Album Review: Juliana Hatfield – Weird

I first started listening to Juliana Hatfield when I was thirteen, when I didn’t know who I was quite yet but I knew who I didn’t want to be, and what kind of music I didn’t want to listen to. I hated anything perfect, anything normal – I gravitated towards the damaged, the delicate, the fragile, the odd. I heard something in Juliana’s music that spoke to that loner soul I had inside of me. Twenty five years later and I still feel the same.

In the last two years we’ve been lucky enough to have two brilliant new Juliana albums released – the politically charged Pussycat and her tribute to her own childhood idol Olivia Newton John. The third album in as many years is more personal, concerned with what it means to be a little Weird. Continue reading “Album Review: Juliana Hatfield – Weird”

Album Review: Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

The last time I saw Sharon Van Etten play live she hid behind her hair and sang a set filled with brutally honest songs, many of which detailed the reality of an abusive relationship and its aftermath. To get on stage and share this kind of pain was visibly difficult for her. Not long after she announced a shift in focus away from music – she went to college, began acting and recently became a mother. The break became the inspiration behind her new album Remind Me Tomorrow, a step away from the shadows of her past into a different light. Continue reading “Album Review: Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow”

Album Review: The Watson Twins – Duo

It’s been over ten years since The Watson Twins worked with Jenny Lewis on their classic album Rabbit Fur Coat. I feel incredibly privileged to have heard the twins sing live with Jenny a few times and was delighted to see they had released this new album called Duo. The album is produced by Russ Pollard and the excellent backing band includes Vanessa Carlton, members of My Morning Jacket and Mickey Raphael, who has worked with Willie Nelson. On these eight Americana-inspired songs Chandra and Leigh meld their voices together to create a truly heavenly sound. Continue reading “Album Review: The Watson Twins – Duo”

Album Review: Cat Power – Wanderer

Cat Power has always been a singular artist, someone who walks her own musical way. Being a distinctive stylist means she can create evocative widescreen moments within the simplest of arrangements. Her voice makes original songs and covers all sound like they were born from the same moment of pain and joy which is uniquely her own.

Her last album Sun was something of an outlier in her catalogue. At the time it felt like she was experimenting with new sounds and synths in an intriguing way. Listening to it now, years later and the layers of sound feel like she’s stretching at times, trying to navigate the confusion of life through musical experimentation. When it worked it was exhilarating (like on Nothin But Time and Manhattan), but you had to wonder if she was entirely comfortable with this new direction.

So it is unsurprising to hear her new album, Wanderer, strip things back to basics. Gone are the kaleidoscopic electronics, and the soulful jazz flourishes, now replaced with simple guitar and piano. Together the introspective songs sound like one glorious lullaby.  Continue reading “Album Review: Cat Power – Wanderer”

E.P. Review: boygenius

A noticeable twenty-first century trend in indie rock is the proliferation of solo artists rather than your typical four piece band. In a way it is a reflection of our online culture, where to be heard over the din means stepping forward into the spotlight and selling yourself. Many solo artists now work with the same group of musicians but have to use their own name, or some form of pseudonym, for easier recognition. Maybe something is lost when the merging of different musical personalities is no longer the dominant form, but you can see the benefits of being solo from the start – no creative differences, no-one to share the songwriting credits with, no complicated break-ups.

However when you look closer at the sleeve notes of these solo artists you see that actually most of them are still co-writing and collaborating with others, just in looser, more flexible arrangements. Sometimes, though, the need for solo artists to work together on a shared project becomes more tangible and significant. Sometimes you have to give it a name. Continue reading “E.P. Review: boygenius”

Album Review: Lola Kirke – Heart Head West

September always feels like the saddest month of the year to me – as the leaves begin to turn, California dreaming sometimes is the only thing that gets me through. Step forward the recently released album from songwriter and actress Lola Kirke to offer me some charming end of summertime melancholia just when I need it. Inspired by Gram Parsons, Laurel Canyon and heady doses of three chords and the truth Heart Head West is full of rich, warm hues – a perfect soundtrack to the changing seasons outside and in. Continue reading “Album Review: Lola Kirke – Heart Head West”

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