21/30 experimental pop singer-songwriter

saya gray – 19 masters

For Saya Gray, ‘the listener’ is synonymous with ‘the confidante’. On her debut album, she employs off key tuning to sting erratic textures and quietly poignant lyrics. The revelatory, sensitive nature of the writing is a feat in itself: to have ownership of one’s feelings and spill them like jigsaw pieces. Gray’s mercurial sonic resources, […]

26/30 latin singer-songwriter

tim bernardes – mil coisas invisíveis

Tim Bernandes’ sophomore album drops beside us with an opener educing golden festival evenings and the passing sight of brown-bottled beer. The Brazilian eccentric plays with melody in a child-like, Paul McCartney-inspired, joy—there is simply so little to dislike about the way these tracks are constructed. The psychedelia that slinks around the album is purely […]

29/30 classic review rock singer-songwriter

smog – knock knock (1999)

“I feel light and strong,” Bill Callahan sings on ‘I Could Drive Forever’. His seventh LP under the ‘Smog’ moniker is, too, light and strong. So light and so strong that it remains one of the most intimate records of the 90s. Perhaps it is the smooth, road trip aesthetic, or the impression it gives […]

23/30 country folk indie/alternative singer-songwriter

angel olsen – big time

Because of the expected, exquisite vocal performance and tight instrumental accompaniment, ‘Big Time’ is deceptively weighty. Olsen’s precise country twang infects her players and glazes the record in nostalgia. Looking back with fidelity appears to be the artist’s aim: it’s a deeply-fought epistemic and emotional position. As such, the tracks take on a tone of […]

23/30 folk rock singer-songwriter

kevin morby – this is a photograph

Vocally, Kevin Morby is third in a list alongside Bob Dylan and Kurt Vile. It’s a funny list that I just invented called ‘Singer/songwriters that you want to sound like but aren’t sure why because they’re not vastly impressive’. This is a warm, astute record that demands mutual engagement. It is too light to be […]

30/30 classic review country rock singer-songwriter

lucinda williams – car wheels on a gravel road (1998)

With not a component out of place, CWOAGR unveiled the Southern world in which its singer loved and lived. The record was not made through the seamless beauty with which it arrived: it was hard-fought, re-thought, and endured. With a spiky purr, Lucinda spoke of life plainly and perfectly, while the colourful imagery she planted […]

23/30 jazz rock singer-songwriter

father john misty – chloë and the next 20th century

The other day, I heard a comedian explain why a spot-on impression is less funny than one delivered with imagination. In much the same way, indistinguishable mimicry of time-bound music is less compelling than cherry-picking from past and present. Josh Tillman addresses this with his writing, which fastens his unique sharpness to mid-century pomp. C&TN2C […]

28/30 classic review indie/alternative rock singer-songwriter

father john misty – pure comedy (2017)

Josh Tillman’s third album as FJM remains his most immense work. Where ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ (2015) displayed an unafraid personal commitment, ‘Pure Comedy’ looked outward at the loss of societal vitality. The record suggests that our innate struggles are now despairingly medicated by falsities, culminating in a self-delusion which precedes faux sanctimony and vrais […]

26/30 album of the week folk pop singer-songwriter

cmat – if my wife new i’d be dead

On ‘Communion’ CMAT grows older but confesses to feeling no wiser. Two wedding rings stand between ‘I’ and her lover on ‘Peter Bogdanovic’. And then to ‘I Don’t Really Care for You’ where our protagonist pinpoints the moment she becomes ‘hateful’. Country ballads exist, and survive, because they tell stories that leave us weeping into […]