The Felice Brothers
Having their work constantly compared to Bob Dylan and The Band's output from almost 40 years ago can't have sat too well with The Felice Brothers. On their fourth album proper, the upstate New York folk quintet have returned with drum machines, synths and thoroughly modern production, with the hope of showing that there's more to the group than dirt-under-the-nails Americana. The brooding Container Ship has keyboard atmospherics, an entirely processed rhythm section and even swathes of digital strings. Later on, Refrain opens with yet more synthesisers washing over the singer Ian Felice's old-timey vocal, and a cut-up drumbeat. Though it might sound like the group have turned into Hot Chip overnight, the new sounds serve to augment the already-present melodies, rather than act as a starting point for the songs. The curiously named Honda Civic is more traditional, with a gleeful accordion, horns and storytelling lyrical style, but the lead single, Ponzi, is a madcap affair, moving from lounge jazz to glam rock. While tender folk melodies and electronic production might seem like an unpleasant concoction, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst was fusing the two almost a decade ago with great success, and REM before that. The Felice Brothers never manage to combine these elements into anything as cohesive as the aforementioned artists' work, but many of their attempts are delightful nonetheless.