Friday, 5 July 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, July 2019

Aggelos Baltas blends his sample-based psychedelia/krautrock with the traditional Greek folk sounds of Savvaidis and the results are awesome. (8)


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 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)


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)


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)


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)


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


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)



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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, April 2019


BIG BUSINESS – The Beast You Are

Heavy metal heretics are back to the two-piece format, and they sound fucking epic. (8)

DALEK – Respect To The Authors

Dense, suffocating hip hop/industrial hybrid on a tour-exclusive vinyl EP, from a group that’s much better than Death Grips if you ask me. (8)


This is not “the heavier stuff”, to be precise it’s the exact opposite of heavy stuff, but since the guy also plays with Ulver and SunnO))) we thought we’d list him here. This is a fantastic and very English album that defies categorization but if you like Nick Drake AND Neil Young AND Soft Machine AND Current 93, you will love this. Check it out and then go out and discover Mothlite, the least known band O’Sullivan’s been involved with but arguably the best. (8)


This is his 24th album I think, and it sounds like all 23 previous ones playing simultaneously. Surely the kitchen sink was left out by mistake? Totally bonkers, but in a good way. (7)

DRASTUS – La Croix De Sang

Epicus Blackus Metallicus. (8)


Gypsy punks return and blow the roof off the sucker. (8)

MANOWAR – The Final Battle I EP

Four tracks: A faux Hollywood instrumental, a sub-Judas Priest rip-off, a Celtic ballad counting on keyboards for the “epicness”, and one good song ruined by DeMaio’s decision to “sing” it himself. Time to go home boys. (5)

PUP – Morbid Stuff

Best punk rock album of the year so far. (8)

SUNN O))) – Life Metal

Majestic, hauntingly beautiful and FUCKING HEAVY. Not for the faint of heart though. (8)

SWANS – What Is This?

Weird acoustic tracks that seem to be a teaser/demo/foundation for the next proper album, which will apparently be recorded with a new line-up including Bill Rieflin (Ministry, King Crimson) and Anna Von Hausswolff. (7)

VLTIMAS – Something Wicked Marches In

Extreme metal supergroup featuring David Vincent (Morbid Angel), Blasphemer (Mayhem) and Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy), this is skull-crushing death metal at its best. Much better than anything either Morbid Angel or Mayhem have come up since 2000. (9)


AMON TOBIN – Fear In A Handful Of Dust

Electronica pioneer returns after a long hiatus with one of his strangest records to date – no sign of the twisted sampled breakbeats that characterized his most popular work, but with a captivating icy atmosphere. (7)


Less rap, more soul-funk this time around. Not bad, but he’s no Smokey Robinson even though Smokey guests here. (7)

BETH GIBBONS & THE POLISH NATIONAL RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs)

Live recording from 2014 finally released, with Portishead vocalist discovering her inner soprano and singing in Polish. (7)

BHI BHIMAN – Peace Of Mind

Releasing the album as a podcast is an interesting experiment on music distribution, and the political sentiments expressed here are admirable. As for the music itself, I’ve previously called this guy “the Sri Lankan Ben Harper”, and I’ll stand by that. (7)


Soul/funk/afrojazz/psychedelic rock band kills it with 10 instrumentals featuring fuzz-drenched guitar riffs, awesome horns and a drummer who wants to be John Bonham. Fun! (8)

JIMBO MATHUS – Incinerator

Introspective and more country than rock this time around, Mathus stays true to his Southern roots with another excellent set of songs. (8)

NORAH JONES – Begin Again

Refusing to be pigeonholed simply to cash in, Jones adds electronica and country flourishes to her jazz-pop, and from a purely artistic point of view it mostly works. (7)

LAST POETS – Understand What Dub Is

Dub version of last year’s “Understand What Black Is” album, which was reggae-based anyway so this works just fine. Light up a spliff and enjoy the poetry. (7)

PJ HARVEY – All About Eve

Original score for a new stage adaptation of a classic play. Lead actresses Lily James and Gillian Anderson both contribute vocals. It doesn’t sound like a PJ Harvey album and it’s hard to judge its effectiveness as a soundtrack without having seen the play, but of course Polly Jean fans will have to hear it, it’s a matter of principle. (-)


Husband and wife team on homebrewed folk rock ditties. And no, their actual names are not Peter Shovels and Jennifer Rope or something along those lines, and this is probably the right time to admit that, for decades, I was under the impression that Barclay James Harvest was a trio of dudes called Barclay, James and Harvest. (7)

THIRD EAR BAND – Elements 1970-71 (expanded edition)

Obscure underground prog/freak-folk “classic” rediscovered, remastered and expanded to 3 CDs. Proves it had deservedly fallen into obscurity because it’s utter shite and for the most part sounds like a classical orchestra comprised of stoned amateur hippies (which I’m sure is what they were) unsuccessfully trying to tune their instruments before rehearsing together for the first time. (1)

TODD SNIDER – Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3

Solo acoustic album from Todd, basically just guitar and vocals and a bunch of witty songs recorded in Johnny Cash’s studio, with some help on backing vocals from his buddies Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. (7)

WEYES BLOOD – Titanic Rising

Natalie Mering has just created some classic 70’s-style AM radio pop that brings to mind what the Carpenters and various assorted solo Beatles used to do, or what Father John Misty is currently doing. (8)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Late Night Tales: Floating Points

I love LNT, a chill-out compilation series built around the idea of making the perfect late night mix and the latest instalment, curated by electronica musician Sam Shepherd (AKA Floating Points), doesn’t disappoint – I’ve previously heard only one of the jazz, soul and ambient artists featured here but these beautiful rarities blend seamlessly into each other. (8)

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, March 2019


EX HEX – It's Real

Female trio featuring Helium’s Mary Timony plays power pop halfway between Cheap Trick hard rock riffage and Buzzcocks angsty wit. (7)

O.R.K. – Ramagehead

Prog rock/metal supergroup featuring members of King Crimson and Porcupine Tree and an Italian singer who sounds creepily Chris Cornell-ish. SOAD’s Serj Tankian guests on one song. Impressive on the first listen but wears out quickly. (6)

SOEN – Lotus

I was going to describe this as a really good cross between Katatonia and Opeth, but then I realized that Opeth is already a really good cross between Katatonia and Opeth. (8)

TESLA – Shock

Produced by Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, it's no shock that “Shock” is a rather polished, poppy affair. Not bad, but I prefer my Tesla a bit dirtier. (7)


It’s almost as good as a bad AC/DC album, so it’s pretty good. (7)



Another group of siblings goes for that Everly Brothers vibe, and to a large extent succeeds. (7)


A new slice of downtempo jazzy semi-electronica from the masters. Gorgeous, essential nighttime listening. (8)

KEL ASSOUF – Black Tenere

Tuareg music might have originated in Africa, but Kel Assouf make it sound like it’s much closer related to Led Zeppelin than to Salif Keita or Ali Farka Toure. (7)

PATTY GRIFFIN – Patty Griffin

One of the best albums of the year by criminally underrated Americana singer/songwriter, this time incorporating some jazz elements into her folk/blues. Ex-boyfriend Robert Plant provides backing vocals on a couple of tracks. (9)

SOLANGE – When I Get Home

More experimental than its excellent predecessor “A Seat At The Table” and that’s not a bad thing by itself, but in this case it’s a bit all over the place and a hit-or-miss affair. (7)

STRAND OF OAKS – Eraserland

Timothy Showalter rocks a bit harder than his trademark Americana this time around, with studio help from Jason Isbell and 4/5’s of My Morning Jacket (who apparently brought their reverb unit along). Minus one point for the boring 17-minute experiment that closes the album. (7)

TOM RUSSELL – October In The Railroad Earth

Russell had made the List two albums back, in 2015. This time he settles for doing his best Johnny Cash impression. (7)