Part 2 of the year’s best albums. We’re counting down in reverse order.
First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
The Söderberg sisters have voices made in heaven. But is everything tickety-boo in their Swedish paradise on earth? Last time, the Lion Roared. This time, it expressed more than a little self doubt. Perhaps it was the influence of that Conor Oberst chap. More of him next time.
Miranda Lambert – Platinum
The songs were no more spontaneous than the cover photo. But the lyrics were genuinely amusing at times. And there was a greater confidence to the song-writing than before. Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s artificial. It’s the CMA’s best album of the year for goodness sake. But don’t hold that against it. Too much.
The Delines – Colfax
The Delines did not win anything at the CMAs. Late night stories of relationships gone bad long ago. Jobs that are barely worth the name. And all told against the background of a mournful guitar. This was Willy Vlautin in a different incarnation, but still at the top of his game.
Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread
Rosanne Cash took us on a very personal journey. Memories tinged with all sorts of emotions. But the highlight was the playing, which was, unsurprisingly, top notch. And ‘A Feather’s Not A Bird’ was one of the year’s great songs.
Field Report – Marigolden
Field Report tell serious stories. And they tell them very slowly and deliberately. All of which should be a real downer. But no. Chris Porterfield and Co. wrap the stories up in lovely melodies. And this time, they added a little hint of electronic jiggery-pokery to their more traditional Americana.
Field Report – Marigolden
Field Report have a lugubrious quality to them. Über-lugubrious, you might even say. The basic format is traditional. Gentle Americana. Yet sometimes the songs are played so slow and the vowels are extended so far that you fear something might just break. It creates a nice tension as well as a huge mid-Western-style space in which tall tales can be told and at quite some length. ‘30,000 feet I am seated by a surgeon”, we hear on the title track. “Said he fixed the dicks of Shah’s sons”. A likely story. Highlights in this vein on their second album include ‘Pale Rider’, ‘Michelle’ and the lovely closer, ‘Enchantment’. The worry is that it could all get a little bit samey, but Field Report are not afraid to mix things up just enough. A Neil Young-inspired piano ballad here. Some female backing vocals there. The biggest change from last time, though, is the introduction of the merest hint of electronica. Taking a leaf out of the magnificent Matthew Houck’s book, there’s an undercurrent of inorganic burblery on a few of the tracks. It works really well, speeding things up on occasions and allowing ‘Wings’ to take flight and soar and ‘Cups and Cups’ to make you want to come back to the table and fill up with more. While these sounds point towards new horizons, for now Field Report are still roaming across pretty much the same musical territory as bands like Dawes and Fossil Collective. There’s plenty of room for everyone, but Field Report know how to carve out their own special space.
Pop Matters review
The Line of Best Fit review
The 405 review
Consequence of Sound review