Hello. My name is not actually Saul Wright and here are some new albums that might have gone under your radar. I hope you enjoy them.
Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 – Star Stuff
I’ve been a fan of Toro y Moi for a long time but his last few releases have struck me as not-much-more-than-adequate. This jazzy psyched-out odyssey comes as a welcome surprise. It’s the freshest work he’s done in years. Twin brothers The Mattson 2 bring the jazz and the instrumental chops while Chaz Bundick brings his tranquil pop earworms and warm studio wizardry. The results are the best trip you’ll take this month. (Don’t miss this interesting interview they did with the internet’s other greatest music blog Aquarium Drunkard!)
RIYL: Toro y Moi, Pink Floyd, Ryley Walker, Smokin’ a Spliff on the Beach
On Fillmore – Happiness of Living
I love Wilco but I totally understand people who are bored with their output this last decade or so. However, if you don’t know about their super talented members’ other projects, you’re seriously missing out. The most prominent, other than Tweedy, is Nels Cline, whose guitar heroics are legendary and whose experimental nature has had him dabbling in just about every genre under the sun. (Interestingly enough, for a guy known for experimentation and weird-ass sounds, his latest album is a fairly straight-forward, though great, jazz outing.)
Glenn Kotche, Wilco’s drummer/percussionist, is a slightly less well-known name for your average hipster but he’s no less talented. Like Cline, his approach to his instrument(s) is sui generis and ever-reaching for new methods and styles. He is, simply put, one of the best percussionist playing today.
On this album, he continues his long-running partnership with bassist Darin Gray (of other-Wilco-side-project Tweedy). You may have heard them without even realizing it if you listened to William Tyler’s 2016 masterpiece Modern Country. On Happiness of Living, inspired by their travels and experiences in Brazil, Kotche and Gray collaborate with a number of Brazilian artists and the result is both uncategorizable and sublime. This is the most unique album I’ve heard this year.
RIYL: The Necks, Billy Martin, World Music, Caipirinhas
Andrew Combs – Canyons of my Mind
Andrew Combs is one of the best and most underappreciated acts in country music today. But he’s never been happy to be pigeonholed into that genre and he’s never stretched his boundaries as much as he does on Canyons of my Mind. The heavier rock moments on this album don’t always land perfectly but the interesting arrangements and whip-tight band are greatly appreciated. Combs might not quite reach the heights of his great 2015 LP All These Dreams here but his buttery voice, expert craftsmanship and catchy melodies make this an album you should hear.
Bonus: Canyons of my Mind features some vocals from the lovely singer and talented songwriter in her own right Caitlin Rose, who created one of my favorite albums of 2013 and once very kindly gave me a free CD at a show.
RIYL: Ryan Adams, Robert Ellis, Dawes, Puttin’ Some Fuzz on that Telecaster
Geotic – Abysma
Better known as Baths, Will Wiesenfeld is responsible for some of the best electronic music this decade. He followed up his stunning 2010 debut, Cerulean, with the darker Obsidian in 2013. Geotic is his side-project moniker for his more ambient electronic leanings with less vocals and his new album often surpasses the heights he reached under his more-well-known name. By pulling back and singing less on this album, his voice becomes even more powerful when he uses it. This cozy mellow-tronica has been on constant rotation in the Saul Wright household.
RIYL: Four Tet, Caribou, Gas, Taking a Bath with some Candles maybe or Doing some Light Reading
John Andrews & The Yawns – Bad Posture
John Andrews, veteran session player for Woods, Kevin Morby, EZTV, and Quilt, among others, confidently steps out on his own on Bad Posture. This laid back collection of tunes will be appreciated by fans of any of those bands as well as anyone who enjoys top-tappin’ strummers, crunchy guitar tones and sunny melodies. (I’ll even forgive him for the blatant rip off of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love cause that song is so great, how could you not rip it off?)
RIYL: Kevin Morby, Deer Tick, Woods, Drinkin a Busch in the Front Yard, No Sleeves
Bridget Kearney – Won’t Let You Down
I’d never heard of Bridget Kearney before I heard this album. I just had a recommendation from smart dude and great music writer Jason P. Woodbury where he mentioned Nick Lowe‘s name so, of course, I dropped everything and put this album on. (Editors note: Nick Lowe is the best.) I didn’t realize until later that she plays bass and writes songs in Lake Street Dive. I’ve always more respected that band than really liked them but Bridget Kearney has taken a different route from that band’s mom-friendly soul with her debut album. Sonically, the album touches on 70s soft rock, 80s new wave and 90s power pop but, more than the stylistic choices, the songwriting really shines. This is a top-notch collection of songs that have been written by someone who deeply understands pop song construction. She has both an attention to detail and an appreciation of simplicity when needed. The songs never seek to dazzle or strain to impress but the hook-filled melodies draw you in and keeps you coming back again and again.
RIYL: Kathleen Edwards, Margaret Glaspy, Nick Lowe, Female Falsettos and Champagne Cocktails
Toby Hay – The Gathering
Toby Hay, a young fingerpicker from Mid Wales, isn’t a household name for American Primitive connoisseurs… yet. If he continues to make albums as alluring and lovely as The Gathering, he soon will be. His captivating 6 and 12 string acoustics are complemented by a graceful string section, all in the service of the driving, dynamic songs.
Put this on while you’re cooking some pasta or, if you can – take a minute, sit down, put on some cans and let it take you to another place.
RIYL: Daniel Bachman, Glenn Jones, William Tyler, Robbie Basho, Bucolic Countryside Scenes
Gigi Masin & Charles Hayward – Les Nouvelles Musiques De Chambre Volume 2
Reissue (on the fantastic Light in the Attic label) of a 1989 split LP between drummer Charles Hayward (of influential 70s experimental greats This Heat) and Gigi Masin (Italian ambient electronic musician and 1/3 of Gaussian Curve, whose 2015 album Clouds I’ve been listening to almost daily for the last month.)
Belgium’s Sub Rosa label asked these guys to write songs about the waterways of their cities (Venice and London) and they both succeeded – but the songs couldn’t be more different. First, Masin’s piano and balmy ambient textures paint a portrait of a slow moving stream as they soothe and entice you with equal measure. The 8 brief songs meld into each other and before you know it, you arrive at at Hayward’s 21 minute epic side B. He slowly and purposely plays long cymbal and drum rolls, subtly at first and later forcefully until they feel like the crushing power of water itself. The composition almost can’t be called a ‘song’ and could easily be forgotten about in the background but given real attention, it proves to be a gripping experience.
RIYL: Nils Frahm, Erik Satie, Terry Riley, Scented Candles and a Nice Cab