We untangle this week's new releases and debate which tunes are worth listening to, so you don't have to
Monsters Of Folk
3/5 Monsters Of Folk Monsters Of Folk have named themselves aptly: not only does the group consist of larger-than-life ‘monsters’ of indie rock, but the collective that formed in 2004 has opted for a certain brand of poppy folk for its self-titled debut. The Monster who roars the loudest is Conor Oberst, the disc’s anchor. His gloomy, adolescent croon spearheads the finest songs – ‘Temazcal’, ‘Man Named Truth’ and ‘Ahead Of The Curve’ – which rival his best twangy work with Bright Eyes.
So what of the other Monsters? My Morning Jacket’s Jim James – who, according to the liner notes, has extended his recent adoption of a new moniker, Yim Yames – is always a welcome supporting addition, if no revelation as a centerpiece (one song he fronts, ‘Magic Marker’, is so cheesy it hurts). Still, the man could sing the dictionary and his piercing, bellowing howl would amaze.
M Ward, on the other hand, continues to underwhelm here; the songs he helms are predictably dull. He’d nearly ruin Monsters Of Folk if he weren’t so innocuous (the fourth member, Mike Mogis, sticks mostly to instrumentation and production).
The result is a pop-folk mash, less too many cooks spoiling the broth and more a bluegrass festival-ending sing-along. Just please: everyone clear the way so Oberst can take another solo. Colin St. John Available to buy online.
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
4/5 Kitty, Daisy & Lewis Nearly half a century ago, art-school kids in turtlenecks rocked Elmore James ditties in dinky English clubs. More recently, Amy Winehouse, buried under a Supremes beehive and Maybelline, belted Detroit soul in the face of robotic R&B. We should be used to Brits stealing and reviving American by now. But there’s still something pleasantly surprising and audacious about three teenage siblings from London, children of a recording engineer and a former post-punk drummer, finger-snappin’ and hootin’ their way through a batch of pre-JFK rockabilly, hillbilly and luau tunes.
Not a drop of modernity can be heard in Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham; they gleefully play their bare-bones Memphis blues with a chemistry that can only come from years of a family huddling around the piano to jam on nickel-and-dime-store instruments. Banjo, harmonica, upright bass and ukulele bop and pluck as if Elvis shaking in a grass skirt somehow brought the space-time continuum to a standstill. Only the guitar uses electricity. With Yma Sumac eyes and a stuffed-sinuses howl, Kitty, not even out of high school, handles ‘Got My Mojo Working’ like a hard-drinking blues festival veteran. Lewis, the aesthete who collects antique microphones, ensures everything sounds as if it was recorded in a barn.
Most importantly, it’s an undeniable blast. People haven’t sounded this excited about Hawaii (‘Honolulu Rock-a Roll-a’, ‘Swinging Hawaii’) since the state joined the union. By record’s end, we were ready to trade in our plasma TV and iPhone for a ukulele. Maybe the Americans should get their kids to start skiffle bands as thanks. Brent DiCrescenzo Available to buy online.