THE THIRD solo album from Craig Finn, frontman of US rock’n’roll heroes The Hold Steady, is arguably his best yet.
Finn has written 10 beautifully crafted short stories dealing with the mysteries of love, drug deals and the struggle just to get by in 21stcentury America — think Bruce Springsteen singing the Richmond Fontaine songbook.
With its catchy-as-hell flute riff, lead single Preludes is an enthralling tale of returning to your hometown after college where “things had progressed and got strange.” Jester & June, equally as compelling, opens with squealing brass.
Best of all, though, is the record’s centrepiece, the spoken-word God in Chicago. With shades of Van Morrison’s Coney Island, Finn tells a heartbreaking tale of a dead friend and unfinished business “roughly the size of a baseball.”
Little by Little
ACTIVE from 1996-2007, Australian indie-folk duo Sodastream released four albums, were endorsed by John Peel and toured Europe, the United States and Japan.
Ten years later and they are back with Little by Little, a classy set of literate pop songs that make their home somewhere between the work of their fellow critically acclaimed countrymen the Go-Betweens and indie darlings Belle and Sebastian.
With the core of the music created by Pete Cohen’s double bass and Karl Smith’s lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Moving and the Mountain Goats-sounding single Three Sins — apparently about paedophilic Catholic priests — add some stirring strings to the mix.
Elsewhere, the first couple of minutes of the electrified Tyre Iron sound like an orchestra tuning up before the track leaps into gear and builds a memorable momentum.
Infused with some beautiful melodies, these are songs to fall in love with.
Digging a Tunnel
THE DEBUT album from producer Joel Westberg, Digging a Tunnel is a superior slice of laid-back hip-hop-influenced electronica.
Having studied jazz saxophone in his native Sweden and played in Mali and South Africa, Wastberg plays nearly every instrument except for Bomping’s woozy harmonica and the bagpipes on the blissful A Minor Life.
He cites a bewildering range of influences, including My Bloody Valentine, The Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone, Thomas Mapfumo and the jazz-fusion group Mahavishnu Orchestra.
The songs, full of immersive noises and layers, sound great.
There are field recordings of maracas playing in Mexico and flutes and birdsong on the organic closer Sunsets Sunrises.
But, like much of the glut of indietronica music overrunning Bandcamp right now, while the record is clearly the work of a talented individual it won’t set the world of popular music on fire.