Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt
For Keeps/Red House Records
Whether performing individually or as a duo, Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt have proven themselves to be two of Austin’s most engaging singer-songwriters in recent years. For Keeps only furthers this opinion. Whether marrying dusty vocals on the charming “If I Need to Know,” or singing about the comfort of another’s presence on the Americana ditty “Girl in the Woods,” the duo is as confident as ever. “Sky Picked Blue” is a slightly bluesy, jazzy number personifying love as an irresistible force and “Swing from a Note” encourages sincerity through a country tune. The album has an appealing, easygoing way about it and musically Elkin and Schmidt are minimalist, often letting the guitars fill in the spaces between their words, coming off as engaging, laid-back troubadours.
Primitive Son/Cleopatra Records
If you want one of the most enjoyable ass-kickings of your life, then check out Eli Cook’s Primitive Son. An undeniable combination of gritty rock, soul and blues, this album is a damn good time. Cook proves to be a charismatic guitar player and singer throughout, whether he’s pulling out fuzzy licks on the bluesy stomper “Sweet Thang,” or howling at the moon on the too groovy for its own good “War Horse,” Cook goes balls to the wall with his performance. He attacks the nasty rocker “Shake the Devil Down,” and switches gears with ease on the title track, matching guttural vocals with ominous guitars and a gloomy dread. Cook calls in a bevy of great support for this record as well, with Pat Travers, Sonny Landreth and Tinsley Ellis making an appearance. Full of attitude and panache, Primitive Son is an album that rocks.
Ghost Stories/Atlantic Records
Most reasonable people will admit that Mylo Xyloto was a bloated mess, so it is nice to see Coldplay return to form on Ghost Stories. For those who are curious what the album sounds like, take the more ambient, echoing qualities of the X&Y album and mash with some of the more organic, stripped down sensibilities of Viva La Vida, and you pretty much have the answer. “Midnight” features Chris Martin’s otherworldly falsetto set to a hypnotic background of keys and beats, and the opener “Always in My Head,” is a lush, dreamy, electric guitar track. In general, the album embraces a mellow aesthetic augmented by acoustic guitars and strings at different times, which make moments like “Magic’s” climax and the ebullient piano pop track “A Sky Full of Stars” so electric and thrilling. Ghost Stories doesn’t contain wall-to-wall hits, but its quality does make you forget about that other album.