Monday, 9 September 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, September 2019


AARON LEE TASJAN – Karma For Cheap, Reincarnated
Exactly one year after releasing “Karma For Cheap” Tasjan re-records the whole album acoustically, including one brand-new song. An interesting companion to the original. (7)

BLANCK MASS – Animated Violence Mild

Great, intense 90s-style industrial dance music from the Fuck Buttons guy. RYIL My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, KMFDM, NIN’s debut, that sort of thing. (8)

BON IVER – i,i

A certain kind of hipster music fan would lay his life down for this guy’s mix of soft rock, indie folk and R&B but really, take the studio wizardry away from “i,i” and there’s not much left. (6)

EZRA FURMAN – Twelve Nudes

The gay Jewish Bruce Springsteen goes punk rock with stunning results. (8)

FRANK TURNER – No Man’s Land

The British press really slaughtered Turner for “No Man’s Land” but I think this has more to do with his politics than with the actual songs which aren’t bad. That being said, and this coming from a big fan, I feel that after 2013's excellent “Tape Deck Heart” England’s most popular folkie punk hasn’t really hit his stride again. (7)

HERE LIES MAN – No Ground To Walk Upon

In case you missed out on the first couple of albums, HLM play a hybrid of fuzzed-out proto-metal and afrobeat. The only difference this time around is that there are no creepy kids on the album cover. (7)

JESSE MALIN – Sunset Kids

Anyone remember 90’s NYC glam-punks D Generation? Malin used to front that band, then spent the 21st century to date doing a pretty good Lou Reed impression. His new album however has less of an urban flavor, probably because Americana goddess Lucinda Williams helps out with songwriting and production. (7)

JOAN SHELLEY – Like The River Loves The Sea

Kentuckian folkie goes fully acoustic this time, writes and sings enchanting songs that flow from her like fresh mountain water flows from the spring. (8)

KAYO DOT – Blasphemy

You never know what to expect from these guys except the unexpected, every album’s completely different from the previous one and this is probably their most “rock” album. You’ll still see them categorized under “progressive metal” though. (7)

LANA DEL REY – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

She finally did it! After four good but uneven albums each featuring equal measures of great songs and filler, NFR! is Del Rey’s masterpiece – smart, funny, political, and no filler in sight. A perfect amalgam of all things American, from the Beach Boys to Walt Whitman to George Gershwin to Laurel Canyon to Leonard Cohen to, well, Norman fucking Rockwell. (9)

REDD KROSS – Beyond The Door

Power-pop cult heroes the McDonald brothers release first album after 7 years and it’s just great fun, with a strong 60’s garage punk flavor to it. Their bassist also currently plays for the Melvins and they return the favor – Dale Crover is now Redd Kross’ official drummer, and Buzz guests too. (8)

ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND – Brighter Days

So you thought church music was boring? Well, time to meet the Eddie Van Halen of gospel, a pedal steel guitarist who plays his instrument like a demented cross between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Duane Allman and rocks like a motherfucker (even though he’s religious and wouldn’t approve of my language). (8)

RODNEY CROWELL – TEXAS

Country, blues, rock, tex-mex and everything in between with special Texan guests Billy Gibbons, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle, on the most FUN album in a month of stellar album releases. Doesn’t get any more Texas than this. Also features honorary Texan Ringo Starr. (8)

SHERYL CROW – Threads

It’s not about the impressive guestlist that looks like a Grammy awards ceremony (St. Vincent, Sting, Jason Isbell, Chuck D, Joe Walsh, James Taylor, Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr., Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and a zillion others), it’s about the songwriting: Haters will call her mom rock, but this is Americana superstar Crow in good form. (7)

SIROM – A Universe That Roasts Blossoms For A Horse

Dissonant avant-garde from Slovenia that sounds like freaked-out folk music. A bit too weird, even for me. (6)

SLIPKNOT – We Are Not Your Kind

The Geek’s verdict on this one is about a month late and it doesn’t really matter anymore because your attention span is shorter than a goldfish’s and now you’re all talking about the new Tool album, right? In any case, it rules. (9)

TAYLOR SWIFT – Lover

Her best album since “Red” is a pure pop delight, plus it includes the best (and saddest) song she’s ever written (“Soon You’ll Get Better”), coincidentally (?) her first time revisiting country music in ages. (8)

THE HIGHWOMEN – The Highwomen

All-female country supergroup (Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby), modeled on The Highwaymen but coming across like the Pistol Annies, are on a mission to get more women artists on the radio and the charts. This album certainly has the chops for it. Famous friends (Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert, Sheryl Crow, Dave Cobb etc.) chip in. (8)

THE HOLD STEADY – Thrashing Through The Passion

It takes a certain kind of person to like The Hold Steady, you need to be hopelessly romantic about rock ‘n’ roll and have a soft spot for underachievers and prefer boilermakers to mojitos and read lots of books. This one’s for the fans, a collection of previously released Bandcamp singles with a few new tracks thrown in for good measure. (8)

TINARIWEN – Amadjar

Desert blues pioneers record an album IN THE ACTUAL FUCKING DESERT, playing live to an audience of scorpions. Special guests adding the occasional overdub include Warren Ellis, Noura Mint Seymali, Micah Nelson, Cass McCombs and STEPHEN FUCKING O’MALLEY. (8)

TOOL – Fear Inoculum

Can an album be worth a 13-year wait? Apparently yes. (9)

YEAR OF THE GOAT – Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis

Solid songwriting, but occult rock is better when it’s either tongue in cheek (Ghost) or deadly serious (The Devil’s Blood). (7)

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, August 2019 - Summer Holiday Edition


THE HEAVIER STUFF

GORILLA – Treecreeper

Under-the-radar Brit fuzz/psych/stone rockers sharing a frontman with the slightly better known Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell return with their first full-length after 12 years. RYIL Blue Cheer and Motorhead, and you should definitely check out their 2001 debut, it rules. (7)

HIGH ON FIRE – Bat Salad EP

Record Store Day 2019 release featuring one new instrumental track plus Celtic Frost and Bad Brains covers, now available on streaming services. Now that I think of it, “Celtic Frost meets Bad Brains” is as good a description of High On Fire as any. (8)

LINGUA IGNOTA – Caligula

This is really fucked up, like Diamanda Galas fronting an unholy amalgam of Current 93 and Godflesh. Hard to listen to, yet essential. (8)

ROSALIE CUNNINGHAM – Rosalie Cunningham

Purson frontwoman releases stunning debut solo album and makes the competition (Jex Thoth, Jess & The Ancient Ones, Uncle Acid, Sabbath Assembly etc.) sound like clueless hippies. (8)

SLIPKNOT – We Are Not Your Kind

You’ll have to wait until the next batch of reviews, I haven’t had a chance to listen to it properly yet. (-)

SOUNDGARDEN – Live From The Artist’s Den

One of very few 90’s heroes I regret never getting to see live. I miss that guy. (8)

TORCHE – Admission

One of the most interesting metal bands around, combining sludgy riffs with sunny vocal melodies. Their fifth album sounds simultaneously heavier/harder and richer/warmer than previous efforts, no mean feat. (8)

VOLBEAT – Rewind, Replay, Rebound

Emphasis on the arena rock with a few jokey rockabilly interludes. The Neil Fallon duet “Die To Live” is the best thing here, because Neil Fallon. (7)


THE OTHER STUFF

CHRIS GANTRY – Nashtlantis
Outlaw country singer/songwriter in his 70’s you’ve probably never heard of as he disappeared from Nashville 40 years ago. This comeback album is just him and his guitar and the occasional flourish of cello or synth, but boy can this guy write a song! A must-hear if you enjoy listening to master storytellers. (8)

FASTBALL – All The Pain Money Can Buy (20th Anniversary Edition)

It’s been 20 years since the best pop song of the last 20 years was released, you should hear this album if it’s just for “The Way”. (8 for the album, 11 for the single)

KYLE CRAFT – Showboat Honey

Southern boy influenced by 70’s British glam rock on his third, strong album. RYIL Mott The Hoople, Be Bop Deluxe, Ziggy-era Bowie. (8)

PARTCH – Sonata Dementia

An otherworldly orchestra performing music composed by legendary cult figure Harry Partch, a major influence on latter day Tom Waits, played on weird instruments created by Partch himself, some of which utilize his own 43-tone scale. Listen to this only if you think “Trout Mask Replica” is the best album of all time. (7)

PURPLE MOUNTAINS – Purple Mountains

Indie-rock recluse behind Gen X cult icons Silver Jews returns after a long silence, creates an album about fucking up everything you’ve ever started, gets great reviews, then dies just before going out on tour to support it. Oh, the irony. (8)

THE BIRD AND THE BEE – Interpreting The Masters, Volume 2: A Tribute To Van Halen

The idea of a guitarless Van Halen tribute album sounds ludicrous, especially since it includes a cover of “Eruption” (for piano!), but this is simply poptastic! (8)

TYLER CHILDERS – Country Squire

A great collection of honky-tonk country tunes by Sturgill Simpson protégé. (8)

TY SEGALL – First Taste

Modern-day guitar hero releases guitarless album, and it doesn’t suck. (7)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hallelujah: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Tribute album collecting previously released covers of Cohen songs, so you’ve probably already heard the most iconic versions included herein (e.g. Jeff Buckley totally owning “Hallelujah”, Nina Simone’s “Suzanne”…). Everyone has their favorites of course and you can’t please everyone, but personally I’d have included Concrete Blonde’s “Everybody Knows” over Barb Jungr’s version, REM’s “First We Take Manhattan” over Joe Cocker’s version and so on. (8)

Friday, 5 July 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, July 2019


ANATOLIAN WEAPONS FEAT. SEIRIOS SAVVAIDIS – To The Mother Of Gods
Aggelos Baltas blends his sample-based psychedelia/krautrock with the traditional Greek folk sounds of Savvaidis and the results are awesome. (8)

BEASTWARS – IV

Doom/sludge heroes from New Zealand return after the singer’s battle with cancer, and the album is about that experience. Heavy stuff, in more than one sense of the word. (8)

BEDOUINE – Birdsongs Of A Killjoy

Syrian-American folkie’s second album is a very L.A. affair, sunny and warm and lush. (7)

BLACK KEYS – “Let’s Rock”

The Black Keys return in full-on classic rock mode, ripping off everyone from ZZ Top (“Lo/Hi”) to “Stuck In The Middle With You” (“Sit Around And Miss You”) and having tons of fun doing it. Let’s rock, indeed. (8)

BLACK PUMAS – Black Pumas

New band playing competent old-school soul using Curtis Mayfield as the template. (7)

DRIVIN N CRYIN – Live The Love Beautiful

Legendary, underrated band at the crossroads between southern rock and power pop return after a decade-long absence with a fantastic album. Aaron Lee Tasjan produces and does a splendid job at it. (8)

JADE JACKSON – Wilderness

A great punky country rock album by this young lady, produced by Social Distortion’s Mike Ness. People compare her to Lucinda Williams but sticking to her own generation I’d say she’s more of a kindred spirit to Lydia Loveless. (8)

JESCA HOOP – Stonechild

If you thought folk music is just fingerpicked acoustic guitars and gentle melodies, Hoop’s album will blow your mind with its totally bonkers songwriting and hallucinatory imagery. This is one of the weirdest, sexiest, most adventurous albums of the year. (9)

LUKAS NELSON & PROMISE OF THE REAL – Turn Off The News (Build A Garden)

After making a name backing Neil Young and Bradley Cooper’s character in “A Star Is Born”, Willie’s son and his band release a wonderful Wilburys/Petty-esque album. Guests include dad, Young, Sheryl Crow and Kesha. (8)

MELVINS & FLIPPER – Hot Fish EP

Melvins influenced every grunge and sludge band, and Flipper influenced Melvins, and this collaborative EP by two of America’s cultest cult bands is out on Amphetamine Reptile Records – a triple guarantee of quality when it comes to obnoxious noise. (7)

RACONTEURS – Help Us Stranger

The most fun/classic rock record Jack White has been involved with in a very long time. (8)

WILLIE NELSON – Ride Me Back Home

The guy’s almost 90 and he’s still releasing good albums, his voice is in top form and his guitar playing remains impressive. By the way, have you seen his guitar? It looks even older than he does. (7)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Virtues (Television Series Soundtrack)

Dark soundtrack for a new British TV drama series featuring 6 new PJ Harvey tracks as well as contributions by Aphex Twin, Mono etc. (7)

Friday, 21 June 2019

Aw mom, you're just jealous, it's the Beastie Boys Book

Trust me, you've never read anything like it.

There's thousands of band/artist autobiographies out there and sometimes it feels like I've read them all, but this book is truly one of kind. Close to 600 pages long, it's not just the fascinating story of a truly unique band - it's also the story of New York City at the end of punk and the beginning of hip hop, a story of growing up in public, a story about artistic integrity and navigating the trappings of fame and, most of all, a story about friendship.

Chock-full of hilarious anecdotes and touching reminiscences, mostly written by Adam Horowitz and Michael Diamond but with the ghost of Adam Yauch floating over every page, it also features many guest contributors associated with the band in various ways: Author Jonathan Lethem, the band's original and ousted drummer Kate Schellenbach (later of Luscious Jackson), directors Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, comedian Amy Poehler and others offer their own take on aspects of the Beastie Boys' career. There are many laugh-out-loud moments here, my favorite one probably being a prank Yauch played on Horowitz that started in 1992 with the punchline delivered 15 years later. Oh, and their 2007 gig in Athens gets its own chapter, thanks to the assholes who ruined that year's Ejekt Festival and set fire to the band's dressing room.

Read this book now. Or, alternatively, buy the audiobook where Horowitz and Diamond are joined by the voices of Snoop Dogg, Kim Gordon, Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny, Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller, Bette Midler, Rosie Perez, Will Farrell, Bobby Cannavale, Reverend Run and dozens of others.

If you're a fan, this book is everything you've ever wanted. If your relationship with the Beasties is limited to the basics, you'll still enjoy it immensely. Right now, it's my favorite book ever.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, June 2019

BARONESS – Gold & Grey
Their magnum opus and one of the best metal albums you’ll hear this year. (9)

BILL CALLAHAN – Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

Ex-Smog mainman and legendary indie rock Casanova (he has dated Joanna Newsom, Cat Power and a bunch of other high-profile female musicians) on low-key, quiet songs about settling down, sung in his trademark baritone voice. It’s OK, not great, but will get 9/10 and above from nerdy music critics with no romantic life of their own. (7)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Western Stars

The boss replaces the E-Street Band with strings and goes for a Burt Bacharach/Glen Campbell vibe. Solid songwriting and top-notch storytelling, as always. (8)

CALEXICO & IRON AND WINE – Years To Burn

14 years since they released an EP together, Americana heroes collaborate again for a new album. Fans of both acts will enjoy. (8)

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL – EODM Presents Boots Electric: Performing The Best Songs We Never Wrote

A bunch of cover versions even sillier than the band’s name. (6)

ELENI MANDELL – Wake Up Again

Having Chuck E. Weiss as a mentor must have been a VERY interesting way to enter the music business but Eleni has always had her own voice, and after 11 albums it has evolved into a strange but interesting hybrid of folk, pop, jazz and slowcore. (7)

JAKE XERXES FUSSELL – Out Of Sight

American folklorist unearths and modernizes a bunch of traditional tunes on his third album. (7)

JAMBINAI – Onda

This South Korean band plays the exact opposite of K-pop – a thrilling, epic mix of post-rock and metal with traditional Korean instruments that ends up halfway between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and, well, Emperor. (8)

THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG – New Organon

Celtic-tinged traditional metal without being Thin Lizzy karaoke. Better than the Bible Of The Devil album by the way, just saying since the two bands are linked in more ways than one. (8)

TITUS ANDRONICUS – An Obelisk

Their first album sort of sucked, the second ruled. Their third album sort of sucked, the fourth ruled. Their fifth album sort of sucked, this is the sixth and of course it rules – a true return to epic punk rock form. (8)

WARRIOR SOUL – Rock ’N’ Roll Disease

The band still rocks like a motherfucker but decades of debauchery have taken their toll on Kory Clarke’s voice – he used to sound like a punk Marianne Faithfull, now he sounds like a punk Marianne Faithfull being choked to death while suffering from bronchitis. (7)

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, May 2019 Vol. 2


CAVE IN – Final Transmission
Featuring bassist Caleb Scofield’s final recordings before his tragic death in 2018 this is a fitting epilogue to a great, great band. A big chunk of the album’s proceeds will go to Scofield’s young family so don’t be a dick, buy this. (8)

DEATHSPELL OMEGA – The Furnaces of Palingenesia

Chaotic, dissonant black metal might not be everyone’s cup of tea but Deathspell Omega excel at it. (8)

EARTH – Full Upon Her Burning Lips

Sabbath mixtape? Check. Pack of Rizlas? Check. Fridge full of Heinekens? Check. OK, I'm ready! (7)

HOT WATER MUSIC – A Flight And A Crash/Caution (Remastered)

The band’s fourth and fifth albums from the early 00’s remastered and reissued on vinyl. If you missed out on one of the best punk bands of the last 20 years the first time around, not unlikely as they were sometimes found under the unattractive and inaccurate “emo” label, now’s the time to repent and do something about it. (8)/(9)

HOT WATER MUSIC – Shake Up The Shadows

5-song EP does not deviate from the HWM canon of melodic, passionate punk rock. It’s out on Epitaph, their 2001-2004 label, if this signifies something to the fans. (8)

IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE – Laylet El Booree

A fascinating amalgam of ritualistic trance music from the Southern Tunisian desert and industrial post-punk. (8)

LAST POETS – Transcending Toxic Times

Spoken word/proto-hip hop pioneers return less than a year after their last album following a long hiatus. Whereas 2018’s “Understand What Black Is” was reggae-flavored, this one’s funkier. Some of the poems have appeared on previous albums with a different instrumentation. (7)

LISA MORGENSTERN – Chameleon

Ethereal Goth nymph cosplays 4AD circa 1985. (7)

LONE JUSTICE – Live At The Palomino 1983

Unearthed and previously unreleased live performance. Don’t expect hi-fidelity on a two-track recording, to paraphrase Tom Waits this is music with the rinds and the seeds and the pulp left in, but after starting the set with a deceptively mellow ballad the band explodes into a frenzy of manic cow-punk that’ll leave you breathless, led by a frontwoman who’s nothing short of a force of nature. (8)

MAVIS STAPLES – We Get By

Legendary gospel/blues/soul singer turns 80 and still releases excellent albums, this time with some help from Ben Harper. (8)

PAICE ASHTON LORD – Malice In Wonderland (Remastered)

Reissue of 1977 minor classic from the extended Deep Purple family. “Ghost Story” is a timeless hit but the whole album is top-notch funk rock. (8)

RAMMSTEIN – Rammstein

When they bring on the Metal they sound pretty epic, on the more dancefloor-friendly tracks like “Auslander” they sound a bit Eurovision-y, but in a good way. The videos are pretty awesome. (8)

SAINT VITUS – Saint Vitus

Saint Vitus always sounded dirtier and moldier than their American Doom peers in Pentagram and Trouble, and the new album is VERY dirty and moldy, like it has just been dug up after twelve years in the tomb. And, having started out playing with Black Flag in the early 80’s, they come full circle and close the album with a real hardcore punk song. (7)

SHOW ME THE BODY – Dog Whistle

Third album by NYC band specializing in angular noise rock. I’ve read comparisons to Fugazi, At The Drive In and Death Grips, but to me they sound totally 1990 Jesus Lizard/Amphetamine Reptile. Check it out if you’re into that stuff. (8)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Jobcentre Rejects: Ultra Rare NWOBHM 1978-1982

Great compilation of rare recordings by obscure bands such as Baseline, Predatur, Frenzy, Die Laughing, Static, Metal Mirror etc., the only relatively known but long forgotten one being Spider. There’s nothing game-changing here like Iron Maiden or Diamond Head, just lots of good-time beer-soaked songs that in some cases are more Status Quo boogie rather than pure heavy metal, but in any case probably deserved better than a privately issued small-run 45 release. (8)

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, May 2019

THE HEAVIER STUFF

ARCH/MATHEOS – Winter Ethereal

Even though I’m a huge Matheos/Fates Warning fan I have to say this one sounds a bit forced – almost as if the main purpose of the occasional weird prog-metal time signature is to accommodate Arch’s verbosity and awkward phrasing. (7)

BAD RELIGION – Age Of Unreason

I love Bad Religion, one of my favorite punk bands ever, but this is not one of their best albums – it starts out really strong but somewhat deflates towards the end. They can still kick the ass of 99% of all other punk bands though. (7)

BIBLE OF THE DEVIL – Feel It

No surprises, just the expected Maiden/Lizzy worship with slightly off-key vocals. (6)

DUB TRIO – The Shape Of Dub To Come

Best known as frequent Mike Patton collaborators Dub Trio return with their first album in eight years, a metal/dub-reggae hybrid featuring special guest vocalists Buzz (Melvins), Troy (Mastodon) and Meshell Ndegeocello. (7)

ENFORCER – Zenith

They’ve got the hooks, they’ve got the mustache, all they need now is a stupid “human pyramid with mouths open” promo photoshoot and the metamorphosis into “Blackout”-era Scorpions will be complete. (7)

GRAND MAGUS – Wolf God

Heavy metal the way it should be, epic and catchy at the same time in the time-honored tradition of 80’s Manowar and Dio. (8)

L7 – Scatter The Rats

Grunge runners-up return after a 19-year hiatus. “Scatter The Rats” is OK for a brief nostalgia trip if you were there in the 90’s, but will be totally forgotten within a couple of months. (6)

MARISSA NADLER & STEPHEN BRODSKY – Droneflower

Gothic folk chanteuse teams up with hardcore/metal guitarist. Includes a cover of Guns’n’Roses’ “Estranged” because, apparently, Nadler likes dolphins. Recommended if you like black clothes and tons of reverb. And dolphins. (7)

PELICAN – Nighttime Stories

Do you remember post-metal? Do you remember Hydra Head? Do you miss that stuff? (7)

SABBATH ASSEMBLY – A Letter Of Red

Prog/occult rockers return with their most “pop” album to date, i.e. with shorter songs and catchier melodies, trying to recreate the 70’s but ending up with a very 2011 sound. (7)

VAURA – Sables

Members of Kayo Dot, Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Tombs etc. explore their inner Depeche Mode/The Cure. I fucking hate Depeche Mode and the Cure. (6)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Brown Acid: the Eighth Trip

This is a great compilation series if you’re into obscure late 60’s / early 70’s hard rock and proto-metal, and its eighth instalment will introduce you to painstakingly discovered total unknowns like White Rock, Luke & the Apostles, Bartos Brothers Band and Moloch. (6 for the actual music, 11 for the concept and the effort)


THE OTHER STUFF

ALTIN GUN – Gece

What this Dutch/Turkish combo plays is supposed to be a tribute to the Turkish psychedelia of the early 70’s (yes, early 70’s Turkish psychedelia was a thing). I’m sorry, but to my ears it sounds too much like the Greek skyladika I grew up to hate. (5)

BIG THIEF – U.F.O.F.

It’s a charming little folk record but come on Pitchfork, 9.2/10? No way. (7.7)

BILLY JOEL – Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2

Sony Music re-releases, re-masters, re-packages etc. this one every few years, they just did it again and for good reason, if you need a masterclass in PERFECT songwriting then look no further. (10)

CAROLINE SPENCE – Mint Condition

An excellent country album by a very talented young woman who sounds like Dolly Parton, Sheryl Crow, Tom Petty and various Pistol Annies all rolled into one. (8)

CRAIG FINN – I Need A New War

The Hold Steady totally owned the 00’s. This is their leader’s fourth, and best, solo album – more subdued and quiet than his band’s output, but his storytelling just keeps getting better and better with each song packing more punch than a Bukowski novel. Seriously, if you can’t get into these songs you have no heart. (8)

DREAM SYNDICATE – These Times

Reimagined for the 21st Century, Steve Wynn’s band release their second post-reunion album and it sounds nothing like the previous one, so it’s exactly what you’d expect from the Dream Syndicate. Psychedelic and motorik at times, Beatles-y and REM-y and jangly at others, it’s a pure delight. (8)

FELICE BROTHERS – Undress

American rootsy folk rock quartet enhances its sound and goes political. Some of these tunes wouldn’t feel out of place on a Springsteen set. (7)

JOSH RITTER – Fever Breaks

With Jason Isbell at the helm as producer and Isbell’s band The 400 Unit providing the back-up, comparisons will be inevitable. (7)

MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO – Opaque Couche

Electronic music pioneers and important influence to everyone from Massive Attack to Nine Inch Nails return with a strong album titled after the world’s ugliest color and sounding quite 90’s-ish. (7)

LILA DOWNS – Al Chile

Mexican singer with otherworldly voice capabilities covers Manu Chao, invites guests like Norah Jones, and sings about immigration, injustice, politics, and cooking. Not her best album, still really good. (7)

LIZZO – Cuz I Love You

She can sing, she can rap, she can dance, she can even play the flute, and she can certainly join Janelle Monae and a couple of other multitalented black female artists on the list of possible heirs to Prince’s throne. (8)

RHIANNON GIDDENS WITH FRANCESCO TURRISI – There Is No Other

After releasing a magnificent album with folk supergroup Our Native Daughters, Giddens returns just two months later with a Mediterranean-flavored masterpiece working with Italian multi-instrumentalist Turrisi, and it looks like she might end up having two spots on 2019’s end-year List. (9)

VINTAGE TROUBLE – Chapter II, EP II

A further move towards a smoother sound, still influenced by their 60’s heroes like Otis Redding but with some of the dirt cleaned up. (7)