Nashville-based singer-songwriter Will Hoge possesses the twin powers of lyric and melody, a talent that is finely displayed on Anchors.
From a lyrical perspective, the album overflows with yearning, disappointment and self-reflection. “You can try to fight the truth, but time will always show you proof,” he sings in the opening “The Reckoning.” “The Grand Charade” is almost haunting in its portrayal of a broken relationship hidden behind a façade of happiness. “The truth is we made a mistake, we ain’t that happy couple on the wedding cake,” he sings.
Which leads us to Hoge’s mastery of melody. “(This Ain’t) An Original Sin” may be fueled by chugging guitars but it’s the foot-tapping beat and sing-along chorus that really suck in the listener. “Young As We Will Ever Be,” is powered by an infectious hook that is both played and sung. Even ballads like “Through Missing You” and “Cold Night in Santa Fe” owe as much of their intensity to the melancholy melodies as they do to Hoge’s lyrics and impassioned vocals.
Even for those who are already familiar with her, Lightfoot announces herself quite well with the opening “Paradise.” A pounding rhythm and feisty guitar jump right from the speakers, itself just a prelude to Lightfoot unleashing her powerful voice. The song stakes the singer-songwriter’s claim as one of the today’s brightest emerging rock artists.
That intensity rears its head later elsewhere with “Stars Over Dakota” and “Hold You.” The former is fueled by funky guitar and simmering organ (complete with some rousing hand-claps) while the latter incorporates some Southern soul (think Alabama Shakes) and a closing E Street Band vibe.
“You Get High,” an ode to young love, and “Three in the Morning,” a late night NYC chronicle of a failing relationship, demonstrate that she is equally adept at downhearted ballads.
Perhaps most impressive here is the range that Lightfoot demonstrates on New Mistakes. Sure, the songs are rooted in rock and roll, but she proves herself adept at songs both both unbridled and restrained.
There are some albums that are as much about sonic feel as they are about songs. That is certainly the case with Kris Delmhorst’s latest, although the depth of songwriting is just as absorbing. The arrangements flow with a gentle grace that is restrained yet airy. It creates an evocative landscape for Delmhorst’s poignant reflections on a life that has evolved from youthful exuberance to something that shifts between mature longing and quiet resignation.
The title track sums it up beautifully:
If you looked for me, you’d find me then
I’m in the same spot I’ve always been
Working for love, loving for fun
Holding a place for everyone
In the wild, in the wild, in the wild
As these lyrics illustrate, Delmhorst’s writing is remarkably vivid. In contrast to the sepia musical tone, the lyrics are both lush and striking. The Wild is best enjoyed with your eyes closed, allowing yourself to get lost in the music.
Freeman announced herself last year with an impressive self-titled release. In the scheme of things, though, that was just a teaser for the exceptional Letters Never Read. The soothing quality of her voice contrasts with the directness of her songs, resulting in a musical potency that puts her in the realm of Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin.
This latest album is something of a split affair, containing doses of the Appalachian folk of her rural Virginia home alongside more polished country that showcases her pop finesse.
She’s found a wonderful musical foil in Teddy Thompson, appearing here in his sophomore effort as her producer. Thompson uses a light touch, keeping the focus where it belongs – on Freeman and her captivating talent.
(See Todd’s take on Freeman’s latest here)
There’s not much that is new here for the Loveless completist but, for those that aren’t, it is a treasure trove of musical delight. The album is anchored by the previously released Boy Crazy ep, a taut collection of mostly guitar-driven pop gems. It also a number of singles and b-sides that Loveless has released over the years. “Come Over” and “Mile High,” both non-album tracks, rank among her finest work, rockers that burn with what has become her trademark passion and brashness. She also breathes her own spirit into a trio of covers – Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U,” Kesha’s “Blind” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison”.
I generally steer clear of instrumentals. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them or appreciate the musicianship. Rather, it’s just that I’m a melody first kinda guy and often find them somewhat buried in the mix (with the lyrics, right?!). Which is what makes the new Steelism release such a treat. This is a collection of wonderful – and fully developed – songs, infused with a richness that mirrors its musical diversity. It shifts effortlessly from the 1970’s rock majestry of “Chartreause” to the brooding string-tinged pop of “Re-Member” to the movie soundtrack feel of “Anthem.”
It’s hard not to get lost in the sugary vocals of Nashville’s Tristen, even more so when it’s paired with her pitch perfect pop songs. The opening triumvirate of Sneaker Waves is something to behold – a triple dose of flawless, not to mention infectious, musical goodness. “Glass Jar,” in particular, will undoubtedly lodge itself into your head with its insistent yet lilting melody. If you’re able to tear yourself away from those tracks there’s still plenty to enjoy. Songs like “NYC,” “Into the Sun” and “Clandestine” have a slight theatrical air, especially when one digs into the poetic nature of Tristen’s lyrics.
Ok, so this is pretty far from Americana but damn if Mating Ritual’s full-length debut doesn’t contain some of the catchiest songs that I’ve heard this year. Singer-songwriter Ryan Marshall Lawhon, a seasoned music industry survivor despite his young age, is the mastermind behind the band. His amalgam of pop and rock, overlaid with heavy hues of 1980’s synthesizers, masks the darkness of his lyrics with infectious and beat-driven melodies.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.