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Recommended Listen: To the Sunset by Amanda Shires

Singer-songwriter and violinist Amanda Shires is mostly known for her work supporting great men- including her husband Jason Isbell and folk superstar John Prine.  However, Shires shows that she is a star in her own right with this phenomenal album, which will be appreciated by fans of folk rock acts like Neko Case, Ryan Adams, and Sharon Van Etten. 

Unlike her previous albums, To the Sunset has a decidedly alt rock, bordering on punk edge to it.  It is reminiscent of early 90s alt-rock acts like Mazzy Star and Liz Phair.  Shires has a very strong singing voice that is good at conveying emotions like anger, love, and fear.  Most of the songs are written from a female perspective, and a decidedly self-assured and plucky one at that.  However, it would be over simplistic to think the songs are biographical in nature. 

“Break out the Champagne” is a standout pop track on the album that covers a potential plane crash, fears of the apocalypse and a friend’s break up, but still manages to be tart and funny.  Other highlights include a redux on an older track “Swimming” about a crush, and the politically inspired (but difficult to tell) “Take on the Dark.”  The end track, “Wasn’t I Paying Attention?” is a show stopper about a violent suicide and mental illness, told from the perspective of the victim's friend.  Shires proves herself to be a powerful yet subtle lyricist throughout the album.