All posts by the cricket

Neil Young ‘Hitchhiker’

Neil-Young-Hitchhiker-500x500

At long last, just over 40 years after it was recorded during a single August night in 1976, Neil Young’s Hitchhiker sees an official release. And what a release it is. Packed with known and loved songs, most of which have seen the light of day in one form or another over the years, Hitchhiker is pure, raw Neil– guitar, voice, harmonica, some piano, recorded straight through, excepting a few pauses for, according to his memoir Special Deluxe, “weed, beer, or coke.” Outside of stumbling upon him at some little known roadhouse bar, this is as raw and pure as it gets, and it’s worth rushing out to buy just to hear him roll through an acoustic version of “Powderfinger”. But then there’s the ever-enigmatic “Pocahontas”. The crushing “Give Me Strength”. The searching, wandering artist travelogue of the title track. And “Campaigner,” which draws a straight line from Nixon to our current Oompa-Loompa-in-Chief. Really, though, the pleasure is hearing the album as a whole piece, cover to cover, from the opening “You ready, Briggs?” to the last fading notes of “The Old Country Waltz”. Though the recordings have the feel and charm of demos, the album as a whole has the feeling of a fully realized vision, and you owe it to yourself– and to Neil– to hear it that way.

Hitchhiker is out now via Reprise and available pretty much anywhere you can buy music. Hook your local record store up with a few bucks, and yourself up with a great fuckin’ record.

Sam Baker ‘Land of Doubt’

sam baker land of doubt

Texas singer-songwriter Sam Baker is possessive of a singular voice, not just in the unique quality of his delivery– a sort of lean, half-spoken, slightly off-kilter drawl– but in his sparse, impressionistic poetic vision. With Land of Doubt, that vision is fully realized and wholly affecting. His talent as a writer has, over the years, drawn comparison to greats like Townes and Prine, but he also brings to mind, for me, favorites like Vic Chesnutt and Warren Zevon, if only because, like them (and Townes and Prine), his voice is so singular that he exists in a class all his own. (And I’d love to see him share a bill with Will Johnson. That show would fucking crush the audience.) He’s a true road poet, a troubadour, a lifer for the cause, who spins yarns of shadowed lives and spiritual yearning cast against austere arrangements, and the world he creates and the emotions he stirs with Land of Doubt resonate long after the last note rings out.

Land of Doubt is out now. Check it out at the Sam Baker website.

The Body & Full of Hell ‘Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light’

the body full of hell

This should be the collective sound of America right now. Pure, unrelenting, howling rage. Trump is not playing politics to avoid his base. He is not pandering to his base. Motherfucker is his base. Fuck that guy and the white power horse he rode in on.

Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is out on November 17 via Thrill Jockey Records. Check it out here.

Flying Fortress ‘Bitchwind’

flying fortress

Flying Fortress is singularly unique in how seamlessly they meld heavy metal and punk. Certain tracks (“Fast Mover” is a good example) feel like staring at one of those optical illusion drawings (e.g. “Is it a rabbit or a duck? I can only see one at a time! Is it morphing back and forth before my eyes? Could it be both at once? Is that even possible?!”).

Plus it’s just a hell of a lot of fun. Stoner metal overtones enter in on occasion as well… only to be layered with NWOBHM leads. And yet it all feels completely organic, catchy, and not confusing at all. Rockin’ good times.

Bitchwind is out now via Uncle D Records. Check it out at the Flying Fortress Bandcamp site.

Planning For Burial ‘Matawan – Collected Works 2010-2014’

planning for burial

As a follow up to Below the House, his third lp of dense, doom-y pavanes to solitude, Thom Wasluck, the man behind Planning For Burial, recently released Matawan. A collection of works recorded between his debut and sophomore lps, Matawan shines a light on the various musical incarnations of Wasluck’s beautifully dark vision. From floating drones to walls of thickly distorted anguish to crackling, hissing lo-fi soundscapes, there’s a thread of heavy sorrow– or is it simply tired resignation?– woven through each work that ties the collection together. And despite the weight of it all, there’s catharsis to be found in the experience of moving through it as a listener. Hopefully, there’s also catharsis found in the creation. (Otherwise, I worry a bit for the creator. Dude’s got a heavy soul.)

Matawan is out now via The Flenser. Check it out here.