Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged alt folk

Western Theater

Mighty Tiger are the sort of band to open for Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear on tour—and not just because of their similar four-legged names. It’s easy to compare bands in folksy sub-genres, but the truth is, Mighty Tiger are a solid pop-driven fit among more established bands of similar persuasion. On Western Theater, Mighty Tiger do what other comparable bands do not.


“When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras,” admonishes the medical aphorism. There are some quiet percussive hoof beats in “Goodbye Little Song” and other tracks on Karl Blau's new twelve-song release, Zebra. “Waiting for the Wind” opens with bells that sound like wind chimes and a relaxing vibe. The tempo picks up on “Dark Sedan Returns,” but returns to a righteous sedateness.

Enjoy Your Rabbit

Sufjan Stevens, god of the indie concept album, is the sort of fellow my evangelical Christian minister grandparents can enjoy. This is not an insult. My maternal grandfather, born in Michigan eighty-some years ago, has never admitted that he enjoys the Stevens album Michigan. I nevertheless suspect that my sometimes secular, former music minister grandpa samples some Sufjan when he thinks no one is around.

Renaissance: Song of Scheherazade Live

Renaissance is a notable 1970s folk rock band that developed a large fan base by having symphonic rock instrumentals contrasted by haunting female vocals and whimsical, intelligent lyrics. Renaissance: Song of Scheherazade Live includes video from the band’s performances at Capital Theatre in 1976 and their 1979 performance at Convention Hall. A great fuss was made when Cherry Red announced their release of Renaissance's concert footage.

The Sun Came Out

7 Worlds Collide is like an alt-folk “We Are The World” with admittedly fewer people of color. Headed up by Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, the second release from this international supergroup is an OxFam benefit double album featuring completely new material.

Heavy Ghost

DM Stith makes weird music. Heavy Ghost is a weird album. Among his contemporaries, David Stith has been hailed as a genius for his spooky, otherworldly tracks and production.

Lake Bottom LP

The Chapin Sisters are a trio of gifted recordings artists who have managed to reinvent the love song by incorporating a touch of irony into their modern interpretation of folk- and roots-inspired pop.

Death of the Sun

Former singer/songwriter of the Metallic Falcons (with CocoRosie's Sierra Cassady), Matteah Baim branched out on her own not long ago and has come forth with her debut solo album, which includes collaborations with some of today’s biggest names in hipster folk, including Devendra Banhart and 90 Day Men’s Rob Lowe. While the musical composition stands out to me more than Baim’s crackling voice, her cover of the African-American spiritual, "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore (Michael Row)," is a delightful surprise halfway through the disc.


Take everything you love about Tom Waits’ junykard orchestra and combine it with the elegance and beauty of Icelandic folk music. This is Amiina, the female quartet who will make you wonder why more musicians don’t learn to play the saw. Their debut album, Kurr, (the Icelandic word for a bird’s coo), is a 12-song lullaby on acid. It employs twenty instruments, each woman taking a turn at playing each instrument to achieve a multitude of unique sounds.


On Charlotte Martin's latest album, Stromata, the songstress presents her most experimental work to date. Stromata presents Martin's typically earnest and honest lyrics against a complex background of synthesizers and electronic beats. Her influences on the album are so varied - from techno to folk to Middle Eastern - that the album lacks a sense of cohesion.

Animal Crackers

In the last few years, so-called 'kid rock' has become big business, boosted by big names, CNN articles, and nationwide tours. Animal Crackers is a folk-rock, alt-country album aimed at children and, presumably, parents driven insane by the thirtieth rendition of "Row, Row, Row your Boat." The singers are Jon Langford, Sally Timms, and Kelly Hogan, backed by Chicago's Devil in a Woodpile. My experimental sample of one, aged two and a half, liked the first track, "Wee Hairy Beasties," and requested an encore.

Temporary Dive

For anyone who follows the likes of offbeat folk musicians, she is a voice worth hearing. Norwegian born Ane Brun’s second album Temporary Dive, is heir to the melancholic sounds of Jeff Buckley with archaic sensibilities of folk musicians like Gillian Welch or Jollie Holland. With song lyrics like: “My friend you left me in the end/I can't believe I'm writing a song/ Where friend rhymes with end,” you think maybe there is some trick she‘s playing in this melanchoholic indulgence, but as soon as the song starts you know that there isn‘t.

Feels Like Home

Feels Like Home really does feel like home. Jessica Bailiff’s folky sounds and soothing voice are more toned down from her previous albums Even in Silence (1998), Hour of the Trace (1999) and her self-titled release in 2002. In the past, Bailiff’s shielded her softness with harsh sounds. Here, Bailiff has stripped down and makes her music truly inviting.