Buck Meek Haunted Mountain and Gregory Alan Isakov Appaloosa Bones
Long time readers (haha! I say that to make myself feel like I have readers) may recall that Buck Meek’s last record, Two Saviors, was tied with Valerie June’s The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers as my favorite recordings of 2021. Well, I still love Two Saviors, and now I also love Meek’s latest, Haunted Mountain. Lyrically this collection doesn’t grab me quite as much as Two Saviors did, but I’m very taken with Haunted Mountain’s more expansive musical production. These arrangements bring a fuller sound without sacrificing any of the delicacy and spontaneity I associate with Meek’s solo work.
And on the topic of arrangements, I have read that Gregory Alan Isakov had originally intended his new album to be a stripped-down, “lo-fi” rock-n-roll record, but the songs wouldn’t cooperate. While I do enjoy speculating on exactly what an Isakov rock-n-roll record might sound like, I couldn’t be happier to find that Appaloosa Bones hews more closely to the path forged by his previous effort, Evening Machines. I can’t get enough of the way Isakov marries his relatively straightforward, down-to-earth lyrics to treatments that range from the simplest, contemplative strummed guitar to broadly atmospheric, often nearly surreal, soundscapes.
Haunted Mountain is, overall, the more spritely of these two picks. Spin it up while you’re enjoying a sunny afternoon. Then ease into Appaloosa Bones when you’re sipping a cocktail on the porch, watching the sun set.
Since I made the effort to do a full year of monthly record reviews, it seems like sort of a given that I should draw the year to a close by picking an overall favorite. I find that I simply can’t do it. First of all, I love all the records I picked each month, as well as the others that I mentioned along the way. Second, I simply can’t find a way to decide between two particular outstanding releases. I can’t get enough of either record, and each is my favorite when I’m listening to it. So the tie for my pick of the picks of 2021 are:
Buck Meek Two Saviors
A line from Pitchforks’ review of this record said “The whole album sounds like it just spilled out of a junk drawer you pulled open looking for something else…,” and that captures the tone better than anything I could come up with on my own. The whole project was recorded, in single takes, in a Victorian house in New Orleans, and that distinct, immediacy of place is palpable throughout. Each song becomes its own comfortably ramshackle space where I’m persistently eager to spend more of my time.
Valerie June The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers
As I said in my original blurb about this record back in March, I’ve been a fan of Valerie June for many years. There isn’t a bad record in her catalog, but this one blows my mind. So much more expansive, without sacrificing any of what made her previous work so wonderful. Every time I finish listening, I just want to listen again. I guess that’s about the best thing you can say about a record.
Finding ourselves at home so much during the pandemic, Suzy and I unintentionally started a habitual Friday night review of the week’s album drops. About once a month we find something we really like. Eventually it occurred to me to post our monthly recommendations on Facebook. Which I have since been doing. But this morning I got thinking that I should post them here as well because a) it will make them much easier for me to find and refer to and b) I mostly hate Facebook.
Our January pick was Buck Meek’s Two Saviors
I love Buck’s unusual songs structures and oddball lyrics and subject matter. We’ve been big fans for several years now, but this album is off the charts good. Can’t say enough positive things about it. There isn’t a single dud anywhere on the record, but for me “Second Sight’ is a real standout.