Saturday, 23 October 2021

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, Oct 2021 Vol. II


THE LOUDER STUFF

DREAM THEATER – A View From The Top Of The World

A typical Dream Theater record, i.e. it’s one month long featuring one track that lasts a fortnight and six shorter ones ranging in duration between two and three days each, but it’s a good month. No seriously, this is definitely the best Dream Theater album with Mangini in the fold. (8)  

GREEN LUNG – Black Harvest

What if Ghost was a doom metal band influenced by Queen and Uriah Heep? (9)

KING WOMAN – Celestial Blue

I didn’t know that Chelsea Wolfe had joined Eyehategod. (8)

MELVINS – Five Legged Dog

4-LP, 36-track acoustic album featuring reinterpretations of songs from their catalogue plus a bunch of covers. Still manages to sound heavy as fuck. (7)

TOM MORELLO – The Atlas Underground Fire

A somewhat disappointing mix of recycled Audioslave riffs, simplistic EDM beats, and sensationalist guest choices (Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder duetting on a cover of “Highway To Hell”???). (6)


THE OTHER STUFF

BEDOUINE – Waysides

Another one of Joni Mitchell’s spiritual children, one of the good ones. (7)

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – B-Sides And Rarities Part II

Get the proper albums first. (7)

LANA DEL REY – Blue Banisters

Her second album this year is much more autobiographical and for the most part steers clear of the 60’s/70’s Americana mythologizing. It’s not “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” but then, nothing is. (8)

GROUPER – Shade

It’s getting rave reviews from all serious music media but it’s a bit too low-fi for my taste. She clearly knows what she’s doing and I’m sure that sounding like a stoned amateur folkie’s bedroom demos is a deliberate thing, but I find getting any enjoyment from this too taxing. (6)

LILLY HIATT – Lately

Americana heiress continues her streak of solid “7” albums. (7)

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT – Georgia Blue

During 2020’s U.S. election thriller he went live on social media promising a charity tribute album to his favorite Georgia artists if the Democrats would win the state, and Jason’s a man of his word. So here it is, great covers of great tracks (REM, James Brown, Cat Power, Otis Redding, Black Crowes, Indigo Girls, Gladys Night, Allman Brothers, Vic Chesnutt…) featuring great guests. (9)

MY MORNING JACKET – My Morning Jacket

Long hair, long jams, long wait between albums. A welcome return for these Grateful Dead disciples. (7)

POKEY LaFARGE – In The Blossom Of Their Shade

Caribbean-flavored old-school Americana, like if Hank Williams had grown up in Haiti. (8)

BUFFALO NICHOLS – Buffalo Nichols

Best blues album of the year, with lyrics like a punch in the gut. (9)

STICK IN THE WHEEL – Tonebeds For Poetry

Even though there is a strong possibility these guys have never heard of Kristi Stassinopoulou & Stathis Kalyviotis, and even though they take their cues from English traditional music rather than anything Balkan-related, they fit very comfortably next to that Greek duo’s Greekadelia/folktronica sound. (7)

VINTAGE TROUBLE – Juke Joint Gems

The blues/rock/soul band’s fourth album is actually their second one, recorded in 2012 but unreleased until now, and has much more in common with their fun, raw debut than with later releases. (8)

Friday, 8 October 2021

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, Oct 2021

BADBADNOTGOOD – Talk Memory
Goodgoodnotbad. (7)

BRANDI CARLILE – In These Silent Days

This Highwoman’s new solo album reminded me of k.d. lang, and it’s not just because they’re both gay. (8)

LAURA JANE GRACE – At War With Silverfish

If you’re not already sick and tired of stripped-down lockdown EPs here’s another one, from Against Me’s leader and punk rock icon Laura Jane. Songs are kept short and sweet and are depressing in a cathartic sort of way. (7)

ILLUMINATI HOTTIES – Let Me Do One More

Music critics somehow love this, even though it mostly sounds like the 00’s pop-punk music critics hated back in the day. (8)

KATATONIA – Mnemosynean

A collection of non-album tracks by one of the best metal bands around, a must for fans despite the fact that most of these songs were left off the albums for a reason. (7)

THE RECORD COMPANY – Play Loud

Black Keys meets INXS. (7)

ESPERANZA SPALDING – Songwrights Apothecary Lab

Songs for healing and meditation, a weird exercise combining jazz with neuroscience and psychology. (7)

STRAND OF OAKS – In Heaven

A bit too loud for the “indie folk” label this guy has been carrying around. (7)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Country Funk Volume III 1975-1982

The title says it all really, 17 nuggets of southern deep-fried goodness featuring some household names (Dolly Parton, JJ Cale, Tony Joe White…) and a strong supporting cast. (8)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico

As if anyone needed proof that VU’s debut album is the cornerstone of all indie rock that followed, here’s a tribute featuring everyone who’s anyone in that particular universe, from Michael Stipe to Kurt Vile. As is usually the case with cover versions, those who take the greatest risks reap the greatest rewards. (8)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – I’m A Freak Baby 3: A Further Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1973

Another excellent 3-CD compilation of proto-metal Neanderthals, known and unknown. This one goes to (11)

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, Sep 2021


THE LOUDER STUFF

THE BRONX – Bronx VI

Top notch high-energy punk rock ‘n’ roll a-la Hellacopters/Supersuckers from the best band still around doing that sort of thing. (8)

CARCASS – Torn Arteries

As expected in the same vein (sorry) as everything the extreme metal pioneers have released from “Heartwork” onwards, as expected excellent. (8)

THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA – Aeromantic II

Another nostalgic trip through 80’s AOR, this will remind you of everything from Rick Springfield to Aldo Nova. A throwback, but lots of fun. (8)

THRICE – Horizons / East

Post-hardcore’s answer to Radiohead. (7)

TUESDAY THE SKY – The Blurred Horizon

Jim Matheos goes New Age. (7)

TURNSTILE – Glow On

This is supposed to be a hardcore band but this album is all over the place and I mean that in the best possible way: The last time I heard a heavy album as crazy as this was probably “Toxicity” back in 2001. (9)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Metallica Blacklist

Only Metallica could pull off something of this magnitude, i.e. getting 53 different artists from every possible genre to each choose and cover their favorite “Black Album” track, and of course the results are uneven but overall this is enjoyable (best of all is probably Jason Isbell’s reimagining of “Sad But True” as a Texan barroom stomp). That being said, I’ll be very happy if I never have to hear “The Unforgiven” or “Nothing Else Matters” again for as long as I live. (8)


THE OTHER STUFF

BIG RED MACHINE – How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?

Start-studded side project of Bon Iver/The National is a pleasant listen, more pop than indie rock, but the guy’s Auto-Tune is REALLY starting to get on my nerves. (7)

BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB – Buena Vista Social Club (25th Anniversary Edition)

The most famous, and arguably the best, world music album of all time, now expanded with outtakes and alternate versions. If you missed it the first time around - a must for every record collection. (10)

FELICE BROTHERS – From Dream To Dust
Their most Dylanesque album. (8)

STEVE GUNN – Other You

For the most part sounds like Ryley Walker’s cousin. (7)

AMYTHYST KIAH– Wary + Strange

One-fourth of black female Americana supergroup Our Native Daughters on solo album, more bluesy than folksy, its main strength being Kiah’s deep, soulful voice, more Otis Redding/Paul Rodgers than Rhiannon Giddens. (7)

LOW – Hey What

Dig deep beneath the distorted electronics and you’ll find beauty. (8)

KACEY MUSGRAVES – Star-Crossed

This is a break-up album following her recent divorce and it’s more pop than country, but unfortunately it lacks the spark that made previous efforts like “Same Trailer Different Park” and “Golden Hour” so great. (7)

ADIA VICTORIA – A Southern Gothic

Reinventing the blues. (8)

Friday, 27 August 2021

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, August Round-up


THE LOUDER STUFF

CREEPER – American Noir (EP)

My Chemical Romance produced by Jim Steinman. (8)

DEAFHEAVEN – Infinite Granite

The most polarizing metal band of the last 10 years drops the metal entirely and does full-on shoegaze. No blastbeats, no screaming, still great. (8)

FOXING – Draw Down The Moon

Emo revivalists go pop. (7)

LINGUA IGNOTA – Sinner Get Ready

If you told me she’s Diamanda Galas’ daughter I’d probably believe you. (8)

QUICKSAND – Distant Populations

Another excellent album  from influential post-hardcore veterans to whom bands like Deftones owe their whole existence. (8)

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM – Primordial Arcana

Nature-loving, tree-hugging black metal feels strangely appropriate this summer as wildfires destroy every single forest and humankind’s climate change fuckups become even more apparent. (8)


THE OTHER STUFF

BODY MEΠA – The Work Is Slow

Avant-rock supergroup (including drummer Greg Fox from Liturgy, guitarist Sasha Frere-Jones who’s perhaps better known as a music critic, and a couple of other guys) on post-everything jazzy psychedelic jams. Interesting, but don’t expect anything resembling a proper tune you can hum. Quick note to the band: Fuck you for that ONE character in the band name, I’m not taking the trouble to figure out if it’s supposed to be Greek or Cyrillic, I’ll just use the Greek keyboard I already have installed and I don’t care if it’s right or wrong. (7)

BILLIE EILISH – Happier Than Ever

She’s still a teenager and mega-successful and good on her and I’m an old fart and I don’t want to be mean because it’s most likely my fault for not getting it, but I think this is a boring album and it’s essentially one straight hour of a 19-year-old whining about not being able to handle being rich & famous and getting older. (5)

LOS LOBOS – Native Sons

America’s best and most underrated rock band celebrates their native Los Angeles with a wildly eclectic covers album, paying tribute to Buffalo Springfield, The Beach Boys, War, The Blasters, Jackson Browne and others. (9)

LUMP – Animal

I’m a huge Laura Marling fan and this side-project where she works on more electronically-flavored ideas that don’t fit on her regular albums is almost as exciting as her day job. (8)

WILLIE NILE – The Day The Earth Stood Still

A harder-rocking Dylan? A poor man’s Springsteen? Say whatever you want, I’m really having a blast. (8)

TY SEGALL – Harmonizer

Garage rocker who almost topped the most reliable year-end lists back in 2018 now goes a bit sludgier. (7)

SHANNON & THE CLAMS – Year Of The Spider

A delightful little album of 60’s -influenced nuggets. Garage punk, girl groups, surf rock, doo-wop, all meshed up in a retro-sounding but never derivative package. (8)

STURGILL SIMPSON – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita

Country music’s renegade continues taking wild left turns, this time releasing a concept album set in Kentucky in the 1860’s that plays like a classic Western movie and includes a guest spot by Willie Nelson, who was probably born around that time. (8)

YOLA – Stand For Myself

A wonderful Southern-fried country soul album from the Nashville-based Brit. (8)

Monday, 26 July 2021

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, Jul 2021 Vol. II

 

THE LOUDER STUFF

LEE AARON – Radio On!

Look, I was a teenage metalhead in the 80’s, OK? I’m entitled to like Lee Aaron even if she’s always sounded more AOR than Metal Queen. (7)

MAYHEM – Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando

EP featuring outtakes from the “Daemon” LP plus a bunch of hardcore punk covers including guest appearances from two of the band’s ex-vocalists (Messiah and Maniac). The Discharge & Dead Kennedys songs alone are worth the price of admission. (8)

MORDRED – The Dark Parade

I kept telling you back in 1989-90 that this was a great band but you wouldn’t listen then, would you? Well, you better pay some attention now because this is some great fucking funk/rap metal. (8)


THE OTHER STUFF

RODRIGO AMARANTE – Drama

Brazilian residing in L.A. attempts to update the bossa nova tradition, infusing it with elements from a bunch of different genres. (7)

NATACHA ATLAS – The Inner And The Outer

Beautiful, bold, meditative EP blending elements of Arabic music, jazz, hip hop, and electronica. (8)

RODNEY CROWELL – Triage

Another masterclass in songwriting from the Americana veteran. (8)

JACKIE LEVEN – Straight Outta Caledonia: The Songs Of Jackie Leven

Compilation of songs by unknown Scottish singer/songwriter. I’d never heard of the guy before so this is a revelation – the guy is as good as Elvis Costello. (9)

LITTLE STEVEN & THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL – Summer of Sorcery Live! At the Beacon Theatre

A very fun rock & soul party from The Boss’ main sideman on 3 CDs, featuring a 13-piece backing band and special guests like the God Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band). Perfect for blasting extremely loud on a Summer night. (8)

KATHERINE PRIDDY – The Eternal Rocks Beneath

The Next Big Thing in English folk and already championed by giants like Richard Thompson, on a very strong debut album. (8)

THE SECRET SISTERS – Quicksand

4-track EP from this excellent country/Americana duo. Their groovy cover version of Fiona Apple’s “Heavy Balloon” will put a smile on your face. (8)

VARIOUS - May The Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute To Roky Erickson

Fantastic posthumous tribute album featuring Billy Gibbons, Jeff Tweedy, Neko Case, Gary Clarke Jr., Ty Segall, Lucinda Williams (she kicks so much ass on this one!), Chelsea Wolfe, Mark Lanegan and others. (9)

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, Jul 2021


AT THE GATES – The Nightmare Of Being

Solid effort by much-copied Swedish melodic death metal pioneers but they’ll never be able to get rid of the “Slaughter Of The Soul” measuring stick, no matter how many saxophone solos and orchestras they experiment with. (7)

BEARTOOTH – Below

An excellent, catchy slab of hardcore-infused modern heavy metal. (8)

LUCY DACUS – Home Video

I thought Julien Baker was going to be this year’s Phoebe Bridgers but apparently there’s some serious competition from Dacus. No wonder the three of them were in a band together. (8)

VINCENT NEIL EMERSON – Vincent Neil Emerson

A new Texan singer/songwriter and a good student in the school of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clarke, Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell (the latter, not coincidentally, serving as producer here). (7)

BOBBY GILLESPIE & JEHNNY BETH – Utopian Ashes

Primal Scream guy and Savages girl conceptually attempt a Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris thing, and it works. (8)

JOHN GRANT – Boy From Michigan

Deeply personal, in places disturbed and disturbing, often funny – in other words, classic John Grant. And I’ll take his vintage synth sounds over synthwave any day, even if many songs on this album run a couple of minutes too long. (8)

ANGELIQUE KIDJO – Mother Nature

The undisputed Queen of Africa passes the torch by unselfishly inviting a bunch of up-and-coming African artists as guests on this environmentally focused World music album, and it’s so good that I could even forgive the Sting collab, maybe. (8)

JOHN MURRY – The Stars Are God's Bullet Holes

A sarcastic, tortured poet in the Lou Reed tradition, this guy will fuck you up if you pay too much attention to what he’s singing about. Produced by John Parish. (8)

THE RECORD COMPANY – Side Project

Blues rock trio does covers, some expected (Willie Dixon, Big Mama Thornton), some not (INXS, Cypress Hill). RYIL The Black Keys. (7)

FAYE WEBSTER – I Know I'm Funny Haha

Yet another female singer/songwriter doing this emotive soft rock/country/easy listening folkish thing. A pleasant listen but seriously, I’m beginning to have a hard time telling them apart. (7)

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Short Attention Span Record Reviews June 2021 Vol. II

RYAN ADAMS – Big Colors!
Recorded before the dude got canceled because of that NY Times article, this is actually a very good album, his best in many years. By the way, after a long FBI investigation he was recently cleared of the criminal charges for sexual misconduct, not that this makes him a particularly nice person but the music industry is 83% dicks anyway. (8)

FEAR FACTORY – Aggressive Continuum

I’m a big fan and I would argue that their first four albums constitute the strongest winning streak any metal band had in the 90’s but their latest album just follows the formula, even if it’s a very good formula. (7)

FOR THOSE I LOVE – For Those I Love

Strong debut from Irish producer who puts very personal spoken word over dance beats. (8)

BILLY F GIBBONS – Hardware

The best ZZ Top album since 1983. (8)

HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER – Quietly Blowing It

If there ever was an artist you can trust to never release anything below a solid “7” or above the occasional career-high “8”, it’s this guy. Labeled “Americana” but essentially competent soft rock. (7)

JAPANESE BREAKFAST – Jubilee

This is good, but why do all 2021’s hyped British indie acts want to be 80’s Mark E. Smith and all the American (including this one) want to be 80’s Stevie Nicks? (8)

LUKAS NELSON & PROMISE OF THE REAL – A Few Stars Apart

On the country ballads he sounds like his dad, on the more classic rock tracks he sounds like his dad doing a Tom Petty tribute album. That’s a good thing, by the way. (8)

THE OAK RIDGE BOYS – Front Porch Singin’

Legendary country/southern gospel vocal quartet produced by Dave Cobb. Lovely. (8)

POISON RUIN – Poison Ruin

Props to Akis Kapranos for bringing this to my attention, I finally got around to it and it’s a banger. To my ears this has a strong Wipers vibe, despite the presence of keyboards. (8)

WOLF ALICE – Blue Weekend

Starts out all shoegaze-y and keeps taking sharp turns towards softer indie folk or harder garage punk, remaining awesome throughout. (9)