Listening to Kurt Vile's "Like Exploding Stones" — from his forthcoming album (watch my moves) — is like falling down the rabbit-hole. Through the song, you're treated to the surrealistic, psychedelic mind and sounds of his trippy universe.
In the Sean Dunne-directed music video, we meet a guitar-wielding Vile under a bright blue sky and a bridge that says "Welcome to Philadelphia." Vile then beams into the center of the Rolling Thunder Rolling Rink in Philly as dancing skaters circle a stack of Marshall amps that spell out the initials of his name.
The seven-minute "Like Exploding Stones" is awash in highly textured guitars and synths, but towards the middle of the song, saxophonist James Stewart of the Sun Ra Arkestra — in full Arkestra garb — blows an accompaniment against Vile's guitar feedback. It's magical and meditative.
Eastern Kentucky singer-songwriter Ian Noe is a storytelling troubadour in the tradition of Steve Goodman and John Prine. "River Fool" — from the forthcoming album River of Fools & Mountains Saints — is an exemplary starting point for Noe's Appalachian tales. His drawl is warm and augmented with stunning back porch harmonies. The seamless interplay between Noe's acoustic guitar playing and John James Tourville's fiddle playing is hypnotic. Mostly, it's the kind of song that says, "Come on in, grab a beverage and let me tell you a story," that you'll want to stay all day for.
This feels like a warm welcome back from two old friends you haven't seen in a long time. Fourteen years after Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss have reunited. "Can't Let Go" — written by Randy Weeks and originally recorded by Lucinda Williams — is the first single from Raise the Roof (out Nov. 19); the collaborative album produced once again by T-Bone Burnett. The duo's mellifluous harmonies return, filled with the longing (or pleading) of two lovers who face the inevitability of lost love, anchored by the shuffling grooves of drummer Jay Bellerose. It seems like time hasn't passed at all.
There's no denying the sleek harmonies of Americana singer-songwriters Aubrie Sellers and Jade Jackson, now together as Jackson + Sellers, on the pair's recently released "The Devil Is an Angel." Formed during the pandemic, Jackson + Sellers are off on a much more rock-leaning trajectory than in either of their previous solo works. One of the few covers on Jackson + Sellers' forthcoming debut album, Breaking Point, Jackson + Sellers turn Julie Miller's original into a steadily blistering rock and roll tune; guitars up, drums driving and the combined force of Jackson's and Sellers' Americana swagger front-and-center.
After a four-year wait since its last studio album, The War On Drugs returned on Monday with ... an acoustic ballad? Yep, and it's a glorious welcome back. The tranquil "Living Proof" begins with soft strumming, a handful of pensive, melancholic piano chords, and is thoughtfully peppered with restrained electric guitar.
This first glimpse of The War On Drugs' upcoming album, I Don't Live Here Anymore (out Oct. 29), is a bold and brave move for a band that's known for classic rock-flavored epics. "Living Proof" is more like a post-quarantine hug from the band who gave us the best live album (Live Drugs) during the pandemic that we needed to get through the Fall of 2020. I'm told epics from the new album will be soon to follow. We're talking about The War On Drugs, after all.
The worst thing you can do when trying to be "cool" is try too hard. You can't get too excited about things. You can't be too silly. It's a fine balance, and one that Wet Leg perfects right out of the gate. With jittery guitars underneath, the Isle of Wight duo's debut single "Chaise Longue" delivers clever and funny lyrics in an unwaveringly disinterested tone. It's seemingly effortless, yet entirely engaging. They're cool! Oh, and guess what? There's a chance that you, like me, have been pronouncing the words "Chaise Longue" wrong this entire time.
It's to Los Angeles band The Marías' credit that the music they play doesn't fit neatly into any one genre. In today's streaming ecosystem, genres are increasingly being broken down. Despite the DSP's attempts at playlist nirvana, pure country or alt-pop often don't turn out to be pure or alt at all. The brilliance of "Hush" is in its seductive and sultry between-the-genres appeal. The track is anchored in moody, sinewy and dark rhythmic pulses, recalling the syncopated melodicism of Depeche Mode. María Zardoya's sensual pop phrasing, particularly on the chorus, counters the brooding mood of the song. With its intimacy, pulsing electronica and Zardoya's confident vocals, "Hush" stands out.