Wild Mountain Nation
Tired of purchasing, like, six different albums to get your fix of endlessly enjoyable stylistic indulgences? Look no further than the third full-length release from Portland's latest superstars, an immaculate musical elixir. In thirteen tracks, Wild Mountain Nation nails at least a half dozen of the tastier styles of the past few decades. Title track? The Band could have written it. Salinger nod aside, "Miss Spiritual Tramp" begins as driving sludge briefly detoured by harmonica. "Wild Mtn. Jam," at 64 seconds, is about as much bluegrass as some listeners can take. Beautiful noise? Try the silly titled "Woof & amp; Warp of the Quiet Giant's Hem." The slide guitar, however, of "Country Caravan" is absolutely flawless.
If nothing strikes your fancy here, something is a bit askew. The breezy, summery appeal makes for perfect boozy patio accompaniment, croquet-party soundtrack, or all things in between. Indulge, at the absolute minimum, indulgently.
-- CAREY MURPHY
Download: "Murder Babe"
The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers recall The Violent Femmes, as Scott (banjo/voice), Seth (guitar/voice), and non-brother Bob Crawford (bass/voice) pack powerful momentum into stripped-down, acoustic arrangements.
Emotionalism's American-made back porch tunes -- at turns delicate and driving (courtesy Scott's urgent, no-brow banjo strumming) -- are easy on the ears. Their structure tests verse/chorus/verse traditionalism, taking lyrical shapes that leave some songs extra-short and others with unexpected tangents. It is a wise move, because the lungs of Scott and Seth Avett are Emotionalism's heart. Neither tries to sing pretty, but they can't help it; their keening harmonies cut straight to the marrow, hitting especially hard with the brutal honesty of lyrics like, "My heart was always fairly cold / Posing to be as warm as yours / My way of getting in your world." Emotionalism's raw, um, emotionalism is bracing, simple, poetic, and -- foiled against such comforting sounds -- subversive.
-- ANDREW MATSON
DOWNLOAD: "Paranoia in B Flat Major"