February 28, 2021

Amanda Shires –To The Sunset –SK Records

By Kristi Kates | Sept. 1, 2018

Opening track “Parking Lot Pirouette,” sets the tone here; it’s an affecting number about not being able to leave the one you’re with, and that push-pull of relationships is a continuing theme. On “Eve’s Daughter,” the man in question is a military visitor who catches the girl’s eye at an inopportune time. “Break Out the Champagne,” champions a female friend who’s on the lookout for a better man than the one she had before. While Shires’ vocals can be too sharp in tone at times, her lyric writing shows plenty of polish. ** ½
Phil Wickham –Living Hope – Fair Trade

Wickham’s unique brand of spiritual music may seem like more singer-songwriter output from the surface, but when you dig a little deeper, you can hear that this is an album full of heart and faith. The title track, which already has inspired several other cover versions by some of Wickham’s musical peers, gets Wickham’s message of hope across in a confident way. The use of metaphors in “Wild River” is both impressive and beautifully rendered, and the pretty “Great Things” offers pop appeal as well. ***
Houndmouth – Golden Age– Reprise
The Indiana rockers return with 10 new ’80s-inflected numbers that couple itchy guitars with an abundance of synths. Opener “Never Forget” crashes right in with its retro feel, while the set’s first two singles, “This Party” and “Golden Age” — as their titles might allude — throw a little disco in for good measure. There’s a similar feel with “World Leader.” Houndmouth’s mid-tempo balladry is best executed on “Modern Love,” however, with its mix of romance and quirkily sampled sounds. ***
The Shy Boys – Bell House – Polyvinyl
Shy Boys often get called “surf-pop,” which conjures up images of vintage longboards and Beach Boy haircuts, but in reality, these tracks are more ’80s than ’60s — albeit an ’80s with vagrant vibes and a little too much dirt. Named after the place the band’s leading brothers (Kyle and Collin Rausch) lived with the other three bandmates and pals, the band definitely shows potential — especially in tunes like “Champion” and “No Fun,” which show off their confident yet calm vocals — but at the moment they’re a little too caught up in hippie-rock cliches that drag even the best of their tunes several notches down. * ½


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