I’ll just go ahead and say it: September was the most fruitful month, release-wise, of 2016. We were gifted superb new albums from veterans like Wilco, Angel Olsen and Okkervil River, granted returns after hiatuses from Bon Iver (more on that around here soon, I’m sure) and Adam Torres and hell, we even got a new EP from Joan Shelley, who put out one of the very best records of 2015. All of that happened (or will be happening by the end of the month), and yet, I want to talk to you about four records that aren’t those records. Hopefully you saved up your pennies- September came to steal all of your money (and feelings).
Kyle Morton- What Will Destroy You
We’ve been waiting three years now to hear a follow-up to White Lighter, the very best album of 2013, the one that brought Typhoon to the national spotlight, the album that for me, personally, saw me through some of the real dark days I faced on the way through that year. The band itself has been in a state of flux since, the multitude of members doing various life things (college, marriage, having kids, working, chasing other dreams, etc) that have made that next record a little slower in coming (early next year, we’ve been told). But earlier this summer we were given a little nugget of information that frontman and chief songwriter Kyle Morton had been working on a solo album, and that we’d get the album at some point before we got the new Typhoon record. And then, suddenly, on September 20th, with only a cursory ‘hey, check back here tomorrow for something from Kyle’ on their social media platforms the day before, we had a brand new 10-song collection from Morton in the form of What Will Destroy You. These are solo songs, yes, but the structure and topics tackled place this firmly in the ‘Typhoon without the bombast and horns and 12-member backing’ column, for the most part (there are a few tracks that do start to incorporate the band, but generally speaking these are pretty sparse endeavors), which, you know, excites me a great deal. Morton has always written about love and life and sex and death in some of the most interesting and raw terms, focusing on the problems each provides on their own, and how they only get more complicated as we grow up and they all start to intermingle, and the writing on What Will Destroy You is no different, with the songs about, as Morton stated, ‘the ambivalence of erotic love,’ which, well, sure, let’s talk about THAT on a folk record. The songs are uncomfortable and honest, sometimes extremely accessible and catchy, sometimes haunting and nearly-broken, always well-written and with a line that will lodge itself into your brain and get you thinking, whether it be him telling his new wife ‘I’ll be your witness if you be my wife,’ or ‘there are no hard feelings, of course, only soft ones, likely gone by tomorrow.’ This was the album I didn’t even know I had been hoping for. This one speaks to me, and I think it’ll speak to you.
Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster- Constant Stranger
You will have a hard time finding a better album to soundtrack a 3pm beer on a lazy Sunday afternoon in the fall than the debut collection from Water Liars’ frontman Justin Peter Kinkel- Schuster. Long in possession of one of my favorite voices, Kinkel-Schuster has put together a rather stunning collection of delicate, mighty tunes about the push and pull of love and religion and travel and where you’re from and how you were raised and what you believe. These are topics we all work through, ones that weigh us down and pop up during quality 2am worrying time, but they don’t feel heavy here, instead they feel like a conversation with an old friend, one who is from where you’re from and knows the journey to here has been long and bumpy. This is thinking music for clear, crisp days.
Billie Marten- Writing of Blues and Yellows
Billie Marten (stage name of Isabella Tweddle) is 17, which is worth noting because Writing of Blues and Yellows is magnificent and lovely to its melancholy core, an album that’s certainly more mature and reasoned than you’d ever expect out of someone who isn’t even able to smoke yet. It’s a record that sounds like one I want so many of the artists I love to make but they never do, a seasoned study in restraint and of the beauty found in the subdued, Marten’s golden-tinged, raspy voice floating beautifully over the plucked guitars and softly-struck keys that inhabit the album. There’s more to come, certainly, from Marten, but this is a tremendously gorgeous start.
Keaton Henson- Kindly Now
Listen, kids, I love sad songs, but even I know when perhaps too much is too much, and Keaton Henson’s latest came real damn close to getting me to throw in the towel. There’s something so haunting and broken about Henson’s voice, where you half-expect a nervous breakdown in the middle something as beautiful as ‘Alright,’ just because of, well, that voice, man. It doesn’t happen, of course, because Henson is a professional and very good at this whole thing, a man whose built an entire catalog on lending a hand to that most tiny, fragile voice in the back of our brains and bringing it to the forefront. I appreciate it, and I love it, but the more he refines it, the harder it hits, and the harder it hits the more I think ‘you know, maybe this is too much.’ It isn’t, but it’s close. Damn.