Please enjoy “Ear to the Ground”!
Much to the chagrin of our readers, the Ear has not been consuming music at a clip that allowed for more frequent reviews and recommendations. That hasn't really changed, but we have stumbled upon a band that at least has us excited...
"Set'em Wild, Set'em Free" Akron/family
Poor choice of band name aside, these guys are making some really interesting music. We are going to classify the sound as 'Alt.Experimental World Folk'. There are traces of Byrne, The Flaming Lips, Wilco, The Avett Bro's and more. The album slips from tunes with African rythms, to flutes and horns, to sparse acoustic guitar, to noise rock with harmonies throughout. The Ear always loves a thump on the lobe and these guys have snapped us out of aural slumber. This is not their first album but critics seem to generally agree it is their strongest to date. We admit that we can't adequately sum up the Akron/family sound, but that is because we think they are occupying a unique space. If you check them out online, make sure to listen to several tracks as one or two can't really give you the full picture. They won't be for everyone, but we are predicting big things for this band in the 20-teens. Four Stars!
"We are the Same" The Tragically Hip
The Ear staff really struggled with this one. We are all big Hipsters so Three Stars feels wrong. (Though 3 stars is a strong recommendation from us.) For the uninitiated, we do not recommend this album as a starting point. (We have previously rated three of their albums with 4 1/2 stars: Up to Here, Fully Completely and Phantom Power.) There are standout tracks on this album that represent a little touched upon soundscape for the Hip. The first four tracks in fact are a Hip version of alt. country that have us singing in the shower. Perhaps it's the Bob Rock production that messes with the formula we are so fond of. He also produced the previous album, "World Container", which was a great record. But this time, Bob seems to have pulled out a few too many tricks. There are strings and chorus' that just sound completely out of place with this band. If you are an aficionado, you will want this album because it does offer enough to make it worthwhile. If you are a digital downloader, we suggest leaving "Frozen in your Tracks" and "Country Day" on the cutting room floor.
As we write this review, we realize that we have generally the same sentiments about Widespread Panic's last release, "Free Somehow". And likewise, they went back to the same producer Terry Manning (who, btw, also worked on the Hip record). Maybe the producer inherently tries to tinker a little too much when quickly following up a previous record.
"Furr" Blitzen Trapper
This band hit our radar with their last release "Wild Mountain Honey". It was an album with some great moments but going in way too many directions (see our 2 star review of My Morning Jacket's latest release). This album is much more focused in the Dylanesque/Americana realm and it is a very good listen. There is still plenty of variety and some standout tracks like the title track "Furr" which is one you want to hear over and over.
"Fleet Foxes" Fleet Foxes
Also from the American Northwest, Fleet Foxes released a gem this year. Upon initial listen, the Ear thought it was a Jim James (MMJ) side project. They sound like an acoustic version of MMJ with a somehow richer sound and better harmonies.
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Dub Band" Easy Star All-Stars
This is a reckless review given the sounds of this album have not entered the Ear, but given "Dub Side of the Moon" and "Radiodread", we feel confident this will be a fun record for any fan of reggae/dub and The Beatles.
Happy Listening and we're always looking for tips!