The moment you’ve been waiting for is here – Saul Wright is back with a sweet selection of the freshest tunes, melodies, jams and riffage this side of the Pleiades. Links are to bandcamp so you can support the artist if possible, but most can be found on Spotify and whatnot. xoxo
La Luz – Floating Features
The Seattle surf-rock greats are back. Fronted by the fabulously talented Shana Cleveland (check out her wonderful 2015 solo album.) The mellow psych-surf sound walks the line between surf signifiers and a more modern and dark blissed out vibe. They bring to mind Beach House and Angel Olsen as much as any vintage influences.
Gia Margaret – There’s Always Glimmer
Everything on this album – the dreamy vocals, lush and minimal production, memorable melodies and tight songwriting – is straight-up lovely as hell.
Perhaps my favorite part, though, is For Flora – a short little piano instrumental. The warm waltzing melody is paired with a voicemail message creating an evocative mood-setter for the last third of the album.
A Sunday Morning Album of the Year Contender.
Seabuckthorn – A House With Too Much Fire
I was lucky enough to be able to use a couple Seabuckthorn songs as the soundtrack to a remembrance of a trip from Portland to SF on a tandem bicycle.
I’ve been a fan of Andy Cartwright’s work ever since. This is his strongest work. He is mostly a solo guitarist but it’s a disservice to the expansive worlds he builds with bowing and slides to describe him as if he’s any old fingerpicker. Much of this album drifts into noise and tonal and timbral experimentation and exploration. Heavily improvised and inspired by his new home in the Southern Alps, this album feels as grand, profound and heavy as those mountains themselves.
Rosali – Trouble Anyway
Calm and contemplative, Philadelphia’s Rosali Middleman sings with a confidence and clear purpose. The music stays right there with her, never rushing or scrambing to fill measures but imbuing every note and rhythm with a sense of intent and aspiration. This new album, out on the always-excellent Scissor Tail Records, features a crack band of studio rats – Mary Lattimore on harp, Nathan Bowles on banjo and drums (both of whom have fantastic albums out this year) and Paul Sukeena of the killer band Spacin’ on guitar among others from around the Philly rock scene. They build these songs up and let them stretch out, creating an album that reveals more great things on every listen.
Gigi Masin – Kite
Around the Blocland offices, we’re big fans of Gaussian Curve, the international and multi-generational outfit that brought us 2015’s Clouds and 2017’s The Distance, two of the best mellow makin-coffee records this side of the millennium. He self-released this solo work in February with little fanfare but it’s a worthy work in a long career that is only recently starting to get the recognition it deserves.
He has said the songs were “written to talk about dreams and love while waiting for new colors and new music. It’s like looking back at a garden of roses and flowers, hoping the next lawn is just as beautiful and bright.”
The Modern Folk – Modern Folk 666
Rarely do you get an album that scratches the guitar soli, experimental noise, nature field recordings, crunchy 00’s techno vibes, and straightforward pop rock itch all at the same time. If you’re a fan of a wide swath of different kinds of music and like veering wildly between them, this album will definitely put a smile on your face.
Cameron Knowler – New & Old
Blue Hole Recordings, a new boutique label out of Houston specializing in underground acoustic music, presents this charming collection of bluegrass and folk numbers – both traditional and original compositions of Knowler, a talented young student of jazz, folk and oldtime guitar and banjo.
Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Rare Dreams: Solar Live 2.27.18
Chris Forsyth is one of the few remaining Rock Gods. He may be playing in Philly bars instead of headlining arenas but one listen will make a convert out of just about anybody. There’s a serious lack of kickass rock music out there, with most players turning those influences towards the darker, heavy metal route. We need more players like Forsyth, who drop your jaw, bang your head and move your ass all at the same time.
This live set starts with the modern classic titular track of Forsyth and the band’s last release, Dreaming in the Non-Dream. We also get a cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied,” with Forsyth’s reimagined lyrics about New Jersey and Philly.
Elkhorn – Lionfish
I was watching the orthophonix videos on youtube for years before I heard of Jesse Sheppard, the man behind the wonderful and essential collection of videos of modern ‘American Primitive’ fingerstyle guitar players. For fans of this kinda niche acoustic fingerpicked guitar sound, he can at times feel like a low key 21st century Alan Lomax, capturing and documenting these under-appreciated masters of the guitar.
Aside from his video work, Sheppard has been spending the last couple years with Drew Gardner creating some of the best psych guitar mediations this side of 1976. In these two extended improvisations, Sheppard’s twelve-string acoustic and Gardner’s electric slip in and out of a deep primordial soup with slow strums, tight rhythms, deep drones and melodies passing, syncin and falling away like leaves in a river. Dip your feet in and zone out for a while.
Chuck Johnson – Live at La Vaca Azul
The guitar master Chuck Johnson might’ve showed up on your radar for the first time with last year’s excellent ambient pedal-steel classic Balsams. But he’s been mesmerizing people with six strings for a long time. His older catalogue is a must listen for fans of the Fahey-esque American Primitive style and this Paris live date from 2013 includes a bunch of thumb-thumpin slides and blues, with a number of tunes from his great Crows In The Basilica album as well as a version of John Fahey’s Red Pony.
Cian Nugent & Sean Carpio – Inherited Traits
Just one track but always great to hear Cian Nugent play the guitar. It seems like he’s been busy recently with his garage punk group The Number Ones, whose dirty swagger and energy are a blast but at times feel like a waste of Nugent’s immense talent. If you’re not familiar with the young axe slinger, 2013’s Born With The Caul and 2016’s Night Fiction are both essential listens moving from instrumental cosmic electric American Primitive to mellow rock opuses with laid back and catchy vocals.
In other Nugent news, check him out here playing with the always excellent Nap Eyes!
Other Things Out There
If you haven’t been watching the video/new music series, “produced, written, directed, recorded, shot and edited by The Tallest Man on Earth,” you’ve been missing out on some of the loveliest 2018 has to offer. Impressive work for a novice cameraman, beautiful ruminations and fantastic songs as always. The songs are streaming as well!
If you like good music then you like free bootlegs then you should know about NYC Taper where some magical concert recordings can be found. Here are a few recent highlights – Chris Forsyth Double Drum Solar Motel Band, Elkhorn with Percussionist Ryan Jewell, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Ryley Walker, Rhyton.
A fantastic place to hear some of today’s best songwriters play songs by the great songwriters that inspired them. Just recently – Anna St. Louis, Mary Lattimore, Sarah Louise, The Mountain Goats, Jennifer Castle, Cut Worms, Nap Eyes, and Kevin Morby.
That’s all for now, my good people. Be safe, love one another, and please make sure you’re registered and make everyone you know vote so we have some chance of survival in this modern hellscape.