Tower of Power
Horse Feathers, Thistled Spring
Spring, for all the hope it might bring, can’t be without its thorns, its hazards—as much stepping stones as stumbling blocks, maybe they are what you make them. This is folk music capable of thawing the most deeply rooted icicles, but also reminding that sometimes it’s not until you begin to warm from the grip of winter’s chill that you realize just how frozen in place you were. The Portland from which Justin Ringle & Co. hail usually seems stuck in some wetted-down temperate midseason most of the time, never really reaching a point of release from a season.
But the cyclical passage of time gets its due in a song like “Belly of June”—haunting and hinting at the antipode of warmth, even as the days stretch longer. This music is the kind of evenly loping organic tunefulness that you might easily pass without notice, then later be mildly irritated by thistles gathered in the ankles of your socks, reminding that even in this world of synthetic shopping experiences, you can never completely escape the natural environment. (Kill Rock Stars)
Matt Pond PA, The Dark Leaves
Is there such thing as the unbearable lightness of being Matt Pond? One of the most cleverly titled releases so far this year, The Dark Leaves touches on thoughts seemingly autumnal, yet also somehow lightens if you read “Leaves” as a verb. But then Pond had to “leave” it all behind to record the album, retreating to a cabin outside Bearsville, New York. After the embellishments of some of his more recent work, it’s a brave move to let go of what seemed to work, yet became constricting.
Right out of the starting blocks, “Starting” is a song that’s so simple and celebratory to seem downright effortless. But it’s not really “starting” until into another song or two, and he has enough self-control that “Running Wild” isn’t really wild in the sense of undisciplined or untamed. This is an artist with the kind of assurance for whom genre labels like “pop” or “folk” are pretty much meaningless. And it’s just music, managing to be intelligent and fun and engaging to the point of contagious all at the same time, winning you over till you hit repeat, repeatedly. (Altitude Records)