Tag Archives: 2011 albums

Album Review: Andrea Bustin – Disappoint the Elements (2011)

I got to write my first review for IndieMonday this week. It was definitely fun to try on the “IndieMonday voice”, and I look forward to writing for them again. And Andrea’s record is a gem. I definitely recommend it.

I have not met Andrea Bustin, but I imagine her to be the type of person who you expect to be quiet and shy until you get to know her and discover an encyclopedic brain and a killer sense of humor. Then you think she’s that quiet person with the encyclopedic brain and killer sense of humor, until you really get to know her and discover, on top of everything else, a probing sensitivity and deep wisdom. Usually that’s the type of friend you want to keep around for a long time. Bustin may be nothing like the person I’ve described, but her debut album, Disappoint the Elements, is that type of album.

-full review at IndieMonday

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Discovery: Northernists – Mama and the Loerie EP

I have a friend who mercilessly stalks speaker / ethicist / public figure Gideon Strauss. In her defense, Strauss–the former president of the Center for Public Justice–is an awesomely worthwhile guy to stalk, at least in the sense of following his Twitter and attending all his speaking engagements. But my friend–though totally harmless–always takes her obsessions one or two notches beyond the norm. In this case, she managed to hunt down his teenage daughters’ Youtube channel (!) where they were posting songs they had written with their friends and were performing in their living room. We’re talking videos with like 13 views.

That was four years ago, but apparently Hannah Strauss is still writing songs, and they’re awesome. As Northernists, she and bandmate Cole Gleason have crafted a really fascinating EP mixing chamber-folk with beautifully subtle lo-fi production. Joanna Newsom, Karen Peris and Josephine Foster all seem to be influences here, but Strauss has her own unique voice and songwriting style. I was especially struck by “Song for Simeon,” which combines plucked harp and bowed violin with a sweet, loping melody, until toothy electric guitar, kitchen percussion and disembodied vocal samples come in halfway through. The lyrics combine some beautiful imagery (“see the age in you / like a tree in an acorn”) with hymn lyrics (“God be with you / ’til we meet again”) and seem to ruminate on loss. It’s strangely unsettling, and I’m excited to unpack it more on further listens.

Download the album at their Bandcamp. And if you like it, pay them some dang money for it!

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Album Review: Abigail Washburn – City of Refuge (2011)

This is one of my favorite records so far this year. I’ve had an intense personal connection with it that I hope to write about later. For now, though, here’s an excerpt from the review I got to write about it for Popmatters:

“Divine Bell”, a co-write with Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, is the most old-timey thing here, a true country gospel tune about the end of suffering. Not only is it explicitly Christian, it’s pretty Dispensationalist, and its regionalism is pitch-perfect, both in eschatology and twang. Then, closer “Bright Morning Stars” is an Appalachian folk song that Washburn, Secor and fellow Old Crow Morgan Jahnig sing in Sacred Harp-style acapella. It’s not a hymn, though—it’s a mourning song—and its more inclusive vision of hope is given startling depth by Washburn’s choice to superimpose it over throat-singing by Mongolian string band Hanggai. That one-two punch poignantly closes a record about homesickness and community on a note of provocatively spiritual—and entirely global—uplift.

full review, originally posted on February 28, 2011, at Popmatters

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