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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Amos Lee Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song/Blue Note Records Amos Lee knows what an Americana record ought to sound like and Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song is it. This exploration of the simultaneously universal and individual nature of life is put together in dazzling fashion. The track “Johnson Blvd” details the hard times […]
Over the last 17 years, Jon Foreman has cemented his status as one of his generation’s most insightful lyricists and dynamic rock singers. He has released four solo EPs, two albums with the rockgrass band Fiction Family—his side project with Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins—and has achieved worldwide fame for fronting the Christian rock group Switchfoot. […]
Lee Koch Whole Heart/Self-released Whole Heart is likable for a variety of reasons. Most of it has a calm folk vibe, and there is something refreshing about the way Koch gives equal weight to relationships with lovers, strangers, and God. The Americana track “Journey to Unfold” is noteworthy for its focus on living life intentionally […]
It’s been a busy year for Welsh alternative rock trio The Joy Formidable. In addition to touring North America virtually nonstop, they released their sophomore album Wolf’s Law in January, contributed to Record Store Day in April, and released an EP, Silent Treatment, in July. But they wouldn’t have it any other way. Bassist Rhydian Daffyd took […]
Sarah Neufeld Hero Brother/Constellation With Hero Brother, Arcade Fire violinist and composer Sarah Neufeld has created a strikingly beautiful release. Ethereal and elegiac, this instrumental masterpiece transports you to another world and conveys its mysterious story in a unique way to each listener. “Breathing Black Ground” is a haunting piece of work that feels like […]
The Civil Wars The Civil Wars/Columbia Records After going on hiatus last year due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition,” Joy Williams and John Paul White have a new album that begs the question: How could something so beautiful have come from two people who don’t speak to each other anymore? The longing […]
Sarah Miles One/Rock Ridge Music One, the debut full-length album from Sarah Miles, is an engaging debut. It has a lot of great melodies, the production value is top-notch, and Miles fills the record with gorgeous vocals and considerable insight into the human condition. The folk-pop opener “Middle of Nowhere” states, “If I could run […]
The Mars Patrol Young Lovers/Self-released London-based sextet, The Mars Patrol, has been making undeniably catchy music for almost a decade, and its latest EP Young Lovers is no exception. The band’s trademark upbeat sound shines on the rousing opener “Here We Go,” while “Stop Pushing You Away” and the closing title track feature the driving […]
Slim Loris Future Echoes and Past Replays/Record Union Swedish indie Americana rock group, Slim Loris, has made one of 2013s most surprising albums thus far. Euphoric, humorous and bittersweet, Future Echoes and Past Replays is a success. The band ensnares you with the lively and whimsical “Fear of Flying,” or the subdued and contemplative “While I Breathe,” […]
The first full-length album from London-based band Daughter is a sonic and emotional feast. “Lifeforms” encapsulates the album’s sound, tone and content, with echoing, reverb-heavy guitars, singer Elena Tonra’s husky, lilting vocals, and her metaphorical lyrics about cleaning up after your dead. The ebullient “Human” focuses on recognizing self-worth despite our shortcomings.
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors released Good Light in February and debuted at #84 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart fueled by the popular single, “Tennessee.” The album is drenched in southern sensibility with its easygoing rock and roll sound, and the authenticity the band infuses into their songs is sweet and beautiful.
Powerful happiness Josh Rouse The Happiness Waltz/Yep Roc Records The Happiness Waltz is filled with singer- songwriter Josh Rouse’s patented folk-pop charm that hearkens back to the warm, ’70s- era recordings. It finds Rouse singing with an ease and subtle richness reminiscent of Paul Simon. The album plumbs the depths of love and life with surprising […]
Wonderful, Glorious attempts to continue this trend, but isn’t quite as successful. “Accident Prone”’s down-tempo guitars and Everett’s sedated, melodic vocals are beautifully unusual, and the way he channels Johnny Cash’s mumbling vocal on the dreamy guitar-driven ballad “On the Ropes,” is nothing short of eerie.
Melodic moments Ivan & Alyosha All the Times We Had/Dualtone Music Group It is fitting that this Seattle-based indie pop rock band is named after characters in a Dostoevsky novel where moral dilemmas, God, and free will are among the topics of debate because similar content is found in this record. “God or Man” talks […]
With Wolf’s Law, The Joy Formidable have released what may be one of the best rock albums of 2013. Between the epic rock, gorgeous melodies, swelling choruses, singer Ritzy Bryan’s pixieish and ethereal vocals convey all the dramatic sweep of a concept album that fulfills its promise.
Butch Vig has been associated with a number of alternative bands over the years, having produced Nirvana’s legendary Nevermind and the Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish, in addition to spending time as part of Garbage.
Love and longevity Flyleaf New Horizons/A&M Records Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm is well-established as one of alternative rock’s more recognizable voices. Since she recently informed fans that she is leaving the band to be a full-time mother, it is fitting that this last album with Sturm is entitled New Horizons. The video that accompanies the title […]
Alison Sudol, a.k.a. A Fine Frenzy, has one of the most heavenly voices in all of alternative folk rock, and she puts it to good use on her third release, Pines. A concept album about a pine tree being given a chance to create a life of its own choosing, Pines takes you on a mesmerizing musical journey.
If you have been a fan of folk or Americana music at any point during the past decade, the chances are good that you have heard Tift Merritt’s arresting vocals, beautiful musical arrangements, and insightful lyrics. Merritt has been casting a spell on audiences and critics since day one, but on Traveling Alone she demonstrates that she is not above tossing out a few surprises.