Truthfully, before hearing them, the last genre I had LA-based duo The Milk Carton Kids pegged as was “folk.” However, I hardly mind being wrong when it’s because of an album as unique as The Ash & Clay.
The album takes a rather simplistic concept, that being two men and two guitars, but the duo’s solid musicianship means the final product’s anything but shallow. As a whole, it oozes a frontiers-y charm that really sets it apart, giving airs of a modern take on very traditional American music.
It really comes out swinging, too, with an awfully memorable riff to kick off the mild, slightly melancholic ‘Hope of a Lifetime.’ The slow, calm feeling continues through “Snake Eyes,” before the bite-sized “Honey, Honey” picks up the pace significantly with its faster tempo and rather aggressive guitar work. The upshift only lasts for that short bit, however, as the hauntingly beautiful “Years Gone By” brings it back down to Earth with another dose of melancholy. Coming up next is the titular song, which balances its fun, lighthearted instrumentation with some depressing lyrical content. The first half of the album rolls to a gentle stop with the very slow, contemplative “Promised Land.”
“The Jewel of June” showcases more impressive guitar work, with another memorable intro riff and, at the halfway point of the song, a brief but fantastic solo. It’s followed up by “Whisper in Her Ear” which is the only song on the album that is not particularly memorable. ‘On the Mend’ evokes a lonely, nostalgic feel as the usually strong guitar sounds of “The Ash & Clay” take a backseat and tone it way down to allow the vocals to take center stage. A personal favorite is “Heaven” which takes the quick pace of “Honey, Honey” and dials it up even further, leading to a wholly enjoyable experience. The contemplative, hopeful ‘Hear Them Loud’ follows up and provides a good set-up for a solid album ender. That closer is “Memphis,” which strikes me as having a very different sound than the rest of the album in its construction that is rather light on guitar play but is nevertheless fantastic.
Even if you’ve little or no experience with folk in the past, The Ash & Clay is absolutely worth a try, as Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan have put together something with a captivating uniqueness and beautiful sound. The Ash & Clay is available starting on March 26th from Anti- Records.
Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP
Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.
Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.
Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.
Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.
Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.
The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.
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Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”
Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.
Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”
Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.
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