Tall Tall Trees – “Freedays”
THE GOOD: Banjo player Mike Savino (stage name Tall Tall Trees) offers up his first proper solo record.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Don’t let “banjo player” make you think this is a bluegrass collection in the tradition of Flatt & Scruggs or even Roy Clark (not that either of those would be bad). Savino is actually a savvy singer/songwriter combining traditional acoustic elements with loud bursts of indie pop and a hint of the electronic. The guy may be a solid string player, but he knows his way around drum loops too.
“Freedays” ends up a multi-dimensional collection of melodic atmospheric tracks that wouldn’t feel out of place in both a tranquil forest or during an urban after-party. Think Liam Finn hanging with Dr. Dog while some Besnard Lakes fills in the background. Tunes like the slowly building and infectious “Backroads” and the space-age doo-wop ballad “So Predictable” draw us in with their subtle charms and impulsiveness. Every track offers something a little different.
BUY IT?: Yeah.
Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy”
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Josh Tillman offers up his third album as Father John Misty, and it’s epic.
THE BAD: The record will test your patience. Thirteen-minute songs about disposable artists and childhood trauma tend to do that.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Two years ago, the man gave us the mostly autobiographical “I Love You, Honeybear.” Now he turns his attention outward, dishing on such hot-button topics as politics, the environment, technology and war. While the man’s intentions are certainly noble, the delivery can be overly dramatic at times.
“Pure Comedy” often feels like chamber folk: Misty’s tunes acquiring a sameness about halfway through. Even the occasional regal horn arrangements and orchestral flourishes can’t make matters much more diverse. Misty wants you paying attention to the lyrics, all of his pain and all of our problems.
So whether it’s the carbon emissions smothering “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” or the clashing ideologies of “Two Wildly Different Perspectives,” prepare for some passionate diatribes.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
Fleet Foxes – “Crack Up”
THE GOOD: Seattle-based folk-rockers Fleet Foxes come back after a six-year hiatus with a sprawling third.
THE BAD: Just like their ex-drummer Josh Tillman (found elsewhere on this page), Fleet Foxes spreads its musical wings, exploring very progressive territories and complex arrangements. “Crack Up” puts you to work.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Yet the effort is well worth it. Give this record a fair shot; the more you listen, the better it gets. Those all-encompassing harmonies remain intact and there are times when the lilting melodies wash over your senses. However, the usual tranquility is set against intricate string quartets, constant shifts in mood and tempo, echoes of modern classical and jazz, and more than a few complex lyrical narratives. Vocalist Robin Pecknold gets highly critical of both his surroundings and inner demons.
In one word, “Crack Up” is big. You can tell the guys put a lot of effort into these epics. And you’ll have to pay rapt attention in order to engage with every subtle nuance and layer.
BUY IT?: Yes.