Ceilings Floors and Open Doors has a tricky task to pull off. On the one hand, like so many confessional, lo-fi singer/songwriter albums these days, the record finds California singer/songwriter Gwyneth Moreland avoiding the bells and whistles that comes with much of today’s recording software. Ceilings is stripped-down to the most basic level recording-wise; at times, tinges of lo-fi buzz can be heard seeping into Moreland’s acoustic guitar-driven musings. On the other hand, so many lo-fi albums use that austere type of recording as a gimmick, obscuring whatever unique thing an artist might have to say in favor of sounding “authentic”. Fortunately, the latter folly is nowhere to be found on Ceilings, as Moreland uses a lo-fi sonic to enhance her voice and her songwriting, not to obfuscate them. The result is a singer/songwriter LP with the warmth and intimacy of a small house show.
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Willie Nile is well known as a singer/songwriter and a rock musician, which is why over 30 years into his career, an album like If I Was a River might come as a surprise to some. The LP finds Nile trading in a guitar for a piano, writing tunes centered on the ebony and ivory keys. Of course, Nile has played piano on his records since his 1980 self-titled debut, but never has his music been so rooted in keyboard composition. It’s a move that doesn’t fundamentally change the sound he’s come to build over his lengthy career; rather, it offers a new look at things that have always been present in his style.
His mother named him Richard Wallace, but to you he’s Epic, one of the most exciting, talented and fearless artists making music in Chicago. Best known as a member of the legendary rap trio BBU, he’s been busy since their last release, 2012’s bell hooks. For the past two years the artist, rapper and community activist has been hitting the studio with producer Stefan Clark and artists such as Tomorrow King, Kool A.D. (of Das Racist), and Show You Suck to create a batch of newer, more introspective songs.
Dean Garcia, one of the creative forces behind ‘90s alt-rockers Curve, spearheads SPC ECO, though you might not make the connection to his past work at first on the single “One for the Little One”. That’s because there’s a brightness and bounce to the synth-driven piece that you wouldn’t automatically associate with the edgy textures and darker tone of Curve’s best-known tracks. But listen a little closer and the frenetic energy of “One for the Little One” has Garcia’s fingerprints all over it, an unmistakable signature that’s more than surface deep.
Former Yazoo member (or, for legal reasons in the US, Yaz) and stunning contralto Alison Moyet released her first studio LP, Alf, thirty years ago. Like any great artist, she hasn’t stopped committing herself to her craft since then. Best of all, it’s as if she hasn’t aged a day since then; her 2013 LP the minutes received some of the best press of her career. Following a world tour for the music of the minutes, Moyet has prepared a live album capturing that tour in action. Below you can stream “All Cried Out”, a track from Alf, reimagined for Moyet’s 2013 tour.