May 15, 2013
Fade, by Yo La Tengo
Many bands have combined minimalist composition with maximalist guitar noise. Yo La Tengo does this best, carrying on without so much as a chord change while guitarist Ira Kaplan screeches and wails away. But the trio also stands out because this is far from its only trick. YLT brings an encyclopedia of influences and a knack for moody, tasteful arranging. And Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley, a married couple, write songs about love and intimacy but sing them with a hushed, deadpan delivery that’s rarely sentimental.
Up Like the Clouds by Dubl Handi
Banjo player Hilary Hawke has displayed her fine chops and deep folk foundations in several ensembles. Here she pares things down to a duo, but the sound isn’t all that spare. Percussionist Brian Geltner plays aggressively—on snare drum, various shakers and the antique washboard for which the group is named—and he’s quite forward in the mix; his occasional backbeats are the main element that locates the old-timey material in a new-timier context.
Religion and foreign policy: Scholar Maryann Cusimano Love
Shift in the middle: A view from Jerusalem
Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, by Billy Bragg and Wilco
On Mermaid Avenue (1998), Billy Bragg and Wilco wrote and recorded music for some of the 3,000 tuneless lyrics Woody Guthrie left behind. The stunning result was so much more than a reverent, Pete-Seeger-and-friends tribute album could ever be: the great Guthrie expanded in our cultural imagination and introduced to a new generation.
Simone Felice, by Simone Felice
Singing from one book: Why hymnals matter
Mercyland, by various artists
Waco in red and blue
Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, by Nora Gallagher
The culture of the mainline
For Elesha Coffman, the pre-1960 Century is a window on the gap between an educated elite and a mass population of churchgoers.
On the Muslim Question, by Anne Norton
Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Ron Rash
Discovering the poor
Peter Brown considers the fourth-century church's radicality concerning wealth—and its readiness to adapt as circumstances seemed to require.