Here's To Taking It Easy
Phosphorescent is based around main man Matthew Houck, and on this fifth studio album they enter a rather lovely indie folk space. Emulating Great Lake Swimmers if fronted by Iron and Wine's Sam Beam, this is laid back, harmonic and gentle - music that could have been recorded at any time in the past 40 years.
Houck's voice has a wonderful plaintive quality - strong and vulnerable at the same time. A song like We'll Be Here Soon is gorgeous, laid out like a landscape - any fan of Fleet Foxes would find a lot to love in here. Occasionally the band head into Neil Young/ The Band space (The Mermaid Parade), although it is a reflective Neil Young rather than the rock-heavy one. The band's previous album, Pride (the Willie Nelson covers album aside), was a record that took time to grow but when it did it had its hooks in everywhere. Here's To Taking It Easy is a lovely build on Pride.
ACE rating 8/10
Surfer Blood are a band from West Palm Beach, Florida, and follows the new movement in bands that hark back to a 70s sound. Here, they embrace 70s summer pop to produce a sound like Weezer mixed with Girls. The quartet also, in deriving their Weezer references, manage to sound like some Nick Hayward 80s bands. Ultimately, mixing in the trendy Afrobeat (Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend) and eclectic sounds (a bit of dosie-do here, a bit of New Romantic there, produces an uneven record - the kind of record that you'd like to like, but that fails to achieve anything memorable once the last song has gone. The band seem to have hooked into a nice wave of hype, which may do them no favours in the long run, as the music just isn't completely there yet.
ACE rating 7/10
Not Even In July
Let’s face it – even the hardest critic of hippy folk would find a lot to like in Fleet Foxes. Well, those same parts make up most of what makes Not Even In July special. Jesse Marchant, an actor turned singer-songwriter, who goes under his initials, sings in a sweet, gentle voice over relaxed lovely melody. A Canadian by birth, Not Even In July was recorded in a church studio, whose atmospherics add a gorgeous ambience to the lazily swelling dynamics and the echoes. Like fellow Canadians Great Lake Swimmers, Marchant’s music has an intimacy that reminds the listener of early Neil Young, Jackson Browne or Rickie Lee Jones. With material covering subjects such as the perfect July On The Sound, written for a dying friend, Marchant is a match for our own Stephen Fretwell – a band is used to fill out the songs without ruining their delicacy and elegance. As a first album, this is an immense small effort.
ACE rating 9/10