Ben Howard … Old Pine … 2012
Quietly brilliant acoustic music in the vein of Damien Rice or Nick Drake, with a little Jose Gonzalez picking thrown in. He mumbled like Bon Iver but the soaring, brilliant harmonies are all his own. Devour this EP then go find his already re-cased full length!
Bowerbirds … The Clearing … 2012
Bowerbirds’ third LP is notably more rounded and full. Though this duo turned hippie band has always cultivated a minimalist vision, weaving ideas of nature and belonging into quiet, clear melodies; The Clearing is just a bit more sonically diverse and bombastic. Rich and guttural yet characteristically restrained, these songs are not for the jaded but for the young and curious- those unwary of zealous odes where the melancholic and the impassioned emotions meet back on the other side. A few songs on the album burn bright and shine on their own, but if experience is any guide, the true gems of a Bowerbirds record will likely take time to unearth themselves.
Ryan Adams … Lucky Now … 2011
Though Ashes and Fire has some stunning acoustic gems and extensive help from the beautiful Norah Jones, Adams doesn’t quite hold up to his pre-hiatus candor and clarity. The album is a without a doubt a folk-rock, easy-listening dream reminiscent of Heartbreaker (his solo debut), but it doesn’t quite have the bite and consistent intensity I’ve come to expect. Adams traded his wild, cocaine-addicted past for his nuptials to Mandy Moore- probably a good life decision but I’m not sure it did much for his music. Still, the album is pretty great and highly recommended.