Nickel Creek, "A Dotted Line" (Nonesuch)
When this virtuosic roots trio went on "indefinite hiatus" in 2007 it wasn't to take a vacation, although they'd certainly earned one having played together since childhood. Instead, all three singer-instrumentalists — mandolinist Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and guitarist Sean Watkins — pursued a plethora of solo and group projects that traversed bluegrass, country, pop, rock and classical.
But like old friends who fall right back into conversation, Nickel Creek picks up the thread in glorious fashion on "A Dotted Line."
The time away has done the California-spawned group good, as the conversation is familiar — intricate instrumental phrasing, pristine harmonies — but also full of fresh energy that lends everything from the buoyant gospel bluegrass of "21st of May" to the joyously bleary "Rest of My Life" an air of excitement.
In addition to new original material the trio tackles two covers including Sam Phillips' "Where Is Love Now" and a funky, angular take on Mother Mother's "Hayloft."
Celebrating the band's 25th anniversary, "A Dotted Line" is a vibrant reminder of Nickel Creek's youthful promise and proof that it has plenty left to say.
Nickel Creek will perform May 11 at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
Sarah Rodman, Boston Globe
Cloud Nothings, "Here and Nowhere Else" (Carpark)
What separates Cloud Nothings from the indie-rock pack is singer-guitarist Dylan Baldi's ability to create controlled chaos.
The band's third album takes the unbridled, scruffy joy of the band's last critically acclaimed album, "Attack on Memory," and channels it in a new direction. There still are plenty of roaring guitar solos that gather speed, lots of bash-'em-up drum solos and catchy melodies to scream along with. But it all feels more intense now.
The single "Psychic Trauma" may best capture the album's method. It starts as a more conventional indie-rock song, inspired perhaps by the latter-day Replacements, and then, 45 seconds in, kicks into a new gear with double-time drums and more sinister-sounding guitar and bass, as Baldi abandons his more-measured vocals for shrieks. It's so well-crafted that there's nothing to do but get swept up in the mosh-pit momentum.
All that along-for-the-ride energy is a considerable part of Cloud Nothings' charm. Whether it's the power-pop-leaning "Now Hear In" or the rumbling "No Thoughts" or the irresistibly catchy "I'm Not Part of Me," Baldi picks up the torch from noise-pop veterans like Hüsker Dü and Superchunk and carries it to a more streamlined frontier, even as it seems to scream for survival.
Baldi says he doesn't pay much attention to his lyrics, which actually shows throughout the album, as the sound of his voice is just as important as what he's singing. What he focuses on is the feeling, and that's what makes "Here and Nowhere Else" so great.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday