It’s been a few years since I caught Lord Huron play an interest-piquing set behind a pizza place in Austin, and finally comes a set that captures the charm of that understated performance for me. The hardworking Los Angeles band recently previewed more uptempo cuts off sophomore LP Strange Trails: the haunted, texas-meets-SoCal stomp “The World Ender” and uplifting “Fool For Love.” But “The Night We Met” (via mokb) — a forlorn, slow dance number anchored by a sturdy melody that’s rife with instant nostalgia — is a favorite. Hear it above along with the perfect midnight highway track, “The World Ender,” below:
The dulcet yet blunt, amber-hued tone of This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables’ voice has never failed to stop me in my tracks, and The National’s Aaron Dessner helped record/produce that beautifully on these Bashed Out tracks. It’s just a foundation, though, as the title song and “Silver John” unravel much wider strengths, from nuanced lyrical depth to an effortless sense of moving melody. If I may pluck one line out of context from her own description, the tune muses on “the things we grab at in times of panic.” Perhaps coming from a similar mindset, this is very soothing stuff right now. It’s out in April via Brassland.
We’ve proven Michael Kiwanuka is a great singer and one of the best new songwriters, but have we mentioned his guitar playing? This one might not prove much to that end, but it does point out that his influences are often fine 6-stringers, from Hendrix to Page. Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti just got the tribute treatment from Mojo, and this is one of the standouts, which include the aforementioned Laura Marling in an instrumental turn. Kiwanuka talks about his approach — in typically humble form — here.
Laura Marling’s new record, Short Movie, isn’t as electric guitar-based as first single “False Hope” might have led one to believe. But it’s definitely a change of pace: “Strange” (below) is a fiery, talk-sing folk tune, skipping formal structure for a bluesy rant and ramble. Off-kilter material like this is a testament to Marling’s ability to captivate a cut with little more than her assured vocal delivery and an inspired point of view. Meanwhile, “I Feel Your Love” wouldn’t be out of place on previous sets — it’s sparse with a hint of lush strings, building towards something that’s just as captivating as “Strange,” yet perhaps even stranger, in a more melodic way. And just in case you think the promise of going electric has gone by the wayside, Marling also shared a different take. Check out a session clip below with her band performing the latter cut, distorted a bit and plugged in.
Ireland’s Villagers — aka Conor O’Brien — subverted expectations by going off-kilter and Protools-heavy on his 2012 sophomore set Awayland. Now he’s gone… not back per se, but a bit more linear in the tunes’ narratives: live and acoustic, calm with the right amount of focused restlessness. It’s a bold step forward, I say, given the way he builds on simple chords and poeticizes an accepted term, all while basking in some lovely melodic humility. The album is called Darling Arithmetic, and there’s another impressive preview cut up.
Needs we say more, at this point, than “new Sufjan”? Carrie & Lowell -- perhaps his most personal set yet, about the loss of his mother and a million other things — comes out in a few weeks. We could talk about the close-knit home recording approach and a million other things, but hey, here’s another new one from Sufjan:
Hailing from the capital of Canadian province Saskatchewan, Andy Shauf has a knack for planting calming, intimate sentiments that bloom with subtle tension. His songs feel close and personal, yet melodically expansive with a splash of colorful strings and other spare instruments creeping in from outside the quiet space these cuts sound performed in. It’s hard to pick a favorite tune from his new The Bearer of Bad News LP, though “I’m Not Falling Asleep” (an early preview of which we caught in ’13) is a fine intro above. After that, the whole record is below, featuring other standouts, such as “Jerry Was A Clerk,” “Wendall Walker,” and “Lick Your Wounds.” One more note about Shauf: He produced and engineered this set, which is an impressive feat you’ll notice upon hearing the lovely, evocative palette he’s pulled off here.
Soko’s been on our radar since her lower-key days as an actress with a side talent for writing confessional homespun gems, but since then she’s gotten a lot more deserved press for her music. As the audience has expanded, so has the scope of her sound, from charged up psych/garage-rock to spacey synth jams and a ton of fresh ground in between. Her new album, My Dreams Dictate My Reality, covers much of that ground, but my standout is a hushed throwback of sorts. “Keaton’s Song” is an unabashed, heart-on-sleeve breakup tune, penned for a fellow expert on that sort of fare. After a long, LP-length journey through side streets and other unexpected turns, this closes out the record with a bit of poignant beauty that’s still rare to catch on tape today. The rest of the LP is streaming here.