September 19, 2020

Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers - Island

By Kristi Kates | March 24, 2018

Best known as the frontman of Gaslight Anthem, Fallon (pictured) takes this solo effort and turns it into a real vehicle for his intense, distinctive vocals and Americana flair. This is his second album on his own, and while the first was pretty impressive, this one is even more so. He pulls a little Motown (“If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven”) and ’60s Greenwich Village (“Etta James”) into his usual alt-rock-country mix, with lyrics skewing heavily toward the Bob Dylan end of the songwriter-as-poet scale. ***  

Buffalo Tom – Quiet and Peace – Schoolkids Records
Tough to fathom that Buffalo Tom is already 25 years old as a band, considering that tracks like “Sodajerk” and “I’m Allowed” hardly sound dated at all in today’s alt-rock climate. So this new album, its first since 2011, is a real boon for fans. Opening with the sanguine attitude of “All Be Gone” and the nostalgic “Roman Cars,” there’s a heavy ’90s overtone throughout, and in the best way, such as on the Seattle-influenced “See How High the Hemlock Grows.” The band’s literal cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” is another standout. ***

Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights - Matador
The Tennessee singer-songwriter moves to a new label for her sophomore set, keeping the focus on a spare arrangement of guitar, piano and voice to better emphasize the seriousness of her introspective and personal tunes. On opening track “Appointments,” she stacks her own vocals on top of each other, to better convey her uncertainty with cheerfulness. “Happy to Be Here” spirals around her vocals as she questions her own purpose, and “Over” sets the mood with wistful woodwinds. ** ½

Nathaniel Rateliff – Tearing at the Seams – Stax
Rateliff’s latest, upon first listen, sounds and even feels like you’ve just stepped into a rough and tumble roadhouse where the in-house musician has been residing for the past 20 years. While his howls — in spirit at least — are reminiscent of vintage soul singers, his vocal performances don’t quite have that level of smooth polish. Instead, he’s a more rustic front-porch troubadour, snarling his way through tunes like the galloping “Still Out There Running,” the saxophone-festooned “Intro,” and the faintly New Orleans “Shoe Boot.” ** ½



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