Jesca Hoop: Memories Are Now
Today’s column is part two of two featuring some great songwriters with noteworthy releases in the early part of this year. Last week was the gents turn, this week I’ve got four wonderful women wordsmiths. It’s always good to see repeat customers here the RecommNeds, artists that keep getting bigger and better. I fell in love with Jesca Hoop a few years back, and that love continues to grow with her latest, Memories Are Now. Produced by and occasionally featuring Blake Mills, Hoop dazzles with wit and melody, fantastical stories and a nice blend of instrumentation and textures. Nine tracks, you’ll have trouble picking your favorite.
Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness
Another returning voice to this space is Julie Byrne who recently released the kind of album that’s officially a “follow-up” but feels more like an arrival. To record Not Even Happiness, apparently, Byrne returned home to her native Buffalo, New York after a long, somewhat nomadic absence and the songs certainly have that personal-journey resonance to them. Fully subscribing to the simplest-is-best philosophy, Byrne is revelatory with just her mid-range voice and sprinklings of acoustic guitar. Beautifully sparse, this is the good stuff. Enjoy!
Pieta Brown: Postcards
Pieta Brown has the lineage (her father is Greg Brown), for sure, but her sound is really all her own. And while her newest album, Postcards, features a load of guests, a different set for each track, including Mark Knopfler, Carrie Rodriguez, Calexico and more, it is Brown’s Americana-ready voice that carries the record. Reportedly, the songs were recorded by the accompanying guests returning invitations to participate with musical RSVP’s, “postcards” to/from Brown on the road. The mood is therefore kind of together-but-alone, a sad sort of country-folk that hits you right in that spot.
Sallie Ford: Soul Sick
If the sad-and-weepy thing doesn’t fit your present mood, perhaps you’d dig a little Sallie Ford. While the album is called Soul Sick and maybe the lyrics are rather personal and not the happiest, Ford’s vintage-old-school rock ‘n’ roll sound is as triumphant as ever. Her voice has a built-in sneer that’s tough to resist and, on her second album since setting out on her own, Ford confidently balances vulnerability with a you-gotta-problem-with-that? energy.