Hopefully, in the midst of these intense past few weeks, you were able to take some time for yourself to try to soothe your worries. Whether or not that time existed or included some music, our staff has some recommendations for you for the next time you’re free to just be present and relax. This week, we’ve been listening to the latest album from rootsy singer/songwriter Tré Burt, a recent collab between Anna Calvi and Courtney Barnett and more. Grab your noise-cancelling headphones (if you have them), and listen to a small sample of music we’ve been listening to.
British singer/songwriter and guitar firebrand Anna Calvi released her latest album Hunter in 2018, and it marked her third consecutive Mercury Prize nomination. This year, she returned with Hunted, a collection of stripped-down versions of songs from Hunter, and it includes appearances from Courtney Barnett, Julia Holter, IDLES’ Joe Talbot and Charlotte Gainsbourg. My favorite of these new renditions is “Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy,” which features Barnett. As a big fan of both artists, I was probably always going to love it, but there’s something about the way that Calvi’s grand, seraphic voice mingles with Barnett’s intimate, charming tone that I wasn’t expecting to work this well. They stick to their strengths rather than trying to fully amalgamate and lose themselves. It’s also quite remarkable how Calvi’s electric guitar still manages to sound so jagged and subversive when laid bare and how Barnett’s delivery of the phrase “pale green eyes” makes it feel like one of her own songs. —Lizzie Manno
When I hear harmonica, I immediately think Bob Dylan—especially when it sounds this much like Bob Dylan. But Tré Burt isn’t just trying to play copy-cat Dylan on his 2020 album Caught It from the Rye. He clearly takes Dylan seriously as an influence, yes, but Burt has his own thing going on, and, as our critic pointed out in February, it’s distinguishable mostly for its vivid swath of Black emotions. “And Mother Nature, I guess she caters / To those with white skin / I don’t feel well anymore / To darkness I’m returnin’,” he sings on “Undead God of War,” a protest song of sorts. But he also succeeds at singing from an even more personal perspective. “Real You” expresses a Leon Bridges-like yearning for vulnerability, and “Moth’s Crossing,” which sounds like Dylan more than any other song (seriously, it’s almost creepy!) is a lusty, lovely call to a potential mate. Tré will hit home with just about any folk fan, but particularly those that long for a little bit of old fashioned folk revival sounds à la Joni, Joan, Bob and Leonard mixed in. —Ellen Johnson
Earlier this year, Cold Beat made their DFA label debut with Mother. It’s gentler than your average synth-pop album, and it’s all the better for it. Maybe it sounds that way because the darker post-punk of their previous releases didn’t suit the mood of lead singer Hannah Lew (also of Grass Widow), who wrote this album while she was pregnant. “I found myself trying to describe our earth to a new human who had never been here,” Lew says. “It was a bleak year to be pregnant, but I was simultaneously filled with so much love and hope at the same time. I remember feeling a sense of wanting to show my whole range of self to this new person I was about to meet.” The sense of wonder and awe that comes with bringing a new person into the world can definitely be felt on standout track “Double Sided Mirror.” Lew asks, “Will it be over if there’s no sound?” with a reverent coo over stimulating synths, and you’re immediately transported to a blissful void—just hovering and reveling in the magic of your own existence. —Lizzie Manno
Penny and Sparrow are one of those folk-rock acts that came rushing down a path blazed by Mumford & Sons in the early 2010s—or perhaps they were running right there beside them, but it’s hard to tell now. In any case, this Austin, Texas duo featuring Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke sing Americana songs with a surge of heart and soul. Both brought up in fairly conservative southern environments, Baxter and Jahnke have over time grappled with their roots and given a great deal of thought and work to figuring out their beliefs for themselves. It’s not usually the kind of music I would go for, but I recently stumbled upon their debut Tenboom and have found it to be pretty damn delightful, particularly the song “Brothers” (which has been on repeat the last week), even more so than their more recent, more heavily-produced albums. Their voices swarm together at the most opportune times, and one lovely feature Stephanie Briggs gives the album even more of a dynamic edge. —Ellen Johnson