Last Friday, Grant-Lee Phillips released a digital-only deluxe edition of The Narrows, which we gave an eight and named a PopMatters Pick back in March when the record came out. The new edition includes four previously unreleased demos and to celebrate Phillips is releasing a new video for album highlight “Smoke and Sparks”, a track that we called the album’s bread and butter, an “introspective, memorable, slow-tempo ballad”. Indeed, it’s that and Phillips shows music shows a renewed confidence following his family’s move from the Los Angeles area to Nashville. “Smoke and Sparks” is a stunner, a truly gorgeous, spare song with a beautiful video that suits the music to a tee.
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San Diego’s Rafter, otherwise known as Rafter Roberts, concocts little, brilliant nuggets of off-kilter pop with an experimental spirit. No two songs on Rafter’s new album XYZ sound alike and ideas aren’t repeated as the album exhibits a real flash of originality blending Beatles, XTC and Queen influences with electro pop and really inventive rhythms and texture. Tossing a bit of R&B into the mix as well, XYZ is a super fun album that should be a true delight to all pop fans who appreciate out-of-the box thinking.
There’s a well-worn adage which states that great art can be born from pain. That’s certainly the case with Solas, the latest from the Answer. Coming off a 2015 tour, the band returned to Northern Ireland to face dire circumstances. The members faced dire emotional and financial circumstances that drove the collective to the precipice, wondering if there would ever be new Answer music again. Eventually, the collective returned to what it had done for the previous 15 years, making music. Determined to come back with a stronger effort than ever before the quartet set about making Solas. Taking its name from the Gaelic word for light, the LP shows a markedly improved and mature band examining both the light and the darkness that light has to offer.
Tim Easton said of Texas singer-songwriter Adam Carroll, “Adam Carroll is East Texas’ own Shakespeare of song…. His songs belong in Texan and Bayou anthropology courses, but mostly they should belong to your car stereo speakers.” We couldn’t agree more as Carroll’s songs are genuine, poetic, literary and relatable tales of life in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
This coming Friday, October 28th Austin-based Eight 30 Records is releasing a tribute to the influential Carroll entitled Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll, which includes takes on Carroll’s music by leading Americana luminaries like the Band of Heathens, Hayes Carll, Tim Easton, James McMurtry, and Slaid Cleaves.
Adriane Pontecorvo: Prison breakouts and vigilante justice take us on a wild ride through Shovels and Rope’s latest exciting single. “Botched Execution” tells an engaging, non-stop story set to a driving tune, and it’s as fun an experience as it is catchy, a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously but commits to its dramatic tale. The video fits perfectly, with intriguing characters and campy, colorful comic book effects that further amp up the action. A refreshing shift from summer pop and an outlaw ballad worth retelling over and over again. [9/10]