The pride (at least I think) of Langhorne, PA is back with his best album yet. He still has one foot planted in the Americana realm – a banjo plays subtly yet persistently across many of songs here – yet his sound has evolved with a more glossy indie rock luster. As has become typical, the angst and tension in Langhorne Slim’s lyrics are often paired with generally joyous melodies. From the slow funky groove of “Bring You My Love” to the jubilant swagger of “Strangers”, the singer works through his problems with intelligence and candor.
His band The Law has solidified in personnel and sound, adding their own depth and giving the album a cohesive feel. At the core, though, is Langhorne Slim, whose songs are as impassioned as his vocals.
Everyone probably knows the Neil Young line that it’s better to burn out than fade away. Well, Shurman’s Aaron Beavers has his own version. Burnt out on life and music he took a break from music. Fast forward nearly a year and the band returned to the studio and emerged with their strongest album in years. The topic matter centers around Beaver’s divorce but plenty of catchy melodies and the the group’s scruffy bar band sound make the songs fun and inviting.
Few do heartbreak like Rod Picott. From the sparse acoustic guitar-driven arrangements to the starkness of his lyrics to the grit and sorrow of his voice, he captures the loneliness with a remarkable honesty and grace. His voice, filled with grit and sorrow, adds extra depth and anguish. “It’s not that I ever stopped loving you, I just quit waiting for you to love me too.” He confesses on the stunningly exquisitely beautifully elegiac “Maybe That’s What It Takes.”
Which isn’t to say that his latest album is all broken hearts. He is equally adept at telling tales of blue collar life, portraying characters who are seemingly downtrodden yet still maintain a glimmer of hope. “Ain’t I lucky, well yes you, are how’d a wreck like me even get this far,” he declares on “Elbow Grease,” “one more chance is all I need, I got lucky charms and elbow grease.”
Hey! Adrienne, Library Voices (from the Nevado Music release Lovish)
Canadian outfit Library Voices had one of my favorite songs from a few years back, the amusingly titled “If Raymond Carver Was Born in the 1990’s” (not to mention the equally amusing title and song “Que Sera Sarah”). They return with another album that is chock full of fun rock and pop confections. Bright hooks, often of the toe-tapping variety, and slick production lead the day as the group sing about love lost and found.
While the song titles on Lovish may not be as entertaining as those found on their last go-around, the music sure is.
Turning Blue, Broken Gold (from the Chicken Ranch Records ep release Turning Blue)
Ian MacDougall and Rob Marchant moonlight from Austin’s fine Riverboat Gamblers as part of the equally rocking quartet Broken Gold. The group start with tight and melodic hooks and then rough them up with pounding rhythms and furious guitars. If you’re looking for some loud rock and roll these are your guys.
You can download a free sampler here.
Can’t Believe It, Dan Israel (from the self-released album Dan)
Minneapolis singer-songwriter Israel has been consistently putting out quality music, hitting stride on his 13th studio release. He is a craftsman in the classic sense, placing an emphasis on his perceptive lyrics without losing sight of the melody. The arrangements are built around Israel’s voice and acoustic guitar, with full band arrangements giving the songs some jangle and sway. In fact, the upbeat tone in some way mask lyrics that chronicle broken relationships and heartbreak.
Albert’s Eyes, British Sea Power (from the Golden Chariot Records release Sea of Brass)
The British indie band are nothing if not ambitious. Their catalog is filled with thematic pieces; their latest is no exception. They teamed up with a legendary brass band (the Fodens Band, which traces its roots back to 1900) to revisit some of their older songs. The arrangements remain true to the original versions but, not surprisingly, have a newfound majesty.
The band appeared to enjoy the experience so much that they recorded a supplemental disc that includes additional horn-fueled selections from their catalog PLUS a live performance where the band was joined by a brass ensemble.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.