Second Nature / Lucius
The third album from the pair of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who are becoming increasingly known and regarded for their soulfully harmonious voices, songwriting and penchant for collaboration. Second Nature seems intentionally constructed to be a bit more polished and vibrant that what could be found on previous releases, and there are enjoyable moments to be found throughout—even if this isn’t the true star turn adoring fans may have been expecting—as evidenced on “The Man I’ll Never Find,” which features backing vocals from Sheryl Crow, and “Tears and Reverse.” Second Nature was co-produced by multiple Grammy-winners Dave Cobb and Brandi Carlisle.
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Hell on Church Street / Punch Brothers
Chris Thile’s modern bluegrass quintet has released the magnificently titled Hell on Church Street, which is a reimagining of the 1983 landmark covers album by legendary flatpicker Tony Rice. It includes traditional, classic folk and bluegrass tunes such as “Cattle in the Cane” and Bill Monroe’s “Gold Rush” respectively, but also takes on Bob Dylan’s “One More Night” and Gordon Lightfoot’s epic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” All songs were recorded in 2020, weeks before Rice himself passed at the age of 69. Highly recommended if you enjoy bluegrass and folk, overall mastery of voice, and traditional acoustic string instruments (mandolin, fiddle/violin, banjo, upright bass and guitar).
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A Light for Attracting Attention / The Smile
An album already attracting a high level of attention due to its principals: drummer Tom Skinner (of daring London jazz band Sons of Kemet), guitarist Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke, both from Radiohead. On this debut, the trio find themselves deep in the throes of lyrical themes not unlikely to be found on a Radiohead project. It is even helmed by longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. What sets this LP apart from that legendary band’s work? The record incorporates other elements, like the grooves found in “The Smoke” that recall afrobeat, or the more guitar based “Open the Floodgates,” which has origins dating back to 2006. First single “You Will Never Work in Television Again” finds the band in a heavy rock/post-punk space, which is sure to delight day-one Radiohead fans.
Everything Was Beautiful / Spiritualized
A direct counterpart to their 2018 release And Nothing Hurt, the band returns with Everything Was Beautiful, which as frontperson J. Spaceman (Jason Pierce) prefers, sounds like it was beamed in from an unknown place. It is here where we are joyfully reminded that Spiritualized doesn’t break with the sonic traditions of past albums—a sort of interstellar psychedelia with elements of shoegaze, free-jazz and rock cooked in. It is (not so) ordinary matter that can be linked only to Spaceman. The project (initially intended to be a double album along with And Nothing Hurt) contains seven songs, with three clocking in north of six minutes. Highlights include “Best Thing You Never Had,” “Let It Bleed (For Iggy),” and album closer “I’m Coming Home Again.”