If you can’t think of anything wry, sly, faintly ironic, or even mildly amusing to say, then just signal that some really good albums have been released in the last few weeks and leave it at that.
Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs
The more you listen, the better it gets. For Wye Oak’s new album isn’t quite as immediate as some of its predecessors. Nonetheless, it’s well worth making your way up a very large sand dune in what aren’t the world’s most sensible shoes to listen to.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
There’s a lovely languorousness to much of Golden Hour, including the title track itself. For an album with country roots and acoustic melodies, it still knows how to get into a slightly spacey groove. And there’s a beautiful song about mothers too.
Laura Veirs – The Lookout
The Lookout is Laura Veirs’ best album for quite some time. Produced by Mr Laura Veirs, the great Tucker Martine, the arrangements are impeccable. And as if that’s not enough, there’s a cameo from the Oscar-nominated Sufjan Stevens as well.
This is a time of looking forward. To the familiar artists that will return. To the new artists that will be discovered. This year, like any other, comes with a wish list. Some albums will never materialise. Others will slightly disappoint. A few will remain life-long friends. Fingers crossed for the latter. In no particular order, apart from alphabetical, my 2018 wish list includes new releases by Alela Diane, Anäis Mitchell, Bill Callahan, Caitlin Harnett, Cat Power, East River Pipe, Field Report, First Aid Kit, Jacob Golden, Jenny Lewis, Jessica Pratt, Jim White, Jonathan Wilson, Laura Veirs, Lewis & Clarke, Pearl Charles, Phosphorescent, Pinegrove, Richard Edwards, The Delines, Vetiver, Wooden Shjips, Wye Oak and the artist formerly known as Young Man.
And yet, there is a special place in the 2018 wish list for a new album by Kramies (pronunciation to be determined). With rumours going back at least a couple of decades, there are unconfirmed reports that an album is finally on its way and that Ireland had some part to play in it. We wait with fingers crossed, though we have learned not to hold our breath. The hard way. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful feature by Shon Cobbs and his Behind The Scenes colleagues from Denver. It features Kramies answering questions and sometimes asking them too. Plus a lot of laughing.
Happy New Year. Surely, 2017 can only be better than 2016. But who knows at the moment? What’s for sure is that music will always be a comfort. In that spirit, highly anticipated 2017 releases include confirmed albums from Elbow, Fleet Foxes, Foxygen, Grandaddy, Grizzly Bear, Horse Thief, Nadia Reid, Nikki Lane, Real Estate, Ryan Adams, The Shins, Son Volt, Strand of Oaks, and Sun Kil Moon. And then there’s always the H-LM wish list. This year, it includes Adrian Crowley, Alela Diane, Anaïs Mitchell, Bill Callahan, David Vandervelde, Feist, Field Report, Fionn Regan, First Aid Kit, Israel Nash, Jason Isbell, Jim White, Laura Veirs, Lewis & Clarke, Noah Gunderson, and Phosphorescent. Mind you, some of these artists were on my wish list this time last year. So, fingers are tightly crossed. Whatever happens, let’s start the new year with some good news. Word is in that Kramies is recording new demos. I can’t wait to hear the end result. In the meantime, here’s Kramies (feat. Jason Lytle) with ‘Clocks Were All Broken’.
In the time since her last album was released in January 2010, Laura Veirs has been busy. There’s been a film soundtrack and a collection of children’s songs. But this is the real successor. And the good news is that Warp and Weft is just as captivating and as enjoyable as its predecessor. Much of the attraction of a Laura Veirs album lies in the phrasing. She has a wonderful way of running quickly over words only to sustain the last of them, drawing attention both to it and to the general feeling she’s trying to convey. Most of the time that feeling is one of a certain child-like wonder. There’s an innocence to a Laura Veirs album. But that’s not to say the themes can’t be serious or affecting. In one song, she tells the true story of Sadako Sasaki, who, suffering from the effects of the atomic bomb, was told that she would be granted her most heartfelt wish if she could fold a thousand origami cranes. She never made it. But Laura Veirs is no mongerer of gloom, no merchant of sadness. Even when the themes are personal and difficult, the delivery is gentle. The mood optimistic. And on top of it all there’s the music. There are some beautiful moments here. The short instrumental, ‘Ikaria’, stands out, but perhaps above all there’s the closer, ‘White Cherry’, which just sparkles with its cellos, cowbells, and goodness-knows-what else. And across the album generally there’s some nice variety, from the Neko Case-like rock-out of ‘That Alice’ to the quieter sounds of ‘Shapeshifter’. Laura Veirs is never going to start a revolution, even if she’s not afraid of some social commentary, notably on ‘America’. But what she lacks in experimentation she makes up for in control. And of course, having Tucker Martine as your producer-husband probably helps to bring out the best in any song. This is an artist who is happy with the sound she has found and who is willing to take the time to make the most of it. Warp and Weft shows that it’s been time well spent.