. ‘Jealous Love’, ‘Slow Dancer’, ‘Halo (Disappear/Reappear)’, ‘Show Me The Light’. These are the slow burners. They’re somehow frustrating and yet all the more rewarding for it. In an alternate universe they could easily take off and reach a bro-country sort of chorus, but, thankfully, we’re in this universe and they never do. Instead, they sit and simmer, reflecting, regretting, and remaining resolutely and reassuringly indie. There are some lovely turns of self-deprecating phrase. “I watch you watching Dylan like you’re watching a saint, And I could not help but notice everything he is I ain’t”. And things come to a head on the penultimate track, ‘Heartbreaker’. Seven minutes long, it builds to a moment of pure catharsis. “Heartbreaker, Name taker, Ladies’ man”, he cries, followed by a searing guitar break. Summer is pretty much over at this point. Heading into autumn, Carry The Ghost is the perfect companion.
Glide magazine review
The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams
There’s more than a little humour on the new release by The Phoenix Foundation. “I feel the love of Bob Lennon, I feel the love of John Dylan, I feel the love when they go solo, I feel the love of Yoko Bono”. And while the themes may sometimes seem dark, tongue is always kept firmly in check by cheek. “Don’t let anyone say that the world is your oyster, The world is not an oyster, The world is a cold, dark planet floating through an infinite space on a ceaseless journey to its own destruction, And all that we can do about it is to be all right about things and get on with stuff.” Hear, Hear to that. The Phoenix Foundation are no strangers to pince-sans-rire. After all, the stand-out track on their previous album was ‘Black Mould’, a song about, well, black mould. Literally. Now, though, they’ve undergone a complete musical transformation. They’re no longer New Zealand’s version of Midlake. The beards are still there, but gone are the acoustic guitars. In their place, there’s an urgency. A rush. A thrill even. The percussion is polyrhythmic. The synths are swooshy and psychedelic. This sounds like music made by people who are having a good time. And that’s always slightly annoying. Give Up Your Dreams is shot through with irony. Don’t listen to it. At your peril.
Music OMH review
Under The Radar review
Adeline Hotel – How Strange It Is To See
“Why wait?”, we’re asked on the opening track of the new Adeline Hotel EP. But “Why go?” would seem be an equally appropriate question to ask across the set of songs as a whole. Throughout, there’s a sense of making difficult decisions and living with their consequences. “These months alone are better spent, In the present, not on your mind”, we’re told on the excellent ‘Red Coat‘, which was dropped earlier in the year. Well, maybe, but it certainly isn’t easy. “Do you still wear the coat that I left for you, When I was in a hurry to catch that plane on time?”. Quiet, sad, expressive. Adeline Hotel are worth following. Who knows what further questions will be asked and what new decisions will be made?
The new EP is available over at Bandcamp. In the meantime, here are two other Adeline Hotel favourites. The first is a Yellow Couch session. Hats off to the sound engineer on that one. It sounds great. The second is from a recent session over at the incomparable Daytrotter. The full version includes a take on ‘Farewell Transmission’, no less.
Lost Ragas – Trans Atlantic Highway
Lost Ragas are headed by Matt Walker. Having opened for the likes of Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Patti Smith no less, he’s now releasing material under the Lost Ragas moniker with three other players. Boy, their music deserves to be heard. Walker hails from Melbourne (Aus), but he sounds like he’s straight out of East Nashville. The most obvious signifier is the pedal steel, which is an almost constant presence and which is beautifully played throughout. But there’s also a certain ‘alternative’ vibe. The message on ‘Marijuana Mornings’ isn’t hard to decipher and the lyrics on ‘From The Turnip Patch To The Windowsill’ are so far out they sound like they could have been written in the haze of one of those self-same mornings. In comparison to last year’s release, Phantom Ride, which had echoes of both The Rolling Stones and The Byrds at times, Trans Atlantic Highway is a much more cohesive listen. Sure, ‘Those Wild Blue Eyes’ is a straight-up rock song. And ‘Seven Days’ is strategically placed to refresh the ear buds. For the most part, though, the pace is reassuringly slow. The mood plenty reflective. Songs are given time to develop, notably on perhaps the highlight of the set, ‘Murderous And Insane’. With his second album as Lost Ragas, Matt Walker has maybe moved on to a new phase in his career. By the sound of Trans Atlantic Highway, it’s one worth following.
Post To Wire review
Neil Young + Promise Of The Real – The Monsanto Years
Any new album by Neil Young is welcome. But some are more welcome than others. Fork In The Road had the door slammed in its face. Storytone wiped its feet, but wasn’t allowed to stay. Psychedelic Pill was found a quiet place in a corner to sit down and recover. In fact, Chrome Dreams II was the last to be let into the drawing room for a nice cup of tea in the best china. For its part, The Monsanto Years is one of those Neil Young albums that you greet with the door only slightly ajar and the safety chain still firmly on. Like Greendale, it’s not entirely clear whether or not it’s safe to let it in. Well, after sizing it up for a while, the decision has finally been made. Come on in The Monsanto Years. You’re very welcome. Why? Well, partly because there’s a real Crazy Horse vibe at times. True, there are never enough riffs to get Ragged Glory lost in, but the rhythm section is great and there’s some fine guitar work and not just from the frets of Old Black. Plus, there are some memorable songs. ‘A New Day For Love’ wouldn’t be out of place on Broken Arrow, that most maligned of Crazy Horse albums. ‘Wolf Moon’ has clear and present Harvest Moon echoes. And the frazzled country sounds of American Stars ‘n’ Bars can be made out on some of the tracks, not least ‘A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop’. But the centrepiece is ‘Big Box’. This is one of Neil’s story-telling tracks, reminiscent of ‘Crime In The City’, or ‘Ordinary People’. It’s utterly effervescent, keeping up a breathtaking pace until the very end. Too often recently, Neil Young albums have got lost in the very idea alone. A Letter Home with the Voice-o-Graph. Storytone with the orchestra and big band. The Monsanto Years could have gone the same way. But the song-writing and the playing keep it more than honest. Credit to Neil Young. Credit to Promise of the Real.
Here’s Haskell Wexler’s documentary that captures the making of the album. It’s quirky. Worth it.
Pop Matters review
The Line of Best Fit review
American Songwriter review
Consequence of Sound review