Album Review – Houndmouth’s ‘Little Neon Limelight’ Shines Throughout

Houndmouth Little Neon Limelight

Groups! Groups! Groups! In 2014 we reviewed a lot of talented country groups here on the site and it made it difficult to choose the winner of Country Perspective’s 2014 Group of the Year. We ultimately chose First Aid Kit, but any of the other groups nominated could have won. Well 2015 is shaping up to be quite similar and we’re only in March. Blackberry Smoke, The Mavericks and The Lone Bellow have all released albums that will be candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year award so far. Needless to say the bar has been set. So when I came across alt-country/indie folk band Houndmouth and their new album Little Neon Limelight I didn’t expect them to meet this bar. The group based out of Indiana made up of Matt Myers, Katie Toupin, Zak Appleby and Shane Cody faced a tall task. But I love when I’m proved wrong. Their new album is awesome and I’m going to do my best to explain why.

The first song of the album is “Sedona,” which is about the city of Sedona, Arizona and harkens back to the days of when it was known as “Arizona’s Little Hollywood.” John Ford, a famous Hollywood director, basically put this little city on the map as it helped start three decades of A-list movies being made here. You can read more about Sedona, Arizona here (this information was obtained from the book on the town). The instrumentation in the song is upbeat, yet reflective and the vocals are quite good. Katie Toupin’s voice is front and center on “Otis.” She sings from the point of view of a woman who holds a man named Otis dear to her heart. I enjoy the harmony in the chorus, as it gives it a bigger punch to listener’s ears.

The sound of rock and country from yesteryear combine to produce an awesome song in “15 Years.” The group’s vocals are infectious and the instrumentation is impossible to hate. You can tell Houndmouth enjoyed making this song and the listener will have just as much fun listening to it. “For No One” is one of the quietest tracks on the album, as well as one of the most alluring. It’s a ballad that seems to be about life and personal discovery. Myers in an interview with NPR described it as a “personal tune.” Interpret this song how you want to, all I know is it’s immersive and intriguing. Greed is the theme of “Black Gold,” as it’s about a rich family who accumulated their wealth via their involvement in oil. The guitar licks in this song are great and the lyrics are quite catchy.

Houndmouth keeps it simple with “Honey Slider,” a song about a man getting his heart-broken and left wondering what has happened. The bluesy guitar licks set the tone of this song perfectly. The group goes back to their fun side in “My Cousin Greg.” The song is about a cousin named Greg, who isn’t exactly normal. There’s also a message in the song about how if you want to live the good life, it’s best to stay away from the limelight. This is one where you can sit back, have a few laughs and enjoy a fun song. The slow and haunting “Gasoline,” is about a woman who explains she burns faster than gasoline. In other words, she isn’t the settling down type and her love burns pretty quickly. Toupin’s voice shines and really gives it the bluesy feel needed to make this a haunting song.

“By God” is a rock country song with a rocking beat and a subtle, sinister undertone. It’s about a man who has things going wrong around him and insisting for them to “turn out the lights,” but to leave his “candle burning.” The harmonies are spot-on throughout. Everything in this song simply works to make for one of the best songs on the album. The penultimate song on the album, “Say It,” is about a man telling the woman of his desire to lower her expectations so she could be happy with him. The tone isn’t very serious and it’s more playful than anything, as his charm starts to win her over. It’s another song where the listener will have just as much fun hearing it as Houndmouth had making it. Little Neon Limelight concludes with “Darlin’,” one of the most country songs on the album. From the lyrics to the combination of the guitar, piano and organ on instrumentation, it proves this. The vocals of the band soar throughout the song and leaves you hooked from beginning to end. Hell I can say that about this entire album.

Little Neon Limelight is flawless in every aspect. Houndmouth’s vocals are dynamic and the harmonies will stick with you for a while. Each song tells a story or conveys some sort of emotion in the listener, which is what great music does. While there are a few somber songs, this album is mostly fun and even mixes in some good humor. This is an album I thinks some people might let slip through the cracks and miss out on. Don’t be one of these people. Anyone who appreciates great music should hear it. If you’re into groups like Shovels & Rope or The Lone Bellow, you’ll enjoy Houndmouth even more. I highly recommend this album. Without a doubt one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2015.

Grade: 10/10

Josh’s Top Ten Country Songs – January 2015

The Lone Bellow

What a great month for country music! I was absolutely blown away by the amount of quality music. There were numerous great albums and singles that kept this country music fan quite happy. Narrowing it down to ten songs proved to be challenge, but after much deliberation I’ve narrowed down my top ten country songs for January 2015. Onto the list!

  1. The Lone Bellow – “Cold As It Is” – There were a lot of great songs on the fantastic new album from The Lone Bellow, but this is the song I find myself playing the most. It’s the perfect blend of country, rock and blues. It’s impossible not to marvel at how great this song is. My favorite country song released in 2015 so far.
  2. Justin Townes Earle – “Call Ya Momma” – Without a doubt the standout from Earle’s new album Absent Fathers. Earle displays the perfect amount of emotion in his voice to draw the listener in. The bluesy country instrumentation is pretty great too. This song is a home run all-around.
  3. The Lone Bellow – “Then Came The Morning” – The opener and title track of The Lone Bellow’s new album will floor you upon first listen. The uplifting melody makes this a pretty good song. The harmonies, especially in the last quarter of the song make this a great song.
  4. Jamey Johnson – “Alabama Pines” – After going years without hearing any new non-holiday material, we finally got a new song from the Alabama artist in “Alabama Pines.” And it’s pretty damn good. It’s the first single off of his new upcoming album and if this is a precursor to it then we’re in for a potential album of the year candidate. Just imagine this is probably not even the best song off of it. To hear it click here.
  5. The Lone Bellow – “Marietta” – The Lone Bellow make up three of the top five spots in my top ten list. Not a surprise considering it’s the first candidate for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. I connected with this stirring love ballad from the first listen. To me the trio perfectly captured the emotion of a love struck person trying to win back their love.
  6. Cody Jinks – “Cast No Stones” – I’ve been waiting for a while for a country song that tackles judgmental bible thumpers and Jinks delivered it to me. Mainstream country artists today wouldn’t have the balls to make a song like this and I would venture to say not a lot of independent artists would either. Too many would fear they’re alienating their fan base. This is one of the many great songs off his new Adobe Sessions album. Jinks also does a great job getting his message across, without it coming out the wrong way.
  7. Justin Townes Earle – “Day and Night” – This song immediately follows “Call Ya Momma” on Earle’s album. A tough act to follow, but this song is nearly just as good. This song is all about Earle’s voice guiding the story and the emotions involved. It’s a self-reflective story of how his former life and current life are night and day. Earle is celebrating his newfound happiness and I think all listeners can appreciate this.
  8. First Aid Kit – “Brother” – Surprise! I bet not too many of you were even aware of this song just being released. I didn’t either until I was randomly searching around the web. Turns out this song didn’t make the cut on First Aid Kit’s 2014 album Stay Gold and was only released as a bonus track on the Japanese version. It was just released this month along with “America” (which was only available before in vinyl) and two Stockholm Session recordings of “Stay Gold” and “My Silver Lining.” This song is dedicated to the sisters’ brother and it’s a really moving tribute. I can’t wait for their next album.
  9. Cody Canada & the Departed – “All Nighter” – For those who didn’t read about this song in my review of Cody Canada and the Departed’s new album HippieLovePunk, here’s what it’s about:The song deals with how life is short, so you should live it up and not be afraid to have fun. It should be noted Canada is joined on vocals by all four Braun brothers, Willy and Cody of Reckless Kelly, along with Micky and Gary of Micky & The Motorcars. The song is dedicated to Mark McCoy, a former bassist for the latter band who drowned to death in Idaho a few years ago. It’s a pretty cool tribute with a nice story behind it.
  10. Ryan Bingham – “Broken Heart Tattoos” – Rounding out the top ten is the emotional “Broken Heart Tattoos” from Ryan Bingham’s new album Fear and Saturday Night. I didn’t enjoy this album as much as others did, but I thought there were some pretty good songs off of it. I thought this one stood out the most. From Derek’s great review: “I hear a ton of Bob Dylan influence in Ryan Bingham on this album, and this song is particularly evident of that influence. Here, Bingham is singing to his child. Children are born into innocence, without worry and without pain at first. However, this song encourages, “take your sweet time and walk a straight line. And don’t you be shy of your wilder side or be afraid to let loose with broken heart tattoos.”

Honorable Mentions:

Country Video Roundup: Mickey Guyton, First Aid Kit & The Band Perry

Mickey Guyton – “Better Than You Left Me”

 

What a huge week for Mickey Guyton! She has taken the country music world by storm with her single “Better Than You Left Me.” It got 79 “adds” this week at country radio (Mediabase stations), making it the most added country song this week. Not only is it the most-added country song this week, but it set an all-time record. According to Label Capitol Nashville, it is the“highest one-week add total on a debut act’s first single in Country Aircheck history.” It also coincides with the music video for the single, which is pretty dang good too.

I reviewed “Better Than You Left Me” back in October when it came out and gave it high praise. I was hoping country radio would take notice, but I didn’t have high hopes due to country radio’s recent track record. I’m glad I was proven wrong and it was a smart move by her label to release it now. The timing is perfect, as there isn’t a lot of new releases in mainstream country and this allows her to stand out easier. I’ll say this: Guyton is one of the most humble artists I’ve interacted with and I’m very happy for her success. I hope 2015 is the year Mickey Guyton becomes a star in country music.

First Aid Kit (w/Peter Buck of R.E.M.) Cover “Walk Unafraid” 

 

Last time I did a country video roundup, First Aid Kit brilliantly covered Paul Simon’s “America.” They’re back again with a slightly different cover. Brought to my attention by Rolling Stone, the dynamic duo cover R.E.M.’s “Walk Unafraid” with R.E.M.’s guitarist Peter Buck. And of course they knock this cover out of the park too! I’m now convinced that it is impossible for First Aid Kit to sing anything bad. They can literally sing anything they want and it would be great. They did an official video for the cover a few weeks ago, which you can see below. The song is a soundtrack for the Oscar-nominated movie Wild. Here’s my question: When is the next album?!

 

 

The Band Perry Cover Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind”

 

I’ve been well aware of The Band Perry’s cover of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind,” as I highlighted their performance of it on the 2014 CMA Awards last November. I did however miss the music video for it that was released last December and I would be remiss if I didn’t point it out. I think it fits quite well with the song and does what a music video should ultimately do: enhance the story/theme of the song. The Band Perry’s cover of this song has become quite popular and for good reason: it’s fantastic. I think I’ve said this before, but I want to say it again. I really hope this song inspires the group to start living up to their full potential. Their material up to this point just hasn’t blown me away and I want 2015 to be the year they finally make me a fan. Kimberly Perry has a great voice and she needs to let her vocals be front and center on their songs. More songs like “Gentle On My Mind” and no more songs like “Chainsaw” please.

If there are any other recent country music videos I missed, be sure to point them out in the comments below. 

Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2014

We have reached the end of 2014 and over the course of the year we’ve reviewed a lot of great country music. So in case you just found the site or don’t remember all of the great country albums we’ve reviewed, you’re in luck. Here are the links to every album we rated an 8/10 or higher over the course of the year. These are the albums we give a solid recommendation or more for you to listen to. Keep in mind this site started in May, so we won’t have every single great album. For example we never got around to reviewing Dierks Bentley’s album or Don Williams’ album, two albums that would have definitely made this list. So if there are albums missing that you love, they were most likely not reviewed. Others of course may have not been rated high enough to make it. I’m also including our album of the year candidates in case you missed those too. One more thing: only albums are included, no EPs. So without further ado here are Country Perspective’s most recommended albums of 2014.

10/10 (Album of the Year Candidates)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music 

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time 

Karen Jonas – Oklahoma Lottery 

Lucette – Black Is The Color 

Tami Neilson – Dynamite! 

Sunny Sweeney – Provoked 

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold 

Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy 

The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down 

9.5/10

Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class 

Micky & The Motorcars – Hearts From Above 

Stoney LaRue – Aviator 

9/10

Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen 

Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain 

Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ 

BlackHawk – Brothers of the Southland 

The Roys – The View 

Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark 

Mack McKenzie – One Last, One More 

Bonnie Montgomery – Bonnie Montgomery 

8.5/10

Jon Pardi – Write You A Song 

Ray Scott – Ray Scott 

Mary Sarah – Bridges 

The Buffalo Ruckus – The Buffalo Ruckus 

Rich O’Toole – Jaded 

Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues 

8/10

Eric Paslay – Eric Paslay 

Phillip Fox Band – Heartland 

Terri Clark – Some Songs 

Country Perspective’s 2014 Group of the Year Winner

Talk about tight competition! Over the course of 2014 everywhere you turned you found another talented country group. Whether they were dynamic duos or established groups, there was no shortage of candidates for this award. While it was difficult to choose the winner of this award, it ultimately came down to which group’s body of work impressed Derek and myself more. There was one group that we felt was ultimately better than the rest. The winner of Country Perspective’s Best Group of 2014 award is…

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

We felt First Aid Kit should win first and foremost because their album months after being released still sounds as great as the first time we heard it. We went back and re-listened to all of these nominees’ albums and this was one that just simply blew us away the most still. If it wasn’t for Sturgill Simpson’s album, First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold might have won our album of the year award. There’s not a single bad song nor “filler” song on First Aid Kit’s album. Their harmonies shine. They displayed such a wide array of emotions, from smart and witty humor to downtrodden and dark sadness. You can’t ask for anything more out of this album. As I said at the beginning of my review of Stay Gold:

Every once in a while when listening to music, you’ll get blindsided from something out of left field. This is music that is so good or bad that it just takes your breath away when it hits your ears. Today’s album is so damn good I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I listened to it. There is no use in beating around the bush. First Aid Kit’s new album Stay Gold is absolutely phenomenal. The Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg are like a fresh breath of air when hearing them harmonize together. It’s so pure and raw. Throw in spot-on instrumentation and you got one hell of an album.

First Aid Kit took a step forward in terms of being noticed in America this year too. They performed on Letterman, Conan and The Ellen Degeneres Show this year, while also being recognized by prominent music outlets. Their United States tour largely sold out. They also wonderfully covered Paul Simon’s “America.” This duo will hopefully continue to be noticed more here in the states in 2015, as they deserve to be heard by the largest audience possible. This is the kind of music I want to hear when I turn on the radio. This is one of the best duos in not just country music, but all music. If you haven’t done so yet, please go listen to this group’s music. 

Congratulations to First Aid Kit on a phenomenal 2014.

(Image Source: Telegraph)