Into The Corn – The Phantom Band
The Wants is the Phantom Band’s second album, and it absolutely does not fall into the “sophomore slump” category. No indeed, this album is an amazement. The voices, gritty and pleasantly Scottish, sink to menacing lows and rise to what amazon.uk calls a “festival chorus,” which is pretty much just the right pitch so that you want to sing along. And possibly break out your air drums.
Into the Corn is a weird song. It’s got plenty of disparate elements, but they come together in an unexpectedly good way. This is rock with a Scottish brogue, the sounds we expect in our rock and roll, plus bagpipes and electric pops and clicks.
Other standout tracks on this album are “A Glamour” and “Everybody Knows It’s True,” but truly the whole album is excellent, genre-defying, and really exciting as far as giving a unique spin to tired rock ideals.
Wow and Flutter – April Smith & the Great Picture Show
I love love love this album. It’s country swing with a vintage, almost vaudevillian feel. It’s checkered tablecloths and pies on the windowsill, banjos, fiddles, and toe-tapping beats, climbing trees, telling secrets, and singing along. Every song is excellent, and while some are stronger than others, there’s not one that I don’t like. That’s pretty rare.
There is a trend in music of blending genres to create new sounds. I’m a big fan of this. I think I started noticing it when Jack White teamed up with Loretta Lynn. This record, Songs For A Sinking Ship, is a good example of that kind of fusion. There are definitely elements of country to be tasted in the twangs and fiddle-riffs, but there is a certain danceability which seems unusual.
The album is unique and creative and has a fresh, heat-of-the-summer feel to it.
Way Down Hadestown – Anais Mitchell feat. Justin Vernon, Ani DiFranco and Ben Knox Miller
This is third track from Anais Mitchell’s superlative “folk opera,” Hadestown (2010). I’m quoting from Amazon.com here:
“Based upon the ancient Greek myth of the poet Orpheus and his doomed quest to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld, Anaïs Mitchell’s new album Hadestown evokes our Depression-era past, the current financial disaster (though it was written before the stock market collapse), and a post-apocalyptic future.
Anaïs, who sings the part of Eurydice, the character whose (metaphoric) death propels Orpheus into “Hadestown” is joined by a veritable Who’s Who of modern indie folk/rock on the release. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver plays Orpheus; Greg Brown is Hades, Lord of the Underworld (“king of the kingdom of dirt”); Ani DiFranco plays Hades’ strong-willed, subversive wife, Persephone; the Haden Triplets (Petra, Rachel, and Tanya) are the Greek chorus-like Fates and Ben Knox Miller of The Low Anthem is the messenger Hermes. Together, they create a world where people hide behind walls in a misguided attempt to preserve their “freedom” and protect their riches.”
It’s hard to pick one favorite song from this album, because every one of them is superlative. This song is swingy and upbeat, a real toe-tapper, hat-brim-tipper, and finger-snapper, if ever there was such a song.