Posts Tagged ‘folk’

I’ve changed my approach to these blog posts because they got away from my intention, which was to make some notes about new music I’m listening to. Instead it seems to have turned into more of a review site, which was not my intention. The blog really exists to support the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist, not the other way around.

I also noticed that the more I was treating this as a review column, the less I was writing, and consequently the less I was putting on the playlist. So a lot of the music I listened to never made it to the column, either because I wanted to have some kind of definitive opinion of it before posting, or else I wasn’t moved enough to either write about the music or put it on the playlist. In some cases where the music did resonate with me, I didn’t really want to say much of anything about it, just get out of the way and play the song already. Hence the playlist.

Anyway, I think I’ll try to treat this more like a musical diary for now and see how that goes. Which means I will probably revisit some selections and have little to say about others (at least at that moment), but it should lead to sharing more music more often on the Spotify playlist.

Finally, please not that the headings below are all links. The Artist names links to the artist’s website, and the album title links to the album on Spotify.

So, let’s get …restarted.

BECK - Morning PhaseBeckMorning Phase

It’s been a long time between Beck albums. I can understand how anyone waiting years for another “Devil’s Haircut” or “The New Pollution” might be disappointed with “Morning Phase”, because it is essentially a folk album and sooo mellllllooowww.  It’s also, if you’ll excuse the terms in relation to Beck, a gentle and pretty album in the songwriting, the singing, and the overall production.  I’ve been enjoying it well enough.  It hasnt rocked my world in any dramatic sort of way, but there are a few songs on it that have caught my attention in subtle ways. I’ve included my current favorite of these,“Turn Away” on the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist. It vaguely reminds me of one of those old Paul Simon ballads he used to write for himself and Garfunkel, emphasis on Simon.

Bombay Bicycle Club "So Long, See You Tomorrow"

Bombay Bicycle ClubSo Long, See you tomorrow

I’ve already written about this album and added some songs to the playlist. After a month or so I find that I’ve listened to this album more than any other new release so far this year, and it does seem to have legs. Last time I mentioned that I considered putting the opening track, Overdone” on the playlist. I may have had a slight allergy to opening tracks at the time so I left it off. However, I can no longer ignore it since it may be the best song on the album that has not been released as a single (so far). It’s now on the What Am I listening to 2014 playlist.

Takuya Kuroda Rising Son

Takuya KurodaRising Son

Japanese born Manhattan resident Takuya Kuroda borrows the jazz band he’s been trumpeting with behind vocalist Jose James for several years now to make his new album on Blue Note records, with James behind the production board instead of the vocal mic.

James gave Kuroda some sage advice before making this album: Make sure you have something in the music that makes people bob their heads. He has indeed done that, using modern beats from R&B, hip hop and afropop under the kind of classic, smooth jazz sound you would expect from a Blue

Note recording. It works a treat, and the jazz wins out easily in that bit of rhythmic fusion.  The purists might complain but I think it’s the kind of album that even those with merely a passing interest in jazz might like. I can see myself racking this one a lot.

Jose James does sing on one track, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” which I’ve included on the playlist. To me, it feels like lying in a meadow on a perfect summer day.

Kris Davis Trio - waitingforyoutogrowKris Davis TrioWaiting for You to Grow

Now here’s a jazz album you definitely can’t nod your head to, though you may shake it occasionally. The Kris Davis Trio is just a bit too Avant Garde for my tastes, and at times seem to be pushing the envelope of what can be considered music. It might suit people who like their jazz a bit more challenging. I suppose opening the album with over a minute of free form drum solo should have been a dead giveaway.

Using the classic trio line-up of  piano, bass and drums, the music seems to veer from chaotic to frenetic, in and out of time, eventually resolving to something you can grab on to, just to prove there is some form there, then moments later devolving back into an intentional mess. And that’s just the first, 15 minute track. It sounds like this music might be fun to perform, but I didn’t find it much fun to listen to.  Maybe I need to hear to it a few more times before it starts making sense to me. If it ever does I’ll let you know. 


The King is Dead - The DecemberistsI’ve been some time getting around to The Decemberists, the “indie folk rock” band from Portland Oregon that’s been going for about a decade now. I’ve had their new album, “The King is Dead”, on my iPod for a couple of weeks, and it’s grown on me with each play. Even though that makes me a bit late with this review, I’m glad I took the time to let it work on me.

On the first couple of listens, what I noticed most were the influences. “Down By the Water”, for example, sounds a bit like a moderate tempo Tom Petty country rocker and has Gillian Welch’s voice enriching the harmony. “Calamity Song”, sounds like something R.E.M. would have done back in the “Reckoning” or “Life’s Rich Pageant” days. And why wouldn’t it, with Peter Buck playing guitar on both songs, although singer songwriter Colin Meloy’s strong, earnest vocals are placed much higher up in the mix than Michael Stipe’s ever were (In other words, you can make out what Colin is singing) .

Those songs drew me into the album, giving the rest of the album time to take me deeper into it’s themes of conflict, toil, and faith. The pastoral and sporadic anachronistic images and phrasing make the lyrics seem a bit out-of-time, more 19th century than 21st. The band sounds tight and full throughout, with the usual assortment of country/Americana instrumentation slotting in to support the songs.

“Don’t Carry it All” (with Buck once again) puts us at a turning of the seasons and calls us to support each other in our struggles. The songs progress through a dream premonition of the war of the end times, then questions about whether you are going to stand your ground. “Rox in a Box” gets back to the workman’s struggle – it’s a traditional-sounding mining song seamlessly integrated with a musical quote from the “Raggle Taggle Gypsy”.

“January Hymn” is a melodic lament to a lost love, which is balanced by a more upbeat “June Hymn” later in the album, offering new hope. As the album progresses past the halfway point, the predominant folk feel gives way to more of a country rock feel, even a bit of rabble rousing. The dramatic peak, musically and lyrically, comes in the song’s penultimate track, “This is why We Fight”. “When We Die, We will die with our arms unbound/this is why/Why we fight”.

This album works on several levels. It sounds good; you can just let it play and enjoy it, and there is more beneath the surface when you want to dig deeper. Of all the music I’ve heard so far this year, this is the album I think I’m most likely to be still listening to six months from now.