(or at least the beginning of it).
It’s been a whirlwind of a fortnight. Thanksgiving came and went, though I’d like to think I’m still basking in the glow of the lovely, much-needed week of adventure down to DC– by way of New York for a short spell– to see the family back home, and I’ll write more at length about some of said adventures later this week.
And hey, did you guys know it’s winter time out there? Crazy. It’s all cold, windy, mind-numbingly gray out there. I guess the signs have been there since just after Halloween: stores hocking their warmest, coziest, thickest, silliest sweater styles; the sun deciding to go down at noon each day; and every radio station giving more airtime to those holiday and holiday-aligned tunes out there just as egg nog and peppermint lattes start appearing en masse in every corner coffee shop and grocery store.
I don’t really mind any of those things by themselves, but after a few days of sitting in my favorite cashmere-cotton blend, thick-stitch, snowflake stitch turtleneck, sipping a peppermint-laced mug of hot cocoa, while reading a book and listening to five different versions of Silent Night, I’ve had enough winter cheer to last me well in to the next three seasons.
And winter hasn’t even officially begun. So I’ll take back control of the situation the only way I know how. With the distraction- and satisfaction- of good music.
Here are five albums, unfettered by holiday fluff or solstice-y proclivities, to help you get through the long nights and weeks ahead.
1. Storyman – This Time Round
I was lucky enough to hear these guys during my 36-hour lightning tour of New York City last week at their CD release show at Rockwood Music Hall. The album is lovely reflection of a band in transition from folk and experimental rock to a more polished pop-rock sound (Storyman happens to be the next iteration of the outfit formerly known as the Guggenheim Grotto). Even with their rounder, peppier sound (as in the song above and “You Got Me”), the band is able to stay true to their deeper, introspective selves as well. Listen: “Cherry Red,” “Hola,” “Strange.”
2. Swear And Shake – Maple Ridge
An album that gets better and better with each listen with sounds warm enough to melt any snowdrift. With their ability to move gracefully between grungy, solid, rock & roll above to resonant, open harmonies and dreamy lyricism on tracks, this Brooklyn foursome is well on the rise. Definitely catch them on tour this winter. Listen: “Humming to a Sea Snail,” “Hand and Foot, Heart and Soul.”
3. The Milk Carton Kids – The Ash & Clay
Not every winter-ready album has to be one that keeps the fire red hot all night long, and the Milk Carton Kids prove it hear on their sophomore release. It’s a tried and true formula: two talented guitar players with complimentary picking and vocal styles. No matter the story, they make it sound comforting, serene, and timeless. Listen: “Honey, Honey,” “On The Mend,” “Hear Them Loud.”
4. Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough
Cancel all your appointments in the month of February, because you’re going to need all that time wrapping your head around this one. In a word: depth. Two more: of field. Of musicality. Of feeling. Of Soul. This debut album from the young British chanteuse is simply mesmerizing. Listen: “Age,” “Elusive,” “They Could Be Wrong.”
5. The Wood Brothers – The Muse
The new, full-length offering from these veteran musician-siblings is just plain good. No frills, no high production values- just good, medium-rare-style melody lines, harmony, and bare bones arrangements with songwriting chops to match. An any day album that seems especially appropriate for those marathon gray mornings. Listen: “Wastin’ My Mind,” “Honey Jar,” “Who The Devil.”