The best tick and woody cults

New year – new albums

By L. Kent Wolgamott

Welcome to 2014, everyone! As we set out into the void of another year, let’s take a look at a few releases that you may have missed at the end of 2013. After all, it’s never too late to catch up to great music…

Cults//Static//Columbia Records 

Cults were the talk of the indie world a couple years ago – first for a Bandcamp EP, then for their self-titled debut album. Now singer Madeline Follin and guitarist Brian Oblivion have released CD number two and no one seems to be paying attention. That’s unfortunate, because the duo have added some tense electronics to the mix, putting some ’80s/’90s feel in their wispy ’60s girl group-meets-guitar fuzz sound. Collin’s vulnerable airy vocals remain at the center of the sound. This time she’s singing of heartbreak – this is the duo’s breakup album – and the dark lyrics are really resonant. File next to: Braids, My Bloody Valentine

Best Coast//Fade Away//Mexican Summer Records

Fade Away is a mini-album that’s the third release from Best Coast. Depending on how you feel about Crazy for You, –Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno’s 2010 debut – and last year’s The Other Place, it’s either a disappointment or a consistently enjoyable extension of the sounds of their first two albums. I fall into the latter category and really like the catchy, fuzzy California pop that draws on ’60s girl group, Fleetwood Mac and a little punk pop and hovers between the lo-fi rawness of the debut and the produced slickness of album two. Cosentino isn’t saying much profound – something that seems to bother many who analyze records like English majors. But pop music has never really been about the words. Instead, it’s about feeling – and the charming Cosentino conveys it on songs like the gentle rocking, buzz filled heartbreaker “Fear of My Identity,” the drifting follow-up of the title cut and on the bright opener “This Lonely Morning.”  File next to: Vivian Girls, Wavves

Deer Tick//Negativity//Partisan Records

 Deer Tick tones down the rock n’ roll chaos on Negativity in favor of dark, melodic songs that reflect a growing maturity for the band and singer John J. McCauley. The record was largely written last year when McCauley’s relationship with Nikki Darlin of Those Darlins was falling apart and his father was sent to prison for tax fraud. His take on the latter, “Mr. Sticks,” (his father’s nickname) is the album’s heart-rending centerpiece. Produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Negativity augments the guitar sound with keyboards and horns from the surging opener “The Rock” onward. That song, “Mirror Walls” – about a rejection on the road – and the piano ballad “Just Friends” are tales of romantic despair and reflection. Not everything on Negativity is negative. “In Our Time,” a duet with Vanessa Carlton, is a lighthearted country song about an old couple looking back on their lives and “Pot of Gold” is an entertaining recounting of a night of doing crack. But most of record – which is more Americana than rock n’ roll – is downbeat, with titles like “The Dream’s in the Ditch” and “The Curtain,” a lament from the road, setting the tone.  File next to: Lucero, Blitzen Trapper

Woody Guthrie//American Radical Patriot//Rounder Records 

In March 1940, Woody Guthrie sat down with Alan Lomax in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. and made some of his first recordings, interspersing talk about his life and music between performances of songs, his and his versions of folk and blues numbers. Those recordings – done for the Library of Congress – anchor the extraordinary Woody Guthrie: American Radical Patriot, a six-CD, DVD, book and 78 rpm record Rounder Records boxed set that compiles the work Guthrie did for the U.S. government. Together, the package brings together more than eight hours of listening/viewing material and it is captivating, especially the Library of Congress recordings which sound like Woody is sitting in the same room, telling his stories and singing his songs. The music – the earliest Guthrie recordings – is made up of his evocative Dust Bowl songs, like “Talking Dust Bowl,” which delineates the devastation of the ’30s dust storms and the better-known “Do-Re-Mi,” the story of Okies arriving in California, outlaw numbers such as “Pretty Boy Floyd” and songs about rich and poor, from “Jesus Christ” to “The Jolly Banker.” There’s much discussion in the book in this set about Guthrie’s political and social beliefs, but this set makes it clear he was not anti-American or anti government. He worked and sang for the common working man and woman, putting him in league with the left but he was never doctrinaire. That’s clear across the whole of Woody Guthrie: American Radical Patriot, a set that’s of great historical and musical value and should be in every school in the country that he loved.  File next to: Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan

Reach DCP freelance writer L. Kent Wolgamott at L. Kent

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Reach DCP freelance writer L. Kent Wolgamott at

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