File next to: Kathleen Edwards, Neko Case, Angel Olsen
The idea of Ohio country-heartbreak punk Lydia Loveless stepping up production values for this fourth album may cause concern among those for whom gussyin' up means messin' up. But have no fear; Real can stand up to some of the finest moments of 2014's Somewhere Else. From the opening riffs of "Same to You," through the lonely echoes in tracks like "More than Ever" and "Bilbao," Loveless proves once again that she is the queen of intelligent melancholy. This time she adds some internal emotional turmoil, though. The extra R.E.M.-like touches of jangly guitars serve to emphasize, not destroy, the anguish. Some might question whether production sheen allows any song as raw as 2014's "Head" to stand out, but Real still finds Loveless at the front of the alt-country pack when it comes to breaking hearts in the best ways possible. — LW
The Twilight Hours
File next to: Todd Rundgren, Ben Folds
The Twilight Hours have a complicated pedigree, dating back to brothers Matt and Dan Wilson's Minneapolis band, Trip Shakespeare. With scintillating vocal harmonies and shimmering melodies, they never really fit into most people's idea of that city's sound. After Trip Shakespeare folded, Dan and bassist John Munson formed the more commercial yet still superb Semisonic. Their next band was The Flops, who lived up to their name, followed by The Twilight Hours, whose 2009 debut, Stereo Night, suggested a more relaxed take on Trip Shakespeare's off-kilter, disarming intimacy. Now, the Twilight Hours have returned from hiatus with the even stronger Black Beauty, a disc filled with memorable melodies that are both heart-rending and hook-filled. It took a while, but fans of Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic finally have an album that strikes the perfect balance. — BK
Waiting for Henry
Town Called Patience
Mighty Hudson Music
File next to: Jayhawks, Gin Blossoms
Echoes of proto-Americana bands like Wilco and Old 97's are awash in this warm and welcome second album from four-piece Jersey band Waiting for Henry. Town Called Patience, with its sharp hooks and memorable lead guitar lines, serves as a sympathetic and effective musical backdrop for the lyrics of Dave Slomin and David Ashdown. While Slomin's radio-ready vocals draw the listener in, Ashdown's raspy singing often takes on a world-weary tone. The jangle quotient is especially high on tracks like "Parsippany" and "Could It Be," which isn't all that surprising when a band is aided and abetted in the studio by R.E.M. and Connells producer Mitch Easter. The result is a tight and unified (but not glossy) sound that'll prove particularly pleasing for the more country-rock inclined followers of the '80s college-rock movement. — BK
This is awesome! Excited about the new music and adventures for his year!
Thanks so much!!!
Hah! Similarly, one, if famous, should not die in December, as all those who passed…