As folk music has evolved, so has the definition of what can be considered “folk music.” ELECTRIC GHOSTS cuts through the definitions and the releases to bring you the best each month has to offer by way of sad music about feelings.
After the end-of-year lull that pretty much decimates my desire to listen to new music for the last few months of the year, it’s been nice to flip the calendar over into a new year and be rewarded with some wonderful, mostly-sad music. While I’m here to talk about February releases, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some stuff that came out in January that deserves your attention and money, such as Daughter’s Not To Disappear (the album I was really hoping they had in them- much more dynamic and confident than anything they put out before), and Aidan Knight’s Each Other (like a firm, 8-song punch in the gut). Alright, on to music to make you feel things that was released in the second month of the year.
There’s a guilt we harbor and add to as we grow up and build our own stand-alone lives, a guilt that comes from having a life separate from our family and from replacing our old, important friends with new, convenient ones, from replacing that old, comfortable life we had with a new, unstable, much more isolated one all in the name of “adulthood.” We don’t talk about this guilt all that much, if ever, really, but it’s always there, waiting to be recognized and dealt with, and that’s just what Evan Stephens Hall and Pinegrove are working through on Cardinal. For eight songs that sound like a modernized, Americana-informed mixture of American Football, Something to Write Home About-era Get Up Kids and Stay What You Are-era Saves the Day, we hear the stress, loneliness and reconciling adulthood with what we thought adulthood would be dealt with more honestly and directly than normal, each song containing a line or two that plainly summarize a myriad of feelings in just a few words. Heavy shit we’ve all lived through, sure, but underneath it all is the undeniable truth that nothing- no false start, unhinged conversation, or relationship misstep- is the end of the world, and that truth is what keeps the album from collapsing under the weight of its own earnestness over it’s 30-plus minutes of run time. Life is full of ups and downs, fuck-ups and reconciliations, and at the end of the day Pinegrove wants us to know it’s all (probably) going to be okay. I’m inclined to believe they’re right.
Basia Bulat- Good Advice
Good Advice is the sort of record one makes after they get their heart smashed, as Basia Bulat did. It’s full of the hard truths, confrontation, tough questions and grace that all seem to show up in the aftermath. Recorded by Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) in Louisville, this doesn’t sound like a folk record, or even a Basia Bulat record, but it is at its core, despite the slick production from James and all the big sounds that inhabit it’s 10 tracks. Bulat sounds assured and resolved in her heartbreak throughout, knowing exactly how deep the hurt is but never succumbing to it. Peel back the playfulness, beaming organs and booming drums and you’ve got a crushing record, one that’s primed to run you over like a freight train if you’re not prepared. Leave those layers in there and you’ve got one of the most sonically enjoyable records you’re likely to hear this year, one that conceals, as all good pop songs/records do, the true devastation of the subjects being sung so joyously about. Either way, you win.
Donovan Woods – Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled
We all have those songwriters we root hard for and think more people should know about, and Donovan Woods has been that songwriter for me since I first happened upon his music however long ago. There’s a sincerity to Woods’ songwriting that has always struck me, the tremendous ability to distill a pointed, poignant and/or funny observation down to one instantly affecting line, verse or song. I mean, no song about finding out some guy proposed on Facebook should sound this genuine, right? A ‘songwriter’s songwriter,’ as those who write for very important publications call those who write songs for a living, there’s a chance, however slim, that you’ve heard a tune he’s penned, such as Tim McGraw’s “Portland, Maine” or Charles Kelley’s “Leaving Nashville,” without knowing he was the one responsible for it. Now it’s his turn to let us hear his own interpretation of those songs, and they, along with nine other originals, make up an album that’s full of deceptively impactful, instantly likeable tunes, the kind he’s so damn good at writing.
To end these monthly updates I’m going to include a little playlist with some songs from the month (in this case, the last two) that I think you should hear. Some of them are from albums that came out, some are one-off things, some are from albums coming out in the future (which I might end up covering, too), some are sad, some aren’t. Anyhow, I think they are real good and you’d do well to get them in your rotation. Here are 10 good ones from January and February.
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