American Songwriter is proud to present the The Muse October Sampler, a hand-picked selection of ten new tracks from some of our favorite artists. And best of all, it’s free! You can download the sampler by going to this URL: http://americansongwriter-october11.bandcamp.com/album/american-songwriter-october-music-sampler
Alabama Shakes – “I Found You”
The four-piece Alabama Shakes are purveyors of trad-soul with a modest EP and energetic turns of melody. But it’s not a cliché to say they do it well, that little guitar and bass subtleties poke through and around the singing, or that the guys’ backup voices and occasional squirt of Hammond organ don’t invade and overpower the perfect analog sizzle.
Deer Tick – “Main Street”
John McCauley’s disgusted. “I can’t eat, I can’t use my mouth,” he sneers through his ultra-lysergic vocal bite, which has been Deer Tick’s signature audio tic since the timeless-sounding 20-somethings first got their shit together for an album. But they still sound nice and nasty, even on the well-worn “Be My Baby” beat.
PUJOL – “Mayday”
Saddle Creek’s roster hasn’t gotten worse at all as its begun incorporating fewer bootstrap DIY artists and more young people who learned to shred their axes. Just ask the excellent and somewhat underrated Tokyo Police Club. On the Ramones-paced “Mayday,” PUJOL imbues the label’s traditional homemade sound with probably the most twin-guitar solos to ever hit Nebraska.
The War On Drugs – “Baby Missiles”
This isn’t Craig Finn or Brian Fallon’s Springsteen at papa-ooh-mow-mow speed. Those guys are too self-aware, and they couldn’t get the keyboard settings right. Most decisively, Adam Granduciel is no E Streeter; “Baby Missiles” is in love with Tunnel Of Love Bruce, all echoes and synth and harmonica, perfect for lonely drives.
Real Estate – “It’s Real”
A lot of the hazy bands of yesteryear have cleaned up their sound – sobering up so to speak. Real Estate was one of the haziest. But “It’s Real” is much cleaner than anything they’ve done, an almost dry production with an interlocking guitar jangle and phasey climactic hook that would make the recently departed R.E.M. proud.
Shovels & Rope – “Gasoline”
The knotted voices of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent provide the ultimate soundtrack to, well, their namesake. The captivating hoedown “Gasoline” begins with a simple shovel-and-rope worker’s command, “left, right, left, right, left,” before seemingly extolling the virtues of “four big wheels, American steel,” and quickly turning to fever, rotten crops and “pouring gasoline on the killing field.”
Cass McCombs – “The Same Thing”
For his second album of 2011, the laconic Cass McCombs sounds no more or less urgent than usual, just ready to keep going and going, which is what you want in a songwriter who releases two albums in one year. The echoing call-response title phrase of “The Same Thing” meshes perfectly with a forward-stomping beat that occasionally turns into a Ray Manzarek-style organ interlude.
Smoke Fairies – “Strange Moon Rising”
As per the course for song titles that end in “___ Moon Rising,” this Smoke Fairies tune is a slide guitar-led expedition through the marsh. But that’s where Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies’ debt to traditional blues ends; the languid harmonies are closer to chamber music than back-porch hollering. Plus, blues songs aren’t known for their beautiful middle eights. Strange indeed.
Lisa Hannigan – “Knots”
If this Irish singer-songwriter and former Damien Rice sidewoman’s jarringly precise ukulele picking resembles needlepoint, well, that’s only the half of it. Hannigan’s first album Sea Sew had the entirety of the lyrics stitched into the linen of the album art courtesy of Hannigan herself. She sings pretty, too.
Strand Of Oaks – “Daniel’s Blues”
“I decided to take my shotgun and take a long walk to Brooklyn” is not the sort of statement you expect to occupy a song about Dan Aykroyd, if you expect a song about Dan Aykroyd at all. “John would always laugh, but he’s not laughing now,” goes the refrain of Timothy Showalter’s outrageous elegy for John Belushi from a certain Ghostbusters star.
Track reviews by Dan Weiss.