Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead and Drew Dixon of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
Smith Westerns were still in high school when they recorded their debut self-titled album. Perhaps I am guilty of ageism but when I kept hearing that the album was good, I kept thinking, “yeah good for a high school band” and I largely ignored it. Almost 2 years later, Smith Westerns are still making music and this time I can’t deny that their new album is quite good which has forced me to come to terms with their previous offering. Their sophomore album, Dye It Blonde, benefits tremendously from being released by an established record label and the production quality that comes with that. Dye It Blonde is a record of silky hooks, smooth rhythm guitar and–there is nothing particularly innovative about it. Its just solid rock tracks from start to finish. If you are a rock fan, its hard for me to imagine that you will not find this album endearing. Below is a short film that highlights some this young bands experiences putting their new album together.
One of my very first Grace Notes’ entries highlighted Future Islands whose In Evening Air was my favorite vocal performance of 2010. If you like that album you will undoubtedly enjoy Wild Beasts’ new album Smother. The first thing you will notice about Wild Beasts are the hauntingly compelling vocals of front man Hayden Thorpe. However, the further you get into the album the more and more compelling the synth-laden melodies that accompany Thorpe’s vocals become. In an interview to The Quietous earlier this week in reference to the new album, Thorpe said, “It’s about saying, are you going to come in and listen or not? Because if you’re not, we’re not going to accommodate you, to let you be part of and involved in this intimacy.” That sounds about right as the most rewarding songs (“Burn” and “End Come Too Soon”) are beautifully intimate and appropriately less accessible. There are some more traditional pop-songs on the album (“Loop the Loop” and “Reach a Bit Further” and they are solid offering, but for the most part this is very much a stop-and-listen album and those who have the time will find it very rewarding. If you don’t have the time to invest, if you don’t have time now, put it on lay-away for your next rainy day-in, you won’t regret it.
Last week I covered The Antlers’ new album Burst Apart. Now that its out and I have had a chance to listen through it a couple more times, I just wanted to report that it is absolutely fantastic. I also recently discovered that they recently recorded a stunning version of “Rolled Together,” one of my favorite tracks from the album, with Denton based indie band Neon Indian and its lovely.