Movits - Out of my Head
This is their second album and I like it as much as the first. Every time I think I don't like hip hop, along comes another example of how impossible it is to make a blanket statement about the genre. Movits have created a fun and quirky mix of swing and hip hop, as if Bing Crosby and Will I. Am got together with Tommy Dorsey. It's danceable and fun and it doesn't matter a bit that I don't have a clue what they are singing. Perhaps that is part of the charm - since the English/Swedish "Sammy Davis Jr." is one of my least favorite on the CD.
The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
Beautiful voices married in beautiful harmonies. Their music is sometimes described as Appalachian folk, though I think it has a more modern sensibility in the phrasing and lyrical and vocal complexity. The instrumentation is sparse and simple, but that's a good thing, making room for their voices to bloom.
Adele - 21
Definitely one of the most popular albums of the year and "Rolling in the Deep" has taken the world by storm. It's a magnificent song and this is a magnificent album, though I find I love her voice even more in her quieter songs like "Someone Like You" and "Take It All."
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
I think Robin Pecknold, the lead vocalist of Fleet Foxes, has an extraordinarily pure voice. Fleet Foxes harmonize beautifully and the songs are lush. For all their compexity, though, they feel like songs that just flow naturally. For example, "Loralai," you listen to the lyrics and you don't picture someone laboring over every word, but instead just singing what he feels as it just flows right out. There's something organic about the songs; they have that magical feeling of being easy. Of course, they may have worked hours on every single phrase in the songs, but that the magic, it doesn't feel that way.
Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues
This is not the southern rock of the Allman Brothers, but old-fashioned traditionalist blues. It's produced by T Bone Burnett whose name on an album is almost always a guarantee that I will like it. He has a great voice for the blues.
Duffy - Endlessly
While i don't love it as much as her Rockferry, there's a lot that is good on this new album. Her voice is great and the pop "Well, Well, Well" is catchy and fun and shows off her sassy sound. Sometimes listening to her, I am reminded of Lulu. She has a lush, retro sound and is best, I think, in her more retro songs.
Tom Waits - Bad as Me
If Tom Waits sang the phone book it would still be one of the best albums of the year because he would do something inventive and wonderful. Perhaps the A's would be a surreal mad spiral into instrumental chaos and the B's a simple ballad. He would never just "do" the phone book. He would reinvent it. And so, yes, Bad as Me is fabulous because it's not the phone book, it's great songs from the endlessly inventive Tom Waits.
St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
I think her real genius is the contrast between her crystalline pure voice and the manic guitar playing. That dichotomy is repeated with the lovely, lyrical beauty of the melodies contrasted with the angry, almost violent lyrics. I listen to her and think she must be so smart. She constantly surprises and that's intriguing and interesting. "Year of the Tiger" is my favorite - perhaps because it so captures the zeitgeist of 2011.
Abigail Washburn - City of Refuge
As a fan of bluegrass, I have been following Abigail Washburn's solo albums and her band Uncle Earl for years. The thing is, she's so much more interesting that the label bluegrass folk singer. Her music is more bluegrass fusion - and she collaborates with all sorts on this album. In the old traditional "Bright Mornings Stars" she combines the beautiful a cappella hymn with Mongolian throat singing. Who would have ever thought that would work, but it doesn't just work, it's magic.
Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra - Hothouse Stomp
Old vaudeville and jazz songs sound new again. The brass is so blowsy and relaxed, you can almost imagine the instruments themselves were drinking the moonshine. It's fun and quirky and it works.
-Cajsa spins Mondays at five