These Are My Records: “Sand & Lines” by Venice is Sinking

If this record feels like a live performance, that’s because it was more or less recorded like one. Many of the songs start out fragile but then build slowly, sometimes coming to a head with a crashing crescendo – but sometimes they don’t, and the tension just percolates a few minutes longer. The male-female vocal harmonies and the violin’s legato phrasing infuses the whole record with an inescapable feeling of loss. Deserves to be better known.

These are my records: Here We Rest

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: “Here We Rest”

There’s a reason this album was the consensus choice for the best Americana release of 2011. Isbell is a strong songwriter, and there’s not a weak one in the bunch (“Alabama Pines,” “Codeine” and “Daisy Mae” stand out). His slightly raspy, slightly pudgy-sounding voice infuses every one of them with a mix of naive sadness and the sort of world-weariness that is earned through tough experience. If this record doesn’t make you feel something, well, you may be incapable of experiencing human emotion.