Conor Oberst – Salutations
Conor Oberst has hit upon a great new idea. In October last year, he released Ruminations, a stripped-down set of new songs. Now, he’s released Salutations, a ramped-up collection of the same songs plus seven others. Whereas previously there was just himself on acoustic guitar or piano plus the occasional harmonica, here there’s a full band. The two albums complement each other really well. They’re not just the equivalent of a tired-old Deluxe edition. There are no outtakes. There are no demo versions, though the songs on Ruminations were always refreshingly immediate and raw. And there’s perhaps just one change of lyric, courtesy perhaps of the lawyers. On ‘Counting Sheep’, “[Someone] got killed walking to school, Hope it was slow, hope it was painful” becomes “Billy got killed walking to school, Hope it was quick, hope it was peaceful”. The result is two separate, but related albums, containing songs that are familiar yet transformed from one iteration to the next. In this manifestation, the band includes the great Jim Keltner on drums, plus sundry visitors, including M. Ward, Gillian Welch, and Jonathan Wilson. The most telling presence throughout, though, is that of Ian and James Felice. They bring their trademark controlled raggediness to the proceedings in a way that allows these versions to remain fundamentally true to the ‘difficult’ originals from last year. And the seven new songs are welcome too. In fact, you can almost hear some of them in full on Ruminations mode. ‘Overdue’ is perhaps the best example, “I’m in bed beside some jailbait, Meghan’s passed out on the staircase, Michael’s searching for a good vein, Tomorrow comes we’ll do the same thing”. Maybe Salutations was the idea all along. In which case, Ruminations is the treat. Or maybe it was only ever intended to be Ruminations. In that event, Salutations is the icing on the cake. Two different, but similar albums won’t work every time with every artist, but here it’s an inspired choice. And maybe there’s more. On the recent tour, there was another variation. Conor Oberst plus a solitary bass player. That sounded really good too. Time for the live album perhaps?
Leeroy Stagger – I Want It All
Happy St Patrick’s Day. Let’s celebrate it in time-honoured fashion with a dose of Canadian alternative country. Leeroy Stagger hails from Victoria, BC, and currently works out of Alberta. He has a new album out on 7 April called Love Versus. As a taster, he’s put out a video for a single off the album. It’s called ‘I Want It All’ and it’s really good. Looking forward to the album.
Anthony Ruptak – Sticks
Thanks to the ever reliable Kramies for alerting me to a new track by Anthony Ruptak. It’s from an upcoming EP, which we’re now very much looking forward to here at Half-Life Music. Anthony Ruptak is based in Colorado and the band features his brother on percussion. If you can’t get enough of the official video below, then there’s a great live version of the song from a gig at Red Rocks here. The same gig also features an absolutely sublime track called ‘Poltergeist’. Highly recommended.
Nadia Reid – Preservation
The cover of the new release by Nadia Reid is slightly unsettling. Staring straight out, it says ‘I’m looking at you‘. The image is deliberately disconcerting, because this is an angry break up album. There’s a strong sense throughout that the other party is being addressed very directly. “There were two little words that I used, One was ‘fuck’, the other was ‘you’.” Which is maybe fair enough, because she’s revealed that her former beau was seeing her best friend at the time. From this perspective then, Preservation should be seen as an exercise in musical catharsis, or perhaps even self-preservation. It seems to have worked. The tone can be bitter, but the songs are always fully under control. In fact, that’s the most noticeable feature of the music. Nadia Reid may be angry, but she’s not going to let it spoil a good tune. Among the Joni Mitchell-style acoustic numbers and the Sharon Van Etten-like mid-tempo songs, ‘Te Aro’ stands out. With its skittery percussion and crunching guitars at the end, it’s unlike anything else on the album. It even contains a moment of wry humour. “Living in the country ain’t so bad, You get city folk, They love your stories”. Preservation has perhaps helped Nadia Reid to work through some of her demons. If so, we are the lucky beneficiaries of that process.
Christine Leakey (feat. Linda Perhacs) – Walks Like An Angel
Christine Leakey has a new album out tomorrow. I haven’t heard it, but apparently it’s “a blend of upbeat songs, a few dreamy ones, some jazzy and sultry ones, other worldly, circus vibes and more with a cinematic twist”, which is refreshingly ambitious. However that turns out, I have heard one of the tracks and it’s really impressive. It’s a woozy piece of dream pop called ‘Walks Like An Angel’. More than that, it features none other than Linda Perhacs, who adds a nice little twist to the song at the end. One of the good things about the track is the accompanying video, which with its slightly claustrophobic yet shimmery quality fits the song very well. The new album is called Wanderlust Wishing Well. You can discover more about Christine Leakey here.