Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
On its third disc—and debut for Sub Pop, the stalwart indie label that's given us the likes of Nirvana and The Shins—Beach House takes a giant step toward full-on chamber pop. Singer Victoria Legrand guested on last year's ambitious Grizzly Bear disc, Veckatimest, and its lush sparkle seems to have rubbed off a bit on the Baltimore duo. Beach House had pretty much nailed the dreamy, late-night vibe on its previous efforts, so it's great to hear them stretching out a bit and challenging themselves. The instrumentation is more varied, the arrangements a little more complex, and producer Chris Coady (who's worked with the likes of TV on the Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) sharpens the band's sound without losing any of its intimacy and warmth. As a result, Legrand's vocals dazzle like never before and Alex Scally's playing (guitar, keys, drums, etc) keenly underscores the nimble melodicism at the core of songs like "Norway," "Used To Be," and "Take Care."
Arty Hill and the Long Gone Daddys
Montgomery on My Mind (CowIsland)
The spirit of Hank Williams permeates every bit of this eight-song EP by Baltimore's premier honkytonk hero. Hill appropriates Williams's substance and style with a gusto that's both infectious and affecting on covers of "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)," "I'm a Long Gone Daddy," "Lovesick Blues," and "Take These Chains from My Heart." Dave Giegerich's lap steel resonates soulfully and echoes the sentiment in Hill's singing, as a lively rhythm section gallops underneath. Williams proves to be quite an inspiration on the originals as well, and the opening track, "Church on Saturday Night," may be the best song Hill has written to date. In it, he likens Hank and the Opry to church and proclaims, "The Lord was Sunday/Church was Saturday night." In doing so, he proves to be a worthy apostle.