Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, July 2020


DAMIR IMAMOVIC – Singer Of Tales
I suspect that the Venn Diagram for people who like Slayer, Dolly Parton, AND traditional Balkan music contains exactly zero people apart from myself, but in any case, if you’re interested – this Bosnian dude has released a solid Sevdah record. (7)

EMPTY COUNTRY – Empty Country

An impressive debut from Joe D’Agostino, ex-frontman of Cymbals Eat Guitars, not as loud as CEG but just as vast-sounding and ambitious and emo-ish. (8)

FATHER JOHN MISTY – Anthem +3

Benefit 4-track covers EP, the main attraction being Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” as the other covers (Cat Stevens, Link Wray, and another Cohen song) are previously released. (8)

HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III

The Soft Rock Queens of L.A. go past their early 80’s Fleetwood Mac fixation, enhance their sound with new influences and darken it up a bit, with glorious results. (8)

KAVUS TORABI – Hip to the Jag

From the very depths of the English psychedelic underground, having worked with the Cardiacs, Monsoon Basoon, Guapo and Gong among others, this guy finally releases a solo album and it’s just as bonkers and otherworldly as you might’ve expected. (7)

KHRUANGBIN – Mordechai

Hyped-up trio combines 50% American psychedelic dub-funk with 30% African influences and 20% South-East Asian sounds, ends up 40% boring. (6)

MAGICK TOUCH – Heads Have Got to Rock 'n' Roll

Sort of like a Thin Lizzy/Dokken hybrid. Would have been much bigger in 1983. (7)

TRANSGLOBAL UNDERGROUND – Walls Have Ears

Largely responsible for popularizing in the 90’s the electronica/world music hybrid later exploited by the likes of Thievery Corporation, TGU are back with something resembling the original line-up and an album worth a few spins if you’re in a nostalgic mood. (7)

WILLIE NELSON – First Rose Of Spring

He is 87 years old. This is his 70th album. He has smoked more weed than everyone else alive in the State of Texas put together. You can excuse him for writing just two new songs this time around and mainly doing covers. (7)

WINO – Forever Gone

Doom metal godfather does solo acoustic record but it doesn’t sound like a solo acoustic record, it sounds like a doom metal record for which he couldn’t afford to pay the electricity bill or hire a band. (7)

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, June 2020 Vol. II


BLACKBERRY SMOKE –Live from Capricorn Sound Studios
Premier contemporary southern rock band doing stellar covers of a handful of classics from the Capricorn Records catalog including tracks by the Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band and Wet Willie (whose frontman guests here). (8)

BOB DYLAN – Rough and Rowdy Ways

How can a 79-year old with a 6-decade career already behind him release an album so good? Seriously, this is probably the best Dylan record since 1975’s “Blood On The Tracks”. (9)

ERIC HILTON – Infinite Everywhere

1/2 of Thievery Corporation on very cool ambient solo effort. (8)

JAZZ SABBATH – Jazz Sabbath

Long-time incognito Black Sabbath keyboardist Adam Wakeman has some fun doing jazz versions of classics from his employer’s first four albums. (7)

JEHNNY BETH – To Love Is To Live

Savages frontwoman releases first solo album which moves a bit away from her band’s post-punk towards a darker electronic sound. (7)

LAMB OF GOD – Lamb Of God

Is it just me losing my heavy metalness, or is this less exciting than previous LoG albums? (7)

LARKIN POE – Self Made Man

Blues rock on steroids, this kicks some serious ass. (8)

MELVINS & MUDHONEY – White Lazy Boy

Great collaborative EP by an ad hoc group featuring the key members from both legendary grunge bands. Two new tracks plus Black Flag and Neil Young covers. (8)

MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD – Work Hard And Be Nice

What is this happy hippy shit? Of course I wasn’t expecting the Beatnigs or the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, but even compared to recent Spearhead albums this is too lightweight. (5)

NORAH JONES – Pick Me Up Off The Floor

Haters might call her Snorah Jones but this album proves that even her leftovers are interesting – Jones revisits previously rejected songs from her demos and reinvents them for a new release which goes beyond the smooth jazz she’s known for, blending it with blues and country elements. (7)

PHOEBE BRIDGERS – Punisher

You’re gonna see this on many year-end Lists in December since Bridgers is the new Indie Rock Hipster Queen. Going beyond the hype, her sophomore album is a strong testament to her songwriting and storytelling talents. (8)

PROTEST THE HERO – Palimpsest

The third best (and by far the nerdiest) Canadian progressive metal band of all time is back with their best album since 2008’s “Fortress”. (8)

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, June 2020


ARCHIVES – Carry Me Home: A Reggae Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson
Reggae band from Washington D.C. doing covers of songs originally performed by Scott-Heron and his closest collaborator, Jackson, with some special guests and production help from the Thievery Corporation camp. A labor of love. (7)

ASHLEY McBRYDE – Never Will

Great sophomore effort by tough female country rocker, successfully bridging Lydia Loveless with John Mellencamp. (8)

BEHEMOTH – A Forest (EP)

Extreme metal cover of a song by The Cure, plus a couple of new tunes. The cover version makes a lot of sense. (8)

BRIGID DAWSON & THE MOTHERS NETWORK – Ballet Of Apes

Backing vocalist/keyboardist from Thee Oh Sees steps out on gently psychedelic solo effort. (7)

BRIGID MAE POWER – Head Above The Water

Irish folkie and UK music media darling adopts a fuller sound on new album, goes for a sort of Mazzy Star/Bob Dylan hybrid sound. Nice. (7)

CHANTAL KREVIAZUK – Get To You

Canadian singer/songwriter returns with a new collection of smart pop songs. (7)

JEFF ROSENSTOCK – No Dream

E-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t hook-filled punk rock, covering the whole gamut from quirky power pop to urgent hardcore. (9)

KING WITCH – Body Of Light

Metal the way it’s supposed to be: Heavy but melodic, adventurous, over the top. And what a voice! (8)

NICOLE ATKINS – Italian Ice

Atkins calls her music “pop-noir” but to put it more simply this is like a 21st century version of Dusty Springfield. (8)

OHMME – Fantasize Your Ghost

A sound impossible to categorize, Ohmme’s second album brings together chaos and melody, angular rhythms and catchy hooks, dissonant chords and angelic harmonies. (8)

REVENGE – Strike.Smother.Dehumanize

A relentless, unforgiving maelstrom of noise and hatred. (8)

RUN THE JEWELS – RTJ4

The best hip-hop album of the year and, either by genius/design or by luck/coincidence or both, it sounds just like the apocalyptic soundtrack the times we live in deserve. (9)

STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES – Ghosts Of West Virginia

Alt-country elder statesman sounds angrier than ever on fantastic anti-capitalism manifesto. (8)

WHITE DENIM – World As A Waiting Room

The most classic rock of indie rock bands releases an album recorded in lockdown that sounds like a cross between Marc Bolan and Steve Miller Band. (7)

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, May 2020


THE LOUDER STUFF

BRANT BJORK – Brant Bjork

If you’ve heard any one of Bjork’s solo albums you know exactly what to expect since they’re all the same (and all pretty good), and he sticks to the formula here: Warm and fuzzy, laid back, melodic desert rock. (7)

FAKE NAMES – Fake Names

Punk supergroup featuring members of Refused, Bad Religion, Girls Vs. Boys etc. is as good as you could possible hope it to be and a dream come true for people raised on Husker Du and/or who love the aforementioned. (8)

GREEN CARNATION – Leaves Of Yesteryear

Tchort’s prog metal band is back after a long hiatus. The album’s no dud, but compared to recent releases from Katatonia and Conception it falls a bit short. (7)

HORISONT – Sudden Death

Retro hard rock heavily influenced not by late-era Beatles, but rather by those 70’s semi-prog/semi-power pop bands influenced by late-era Beatles. (7)

JIMMY URINE & SERJ TANKIAN – Fuktronic

Mindless Self Indulgence & System Of A Down frontmen do soundtrack for imaginary gangster film, it doesn’t work without a film. (5)

OLD MAN GLOOM – Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning

Second album this year, just as noisy as the other one. (7)

PARADISE LOST – Obsidian

Strong late-career album from goth metal veterans, this time blatantly emphasizing the Sisters Of Mercy influence on a couple of tracks. Their best in many-many years. (8)


THE OTHER STUFF

GRETCHEN PETERS – The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury

One of the great living americana/country songwriters pays tribute to one of the great dead ones with stripped-down versions of classics and deep cuts. Stunning. (8)

HOT COUNTRY KNIGHTS – The K Is Silent

The Steel Panther of country music, but the jokes are smarter/funnier. (8)

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT – Reunions

Isbell’s a slow-burning one, on first listen of an Isbell album you always think “OK, a solid 7” and then, several listens down the road, its greatness suddenly dawns upon you. His songwriting and storytelling remain world-class on “Reunions”, even if production-wise there’s a departure from the straightforward country rock sound of previous albums in favor of a richer, Dire Straits-like vibe. (8)

JESS WILLIAMSON – Sorceress

A step forward with Williamson’s mix of country rock and folky pop getting more cinematic – like an earthier Lana Del Rey, with none of the meta- stuff. (8)

KAMASI WASHINGTON – Becoming (Music from the Netflix Original Documentary)

Soundtracking different scenes for a Michelle Obama documentary, Kamasi serves up 15 bite-sized nuggets of (mostly) smooth jazz. By the time you get into the groove of each, it’s over. (7)

MARIACHI EL BRONX – Musica Muerta

The mariachi alter ego of The Bronx (one of the best punk bands around) release double LP featuring unreleased songs, demos, covers, live tracks etc. It’s fun. (7)

WILLIE NILE – New York At Night

Even when he favors a rootsier sound reminiscent of Springsteen/Dylan, Nile is that very “New York” type of rock person like Lou Reed or Debbie Harry or the Ramones, and this album is his ode to that great city. (8)

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews April 2020, Vol. II


THE LOUDER STUFF

CIRITH UNGOL – Forever Black

Epic doom metal like it’s still 1985, hilariously stupid and amazingly entertaining at the same time. (8)

DANZIG – Sings Elvis

We all knew this was going to happen one day, didn’t we? But he should’ve done it in the 90’s, his voice is now gone for good. (6)

DOOL – Summerland

Second album by Dutch dark rock hopefuls is even stronger than the debut – imagine a more goth Devil’s Blood (with whom they share a couple of members) and you’re halfway there, even though their female vocalist sings more like Geddy Lee than like any of her contemporaries. “Ode To The Future” is probably a conscious semi-rip-off of Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” but we won’t hold that against them. (8)

KATATONIA – City Burials

Nowadays I stay away from all social and metal media so I have no idea what people are thinking about this one, but I do know what I’m thinking: It’s top-notch goth-prog and their best album since their masterpiece, 2003’s “Viva Emptiness”. (9)

SPARTA – Trust the River

Jim Ward (ex-At The Drive In) returns with the first Sparta album in 14 years infusing his trademark post-hardcore attack with more mid-tempo melodic tracks than expected, and it’s great. (8)

THE PACK A.D. – It Was Fun While It Lasted

Grungy Canadian garage rock duo say farewell with another entertaining album. (7)

ULCERATE – Stare Into Death And Be Still

Apocalyptic death metal at its best, like Gorguts but better. (8)

WITCHCRAFT – Black Metal

It’s not black metal. (6)


THE OTHER STUFF


COWBOY JUNKIES – Ghosts
Like always a bunch of distorted sad songs, sort of like Mazzy Star meets Crazy Horse. (7)

DREAM SYNDICATE – The Universe Inside

Not what you’d expect from the Dream Syndicate, which is exactly what you should’ve expected from the Dream Syndicate. This is essentially an hour-long trippy psychedelic jam, equal parts early Floyd, kraut rock, and “Bitches Brew”-era Miles. (8)

FIONA APPLE – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

She just keeps getting weirder and weirder and better and better. (9)

FRANK TURNER & THE SLEEPING SOULS – Live In Newcastle

This unplugged live set proves the guy’s a great songwriter and the between-songs confessional banter is usually entertaining, but I miss the electricity of the authentic tunes. (7)

LAURA MARLING – Song For Our Daughter

She’s only 30 and this is already her seventh album and it’s stellar once again, Marling is probably the true heir to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen both. (9)

LUCINDA WILLIAMS – Good Souls Better Angels

The 67-year old Queen of Americana is back with the angriest, snarliest, bluesiest album of her long career, in places sounding more like a pissed-off female Tom Waits than anything else. (8)

MARK LANEGAN – Straight Songs Of Sorrow

It’s a Mark Lanegan record, by now you should know you’re getting some solid American Gothic. (7)

SIR RICHARD BISHOP – Oneiric Formulary

A guitar hero like no other, Bishop covers the ground between acoustic balladry and electric avant-garde. (7)

SKYLAR GUDASZ – Cinema

If you’re a Joni Mitchell-influenced female singer/songwriter, you shouldn’t be releasing your album a week after Laura Marling does. (7)

WATKINS FAMILY HOUR – Brother Sister

Gentle acoustic folk from sibling duo better known as members of Nickel Creek. (7)

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, April 2020


THE LOUDER STUFF

CONCEPTION – State Of Deception

The best Queensryche album in quite a while. (8)

ME AND THAT MAN – New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1

Behemoth’s Nergal invites his friends (Corey Taylor, Ihsahn, Matt Heafy…) and has them sing country/blues/americana. Best moment is Mat McMerney (Hexvessel/Dodheimsgard/Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures) doing his best “Satanic Hank Williams” impression but the basic takeaway of the album is this, what we always suspected: Every metal singer singing anything other than metal ends up sounding like Nick Cave karaoke. (7)

NINE INCH NAILS – Ghosts V: Together / Ghosts VI: Locusts

Two new instrumental albums simultaneously released, V is more tranquil and VI more disturbing, both closer to Reznor’s soundtrack work with Atticus Ross than to proper NIN records. (7)

OLD MAN GLOOM – Seminar IX: Darkness Of Being

The usual awesome heavy experimental doom, the main difference this time around being that the tragically deceased bassist Caleb Scofield has been replaced by his Cave In bandmate Stephen Brodsky. (8)

PEARL JAM – Gigaton

From the garage rock of “Superblood Wolfmoon” to the Talking Heads-esque angular white boy funk of “Dance Of The Clairvoyants” to the Who-like attack of “Never Destination” to the ballad-heavy second half of the album, Pearl Jam defy expectations on their best release since “Riot Act”. (8)

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS – Viscerals

Best band name ever, and don’t call them “stoner rock” – this is a far messier, sludgier, more fun affair. (8)

TESTAMENT – Titans of Creation

The all-star thrash lineup shreds, but the songs just chug along and drag on and on and on without a single hook really standing out. (6)

TĒTĒMA – Necroscape

The zillionth Mike Patton project is one of the weirdest and most cacophonous, certainly on the left of Mr. Bungle. You have been warned. (7)


THE OTHER STUFF


BRIAN FALLON – Local Honey
Gaslight Anthem frontman and Springsteen disciple Fallon on personal, mostly acoustic set of songs. (7)

CHILDISH GAMBINO – 3.15.20

Overrated. (6)

JAMES ELKINGTON – Ever-Roving Eye

Drawing from a variety of sources like British folk and 60’s psychedelia, Elkington’s second album is a small triumph. (8)

LILLY HIATT – Walking Proof

Country rock singer/songwriter’s fourth album is more laid back than 2017’s “Trinity Lane” and features lots of guests like Amanda Shires, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and dad John Hiatt. (7)

PHISH – Sigma Oasis

Virtually unknown outside the US of A but on home turf Phish is not just a band, it’s an institution, a cult almost, with rabid loyal fans, and they just surprise-released an album of songs they’ve already been playing live for years but had never properly recorded in a studio. If you can stand the Grateful Dead, you’ll probably enjoy this. (7)

STEFANO BOLLANI – Piano Variations On Jesus Christ Superstar

I’d never heard of this Italian jazz pianist before but obviously he has an unhealthy obsession with the music from “Jesus Christ Superstar” so I started liking him before I even listened to this, a fantastic track-by-track reworking of the epic rock opera for solo piano. Labors of love like this one is what’s it’s all about, folks. (10)

THIEVERY CORPORATION – Symphonik

Downtempo/chillout pioneers revisit 11 of their best known songs with a full classical orchestra. It works much better than Metallica’s “S&M”. (8)

WAXAHATCHEE – Saint Cloud

Katie Crutchfield moves away from grungy indie rock towards folk/Americana on her new album that most critics are absolutely ecstatic about. Can’t understand why – it’s good, but in no way spectacularly better than at least a dozen or so other 2020 albums by folky singer-songwriters. (7)

YVES TUMOR – Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Sorry but I just don’t get this modern, overproduced, deconstructed/reconstructed “pop”, what’s wrong with having some SONGS for a change? (6)

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews March 2020: Home Quarantine Edition


ALKALINE TRIO – EP
Nine solid new minutes of pop-punk to compensate for a cancelled tour with Bad Religion. (7)

ARBOURETUM – Let It All In

I’ve OD’ed on psychedelic folk rock albums lately but this is one of the better ones, largely thanks to the modern-sounding synths that differentiate it from the throwbacks. (8)

CODE ORANGE – Underneath

Code Orange add industrial/electronics to their competent metalcore this time around sounding more mature and, dare I say, catchy. But no, it’s not the metal album of the year. (7)

HUMAN IMPACT – Human Impact

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bunch of old farts that used to be in Unsane, Cop Shoot Cop and Swans release an early 90’s-style noise rock album bringing back memories of the Lower East Side and making every young buck like Code Orange out there sound like pussies. And, by the way, Cop Shoot Cop was the best fucking band you’ve never heard. (8)

LUCIFER – Lucifer III

Starting off with a song titled “Ghosts” tells you everything you need to know about this album and Johanna Sadonis’ ambitions within the “occult doom rock” spectrum but, whereas Tobias Forge employs subversive shock tactics to reach a wider audience, she prefers to play it safe and just go for the lowest common denominator. (7)

MARIA McKEE – La Vita Nuova

If you were expecting the powerhouse who used to front the cowpunk band Lone Justice 35 years ago (fuck! 35 years ago!) or the hitmaker who sang power ballads on Tom Cruise movie soundtracks in the early 90’s you’ll be shocked to discover that La Vita Nuova, McKee’s first album in ages, is more art rock than anything else, with florid songwriting, literary lyrics and startlingly original, complicated melody lines occasionally verging on the operatic. The only constant from the past is that her voice –now deeper, mature– will still give you goosebumps. (9)

MYRKUR – Folkesange

No black metal on this one, she went ahead and made a pure neofolk record, and once again it’ll prove divisive. (7)

NADIA REID – Out Of My Province

RYIL Laura Marling, Sharon Van Etten, and other totally awesome female singer-songwriters. (8)

NECKS – Three

It’s amazing how this trio operates within the framework of ambient instrumental jazz but ends up stirring the same emotions as the most intense stuff the Swans have released in the last decade – it’s no coincidence that they moonlighted as Swans collaborators recently. (8)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Ordinary Man

Of course it’s overblown and overproduced, of course there are ballads, of course there are guests, but still – if this proves to be his last album, it’s good enough to be a fine epilogue to a true legend’s 50-year career. (7)

SIENA ROOT – The Secret Of Our Time

If you’re looking for a 70’s-flavored hard rock album with female vocals this month, Siena Root have done better than Lucifer. (8)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Come On Let’s Go! Power Pop Gems From The 70’s & 80’s

Actually released several months ago in 2019 but I just managed to get around to it – a fantastic compilation of classics (Raspberries, Romantics, Flamin’ Groovies, Big Star, Utopia…) and total unknowns, plus great liner notes that go deep into the story of each featured band, make this an almost perfect introduction to the power pop genre. (9)