Megan Reilly/John Wesley Harding
Memphis songwriter Megan Reilly will release
her first album in six years, Tuesday on Carrot Top Records. The album contains seven examples of Reilly's knack for writing hauntingly evocative, elementally lovely songs, backed by a band featuring members of the Mekons and Pere Ubu. There's also an ideally suited cover of Iris DeMent's mortality-confronting "After You're Gone," and a gorgeous duet with John Wesley Harding on "The Old Man & the Bird," written by the most charmingly erudite English novelist/troubadour living in Philadelphia. On Friday night, Reilly will precede Harding on stage at the Tin Angel in Old City, and she'll do the same thing Saturday afternoon as a part of a seven-act, free Record Store Day show at Main Street Music in Manayunk.
- Dan DeLuca
She calls her new album "my musical crossroad," but Nanci Griffith has always worked at the place where folk and country meet. And that's what she does again on the typically sublime Intersection. The 58-year-old Texas native teams with some old pals, the like-minded Kennedys - Pete and Maura - who provide most of the acoustic-based accompaniment. Griffith exudes tender grace on ballads like the self-penned title track and Blaze Foley's "If I Could Only Fly," but she can also crank it up, as she does on the rock-edged "Bad Seed" and "Hell No (I'm Not Alright)," the latter with an "I Fought the Law"-like electric guitar riff. Those last two numbers echo the feistiness of Loretta Lynn, and Griffith fittingly concludes with the country queen's "High on a Mountaintop."
- Nick Cristiano
The Drums' breakout hit, 2009's "Let's Go Surfing," was a sun-kissed gem of naive and cheery vocal harmonies, a catchy, whistled melody, and bopping guitar chords. Their follow-up debut album the next year retained this idyllic, AM-radio inspired '60s pop, combining the wide appeal of bands like the Strokes and the Killers with the quirks of indie acts like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. With their 2011 sophomore album release
they abandoned the Beach Boys in favor of a more melancholic, synth-driven sound. Yet even this wistful album retains the group's emphasis on pop hooks and clean rhythms, as demonstrated in the bubbling keyboards and understated guitar hooks dotting the album's many minor-key tunes.
- Katherine Silkaitis
Allo Darlin' were charmingly twee from the outset. The London band's 2010 self-titled debut featured chipper, unfailingly tuneful songs with heartfelt, wide-eyed lyrics filled with pop-music allusions, witty turns of phrase, and infectious optimism. The follow-up,
is even better: It is more confident and jangly, featuring more Rickenbacker and less ukulele. Elizabeth Morris, an Australian transplant, still writes with an innocent sincerity, and she constantly hits that sweet spot where the headlong rush of a power-pop melody matches the euphoric rush of a new love affair, often recalling the best of Camera Obscura, the Sundays, and early Belle & Sebastian. "I'm wondering if I've already heard all the songs that'll mean something?" Morris muses wistfully, after name-checking the Go-Betweens and the Maytalls in "Tallulah." The question should be rhetorical: She's writing songs that can creep into your heart.
- Steve Klinge