Time for Tuesday Reviewsday, our weekly new music segment. Joining us this week is Shirley Halperin, music editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Chris Martins, senior writer at Spin Magazine.
Artist: Uncle Tupelo
Album: "No Depression: Legacy Edition"
Release Date: Feb. 4
Songs: "I Got Drunk" "Sin City"
Uncle Tupelo was a punk band from the 1990s that loved country music, which at the time was an anomaly. Although there were bands that sounded like that, UT distilled it into this snarl, heard on their 1990 debut "No Depression." The album introduced two rising voices, Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar — the Lennon/McCartney of alt-country. Tweedy, who would go on to much greater fame and success with Wilco, is in the background here almost in Farrar's shadow. Jay Farrar, who went on to form Son Volt, was sort of seen as the star apparent.
Alt-country became a catch-all for bands that looked to country as an influence, everyone from Drive By Truckers to Deertick. This legacy edition has like 22 extra tracks and one of the tracks I was happy to see was this B-side to "I Got Drunk," a cover of the Flying Burrito Bros. Pretty true to the original but its significance is in connecting Gram Parsons and Cosmic American music and staking their claim to that.
The opposite of the pummelling "I Got Drunk and I Fell Down," which is what Gram Parsons would've done anyway. There was no Americana back then, like the Minor Threat of alt-country, it was an ethos and a blueprint for people to follow. In 1995, it even inspired a magazine.
Artist: Band of Horses
Album: "Acoustic at the Ryman"
Release Date: Feb. 11
A band that started in Seattle, now based in South Carolina, BOA were initially part of a particular wave of SubPop bands like The Shins, Fleet Floxes and Band of Horses. Those bands all had multi-layered harmonies, and that reverb on the vocals. Pretty, introspective, it's sensitive guy music, but rooted in Americana.
They've released four albums and this is their first proper live album recorded at the Ryman in Nashville. Ten tracks, all acoustic, soft, very sparse where you get to hear how good their vocals are. Their songs tens to veer into Crazy Horse territory , which is awesome, but you won't hear that on this album. No "Laredo" or "Is There a Ghost" or my personal favorite, "Ode to LRC." Who knows what bands think when they do these selective live cuts, but they have been making me want to dig back into those albums so perhaps there's a more subliminal plan in play.
The album's release will be commemorated by a 13-date run of special acoustic performances, commencing on the its February 11 street date at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre and concluding March 5 at — where else? — The Ryman itself.
Artist: Broken Bells
Album: "After the Disco"
Release Date: February 4
Songs: "After the Disco" "Holding on for Life"
I had just wrapped my first year of college when the Shins' "Oh, Inverted World" dropped, and I graduated the year Zach Braff's "Garden State" movie came out. All of which is to say, I'm a sucker for James Mercer's super sweet sensitive falsetto cooing. And after a four-year break, his seemingly one-off project with megaproducer Danger Mouse is back.
Broken Bells second LP "After the Disco" (titular track). I can hear the cries of hypocrisy coming after I slammed Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories," but this isn't a disco album per se. Yeah, there's that bass groove, and you're gonna hear something that sounds a lot like the Bee Gees on the next sample, but the title is key. This is the hangover.
They co-write the lyrics, Mercer is married, and Brian Burton is very, very single. And I'm sure they're using the titular party as a metaphor for relationships or something. But I can't help but feel like this is also a message to all of the disco revivalists out there: it's over. Turn down. Collect yourself. Move on. Aurally, it's actually a lot of '80s influences — some rockist elements, but very sci-fi synths in their pop.
Makes sense, since they've also made a short film to go with the thing starring Kate Mara and Anton Yelchin. These guys are firmly in the stratosphere, drifting as they contemplate our lonely existence.
Artist: Marissa Nadler
Release Date: February 4
Songs: "Dead City Emily" "Was It a Dream"
Marissa Nadler is a Boston-based singer-songwriter who trades in dark themes and even darker music. This is her seventh album, named after seventh month of the year, but it doesn't sound like any summer I've ever had. The most common words that come up in describing her music: haunted, ghostly, death, Hades, smoke.
Her first album, in 2004, was called "Ballads of Living and Dying," and included a song using Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee" as lyrics. She's actually earned cred in the experimental metal world - sang on the final album by black metal shut-in Xasthur. With July, she's supported by producer Randall Dunn, who's resume includes mighty bands like Sunn O))) and Earth.
Result is beautiful, eerie, and a bit cinematic. It makes sense she's on the Sacred Bones label, home to music by David Lynch and Jim Jarmush. There are strings and synth on the album, but it's all texture. Subtle, stark, supporting Nadler and guitar. just don't call it folk.