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’.

Lewis & Clarke – Triumvirate

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A full seven years after their last proper encounter and with only a couple of brief exchanges in between, Lewis & Clarke have finally re-connected. So, put the kettle on. Get the cookies out. There’s a lot of catching up to do. And so it turns out. With eleven songs and more than an hour of music, this is no idle chit-chat. This is a collection of intense meditations on modernity and the human condition. Lou Rogai is the creative force behind the project. Taking the name of the band from the mid-20th century correspondence between C. S. Lewis and Arthur C. Clarke, Rogai crafts an early 21st century masterpiece. There are pontillistic piano moments and haunting violin refrains. But there are also sweeping orchestrations and lilting melodies. The hook on ‘The Ride’ being perhaps the most memorable. And with more than half of the tracks clocking in at over six minutes, there’s more than enough time for ideas to be mulled over and conclusions, however tentative, to be drawn. Like previous Lewis & Clarke conversations, the lyrics tend to the oblique. The metaphors are naturalistic, but the meaning is resolutely human. There’s a change, though, from earlier work. Lou Rogai’s voice has deepened. A lot. It’s both a gain and a loss. More assured, there’s perhaps a greater confidence to the sound than before, most notably on the long opening track, ‘Eve’s Wing’. Yet the songs are also rendered somewhat less fragile as a result. And because of that a certain vulnerability has been lost, even if the sound of his young son reciting a story on ‘Two Trees’ does recapture a sense of innocence. A Lewis & Clarke rendezvous is no ordinary affair. The tone is intense, but the effect is uplifting. We can only hope that it’s not another seven years before their paths cross again.

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Earbuddy review