“You won’t have to think twice if it’s love. You will know”. We missed Jason Molina this year. But there was plenty to celebrate. A highlight was Timothy Showalter and former members of Magnolia Electric Co. reinventing two of the more obscure tracks from Molina’s Didn’t It Rain era.
Iron & Wine – Weed Garden
“Some want love and some want gold, I just want to see you in the morning”. Sam Beam returned with six gorgeously gentle songs full of recognisably Iron-&-Wine-y themes, lyrics, and arrangements.
Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee – Farewell Transmission/The Dark Don’t Hide It
“In the sirens and the silences now all the great set up hearts, All at once start to beat”. We missed Jason Molina this year. But there was plenty to celebrate. A highlight was Kevin Morby and Katie Crutchfield reinventing two of the best tracks from Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co. era broadly understood
Kramies – Of All The Places Been & Everything The End
It’s been a long wait. “Ireland” was premiered on the 2015 forêts antiques live EP after all. But it was worth it. Rising and falling. Swelling and subsiding. Kramies brought us on a journey through all the places been to a new home. And more.
Three great albums from recent weeks that were by passed because of, well, life.
The Hanging Stars – Over The Silvery Lake
If you’re not sold on The Hanging Stars from the very first chords of the very first track of this their very first album, then there’s simply no hope for you. It’s pedal steel heaven. But it’s not just track one. From the start to the sublime finish, ‘Running Waters Wide’, this is a great debut. London-based, LA recorded, think of it as The Byrds by way of E17.
Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
Complete with the theremin-like sounds of a real singing saw, Kevin Morby’s third solo release is a gem. There are times, like towards the end of the title track, when it’s trippy enough to put you right in the zone, but then there are moments when it’s just balladry at its best, ‘Drunk And On A Star’, being a highlight. Expect to be reunited with it on best-of-the-year lists.
Woods – City Sun Eater in The River Of Light
Even minus Kevin Morby, Woods continue to prosper. There’s a reggae-like vibe to ‘Can’t See At All’, and no lack of funkiness on tracks like ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Sun City Creeps’. And it’s all wrapped up in the usual psych-folk that makes us so fond of Jeremy Earl and his band of Woods people. Check out the finale of ‘The Take’.
Here are some albums released in 2014 that slipped through the review net.
Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else
Wouldn’t it be great if Tom Petty had a guitar-toting younger sister who was invited to play a set at the CMAs. It ain’t gonna happen. So in the meantime, enjoy the album by Lydia Loveless. She sounds like Tom Petty’s guitar-toting younger sister playing a set at the CMAs. And with plenty of cussing.
Caitlin Harnett – The River Runs North
Australian Caitlin Harnett recorded her debut album in Canada. There’s a definite Joni Mitchell vibe, but at times she sounds uncannily like Laura Marling. With Kathleen Edwards featuring on her album, it’s an impressive set of influences and a really strong collection of songs.
Sam Amidon – Lily-O
Another fine outing from Mr Beth Orton. Reaching deep into the folk catalogues of various countries, Sam Amidon refashions them in his own image. Designed to get your fingers tapping and to realise that the past wasn’t always a better place.
Kevin Morby – Still Life
Memorable tunes and slightly off-kilter lyrics. That’s always a good combination and on his second album Kevin Morby delivered more of the same. Note to KM’s manager. Release his albums earlier in the year and they’ll feature on more year-end, best-of lists.
It’s hard to be disappointed with any Ryan Adams album. And his self-titled 2014 release wasn’t a total disappointment, but it didn’t quite hit the mark either. There were fewer jaw-dropping chord changes. Fewer tunes that were instant classics. But it did feature Johnny Depp on ‘Kim’.
In the dog days of 2013 releases, there comes a little gem. One time and/or current member of The Babies and Woods, Kevin Morby has delivered a solo album with grand ambitions and strong foundations. Creatively, it’s a paen to New York City. That’s no small subject and Kevin Morby is not the first to address it. Eleanor Friedberger’s take is to make things intensely local. A Baedeker for her favourite neighbourhoods. Here, things are no less intimate. The title track takes us on a personal journey. But, this is no Ulysses for the Big Apple. The songs are firmly rooted, but the themes are universal. ‘The Dead They Don’t Come Back’ being a case in point. ‘Sucker In The Void (The Lone Mile)’ being another. Musically, there are clear antecedents. Dylan is the most obvious influence. The shuffling organ on a number of songs has more than an echo of Al Kooper’s work on Blonde on Blonde, perhaps most noticeably on ‘Wild Side (Oh The Places You’ll Go)’. But it’s more than just a simple homage. The opening track, ‘Miles And Miles’ has a lovely structure, switching between slow waltz-time and more upbeat sections. ‘Harlem River’ itself starts off slow only to get kinda funky. ‘Slow Train’ – another scarcely veiled Dylan reference surely – has a wonderfully laid-back feel and there’s the welcome accompaniment of Cate Le Bon on vocals. Only ‘Reign’ feels as if it’s being played at the wrong tempo, breaking the spell albeit temporarily. With so many ‘best of ..’ list having already been compiled, Harlem River will lose out. But this is an album that deserves to be considered in that category. Whatever about that, it’s an album that deserves just to be heard.