Farewell Milwaukee, FM
Farewell Milwaukee‘s new album FM isn’t easy to pigeonhole. Call it folk-rock with a little Boz Skaggs soul, a little Eagles country, and a little jangle. Sensitive, skilled songwriting, excellent musicianship, and a variety of feels and flavors make the Minneapolis band’s fourth album a pleasure through and through.
While most of the best songs are towards the front of the album, it’s all solid. Soft edges alternate with sharp ones in smart, straightforward arrangements framing well-crafted lyrics. “Hurt No More” and “Figure You Out” are especially catchy, “Recluse” with its beautiful multipart harmonies especially yearning. “Diamonds” brings to mind Jackson Browne. “Caught in the Abyss,” a favorite of mine, feels like Van Morrison. But overall the songs have a timeless rather than a retro feel.
Don’t let the silly face on the cover turn you off: music isn’t about packaging, and FM is the complete package.
35th and Taylor, I Know You’re Trouble
35th and Taylor, a remarkably accomplished group of musicians who are still in high school or just past it, inhabit a very different point on the spectrum of rock. Lead vocalist Anna Taylor’s bluesy delivery puts to shame the deliberately infantilized voices of so many young pop stars (of both sexes). The band applies a tight hard-rock sound dominated by crunchy electric guitar to a set of original songs that at their best measure up to the best of the genre.
The album opens with two good songs, “Hard Times” and “New Religion.” “Every time/You put your hands on me/I find a new religion,” Taylor sings with full-throated assurance. There’s a depth of passion in her voice very rare in such a young artist. “Until the End” with its fine catchy chorus exemplifies the lyrics’ obsession with typical kid concerns – heartbreak, anger, sex – typically overwrought: “Fast cars and pretty boys/With candied lips/Make a young girl go crazy.” The spare, intense ballad “Night Terrors” rounds out the theme: “I feel the sharp pain as I realize/You’ll never hold me in your arms/You’ll never be mine.”
The tight rhythm section ably backs up Taylor and lead guitarist Evan Kaler on raw riffs (“Figure It Out”) as well as more complex syncopated rhythms (“Cut You Down”). The group can convince with an acoustic number, too (“Ain’t Coming Down”).
The band’s combination of hard edges inspired by ’70s rock with the sensitivity of a folk singer-songwriter would be unusual in a band of any age. “Mama didn’t raise no fool,” goes the refrain of “Red Letter.” Clearly.