#reviewoftheweek / Monica Heldal - Boy From The North

Hailing from Norway, you might expect an artist like Monica Heldal to be in the same vein as some other European folkies like Sondre Lerche and Teitur or even Kings Of Convenience, but you'd be wrong. Heldal harnesses the blues and mixes them firmly with her style of pop and rock. The combination makes for a very unique sound coming from that area of the world. In fact, the most close interpretation of this music came recently from Of Monsters And Men. Heldal embraces her rootsy elements and invokes a style that is equal parts 70's hippie folk and 90's British indie rock mixed with the good old blues. The title track is by far the standout and the song that will get Heldal's music into the ears of the masses, but it's tracks like "Conman Coming" and "Follow You Anywhere" that showcase her true talents as a musician and a songwriter. From start to finish the album is intriguing and interesting. It's a great listen for music fans looking to hear something fresh and new that's not the same old import coming across the pond.


#reviewoftheweek / Meiko - Dear You

Meiko is pure pop. This new album embraces that to its fullest extent, branching out and away from her folky roots. Diving deeper into the pop realm, her newest album embraces heavier production and electronic elements, while still remaining true to her beginnings as a singer/songwriter. Think of the album as a new medium for the same message, an artist graduating from pencils and sketches to paints and canvas and larger, more impactful displays. At the core the album is a group of simply thought out songs, which unfold and develop into grand displays of musicianship. Highlights include the title track, the lead track "Bad Things," and "Be Mine." One of her finest moments on the album is the song that connects her sounds of the past to her sound of the present, "If He Doesn't Love You." This is the song on the album that reminds you of her roots, yet still manages to harness her current musical self. The album hovers somewhere between pop and indie rock, and will have old and new fans equally impressed and satisfied.


BURN THIS / November 2014

  1. Chadwick Stokes "Our Lives Our Time"
  2. Brad Corrigan "Anything New"
  3. Tristan Prettyman "Perfect Storm"
  4. Trevor Hall "Green Mountain State"
  5. Roo Panes "Tiger Striped Sky"
  6. James Bay "Let It Go"
  7. Ben Howard "I Forget Where We Were"
  8. Damien Rice "I Don't Want To Change You"
  9. Angus & Julia Stone "Get Home"
  10. Charlie Mars "Hell Yeah"
  11. Lera Lynn "Standing On The Moon"
  12. Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors "American Beauty"
  13. Gregory Alan Isakov "Amsterdam"
  14. The Head And The Heart "Let's Be Still"
  15. The Lone Bellow "Then The Morning Comes"
  16. The Belle Brigade "Back Where You Began"
  17. The Avett Brothers "Bring Me Your Love"
  18. Trey Anastasio Band "Bounce"
  19. Rebelution "Invasion"
  20. SOJA (featuring Alfred The MC) "Promises & Pills"


#reviewoftheweek / Hozier - Hozier

Hozier is another new singer/songwriter hailing from across the pond, from Ireland. You want to not like his music because, seemingly, before hearing it, you get a sense that this is just another one of the same types of things we've been hearing for years. Sure, he'll draw comparisons to artists like Gotye, Passenger, David Gray, and even Ben Howard, all of whom have recently came out with new music. But, what is striking about Hozier, and his self titled album, is that he's a bit more of a layered artist than a one-note, one-hit kind of musician. His entire album features countless instrumental arrangements, far from the signature acoustic guitar and voice that you might expect. The production is not overly done, which leaves the music more organic in nature. The debut single "Take Me To Church" is a great song and a good introduction to the music, but it's not what the artist or album are about. Take a song like "From Eden" and you've got what you'd expect, but take a song like "Jackie And Wilson" and you forget that this Irishman is even from across the pond, mixing soul and blues into his music like he's straight from the Mississippi delta. It's a hearty album, and clocking in at 13 tracks, it's one of the years longer releases, but it's necessary to get all facets of Hozier into one collection. He's not a one-trick-pony and is sure to be around for a while, showcasing his left of center take on the traditional international import.


#reviewoftheweek / The Barr Brothers - Sleeping Operator

Leaving their jam band roots in the rearview mirror is easier said than done. While artsy and improvisational are virtually non-existent on their latest album, they've embraced the rootsy aspect of their previous musical life and delivered one of the year's subtly great albums. Bluesy roots rock seems to suit the Barr Brothers, who's previous band, the Slip, was rooted in improvisational jazz. "Half Crazy," the lead single from the album, bridges the gap from jam scene to indie rock with ease, showcasing the organic nature of their musical style, while exhibiting a sound that could be straight out of Nashville. "Even The Darkness Has Arms" is a cool introduction to the Barr Brothers' indie sound, but it's the second track on the album, "Love Ain't Enough" which separates their present from their past. It's great that the song is the first on the album to feature vocals (it's track 2) because it sets the stage for an entire album of mystery and excitement, capped off by a feeling of pleasure and joy upon completion. The Barr Brothers' music has transformed by leaps and bounds from their first album, and have proven that songwriting and musical skill go hand in hand when creating an album that combines both artistry and familiarity.


#reviewoftheweek / Lucius - Wildewoman

It's hard to be a band that can do multiple genres, but to be able to make a cohesive album with multiple genres throughout is impressive. Lucius, fronted by a pair of female vocalists, has taken the indie rock genre and turned it on his head, exhibiting their ability to switch from folk to rock to pop from song to song, back to back. "Don't Just Sit There" may be the album's cornerstone, which is eual parts indie and pop, and potentially their most accessible. But, it's songs like "Go Home" and "Turn It Around" which are polar opposites of each other, sitting right next to each other on the tracklist. "Go Home" is Dylanesque, showing off their lyrical subtleties and the band's ability to almost completely strip down and unplug. "Turn It Around" is pure hard hitting indie rock and is the song you'd most likely hear on alternative rock radio. Judging by touring partners Bahamas and Chadwick Stokes, and the fact that he ladies sung backup vocals on Jeff Tweedy's (Wilco) solo album, it's no wonder that Lucius is sitting on the brink of superstardom, without even trying.


#reviewoftheweek / The Beautiful Girls - Dancehall Days

It's quite possible that the Beautiful Girls were never going to make another album. Well, that's no longer true, and this one picks up right where their last one left off. The cool thing about this album is it visits another era in the roots reggae history of the band's influences. If their groundbreaking and critically acclaimed album "Ziggurats" showed off their eighties reggae and heavy Police/Clash influences then this album brings the band's influences firmly into the late 80s and early 90s. There's a lot of synth and piano driven beats mixed with incredible lyricism throughout the entire album. Their love and influence of dancehall reggae is evident, not only by the album name and title track, but by several other songs as well. Aside from the excellence of the title track, the other standout on the album is "Until My Kingdom Comes," which leads off about a minute of piano and keyboard driven instrumental, leading into smooth vocals combined with funky horns. The Beautiful Girls have been breaking the mold since their debut release, and keep reinventing themselves and their sound, keeping fans on the edge of their seats wanting more. This album is both a welcome addition to their catalogue and cool reinvention of their signature sound.


#reviewoftheweek / Medeski Scofield Martin And Wood - Juice

When MMW combine their talents with John Scofield, it's a perfect match. It's amazing that these guys have only collaborated a few times over their careers. The combo is so good, it's almost as if it should become a permanent thing. That being said, this is the best of their collaborations to date, showcasing some funky jazz music that is both creative and mindblowing. Where they shine the best is the cover songs. They do Bob Dylan, Cream, and The Doors, and the songs sound just as good as the originals, but in many ways are not even recognizable as the originals. They have taken music that is heavily driven by the lyrics and translated it into a vocal-free world, allowing their instruments to tell the stories and sing the songs. Cover songs are the best when they aren't copies of the originals and the guys do it terrifically. "Sham Time" is a great funky number (also not an original). Their best original tune is "Juicy Lucy" which blurs genre lines and shows off how great these guys are at jamming out. The track truly shows how well this foursome collaborates. Improvisation is key for this group, and it's hard to showcase that on a studio album, but they are able to get their point across well throughout. This collection of songs is a true gem.

BURN THIS / October 2014

  1. The Beautiful Girls "Dancehall Days"
  2. Angus & Julia Stone "Grizzly Bear"
  3. Bahamas "Waves"
  4. Lucius "Don't Just Sit There"
  5. Jukebox The Ghost "The Great Unknown"
  6. Walk The Moon "Shut Up And Dance"
  7. Guster "Simple Machine"
  8. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes "Phantoms"
  9. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness "Cecilia And The Satellite"
  10. Meiko "Be Mine"
  11. Will Dailey "Castle Of Pretending"
  12. The Jason Spooner Band "Fireflies"
  13. Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers "Another Rolling Stone"
  14. St. Paul & The Broken Bones "Half The City"
  15. Ray LaMontagne "She's The One"
  16. Vance Joy "Mess Is Mine"
  17. Judah & The Lion "Scared"
  18. The Barr Brothers "Half Crazy"
  19. Wild Adriatic "Lonely"
  20. Benjamin Booker "Have You Seen My Son?"


#reviewoftheweek / Carbon Leaf - Indian Summer Revisited

Carbon Leaf have been making a name for themselves all over the nation, from their hometown roots to the radio play they've received for a handful of excellent tunes. Now, once again a true independent rock band, they have decided to rerecord, in its entirety, possibly the best album of their 20+ year career. "Indian Summer" was originally released in the summer of 2004 and features the hit single "Life Less Ordinary" which put the band on the mainstream rock map. It was also their first album released by Vanguard Records, who went on to released their next two albums as well. This album also features fan favorites "Let Your Troubles Roll By" and "What About Everything?" and bridged the gap from their roots as a Celtic rock band onto mainstream rock radio. Ten years later finds the band revisiting this classic album, showcasing its bare bones throughout the entire new release, mixing their mainstream sound with their rootsy beginning and indie band vibe. There's nothing new, nothing fresh, and nothing innovative about what they've done here. What this album is about is celebration, reflection, and remembrance. Carbon Leaf are back to their roots, and at a new crossroads as a band. What revisiting this classic album has done is show us that they are exactly who they have always been all along, at every moment throughout their history, and what they will continue to be to countless fans, young and old, new and seasoned.