After two charmingly experimental EPs, Seattle’s Western Haunts go full-length with a set of songs that are all things Seattle.
There are folksy songs wrapped in layers of gossamer shoegaze and dream-pop songs that erupt into ringing, post-rock guitar smackdowns.
It’s the Fleet Foxes meeting Frightened Rabbit for a woozy all-nighter with Mogwai and Beach House.
What the songs are about is anyone’s guess. Leader Jake Witt’s vocals are so wrapped in gauzy reverb, it’s hard to make out the words.
“Limbs are growing numb / Line your pockets son,” he may or may not be singing in “TV Glow.”
It hardly matters. Witt’s soaring tenor can sound like Stevie Nicks standing on her toes, which suits these dreamy songs. And the band is so good at constructing songs like “Novocaine” and “Magazines” — laying guitars over driving drums and synthesizer drones and occasionally Witt’s whistles — that it’s impossible not to get swept away.
Southern Grounds Records
Yes, it’s country, and yes it ends with a blazing cover of “War Pigs.”
It’s pure Levi Lowrey, who like his buddy Zac Brown, has dialed in a brand of country that really rocks. And, not like .38 Special or the Byrds or the Eagles. But like Black Sabbath, with a mandolin and a thing for pretty girls at a Southern church picnic.
The album comes out swinging with “Picket Fences,” a song about a man wrestling with his failures. Then comes “Trying Not to Die” and the Peaches-era Allman Brothers-flavored “December 31,” a song about the trade-offs of another year gone by.
As deep as the Georgia-born Lowrey piles on the clichés in some songs — “Crosses to bear/ bridges to cross” and “Feel the calm after the storm” appear in the same song — he’s such a passionate singer that you’re willing to forgive him.
It also helps that Lowery is fronting a top-flight Nashville session band that includes fiddler Ross Holmes from Mumford and Sons’ touring band. It’s a band that never let’s you catch your breath, even when the songs stick closer to traditional country and even when Lowrey sings overtly religious ballads like “High and Lonesome” and “Before the Hymnal Died.”
“Single Subject Notebook”
Melanie Devaney has been poking around the edges of Americana stardom for a long time.
Raised in Iowa, she now lives in Los Angeles, which adds a sunniness that suits her songs of vulnerable but triumphant women.
So far, Devaney’s been playing festivals like the Sturgis biker rally and the tiny Nowoodstock in Ten Sleep, Wyo. She had a good run on the Colgate Country Showdown talent search, which recently was hosted by LeAnn Rimes.
With her third solo album, Devaney goes all in. The guitarist and classically trained pianist hired producer Jamie Candiloro, who has put a much-needed shine on albums for artists like Ryan Adams and Lisa Germano. The album was mixed by Stephen Marcussen, who won a Grammy for his work with Gillian Welch.
That polish pushes Devaney’s terrific voice way out front on light, twangy rockers like “Carry My Guitar” and “Oh, Adam.” And she’s never sounded better on sweet little ballads like “Playin’ Make Believe” and the pedal-steel sweetened “One Little Teardrop,” which should be playing on every country radio station in America.
And she dismisses any doubt she’s ready for the big leagues with a country soul reworking of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.”