Just as summer was starting, 19 year old Lindsey Jordan’s debut album as Snail Mail was released by Matador Records. Matador is a fitting label for Lush as it recalls early 90s “slacker” bands like Pavement and Jale. Growing up in Maryland, Jordan was a big hockey fan and player, the sport features prominently in the video for second single “Heatwave” whose upbeat chorus and crunching guitars are one of the finest moments on the album.
Jordan’s deadpan delivery doesn’t change much over the course of the melancholy ten tracks. On first single, “Pristine” it is used to great effect as she delivers the lines “it just feels like the same party every weekend…and if you do find someone better/I’ll still see you in everything”. The drum fills and tambourine on “Let’s Find An Out” add a subtle dimension to the song. “Speaking Terms” features a nice guitar line with drums punched up in the mix. Elsewhere, Lush is an album where the singles are certainly a step above the other tracks. With four very good songs, Snail Mail has a lot to grow on.
The latest album for Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, is not without controversy. The Wanderer is her first album since 1996 not released on Matador Records who rejected the new album when presented. This lead to a delay of over a year but resulted in a positive when first single “Woman” with Lana Del Rey was added. The defiant track features Cat Power and Del Rey duetting on verses and blending their voices during the chorus.
This is a spare, blues and folk record. Often times Cat Power is just accompanied by a guitar, piano and other light instrumentation. The title track is almost hymn like, solemn and reflective. “Horizon” is a letter to the family and features an uplifting guitar line that feels like it’s building but never quite gets there. Second single “Stay” is a cover of a Rhianna track that Marshall heard while travelling in a cab. Self-produced, The Wanderer is the record that Marshall wanted to make. Quiet and personal, it is one that as it unfolds over the nearly 40 minutes is unfortunately hard to not have the mind start to wander as well.
After the commercial failure of the first Simon & Garfunkel album, Wednesday Morning, 3AM, Paul Simon retreated to England to play theatres and folk clubs. It was there with just a microphone and acoustic guitar that Simon recorded the tracks that would form The Paul Simon Songbook. The album combines tracks from the S&G debut and others that would appear on future releases.
Classic tracks that appear is the first recording of the effective young man angst “I Am a Rock”, a version of “The Sound of Silence” where Simon practically spits out the first lines and a beautiful rendition of “Kathy’s Song”. Other highlights include the Billy Bragg inspiration in “Leaves That Are Green” and vocal charm of “April She Will Come”. The unfortunate Dylan parody of “A Simple Desultory Philippic…” is dreadful but is redeemed by the lyrical wordplay of “Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall”
The sound of the album can be brittle and stark at times, a lone performer sitting on a stool with just a white spotlight upon them. There is little warmth or texture but Simon is in fine vocal form singing songs from the heart. This is an essential recording as Paul Simon finds his voice and performs tracks that would become beloved the world over in just a few short years.