Damien Jurado is one of those songwriters that all songwriters know and love, but who is all-but-unknown to the public here in the UK.
With an ability to write a genuinely affecting song, and deliver it in a vulnerable, sweet voice, and then do it another 11 times on the same record, his under-recognition is unfair.
On his tenth studio album, Saint Bartlett sees him return to form after the variable Caught In The Trees. Produced by (the excellent in his own right) Richard Swift, Saint Bartlett is a bleaker, quieter more honest affair, which suits him right down to the ground - he is not an arranger, just a very very good storyteller, and there are some wonderful stories here. As a way into Damien Jurado, there are no better places to start.
ACE rating 8/10
Band of Horses
It is hard to escape the view here that, as so often, Band of Horses gave us their best on their first record, and struggled with the follow-up. Everything All The Time was a stunning debut, with Cease To Begin retreading the same basic formula. Infinite Arms' problems can be traced to the line of the press release that is supposed to make it sound grand: "Produced by Band of Horses with additional production from Phil Ek, mixed by Dave Sardy, and recorded over a 16-month period, the songs on Infinite Arms project the essence of the different locales across America that became the setting for the recording and songwriting process behind the album." For that, read, the band have no musical direction any more and recorded anything that sounded like a song over a 1 year period… Infinite Arms is fine Americana, proving that the band can intrinsically make an ordinary song sound nice. But that is all it is.
ACE rating 5/10
No-one can say I didn't try. Having heard so many glowing reviews of this band, it was hard to go in not expecting the saviours of British music. Ultimately, what Beachcomber's Windowsill provides is a nice enough set of songs - folky, poppy, like an upbeat Mumford and Sons. What it does't really provide is any substance to challenge better bands like Frightened Rabbit. There is every chance that your 50 year old uncle is dancing around his Poggenpohl kitchen to Stornoway right now, so nice and middle class does this sound - the beachcomber of the album title may well be there for a nice week in Padstow. At the end of the day, 'nice' shouldn't be a bad word to use in a review, but caution should be exercised for anyone else drawn into the hype - that's pretty much all there is in here.
ACE rating 7/10