Being a self-confessed music obsessive I am asked from time to time to give people a list of what I have been listening to. In what will become a monthly feature here at AGEIST, I wanted to put together that initial list of new material and a reissue that stood out for me and made its way to my turntable.
Steve Gunn “The Unseen In Between” (Matador). The Philly-raised and Brooklyn-based musician returns with a new record that is so well crafted it has hardly left my turntable over the last month. He has been a frequent Kurt Vile collaborator and is joined here by Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan’s band) on bass. This record is grounded by poignant lyrics and skilled-but-measured melodic guitar playing. Originally a finger-style acoustic guitarist, Steve’s electric playing comes with just enough notes he needs for these songs and nothing more. Standout track is “Vagabond” which was inspired by the Agnès Varda film of the same name.
Yola “Walk Through Fire” (Easy Eye Sound). This Bristol-born artist grew up in poverty in the UK and at one time was homeless on the streets of London. Music was forbidden in the house she grew up in. After winning the UK Americana Artist of the Year Award in 2017, Yola Carter made her way from England to Nashville and, to the benefit of all of us, met up with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys for this amazing first record. On this collection of songs, best described as Country Soul, Yola is supported by a veteran team of Nashville musicians who also joined Dan Auerbach on his last solo record. Recorded with an old-school Muscle Shoals feel, this collection of songs shines in all the right ways. Standout tracks “Ride Out in the Country” and “Love All Night (Work All Day).”
Jenny Lewis “On the Line” (Warner Brothers). On this, her 4th solo album and the first since 2014’s “The Voyager,” Jenny Lewis returns with 11 new songs. Joined by a dream crew of musicians (Don Was, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Beck, Smokey Hormel, and Benmont Tench amongst others), these eleven songs are grounded by insightful and descriptive storytelling influenced by relationships, the death of a parent, and travels in and out of Los Angeles. Through this period of soul searching, all of these songs have been beautifully crafted with infectious melodies throughout. It’s an incredibly great record. Standout tracks “Red Bull & Hennessy” and “Heads Gonna Roll.”
Bird Streets “Bird Streets” (Omnivore). This band is a collaboration between John Brodeur (New York City bedroom-pop savant) and Jason Falkner (Jellyfish, Air, Three O’Clock, and Beck). This record highlights Brodeur’s growth as a songwriter. This album is a solid power-pop gem packaged in a fully realized radio-friendly sound. Standout tracks “Betting On The Sun” and “Carry Me.”
Paul Weller “Other Aspects: Live at the Royal Festival Hall” (Parlophone Records, Ltd). This concert performance and collection of songs features an eclectic career-spanning live set recorded in October 2018. At 60, Paul Weller, who started his career in The Jam and later the The Style Council, has had a long and established solo career. He has recorded 15 solo records and several other live albums under his own moniker. Here he settles in with an orchestra, adding texture and depth to his substantial catalog. Beautifully recorded and performed. Standout tracks are “Have You Ever Had it Blue” and “Gravity.”
Andrew Bird “My Finest Work Yet” (Loma Vista). On this cheekily-titled release, the whistling songsmith is back with a strong effort. There is a lot to digest on this, his 12th solo outing, and it is a hallmark of his 20-year career. His signature playfulness is highlighted throughout as is his spaghetti-western signature whistling. The collection of songs addresses many of the cultural and political divides we are all faced with. Standout track is “Sisyphus.”
Best New Reissue:
David Byrne “Grown Backwards” (Nonesuch). Now reissued on vinyl for the first time with six additional tracks and one featuring a collaboration with Caetano Veloso. This record has been described as the sound of New York City enthralled with itself, with David Byrne as the conduit. This title was originally released on CD in March 2004 and was David Byrne’s first release on the Nonesuch label. The vinyl release has been beautifully remastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. Standout tracks are “Lazy” and “Au Fond du Temple Saint.”
Read Jeff Walker’s profile here
Read about David Byrne’s American Utopia tour here
Read our review of A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs here