So I’m back from a self imposed hiatus thanks to a crippling bout of writer’s block and assorted other odds and ends that I’ve had to deal with. So let’s just say that I’ve been on Spring Break.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation week (Go ahead, hug a teacher. You know you want to.), here is a look at my current musical ABC’s.
“A” is for Alberta Cross. This quintet, with members hailing from Brooklyn, London and Stockholm, dropped their major label debut on ATO Records over a year ago but I just recently rediscovered this album. You can hear influences ranging from Crazy Horse to Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath all wrapped up in a warm and fuzzy blues/rock blanket. The Broken Side of Time is a great record from start to finish.
Suggested Listening: “Old Man Chicago” and “Broken Side of Time”
“A” is also for Adele. Yes, I know that her sophomore effort, 21, has been out for a while. I wasn’t a huge fan of her first album but this record just sticks with you. Never before has someone else’s pain and heartache sounded so amazing.
Suggested Listening: “Rumour Has It” and “Set Fire To The Rain”
“B” is for Buffalo Tom. This vastly underrated 90’s alternative rock trio returned earlier this year with Skins on their own Scrawny Records imprint and first since they reunited for SxSW in 2007. Their considerable songwriting chops are on full display with all three members (Bill Janovitz, Chris Colbourn and Tom Maginnis) trading spots on lead vocals throughout the record. They get extra credit for an appearance by former Belly and Throwing Muses frontwoman Tanya Donelly on “Don’t Forget Me.”
Suggested Listening: “Guilty Girls” and “Don’t Forget Me”
“B” is also for Britney Spears. While I would never consider myself a fan, I understand and even respect her place in the pop culture landscape. Her new single, “Till The World Ends” is pure cotton candy and her inclusion of both Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha on the remix is pure genius. Say what you want about her, but she knows her limitations and how to record and release great pop songs. Don’t hate.
“C” is for The Civil Wars. This duo, comprised of John Paul White and Joy Williams, continue to breathe life into the ever expanding folk/Americana music genre (Ray Lamontagne, Hayes Carll, Sarah Jarosz). Replete with amazing harmonies and top notch songwriting, Barton Hollow is not your parent’s hippie folk music. This one will easily make my “Best of” list for 2011.
Suggested Listening: “To Whom It May Concern” and “20 Years”
“D” is for Death Cab For Cutie. Even though their latest full length entitled Codes and Keys won’t be released until May 31st, the first single, “You Are A Tourist” is great. For diehard fans, it’s not the same low-fi approach shown on their earlier work. Instead, it’s a much fuller, richer sound. I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.
“E” is for Sara Evans. I have such a huge crush on her that I would listen intently if she decided to sing the ingredients of a box of Froot Loops (what rhymes with Red 40?). Stronger, her latest and fifth record for RCA Nashville, doesn’t provide anything flashy but if you’re already a fan, it’s a satisfying effort. The lead single “A Little Bit Stronger” (co-written by Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott) will surely go down as one of her career best. The inclusion of a bluegrass version of “Born To Fly,” a song more than 10 years old, is a bit of a head scratcher, though.
“F” is for Fleet Foxes. Their new record, and second for the venerable Seattle indie label Sub Pop, was just released on Tuesday. Loaded with rich harmonies and a sound that brings back thoughts of Gram Parsons, Buffalo Springfield and, occasionally, Bob Dylan, Helplessness Blues is brilliant. Believe the hype and positive press about this band. The title track absolutely blew me away and has been on ‘repeat’ since I got it on Tuesday.
Suggested Listening: “Helplessness Blues”; Bedouin Dress”; Someone You’d Admire”
Next column will cover the letters G-L. Happy listening.