Strangers Family Band is a LA-based four-man band playing heavy psychedelic rock. Brothers Ric (vocals, guitar) and Scott Seltzer (bass), and Juan Londono (drums) and John Randono (keyboards) have delivered a debut that is remarkably psychedelic and heavy, with Londono’s drums and Scott Seltzer’s bass setting a strong underpinning for Ric’s guitars and Randono’s keyboards, a combination that sort of swings back and forth between Crazy Horse and Pink Floyd at times.
It Can Be Done! is an album of new beginnings. The past year has seen Kendl Winter leave the successful bluegrass group The Blackberry Bushes to tour the country as a solo act, walking her banjo into dark bars, smoky music halls and packed amphitheaters night after night. It?s also full of intimacy. With a voice that is marvelously unique and bold, and songs that are both classically poetic and rooted deep in her own experience, Kendl draws It Can Be Done! (KLP248) is an album of new beginnings. The past year has seen Kendl Winter leave the successful bluegrass group The Blackberry Bushes to tour the country as a solo act, walking her banjo into dark bars, smoky music halls and packed amphitheaters night after night. It?s also full of intimacy. With a voice that is marvelously unique and bold, and songs that are both classically poetic and rooted deep in her own experience, Kendl draws upon an old-time Americana and bluegrass bent that brings to mind the haunting vocal work of Karen Dalton and Gillian Welch. Her banjo work on the album is striking, showcasing a kind of expertise that comes from years of companionship with a beloved instrument. It Can Be Done! is Kendl?s third release on K, the follow up to her beautiful 2012 landmark The Mechanics of Hovering Flight . Recorded by Calvin Johnson at Dub Narcotic Studio in Olympia, WA, on It Can Be Done! Kendl is backed by The Summer Gold, Austin Cooper, Joe Capoccia and Derek Johnson. Kendl Winter is teaming up with Red Ants Pants this summer, playing their music festival with Merle Haggard, Greg Brown and friends.
One is an album full of authentic songwriting that finds the words to convey feelings most of us have felt at one point in our lives. She’s not only a songwriter, but a storyteller. Her talents are similar to a very well known act that’s all over the radio these days – Taylor Swift (although Miles’ vocals are one step above Swift’s). The music supporting Miles’ brilliant songwriting is well produced thanks to producer, Dave Pittenger, who kept the sweet, pop standards of Miles’ voice and lyrics, but added his own touch to create an album that presents a musician with staying power.
Max Stern made a decently sized splash in our scene last year as the talented frontman of Signals Midwest, whose full-length Latitudes & Longitudes served as an impressive vehicle for his burgeoning songwriting talents. While Signals should have a follow-up out this year, he’s returned for now under the Meridian moniker, showcasing some of his more straightforward, introspective songwriting in an awfully endearing end product.
The songs of Aging Truths are much more heavily carried by Stern’s voice and an acoustic guitar than those of Signals, and he’s able to portray sadness, introspection and longing with a cunning sense of relatability. “Six Blocks” explores loss in a way that’s more triumphant than morose, though like the majority of these songs there’s a palpable sense of melancholy throughout. Much of the rest of the album stays in that same wheelhouse, with Stern using his usually emphatic vocals and interspersing them with softer inflections where necessary, showcasing a previously unrevealed versatility.
Stern’s brother Jake and friends fill out some of Aging Truths’ better selections, with the full-band cuts navigating the sonic avenues between folky tendencies and a poppier, almost Smiths-esque disposition. “Love & A Sense of Belonging” stomps along nicely, with a banjo adding some personality to the lush instrumentation already present. “Prosthetic Hand” is the album’s best song, with a fully realized pop sensibility not to mention close to home lyrics reflecting the importance of human interaction in an increasingly digital age.
At age 23, Max Stern already has a slew of impressively written, versatile songs in his back pocket and Aging Truths confirms what few know and many more will find out: this kid is destined to do big things in our scene.
First Contact will surely be a favorite among math rock fans and overflow to those who favor other genres, as well. With beautiful layers of guitar, incisive lyrics, and ingenious timing, this album has something to speak to everyone.The album starts off with the gorgeous, H. P. Lovecraft-inspired track, “To Kelly Lee.” It’s the dark tale of two lovers who stumble upon ancient ruins, and the chaos that ensues.
This song might be lead singer and guitarist Damien Verrett’s best example of his skills as a songwriter on the album. As a lyricist, he’s capable of portraying any mood he pleases.
Kate Wolf’s second album, Lines on the Paper, indicated that there weren’t going to be any significant changes in her style. At the same time, it also gave notice that she was an extraordinarily consistent performer with a deep catalog of original compositions. More reflective story-songs about family and life passages, sensitively but not sappily performed.
Recorded prior to Mellow Gold but released several months after that album turned Beck into an overnight sensation, One Foot in the Grave bolsters his neo-folkie credibility the way the nearly simultaneously released Stereopathetic Soul Manure accentuated his underground noise prankster credentials. One Foot is neatly perched between authentic folk-blues — it opens with “He’s a Mighty Good Leader,” a traditional number sometimes credited to Skip James, and he rewrites Rev. Gary Davis’ “You Gotta Move” as “Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods” — and the shambolic, indie anti-folk coming out of the Northwest in the early ’90s, a connection underscored by the record’s initial release on Calvin Johnson’s Olympia, WA-based K Records, and its production by Johnson, who also sings on a couple of cuts. Parts of One Foot in the Grave may be reminiscent of other K acts, particularly the ragged parts, but it’s also distinctively Beck in how it blurs lines between the past and present, the traditional and the modern, the sincere and the sarcastic. Certainly, of his three 1994 albums, One Foot errs in favor of the sincere, partially due to those folk-blues covers, but also in its overall hushed feel, its muted acoustic guitars and murmured vocals suggesting an intimacy that the words don’t always convey. Much of the album is about mood as much as song, a situation not uncommon to Beck, which is hardly a problem because the ramshackle sound is charming and the songwriting is often excellent, channeling Beck’s skewed sensibilities into a traditional setting, particularly on the excellent “Asshole,” which is hardly as smirking as its title. It’s that delicate, almost accidental, balance of exposed nerves and cutting with that sets One Foot in the Grave apart from Beck’s other albums; he’d revisit this sound and sensibility, but never again was he so beguilingly ragged.
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