Bandcamp recently highlighted Sarah Bethe Nelson’s new album Mental Picture as their Album of the Day, and I’m pleased they did, or it would have flown completely under my radar. Opener Five Lovin’ Days is indicative of its lugubrious atmosphere, with Nelson’s unhurried instrumentation and hazy drawl nearly beaten into submission by the Californian sun.
I don’t think I’ve featured any other artist on this blog as much as Bad Flamingo – but they’re just so remarkably, consdiently good, so for this I make no apologies whatsoever. The Fifth Of June is another sultry, country-meets-alt-pop mashup that sounds like nothing else out there
Fairly fresh from releasing one of 2021’s best albums Ignorance, The Weather Station have just announced a new album, the enigmatically titled How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars alongside lead single Endless Time. Comprising songs written at the same time as Ignorance, it’s safe to expect more heartfelt, contemplative brilliance, “songs that [are] simple, pure; almost naive… that spoke to many of the same questions and realities as Ignorance, but in a more internal, thoughtful way” according to The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman. Sign me up.
Willy Mason is younger than me, but sounds like he’s had about a billion more years worth of life experience. His voice, worn and occasionally cracked but also soft and occasionally sumptuous, suggests he’s seen a lot, suffered a fair amount and is bang up for telling you all about it. Taken from his new album Already Dead, Gilded Lie is great for the first few minutes, before becoming overwhelmingly, staggeringly brilliant for the final 30 seconds or so when ghostly synths and a gently strummed guitar combine perfectly to make you (or me, at least) burst into tears.
I would love to tell you a little more about Bad Flamingo, but they seem pretty happy with their anonymity: their website bio reads simply “Vocals, Guitar. Bass. Banjo, the one on the left. Vocals. Banjo. Autoharp. Tambourine, the one on the right”, and aside from a 2019 interview with Tinnitist they’ve said very little publicly. So let’s just focus on the music, which is great. Dead Man’s Hand is pretty unclassifiable – alt-country? prairie-rock? – but incredibly evocative, powerfully delivered and unquestionably vital: a seething cauldron of reverberating guitars, pummelling drums and enigmatic vocals.
Dandelions is one of two Kurt Vile originals on his new five-track EP Speed, Sound, Lonely KV (ep), which also includes three covers: one of Jack Clement and two of US country legend John Prine who passed away earlier this year. From the opening, carefully picked acoustic melody and dreamy background washes to the hushed, muted percussion, this is vintage stuff from an artist who has that rare talent of being simultaneously rousing and reassuring. “That sounded pretty sick” says Vile as the music gradually fades away. I couldn’t agree more.
Around the release of her debut album Half Way Home, I saw Angel Olsen perform to a couple of hundred people at a modest venue in Shepherd’s Bush. She was magnetically brilliant: flirting with some random guy in the front row, asking if anyone had any tequila and ploughing through what felt like pretty much every song she’d released up to that point.
Since then, obviously, she’s become huge, and every album since has been ramped up in terms of scope, production, energy and scale. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed lots of it, but I’ve definitely missed the stripped-down heartbreak of songs like Safe In The Womb and Lonely Universe. So her latest release, Whole New Mess, which presents the stark original versions of tracks from 2019’s All Mirrors is about as up-my-street as it’s possible to be, and [New Love] Cassette is just one of many gems in which you can hear the ghost of the song it eventually became.