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What’s New In Music: Beck, Fleet Foxes, Young Tricksters, and Local Shows

New Album: Beck’s new album Morning Phase came into the Billboard Charts this week at a pretty respectable #3 ranking, especially considering the two above him were the Frozen soundtrack and a rap album by Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar, and that this isn’t usually the kind of music that gets top billing on charts like these. Anyway, this new album is his first since 2008’s Modern Guilt, and it mostly hearkens back to his 2002 album Sea Change (a beautiful work, if you haven’t listened to it I highly recommend that you do so) in terms of instrumentation, mellowness, and overall vibe of the record.

The centerpieces of this album are acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies, and subtle backing instrumentation, and Beck uses all of those to make this a very cohesive and beautiful-sounding record. Songs like “Blue Moon” and “Waking Light” remind me through their vocal harmonies of Fleet Foxes, where “Wave” sounds a bit like a cross between the Beach Boys and some of Nick Drake’s string quartet-based works. Overall, this album is a mellow masterpiece and if you need some music to help you relax, you could do much worse than check this out.

What I’ve Been Listening To:

Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of bluegrass music since I got recruited to be in a string band a couple of weeks ago, and one of the albums I’ve checked out as sort of a primer on how to sing and play the music is the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou. While I’ve seen the movie and thought it was fantastic, I’d never really listened to the album. Three of the standout tracks are Allison Krauss and Gillian Welch’s version of the standard “I’ll Fly Away,” Harry McClintock’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” and the Soggy Bottom Boys’ “I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow,” because they exemplify the harmonies, lyrics, and stringed instrument work in the genre. It’s a refreshing change from what passes for country nowadays, and is well worth a listen.

Another group I’ve given another listen to since I’ve last written about them is Fleet Foxes, and specifically their EP Sun Giant. This one has their breakout hit “Mykonos” on it, but the other four songs definitely exemplify what they later became known for with their subsequent albums. The vocal harmonies and interesting song structures definitely draw in your ear, waiting for what’s going to come next and never sounding stale.

Finally, a local group called Young Tricksters just released an album called Ripples, and checking it out was one of the better decisions I’ve made this week. Combining power-pop hooks with instrumental skill, this is a band you should definitely check out live sometime in the area. Until then, you could listen to them at their website here. Check out “Twisted Love” first, it’s a great introduction to their sound.

Local Happenings:

If you’ve never gone to the Black Sheep for the open mics, you definitely should. It’s BYOB and you can listen to the rich sounds of local acts such as Chris Goudreau, the Turtle Melon String Band, and Roy Mason, among whoever else is performing in the ever-rotating cast of performers. Maybe even try your hand at playing something if you feel so inclined.

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Benjamin Bosco

U Mass Amherst

Ben Bosco: writer, musician, compendium of useless knowledge. If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down.
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