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)

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, March 2020



BODY COUNT – Carnivore
My love for Ice-T is well documented and you have to admire the guy for being a socially conscious progressive badass who can also be funny as hell when he wants to but even though “Carnivore” has its moments, compared to the band’s previous couple of releases it sounds a bit tired. (7)

CARIBOU – Suddenly

Call me old-fashioned or a boomer or whatever but I just don’t get this glitchy modern electronica/pop: Why is de-tuning keyboards in the middle of a riff and having tape-warping effects considered genius production and adding texture to the songs? I find these gimmicks really distracting, which is a shame as the songwriting on “Suddenly” is actually pretty great. (7)

CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA – To Believe Remixes

Just what the title says – remixes of last year’s album. Doesn’t really add anything essential to the original version. (7)

GODTHRYMM – Reflections

Hamish Glencross has been a member of Solstice and My Dying Bride, so it’s no surprise that his new band sounds like a cross between Solstice and My Dying Bride. (7)

JOHN DOLMAYAN – These Grey Men

Goddammit guys, will you stop fooling around and put the band back together already? (7)

MASTERSONS – No Time For Love Songs

Husband & wife duo better known as members of Steve Earle’s backing band release fourth album of gentle Americana with a 60’s sunny Southern California vibe. (7)

MONDO GENERATOR – Shooter’s Bible

Nick Oliveri’s “lost album” recorded in 2010 and out now is actually slightly better than the proper new album he released only days prior to this one. (6)

MY DYING BRIDE – The Ghost Of Orion

It’s a My Dying Bride album, what did you expect, party music? (7)

NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA – Aeromantic

It’ll remind you of JLT-era Rainbow and it’ll remind you of ABBA but really, it’s just more yacht rock than Michael McDonald’s facial hair. (8)

WASTED SHIRT – Fungus II

Modern-day fuzz king Ty Segall and the drummer from Lightning Bolt go full-on Neanderthal on this messy, noisy album that’s guaranteed to annoy your neighbors if you play it loud, and loud’s the only way to play it. (7)

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, February 2020 Vol. II

THE LOUDER STUFF

BAMBARA – Stray

Tier-2 post-punk/goth. Peter Murphy in his prime, or a sexagenarian Nick Cave, could eat this guy for breakfast. (6)

GREEN DAY – Father Of All Motherfuckers

This is not the Green Day you know, it’s like a combination of 2017 QOTSA and 2003 Jet and the change of direction sounds forced. (6)

IHSAHN – Telemark

EP from black/prog metal icon featuring three new tracks plus a badass Iron Maiden cover (with brass!) and a WTF Lenny Kravitz cover. (7)

KINETIC DISSENT – Controlled Reaction: The Demo Anthology

You’d think that in this day and age there are no well-kept secrets anymore, but this late-80’s/early 90’s US prog-power-thrash metal band remains well below the radar of most metal fans. Newbies are better off tracking down their sole proper album “I Will Fight No More Forever”, but the handful of fans will cream their pants listening to this one – the band’s four demos, 17 tracks in total, for the first time together on CD. (10 for fans only)

KVELERTAK – Splid

The departure of their original vocalist hasn’t hurt them one bit – the new guy’s just as entertaining and the rest of the band still go for the jugular on an early contender for metal album of the year: Someone announcing “air guitar, come on!” before the lead single’s guitar solo kicks in pretty much sums it up. (9)

MONDO GENERATOR – Fuck It

Former Kyuss/QOTSA/Dwarves bassist Nick Oliveri revives his solo band but the album sounds like a rather uninspired hybrid of all the bands he’s better known for. (6)

ON THORNS I LAY – Threnos

Another strong doom/death metal effort from the Peaceville Three-indebted Greeks. (7)

POSEHN – Grandpa Metal

Metalhead comedian Brian Posehn invites famous musician friends (Scott Ian, Corey Taylor, Gary Holt, Jeff Pilson,  Kim Thayil, Alex Skolnick, Chuck Billy, Steve “Zetro” Souza, Phil Demmel, the late Jill Janus…) but a lot of his jokes fall flat, or maybe I’m “grandpa metal” myself and can’t appreciate them. Includes his version of A-ha’s “Take On Me”, the worst song ever written in the history of mankind. (6)

PSYCHOTIC WALTZ – The God-Shaped Void

A very strong album following a 24-year hiatus from this great prog metal band (more Fates Warning than Dream Theater), but you can’t get it out of my head that “Sisters Of The Dawn” borrows a melody line from Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita”. (8)

RUSS BALLARD – It’s Good To Be Here

Originally released in 2015 as a download-only album, it’s out now on physical formats with additional tracks. Ballard, one of the great songwriters-for-hire of rock’s golden age with hits for Rainbow, Santana, Kiss & Ace Frehley, America, Santana etc. under his belt, proves he’s still got it in his 70’s. (7)

SUPERSUCKERS – Play That Rock ‘N’ Roll

A much better punk rock party record that Green Day’s, plus they cover Michael Monroe’s “Dead, Jail Or Rock ‘N’ Roll” for extra coolness points. (8)


THE OTHER STUFF

ANTIBALAS – Fu Chronicles

Competent Afrobeat by one of the best western bands doing it. (7)

AUBRIE SELLERS – Far From Home

Solid effort from Sellers who comes across like a more rock ‘n’ roll, less humorous version of Miranda Lambert. (7)

GREG DULLI – Random Desire

Afghan Whigs frontman releases solo album thick on the atmosphere we love, but a bit light on the hooks. (7)

GRIMES – Miss Anthropocene

Now a famous pop star for reasons that have nothing to do with her music, Grimes releases new electropop/industrial-lite album that’s so drowned in reverb it becomes slightly annoying. Generally speaking it sounds like a cross between Blanck Mass on downers and Taylor Swift on acid, not necessarily a good thing. (6)

HANGING STARS – A New Kind of Sky

An English band playing West Coast psychedelic country/proto-folk rock a-la Byrds/Love, and doing it really well on their highly enjoyable third album. (8)

HAYSEED DIXIE – Blast From The Grassed

I know it’s a one-trick pony but their bluegrass covers are always fun and this time they focus on pop megahits (Bee Gees, Toto, New Order, Eurythmics…) rather than rock classics. Includes their version of A-ha’s “Take On Me”, the worst song ever written in the history of mankind. (7)

JOHN MORELAND – LP5

Another great (relatively) young country singer/songwriter who decided to expand his sonic palette beyond pure country music, Moreland incorporates subtle electronica elements into his fifth album, probably his best. (8)

SECRET SISTERS – Saturn Return

Americana sibling duo with a series of fantastic albums based on their vocal harmonies under their belts return with their most pop effort, skipping the Everly Brothers vibe on several tracks where each sister takes her turn on lead vocals. Brandi Carlyle returns to the producer’s chair. Simply beautiful. (8)

SETH LAKEMAN – A Pilgrim’s Tale

A concept album about the puritans’ trip from England to the New World aboard the Mayflower 400 years ago, this is quite possibly the most ambitious and impressive folk album in years. (9)

Friday, 31 January 2020

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, February 2020


ALGIERS – There Is No Year
Not sure if “gospel punk” is a genre since there’s probably only one band doing it, but Algiers have already reached album #3 and it’s their darkest one. (7)

AOIFE NESSA FRANCES – Land Of No Junction

Irish psychedelic folk singer-songwriter on promising 60’s throwback debut. (7)

BEACH SLANG – The Deadbeat Bang Of Heartbreak City

Nobody embodies the true, hopelessly and unrealistically romantic spirit of rock ‘n’ roll in 2020 like James Alex, and nobody can beat his heartbroken/drunk gutter poetry except perhaps Craig Finn. (8)

BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE – Patchouli Blue

Noir, cinematic jazz for after hours listening. (8)

BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN – Bonny Light Horseman

An indie folk supergroup of sorts, they sound like an unplugged Grateful Dead without the boring jamming. (8)

COLIN STETSON – Color Out Of Space (Original Soundtrack)

Sax and violins for a horror movie based on a story by HP Lovecraft and starring Nicolas Cage. (7)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – The Unraveling

Politically charged heartland rock from one of the best bands around. (8)

EMINEM – Music To Be Murdered By

I suspect that people who get upset at Eminem are the grandchildren of people who were getting upset at Lenny Bruce. Political correctness is killing art, and if rapping is an art form then Eminem is its fuckin’ Michelangelo – “Music To Be Murdered By” is not his Sistine Chapel ceiling, but it’s still a Michelangelo. (8)

EZRA FURMAN – Sex Education (Original Soundtrack)

Soundtrack to Netflix show about teenage angst, featuring new songs plus tracks from previous Furman albums. Furman is one of the top songwriters in the rock game right now, so check this out. But, dear Ezra: The plural of “octopus” is “octopuses”, not “octopi”. (8)

GILL LANDRY – Skeleton At The Banquet

Sad songs make me happy, and Landry’s rugged baritone makes the songs sadder and me happier. (8)

JORN – Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing the Classics

Jorn Lande ventures slightly outside his comfort zone on this new collection of covers – in addition to the expected 80’s Bryan Adams-Foreigner-Deep Purple-Dio karaoke he does so well, he also competently tries his hand at AOR transformations of tunes by Don Henley, Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel. A pleasant listen, as always. (7)

TERRY ALLEN & THE PANHANDLE MYSTERY BAND – Just Like Moby Dick

If you thought all country songs were about truckers, beers and broken hearts, think again: Allen, another Guy Clark disciple like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, sings about Houdini’s existential crisis, Brecht characters, and the circus coming to a vampire-infested town. Features a Texan all-star band. (8)

THE HADEN TRIPLETS – The Family Songbook

The three daughters of legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden release fantastic album touching upon Americana, country, jazz and folk. The vocal harmonies are out of this world. (8)

THE LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS – Live From Sun Studio

Available on streaming platforms, color vinyl or limited edition 180-gram black vinyl, this is a show celebrating the hell-raising Kentucky band’s 25th anniversary. RYIL the Reverend Horton Heat and other lunatic rednecks. (8)