Words // Scott Pingeton
Each of these albums rightly deserves it's own full review, but I've been busy and procrastinating and it's just not happening. So, let's call this a quick catch up on new(ish) stuff you should be listening to...
The Barr Brothers - self-titled
Since being tipped-off to these guys by a VV reader over a year ago, I've been anxiously awaiting the release of The Barr Brothers' self-titled debut; a wait made more excruciating by the fact that I've known the album has been complete for months, but haven't been able to hear it. Now it's finally out and I've spent some time with it I can say it was well worth the wait. The brothers Barr have traded in some of the glossier production from their former band The Slip (highly recommended as well) in favor of more subtle, earthy and ethereal nuances that recall their friends The Low Anthem. In fact, some of the tracks (see "Cloud (For Lhasa)" and "Ooh, Belle") would not sound at all out of place on a Low Anthem record - and Jocie Adams even makes an appearance on the record. "Beggar In The Morning" will probably end up on many year-end "best song" lists, but the secret is there's about 4 other songs on the album that are just as good. If you're a fan of The Low Anthem, Iron & Wine and the like this is absolute must-listen stuff.
Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
Ryan Adams emerges from semi-retirement with one of the most impressive records of his turbulent post-Whiskeytown years. That isn't to say it's his best - or even close to it - but it's certainly one of his most consistent. Ashes & Fire signals return to folkier territory after the increasingly alt-pop leanings of the latter Cardinals records. That alone would be a welcome change from my perspective, but the songs themselves are some of the best he has released in the last 5 years. "Dirty Rain", "Ashes & Fire", "Lucky Now" and "Do I Wait" are all among Adams' best work. For a songwriter that made his name playing the "lovelorn trouadour" card, he shows that he can write from the happier side of love too. In fact, he finally sounds comfortable, unafraid to be honest - maybe the best is yet to come. Great new records from Wilco and Ryan Adams? Feels like I'm in college again.
Real Estate - Days
Full disclosure: I'm a total Real Estate fan boy. I've been all-in on this band since I grabbed their "Black Lake" 7" on a whim and totally fell in love. I wore out the band's self-titled debut and tracked down every live recording and b-side I could. Every new track I heard leading up to the release of their sophomore LP Days ratcheted up my anticipation more - "Out Of Tune", "It's Real", "Green Aisles" - reaching a fever pitch. I held off on listening to the full album until my vinyl copy finally arrived last week, and since then I've fully immersed myself in it. And this is truly music to get immersed in - with swirling, hypnotic guitar lines and a laid-back summer vibe. While the band certainly hasn't abandon the hazy vibe of the band's previous work, Days does show a progression towards a cleaner more accessible sound. While the songs still sound like they were conceived in a basement, it no longer sounds like they were recorded in one. Let this be your antidote to winter.