Brian Palmer



Album reviews: Over the Rhine, One Friend, Digital Daggers

Album reviews: Over the Rhine, One Friend, Digital Daggers

Over the Rhine Blood Oranges in the Snow/Great Speckled Dog Records Folk duo Over the Rhine likes to do things differently. Blood Oranges in the Snow—the third holiday-themed release of their career—isn’t your typical feel-good collection of familiar hymns or classic songs; it’s more of a treatise on how to weather difficult times during what […]

Album reviews: The Rural Alberta Advantage, Boy + Kite, Bill Frisell

Album reviews: The Rural Alberta Advantage, Boy + Kite, Bill Frisell

The Rural Alberta Advantage Mended with Gold/Saddle Creek The Rural Alberta Advantage’s newest project will make you sweat. Between the perpetually chugging drum beats, driving guitars, and lead singer-songwriter Nils Edenloff’s singing, there’s no aspect of this album that doesn’t scream, “Dance, dance, dance!” Oddly enough, however, this is not a happy record, and much […]

Album reviews: U2, Cory Bishop, Kyler England

Album reviews: U2, Cory Bishop, Kyler England

U2 Songs of Innocence/Interscope Records Bono’s voice is cracking, The Edge’s riffs aren’t exactly scraping against the stars anymore, and even drummer Larry Mullens, Jr.’s beats have slowed down a tick, but despite all of this, U2 finds another gear on Songs of Innocence. Most of the energy is in the second half, where tracks […]

Album reviews: GRMLN, The Hill and Wood, Sons of Bill

Album reviews: GRMLN, The Hill and Wood, Sons of Bill

GRMLN Soon Away/Carpark Records Bay Area-based Yoodoo Park a.k.a. GRMLN, has undergone quite a metamorphosis in his several years as an artist. Originally something of an ambient singer-songwriter with a penchant for beautiful, mellow melodies, he’s gone full-on rock and roll on Soon Away replete with driving rhythms, engaging choruses and guitars, guitars, guitars. “Jaded” […]

Album reviews: Shovels and Rope, Sleep Cycles, Justin Townes Earle

Album reviews: Shovels and Rope, Sleep Cycles, Justin Townes Earle

Shovels and Rope Swimmin’ Time/Dualtone On Swimmin’ Time, their third album, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent are in top form. Whether they amble through Americana numbers like “The Devil Is All Around,” or stomp out ominous rockers like “Evil,” the duo demonstrates they have a firm handle on a variety of genres (plus the […]

Album reviews: The Morning Birds, Anberlin, Dom Flemons

Album reviews: The Morning Birds, Anberlin, Dom Flemons

The Morning Birds Bloom/Funky Island House Releases based around a song, a theme, or a tribute are generally boring, or feel schizophrenic because it is almost impossible to shape the creative instincts of various artists into a cohesive musical narrative. Bloom is a rare exception because it successfully weaves a seasonal theme throughout its six […]

Album reviews: Begin Again, Dog Society, Red Wanting Blue

Album reviews: Begin Again, Dog Society, Red Wanting Blue

Begin Again  Music from and Inspired by the Original Motion Picture/222 Records John Carney, who gave us the classic music-focused film Once, returns with another music-based film, Begin Again, and the soundtrack is predictably loaded with fun moments that will appeal to a variety of listeners. If you like soul music with a sense of […]

Album reviews: Old Crow Medicine Show, Ships Have Sailed, Cosmic Punch

Album reviews: Old Crow Medicine Show, Ships Have Sailed, Cosmic Punch

Old Crow Medicine Show Remedy/ATO Records Remedy is the latest proof that Old Crow Medicine show is incapable of doing anything poorly. Whether it’s a raucous, hoedown-style piece of country like “8 Dogs, 8 Banjos,” or whether it’s the old time bluegrass feel and R-rated sensibility of a track like “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer,” you […]

Album reviews: Linkin Park, Grandpa Egg, Umphrey’s McGee

Album reviews: Linkin Park, Grandpa Egg, Umphrey’s McGee

Linkin Park The Hunting Party/Warner Bros. Somewhere along the way, the band Linkin Park became viewed as a formulaic one-trick pony. Pair up Chester Bennington’s throat- scraping screeches with raucous guitars and drums, occasional scratches and raps from Mike Shinoda, repeat, and call it good. And while this might have been true at the start, […]

Album reviews: Wetwood Smokes, Jason Burke, The Falling Birds

Album reviews: Wetwood Smokes, Jason Burke, The Falling Birds

Wetwood Smokes Earth Tones & Red/Self-released This Southern California-based rock trio has released a gem of a debut. Mixing rock and pop together with the precision and skill of a veteran act, Wetwood Smokes makes quite a statement with this release. The swelling piano pop of “I Am the One” is college radio perfect, while […]

Album reviews:  Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt, Eli Cook, Coldplay

Album reviews: Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt, Eli Cook, Coldplay

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 […]

Album reviews: Needtobreathe, Nick Pollock, Lindsey Stirling

Album reviews: Needtobreathe, Nick Pollock, Lindsey Stirling

Needtobreathe Rivers in the Wasteland/Atlantic Records This Southern rock trio has made an album filled with hope and energy—seemingly with the intention of easing the weight of life’s challenges. Rock and soul numbers like “State I’m In” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” corner the market on encouragement, while the swelling folk pop track “Rise […]

Album reviews: Sam Cregger, The Currys, Katie Herzig

Album reviews: Sam Cregger, The Currys, Katie Herzig

Sam Cregger Tell Me Something Different/Self-released The sophomore full-length album from local artist Sam Cregger is a real treat. Tracks like “Still Love” pit unending love against a backdrop of ambling Americana music that features some languid accordion to set the mood, while the simple, brief folk track “Discovering Roads” casts a wide-eyed look at […]

Album reviews: The Wood and the Wild, Dinah Thorpe, The Dirty Guv’nahs

Album reviews: The Wood and the Wild, Dinah Thorpe, The Dirty Guv’nahs

The Wood and the Wild The Wood and the Wild/self-released Singer-songwriter Jon Perry is spot-on when he refers to this debut recording as “supernatural cinematic folk.” Part concept record, part proverbial soundtrack to your life, the album manages to amble along with a sense of purpose. The opening track, “Loveless Traveler/Belles on the Tye,” encapsulates […]

Album reviews: William Fitzsimmons, Angel Olsen, Greg Laswell

Album reviews: William Fitzsimmons, Angel Olsen, Greg Laswell

William Fitzsimmons Lions/Nettwerk Records Lions is a towering achievement. A deeply personal record loaded with gravitas, the album feels like Fitzsimmons’ confessional or at the very least a reflection on life, love, death, moving on, and his relationships. From the opening strains of the gorgeous acoustic track “Well Enough,” where Fitzsimmons wonders about the mark […]

Album reviews: Switchfoot, Josh Matthews, Billie Joe + Norah,

Album reviews: Switchfoot, Josh Matthews, Billie Joe + Norah,

Switchfoot Fading West/Atlantic Records Switchfoot has long been known as a maverick of modern Christian rock because of its thoughtful writing as well as its faith-inspired content. After the gritty, soul-searching 2011 album Vice Verses, Fading West feels like a deep exhale. The latest release is a slight, though pleasant, curveball, both sonically and lyrically. […]

Album reviews: Stoney, Jess Novak, States

Album reviews: Stoney, Jess Novak, States

Stoney More Than Animals/Self-released More Than Animals is an eclectic, largely engaging album. If you like your British singer-songwriters with a little bit of swagger, then Stoney’s your guy. “Sweet Release” is a raucous piece of pop rock, and driving numbers like “The Score” crank up the energy. “Devil on My Back” is a groovy […]

A double album that is almost entirely instrumental, and plays like an epic film score, Nightmare Ending stood out in 2013.

Album review: Outstanding releases from 2013

10.Travis Where You Stand/Red Telephone Box After a five-year hiatus, the Brit rockers came back with a beautiful vengeance. Where You Stand possesses an almost magical quality throughout due to Fran Healy’s cracking falsetto, the pleasing combination of dreamy rock and piano pop, and thought-provoking lyrics 9.Trixie Whitley Fourth Corner/Strong Blood Records Newcomer Trixie Whitley’s […]

Album reviews: Sam Bush and Kathryn Caine, Ed Kowalczyk, Mason Jennings

Album reviews: Sam Bush and Kathryn Caine, Ed Kowalczyk, Mason Jennings

Sam Bush and Kathryn Caine Love and Mercy/Self-released Love and Mercy will stoke the embers of even the most jaded cynic’s heart during the cold holiday season. This collection of covers succeeds in inspiring listeners to hope, even in the darkest times. Employing an engaging folk rock sound, Bush and Caine wind their way through spine-tingling […]

Album reviews: Anna Gilbert, Cage the Elephant, The Devil Makes Three

Album reviews: Anna Gilbert, Cage the Elephant, The Devil Makes Three

Anna Gilbert The Able Heart/Self-released As far as under the radar releases go, singer-songwriter Anna Gilbert’s is one of 2013’s best. The Able Heart is full of delightfully organic songs guided by Gilbert’s rich vocals telling a series of engaging tales. The minimalist opener “O, Freedom” sets the narrative tone for the album with a […]

Darlingside has gained attention with its pitch-perfect four-part harmonies and impassioned acoustic chops.

ARTS Pick: Darlingside

What does a string band composed of indie rock, bluegrass, barbershop, and classical sensibilities sound like?  Massachusetts quartet Darlingside wants you to know. In addition to combining virtuoso mandolin, cello and bass guitar performances with percussion and the more traditional guitar and bass, the band adds a whole other layer to its songs by including pitch-perfect […]

Album reviews: The Head and the Heart, Moby, The Avett Brothers

Album reviews: The Head and the Heart, Moby, The Avett Brothers

The Head and the Heart Let’s Be Still/Sub Pop The latest record from this folk/pop/rock band is a beauty. Thought-provoking, well- crafted with great melodies and variety, Let’s Be Still is easy to enjoy. “Another Story” is pleasing piano rock given greater power in lines like “tell you one thing/ain’t gonna change much/the sun still […]