Album reviews in 30 seconds or less.
The Hold Steady
Heaven is Whenever
Sounds Like: The Brooklyn behemoth delivers on a guitar-heavy rock record that features Craig Finn’s voice and lyrics, bordering on emo anthemic.
Free Association: The drama is palpable—Oh, to be a critically acclaimed rock band!
For Fans Of: Ted Leo, Modest Mouse, talk singing.
The Besnard Lakes
AreThe Roaring Night
Sounds Like: Breezy and ambient indie rock from a Montreal husband and wife-driven team of musicians including classical strings and gritty guitars.
Free Association: Pink Floyd fanatics smoked a ton of weed and wanted to slow things down.
For Fans Of: Swimmers, Sigur Ros, Dears, Canada.
Fossils and Other Phantoms
Sounds Like: Sparse but powerful full-length debut of folk from two girls who sing and a guy from Brighton with dark lyrics.
Free Association: A haunting record with gorgeous vocals. A winner of a debut, for sure.
For Fans Of: Dodos meets Regina Spektor, M Ward, Bon Iver.
Sounds Like: The Faith No More alum sure can use his voice box. Here he sings mostly in Spanish and with a touch of kitsch, but totally authentic.
Free Association: His Eureka, Calif. roots really show here, rocking a chulo vibe.
For Fans Of: Mexico, camp, horns, Zappa, Mr. Bungle.
Sounds Like: Soulful former-Philly singer- songwriter’s got a beautiful voice on this EP following his debut blending Americana, bluesy country and simple melodies.
Free Association: Our girl Lissie shows up on the perfect “Don’t Be The One.”
For Fans Of: Martin Sexton, Josh Kelley, Lisa Loeb.
Leave Your Sleep
Sounds Like: 26 songs inspired by folk, big-deal poets, and Americana performed with lots of help from different bands backing her throaty voice.
Free Association: There’s no questioning her talent, but this is for adults with kids.
For Fans Of: 10,000 Maniacs, O Brother Where Art Thou, riddles and fables.
Sounds Like: Philly boys done good with a seamlessly complex tempo-changing rock record with the occasional trumpet and trombone.
Free Association: Finally, a new band that sounds like they’re not just ripping off their favorite bands.
For Fans Of: Pavement, Shaky Hands, harder Spoon.
Sounds Like: Toronto boys’ eighth studio effort is a gem of sad but beautiful country-tinged garage rock that somehow channels 60’s surf.
Free Association: Too bad Neko Case left. She’s the only thing that would make this record better.
For Fans Of: Jayhawks, Lambchop, Silver Jews, Bonnie “Prince” Billy.
PW's Music Issue 2014