Built to Spill - Untethered Moon, 2015 - 9.2

Built to Spill is one of those bands that just keeps getting better with age. It’s always my fear that when a band I like releases something new, I’m going to be disappointed with their desire to match past efforts. This is especially the case when it’s a band that has been around for awhile - I guess once you hit a certain level of commercial success, it’s easy to veer from what got you there in the first place.

Well, in this particular scenario - that is not the case. Built to Spill’s original, seasoned sound exudes confidence and understanding of what their fans want to hear. They recognize that the way to set yourself apart in a genre that is constantly shifting and reshaping itself is to remain committed to your roots. In their latest effort, Untethered Moon, they do just that and are unafraid, unapologetic, and unwilling to mold into whatever Alt-Grunge-Rock-Crossover category you want to place them in. With Doug Martch at the helm, Built to Spill will always be a equal parts relatable and mysterious. But as long as they keep on rocking, consider me a listener.

Track Alert: THE BLUE NILE - 7 AM - Four Stars

If a heavy bass and synth build up is your thing, check this track out by The Blue Nile. Groovy to the core, the song will have you unapologetically bopping your head like no ones business. What's great though about this song is how just as you think it's all dying down, it extends past the bridge into a 2 minute riff fest, with each instrument taking a go. For fans of New Order, Talking Heads, and Television.

 

RL BURNSIDE - A BOTHERED MIND, 2004 - 8.6

A Bothered Mind, RL Burnside’s 2004 release on Fat Possum Records, pleasantly succeeds in bringing even the casual blues fan a truly knockout listening experience. Unlike his earlier, more traditional blues albums, this one has a certain tinge to it that can only be attributed to the use of electronic instrumentation. Burnside carries the blues torch into the 21st century with an thirteen track record rich in blues and american roots, with a little help from some modern and culturally relevant lyricism.

Case in point - ‘My Name is Robert, Too’ feels more like a hip hop tune than anything. Alongside a heavy piano riff, Burnside features Kid Rock (which actually makes for some pretty good trivia, as Kid Rock’s given name is also Robert). Tracks ‘Goin Down South’ and ‘Someday Baby feature rapper, Lyrics Born. Sure, there are moments that feel experimental and slightly perverse, though at the core, the album’s emotional undercurrent is far from diluted.

JESSICA LEA MAYFIELD - MAKE MY HEAD SING, 2014 - 8.4

Out of the gate, Jessica Lea Mayfield’s 2014 effort ‘Make My Head Sing’ hits the listener with a raw sound that’d make even Jack White and Karen O giddy. This is her first without The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on the helm of production, and shows a different side of her that hadn’t been heard on earlier albums. The stripped down bass, in tandem with Mayfield’s droll, hypnotic singing creates a comfortable ambience. This is a new Mayfield - one that isn’t afraid to go outside of her comfort zone and blend musical stylings to create her sound.

The record has a certain cadence that we’d come to expect from a singer/songwriter of her stature. Each song builds upon the previous, and the album’s heartbeat grows stronger with each sound layer placed on. Mayfield along with a tight backing band, places you in the gray area between dream-like trance and garage rock. If this effort is any indication of Mayfield’s evolving style and technique, then I can’t wait to see how she’ll help to shape the musical landscape around her.