:LIGHT HEAT: ‘Light Heat’
The new Philly buzz band of the moment is Light Heat, the songwriting project of Quentin Stoltzfus, whose band Mazarin was the Philly buzz band of about a decade ago. Working with members of The Walkmen — who covered Mazarin’s “Another One Goes By” on their 2006 album “A Hundred Miles Off” — Stoltzfus returns with his first set of new songs in eight years, and he doesn’t miss a beat. Listen close to tunes like “Elevation” and “A Loyal Subject of the Status Quo,” and you might notice socially observant lyrics laced with more than a touch of cynicism. But focus on the flutter and chime of the guitars, steady lift of harmonies, and forward momentum of the Velvet Underground-style drones, and any taste of bitterness is likely to magically disappear.
— Dan DeLuca
:ROBERT POLLARD: ‘Honey Locust Honky Tonk’
Robert Pollard unleashes music at an alarming rate. He’s indefatigable, and he expects the same untiring commitment from his fans, although even the most ardent among them must find it a challenge not to suffer from Pollard Fatigue. Since the beginning of last year, the recently reactivated Guided By Voices, one of the classic cult bands of the last two decades, released four albums and an EP, and now comes another Pollard solo album, his third in the same period, and by some counts his 23rd solo set.
“Honey Locust Honky Tonk” is yet another example of Pollard’s strengths, with surprisingly few diversions into his weaknesses. The 17 brief songs are lyrically cryptic and musically direct, with 44-second fragments (“I Have To Drink”), fitful ballads (“Circus Green Machines”), and full-fledged anthems (“Flash Gordon Style”), and with few half-baked lo-fi diversions. It’s no radical departure, but the already converted will find it another satisfying collection from indie-rock’s most prolific hero.
— Steve Klinge
SLAID CLEAVES: ‘Still Fighting the War’
3 1/2 stars
Although he’s from Maine, Slaid Cleaves now hails from Austin, Texas, and he has an abiding love for the Lone Star State, as he shows on the jaunty “Texas Love Song” and “God’s Own Yodeler,” his tribute to the late, big-voiced country singer Don Walser, “the Pavarotti of the Plains.” As the album title indicates, however, Cleaves has some deeper and darker themes to explore, and the folk-country troubadour does so with his usual sharpness and grace. “Still Fighting the War” lays out the debilitating costs to veterans, “Welding Burns” is an empathetic portrait of his hardworking father, and “Rust Belt Fields” confronts bitter truths more with resignation than anger (“No one remembers your name just for working hard”). In his understated way, Cleaves is just as powerful when dealing with matters of the heart on “Without Her” and “I Bet She Does,” or pondering his own end on “Voice of Midnight,” where he declares, “I’ll take my comfort in song.” Easier to do when the songs are as good as those here.
— Nick Cristiano