Leif Vollebekk "New Ways (Secret City)"
New Ways, the new album from Leif Vollebekk, is a meticulous, sparse, stunner of a soul-esque album. I cannot think of a recent example of better use of silence on an album than this. Now, I’m not talking John Cage silence here, I just mean that everything sure has room to breathe, and breathe it does. As the PR mentions (quite correctly) there are parallels of sound to be heard here to both Prince and Bill Withers. Frankly, if those two names don’t want to get you to check out an album then I don’t know what sorts of things you are looking for. Check out the first single from the album “Hot Tears” and dig all that space!
Sean Henry "A Jump From The High Dive (Double Double Whammy)"
I was a huge fan of Sean Henry‘s 2018 album Fink. So, as you can imagine, I was pretty thrilled to check out his 2019 release A Jump From The High Dive (Double Double Whammy). Thankfully, it did not disappoint. It’s every bit as much fun as the last album was, as Sean is keenly attuned to what made ‘90s indie as much fun as it was. A little like early Built To Spill, a little like early Pavement, a little like early Modest Mouse-and if that isn’t a trifecta of indie greatness then I don’t know what to tell you. But don’t think this is some kind of retro show or something-this isn’t just a pastiche. It’s just obvious who his influences are. So check out the aforementionedly BTS-esque “Rain Rain.”
Kae Astra "Fortune EP (Modern Outsider)"
Apropos of nothing-but I must talk about kale an awful lot because my auto-correct refuses to allow me to type Kae Astra’s first name without changing it to a cerian leafy green vegetable that Misfit Market LOVES to send me in every box. So anyway, I had to “teach” my computer Kae as a spelling before writing this. Otherwise, it would have been a comedy of errors. Anyway… back to the music! Fortune (Modern Outsider), the new EP from Kae Astra is as artful a collection of pop-leaning music as your bound to hear. Her hushed, haunting vocals mixing with a swirl of synths, Eno-esque sound design, soaring melodies, minimal percussion tracks, and occasional choral arrangements. Full of dramatic turns and dreaminess, the whole thing sounds like if someone was recreating Spandau Ballet from memory. I hope you think that sounds as good as I mean it to. Give the lead-off track “Howl” a listen and see what I mean!
Rachel Grimes "The Way Forth (Temporary Residence)"
Composer/pianist extraordinaire Rachel Grimes is back with a heady, rousing concept of an album. The Way Forth (Temporary Residence) is a folk opera steeped in American history. The source of this history comes from 18th and 19th-century letters, documents, and photos from Kentucky. But as with everything Rachel does, the music is the main attraction here. Though there are tracks featuring spoken word and choral arrangements, it is all in service of Rachel’s beautiful music–here piano mixed with an Americana-esque chamber ensemble. Check out the first track from the album “Got Ahold of Me.”