Category Archives: Best New Music 2011

Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest : Album Review

Three out of Three HeadphonesAlbum: The Harrow and the Harvest

Artist: Gillian Welch

Year: 2011

 

Gillian Welch is one of those artists who I always like but only occasionally love.  With an eight year gap between albums, fans and critics alike had to wonder which Gillian Welch The Harrow and the Harvest would present.  Would it be the Gillian Welch of 2003’s rather dissapointing Soul’s Journey or the Gillian Welch of the classic Time (The Revelator).

Thankfully, The Harrow and the Harvest presents Welch at her finest.  This album is smooth and sweet and just the right amount of dark.  Yes, the music comes from a style that is a century or more old, but in the hands o Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest feels contemporary and fresh.

A consistent listen from start to finish, The Harrow and the Harvest has barely a weak track to be found.  Opening with the classic-sounding “Scarlett Town”, followed by the appropriately somber “Dark Turn of Mind”, the album moves seamlessly from upbeat folk-tunes to story telling ballads to alt-country sounding rock.  Gillian Welch hits every base here, without losing any steam.

Tracks like “The Way it Goes” are both wistful and fun and the memorable track “Tennessee” does great justice to an old trope of lost religion.  Even choruses of nonsense words like “fa la la, fa la la li” seem gorgeous coming from Welch’s lips.

Folk music isn’t for everyone, but if you like a little twang in your pop, this album is one of the best of the genre I’ve heard in recent years.  It’s an album that invites you in, as though to an old friend’s home and then keeps you entertained and warm all night.

Tim Hecker, Dropped Pianos : Album Review

Album: Dropped Pianos Artist: Tim Hecker Year: 2011   When an electronic composer is bad, it is very very bad, but when it’s good, it can create something really wonderful, something that music with lyrics just can’t touch.  This was my reaction to the new Tim Hecker album of sketches, aptly titled Dropped Pianos. ElectronicContinue Reading

Album Review: tUnE-YaRdS, “WHOKILL”

Album: WHOKILL Artist: tUnE-YaRdS Year: 2011   No it’s not tune-yards.  It’s tUnE-YaRdS, and no it’s not indie-rock, it’s some kind of Afro-pop-electronic-soul fusion.  And yes, the music is wonderful and new and different and deserves all the the acclaim it is receiving. tUnE-YaRdS is essentially a one-woman band, the work of Merrill Garbus, a youngContinue Reading

Album Review: Balam Acab, “Wander / Wonder”

Album: Wander/Wonder Artist: Balam Acab Year: 2011   The artist known as Balam Acab takes his name from a Mayan myth about a demi-god who shot an arrow into the clouds to relieve a drought.  In the version I came across, the arrow pierces the cloud and draws out a rainbow, along with the rain.Continue Reading

Album Review: Shabazz Palaces, “Black Up”

Album: Black Up Artist: Shabazz Palaces Year: 2011   I’m not an aficionado of hip hop or rap, but from time to time a hip hop album will grab me by the gut and not let go.  This was the case with my first listen to the new release from Shabazz Palaces, Black Up.  FromContinue Reading

Album Review: Jenny O, “Home EP”

Album: Home EP Artist: Jenny O Year: 2011   Discovering new music is fun, no matter how it happens.  In this case, I was watching the bizarre-o black comedy, Wilfred on FX and during a fairly typical montage, this super catchy and charming song came on.  I tried to use my iPhone to identify it, but when thatContinue Reading

Album Review: Blitzen Trapper, “American Goldwing”

Album: American Goldwing Artist: Blitzen Trapper Year: 2011   When’s the last time you rocked out to the sound of twanging jew’s harp?  Right.  It’s been a while for me, too.  If this lack of hillbilly goodness is troubling you, get yourself a copy of Blitzen Trapper’s newest release, American Goldwing.  It isn’t exactly countryContinue Reading

Album Review: Lykke Li, “Wounded Rhymes”

Album: Wounded Rhymes Artist: Lykke Li Year: 2011   I’ve always had a soft spot for power ballads, those sweeping emotive tracks that make you want to belt out lyrics along with the singer.  In my youth, the only real power ballads I knew were, in fact, pretty awful- manipulative drivel about faux female empowerment which usuallyContinue Reading

Album Review: Girls “Father, Son and Holy Ghost”

Album: Father, Son and Holy Ghost Artist: Girls Year: 2011   The trick of good music lies in the fact that every new song is built upon some music that already exists.  There are only so many notes, so many chords and so many ways to bang a drum.  The goal is not to comeContinue Reading

Album Review: CSS, “La Liberación”

Album Review: CSS, “La Liberación”

  Album: La Liberación Artist: CSS Year: 2011   Cansei de Ser Sexy, better known as CSS clearly has a lot of emotion to get out.  Their third album, La Liberación comes three years after the somewhat disappointing release of Donkey, an album that received mixed reviews at best and from the sound of La Liberación, CSS took theContinue Reading