In Brief: Sam Beam is a skillful songwriter, his voice is always soothing, and his lyrics are always intriguing. But his decision to revert back to the simpler style of his earlier efforts makes for a rather underwhelming album. I like both the layered, experimental side of Iron & Wine and the hushed, laid-back, folksy side, and it seems like a step backwards to cast off one side for the sake of the other.
Artist: Lisa Hannigan
Album: At Swim
In Brief: A mellow, soothing, and at times hauntingly beautiful collection of songs. Lisa’s hushed indie folk approach is subtle enough, and her lyrics are abstract enough, that her songs might not impress you right away, but they set the perfect mood for a rainy day spent curled up with a book or a late night de-stressing session.
Artist: Fleet Foxes
In Brief: A strangely fractured, and yet strangely beautiful, third album from a band that was clearly restless to expand upon their old sound without completely abandoning it. My opinion of it seems to change with every listen, but it’s slowly inching in a more positive direction. I think this band is challenging its fanbase in mostly good ways.
Artist: Bon Iver
Album: 22, A Million
In Brief: Some call 22, A Million an astounding work of art, some call it a messy headache that’s been Autotuned to within an inch of its life. I land somewhere in between. Some intriguing ideas here and there, and I come back to the album a lot, but it’s too scattershot to really hold my interest.
In Brief: These songs were left off of VA last year, but that doesn’t mean they were subpar. These are simply the songs that didn’t fit the theme. They’re no less eclectic, addictive, and in the case of the final track, downright beautiful than the album they were cut from.
In Brief: Take the question Yoav’s first disc posed: “How many sounds can a man possibly make with an acoustic guitar?” Multiply the answer by at least three. That’s this album.
In Brief: A fun ride if you enjoy Iron & Wine for the more experimental fare. But those who feel that The Shepherd’s Dog was too cluttered will hate this.