Staff Picks: July

Will Donelson
Assistant Editor
Artist: I Am Kloot
Album: Sky at Night
Comments: So it took me years of listening to this album on Spotify to actually buy it. And you know what? It’s odd to say, but… I think this album is structurally perfect. Every song is as long as and placed exactly where it needs to be, and it’s just so rewarding to listen to. Each song is characterized well and leaves such a distinct impression that it feels like you’ve taken a journey by the time the last song rolls to a stop. A wonderfully painted picture of the sky at night.

John Beringer
Artist: Light for Fire
Album: Light For Fire
Comments: Comprised partially of former members from garage rock band The Village Green, Light for Fire is a nearly unknown Portland folk project whose self-titled 2010 debut (and only recording) continues to rise to the top of my collection. It is there I dote on it and hope it catches “fire” with other folks who aspire to find diamonds in the rough. This is a rare record that combines good rock and roll songwriting with amazingly smart, damn-near-literary lyrics that you want to hear loud and clear. As singer J. Nicholas Allard spews prose about love, loss and the substances we use to try and forget, I find myself in awe of his lyrical presence while having a hell of a good time bobbing my head along to the rhythm. Listen to “Where I Was Born,” “NY (By The Hand)” or “The Letters” to get a feel for them and spread the word about this band that flew right under everyone’s radar.

Josh Gripton
Artist: Machine Head
Album: Unto the Locust
Comments: In a world where artists succumb more and more to tight releasing schedules and are under pressure to please old fans whilst simultaneously experimenting with new material, it’s rare for bands a decade or more into their career to be making their best music to date. Thank the metal gods, then, for Machine Head who, with last years Unto The Locust, proved that it pays to wait between releases. Robb Flynn’s vocals shift from growls to heartfelt tenors. The complicated guitar arrangements of “I Am Hell” shift to the fist-pounding chorus of “Locust,” and it’s all backed up by groove metal riffs in full, skull-shattering force. This is the album that, along with Mastodon’s The Hunter, managed to save my 2011, clearing my ears from the waxy buildup that inevitably occurs with twelve months of My Chemical Romance’s “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na).” Machine Head truly show no signs of slowing down.

Justin Wesley
Artist: Icarus Himself
Album: Career Culture
Comments: Icarus Himself’s Career Culture is the personal statement of frontman and songwriter Nick Whetro’s defining transition from a young, downtrodden, factory-working Hoosier into a full-blooded man using his musical gifts to carve out a passionate living and worthwhile life. On Career Culture, the band (Whetro, Karl Christenson, Brad Kolberg) utilize that autobiographical story line as a wholly fulfilling arc to an album that opens with graveyard shift monotony (“Go / Go / It’s time to do it all over again”) on “Wake Up,” and closes with the undeniable hope for the future with “Used to Be.”

It’s a three-act powerhouse that’s deceptively subtle on first listen, but the sonic layers, intelligent musicianship and world of sounds unique to every song bleed kaleidoscopic colors on the surface on deeply rewarding future listens. If you’ve worn out In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, can’t get enough Kurt Vile or Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s or have been addicted to Father John Misty’s excellent Fear Fun, give this Madison, WI a legitimate shot.

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