Music » Album Reviews

A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Sturgill Simpson, and Smoke Fairies


A Sunny Day in Glasgow

Sea When Absent

Lefse Records

File next to: School of Seven Bells, Lilys

If A Sunny Day in Glasgow's Ben Daniels wasn't such a happy transcendentalist, his band might resemble the more angst-ridden Dirty Projectors. On Sea When Absent, Daniels serves as conductor and master of ceremonies, while allowing Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma (the latter of whom has played with Pains of Being Pure at Heart) to set the tone with their unique harmonies. The album describes an environmental apocalypse, but is infused with quirky joy instead of doom. Lyrics and song titles sport the whimsy of Frank Zappa, and ideas explode in all directions. Some music critics already count Sea When Absent among the year's best, though the sheer density of ideas can overwhelm in the manner of Oneida or Todd Rundgren. Think of the album as an international experiment in writing "exquisite corpse" poetry — a little chaotic, but fulfilling. — Loring Wirbel


Sturgill Simpson

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

High Top Mountain

File next to: Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson

In the '70s, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and a bunch of folks in Austin led a short-lived "progressive country" movement. With his sophomore album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill Simpson picks up the torch, creating something that might be called "acid country" if it wasn't so traditional in some ways. Simpson, who sounds a lot like Waylon, kicks off the record with "Turtles All The Way Down," a "marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT"-inspired soul-searching shuffle with lyrics about "reptile aliens made of light." Ever trippier is "It Ain't All Flowers," a spooky, yelp-filled little number about dancing with the demons that's part swirling psych-rock and part honky tonk. Yet "Long White Line" would fit on a George Jones record, and "A Little Light" is full-on gospel country. All without one word about pickups, beer or country roads. — L. Ken Wolgamott


Smoke Fairies

Smoke Fairies

Full Time Hobby

File next to: She Keeps Bees, Caitlin Rose, Cate Le Bon

Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies' sound on the first three Smoke Fairies albums was unlike that of any other female duo, a driving harmonic folk-blues that's instantly haunting and recognizable. This fourth, eponymous album, however, opens with "We've Seen Birds," a rocking electronic number influenced by EDM. Only by the seventh song, "Misty Versions," is there a return to the Smoke Fairies' banshee wail. It's the tactic of brave artists: Not only do Smoke Fairies insist on trying out new sounds, they also throw down the gauntlet at the very start of the album, forcing listeners to come to terms with a new direction. Some might walk away; most will recognize that Smoke Fairies are deep scholars of musical genres who want to grow their craft while demanding a bit of analysis and faith from the congregation. — Loring Wirbel

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