Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now

Reverb-heavy surf rock, country from Neko Case's bandmate, and the best cellist in pop.

By Jonathan Keefe

Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Jonathan Keefe, whose writing has appeared at Slant Magazine and Country Universe. He regrets that he does not have a forthcoming book to plug.

 

1. Dex Romweber Duo, Is That You in the Blue?

Dexter Romweber's influence is all over some of the biggest acts in rock music today; The White Stripes, The Kills, and The Black Keys are just some of the direct descendants of his time as frontman for Flat Duo Jets. Is That You in the Blue? is Romweber's second album with his sister Sara, and it matches or surpasses most of those bands (all of whom I like) in terms of ambition. The record is firmly rooted in the blues, but its best cuts push beyond formalism, offering surf-rock that's swathed in heavy reverb and some demon-possessed rockabilly.

Listen: "Jungle Drums"

 

 

2. Matraca Berg, The Dreaming Fields

Berg falls into the same camp as Kelly Willis, Kim Richey, Mandy Barnett, and Shelby Lynne: women who should be absolutely huge stars in country music but weirdly aren't. It makes especially little sense in Berg's case, seeing how she's written signature songs for the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill, and Deana Carter. But stardom just didn't happen for Berg, and The Dreaming Fields is her first album since 1997. She lost none of her songwriting prowess during that absence, and The Dreaming Fields is a testament both to Berg's singular talent and to the insight and real intelligence that the best country music offers.

Listen: "If I Had Wings"

 

 

3. Delicate Steve, Wondervisions

I don't typically go for instrumental records, but Delicate Steve's debut really emphasizes melody in a way that I can get on board with. It's an album of brilliantly constructed modern pop songs, and Wondervisions doesn't go all math rock or get bogged down in effects the way Battles or Holy Fuck can. The arrangements have some actual heft to them, but the melodies are always light and nimble. It's my favorite debut album of the year thus far.

Listen: "Don't Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)"

 

 

4. Ben Sollee, Inclusions

One of the things that I love about cellist Ben Sollee is that he doesn't use his primary instrument as some kind of gimmick, like some artists who play instruments that are rare in pop music do. Inclusions is a terrific, unassuming pop record by someone who just happens to play the cello. The songs come first, and Sollee's writing is sharp and his voice is pure and soulful. I'll admit to my bias in that Sollee is from Kentucky like me and I know several of the musicians who contributed to the record, but Inclusions is fully deserving of the national-scale acclaim it has earned.

Listen: "The Globe"

 

 

5. Kelly Hogan & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Beneath the Country Underdog

Known for singing back-up for Neko Case on tour, Kelly Hogan, like Case, has one of my absolute favorite voices. Beneath the Country Underdog is the strongest of her solo records, and it includes covers of a few classic country tunes and of a few songs that should be classic country tunes, including a flat-out gorgeous version of the Magnetic Fields' "Papa Was a Rodeo." Hogan's just a powerhouse singer, and Case's fans would do well to check out this album.

Listen: "A Mighty Thin Line (Between Love and Hate)"

 

 

Commentarium (13 Comments)

Jul 26 11 - 3:44am
K

awesome list! finally some good new, interesting music!
thanks!

Jul 26 11 - 6:59am
CeeCEE

I like Sollee's lyrics,they're clever :)

Jul 26 11 - 12:18pm
balls

Best list yet. Although I am bored by instrumentals.

Jul 26 11 - 1:43pm
Pah.

Ben Sollee! Lublublub

Jul 26 11 - 2:58pm
Felchy McSnoball

I think this section should be re-titled: Five Albums You'll be Glad You Didn't Buy! I always am!

Jul 26 11 - 4:36pm
julian.

Or "five albums Flechy won't like"

Jul 27 11 - 8:03am
Amelie

That Delicate Steve was pure joy. Nice!

Jul 28 11 - 12:03pm
Jonathan

Glad to see that most of the commenters are digging these. I know anything in the ballpark of country and instrumentals can be a hard sell.

Jul 29 11 - 12:18pm
Vin

Great list! Thanks! Just bought three of the five!

Jul 30 11 - 4:36am
jerry dsds

amazing list thanks alot

Jul 30 11 - 1:59pm
Meltoe

I recently purchased the Ben Sollee & Delicate Steve albums and LOVE them both! Thanks so much for the great recommendations!!!

Aug 24 11 - 6:37am
rtyecript

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Aug 29 11 - 11:00pm
Jady

This could not possibly have been more hepflul!