The chilly musical desert of late December and early January has given way to the start of the new release season, and we here at Sleepy Hollow want to share our thoughts on a few of the albums we are most excited to hear in this infant year of 2015!
Elephant Micah – Where in Our Woods (Western Vinyl; Available Now)
Elephant Micah’s Joseph O’Connell has made a name for himself since the early-2000s in his own quiet way. His new label Western Vinyl explains, O’Connell has “self-released his works on CD-R and limited LPs” and refers to Elephant Micah as having “almost selective status.”
As a result, O’Connell has earned the attention of some of today’s most revered songwriters, including Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor and Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood. And if the Indiana native’s new album Where in Our Woods retains the intimate feel of his past work, it does so with a wider audience in its scope. This is a well-produced, beautiful sounding record, with O’Connell finding accompaniment outside of his acoustic guitar with tasteful percussion, organ, and wind instruments: auxiliary additions that give the album a rich depth heightened by the occasional extra vocal, including an appearance by Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Compositionally, his songs stand up to the prestigious writing company he keeps, eloquent and strong-of-voice in each of the album’s eight excellently-crafted songs. It should be an exciting introduction for to many to an artist who has been living under-the-radar for too long.
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City; Available 1/27/15)
Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jessica Pratt’s 2011 self-titled debut album was a masterful exercise in sparsity. As the story goes, White Fence’s Tim Presley reportedly founded San Francisco’s Birth Records solely to release it. The singer/songwriter has since signed with Chicago-based indie heavyweight, Drag City, and will release her sophomore album, On Your Own Love Again, in late January.
The album’s first single “Back, Baby” is a perfect encapsulation of Pratt’s approach on On Your Own Love Again. Still present is the familiar sound of a finger-picked acoustic guitar with Pratt’s reverb-laden vocal. But the song also manages to weave-in some new call-and-response techniques and overtly windswept harmonies that recall the Laurel Canyon folk tradition. If her vignettes often veer towards themes of loss, Pratt differentiates from some of her fellow hushed songwriting counterparts (Weyes Blood and Grouper, who both released excellent albums in 2014, come to mind) in that there is an underlying air of optimism in the arrangements that convey the idea that melancholy itself is fleeting. On Your Own Love Again may be proof of melancholy’s sway, but its also proof of the songwriter’s power to turn it into the utmost beauty.
Jose Gonzalez – Vestiges & Claws (Mute; 2/17/15)
Vestiges & Claws marks Jose Gonzalez’s first solo studio full-length since 2007’s In Our Nature. Not that he had simply been idling in the interim: he released two albums with his band Junip – 2010’s Fields and a particularly fine self-titled effort in 2013. While those records saw Gonzalez’s vision through the eyes of a trio, Vestiges & Claws appears that the songwriter hasn’t lost a step when left to his own devices. The swedish-born son of Argentinian parents adorns his soft vocal approach and nylon-stringed guitar with acoustic percussion, all of which, awash in reverb, sound particularly geared towards the Sleepy Hollow experience in one of the album’s advance releases, “Every Age.”
The song’s lyrics address, perhaps, the immigrant experience, or more simply, any of our attempts to find a place in the world (it’s accompanied, by the way, by a video shot on a camera in orbit of the earth). Gonzalez sings, “take this mind / take this pen / take this dream of a better land / take your time / build a home / build a place where we all / can belong,” a refreshing sentiment that yields hope in accepting the evolution of one’s life in his or her surroundings. That’s the kind of attitude that we can all use come February…
Also available soon:
Punch Brothers-Phosphorescent Blues (Nonesuch; 1/27/15)
Diana Krall-Wallflower (Verve; 2/3/15)
Rhiannon Giddens-Tomorrow is My Turn (Nonesuch; 2/10/15)
Brandy Carlile-The Firewatcher’s Daughter (ATO; 3/3/15)
Various Artists-Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Nonesuch, Available Now)
Alisdair Roberts-In Dispraise of Hunger (Drag City, 1/27/15)
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