Some out-of-town visitors have taken me mildly by surprise these last few days--and, sad to say, it may be affecting my work habits!
Typically, as faithful readers surely know, I tend to listen to every new album release five or six times, study the lyrics whenever available, compare and contrast the work with each artist's respective past work, weigh the actual release, whether in vinyl or CD configuration (MP3s don't count!), and, perhaps most importantly, study the album cover for relevant clues as to the music contained within!
This week? I forgot to weigh the albums!
I therefore apologize in advance for these less than complete reviews and hope that you'll forgive me just this once!
But between you and me, they all sort of weigh the same!
Silversun Pickups: Neck Of The Woods (Dangerbird) I didn't know how much I'd missed the fabulous Silversun Pickups until I heard this brand new album, their third, and heard the crackling energy, the skilled songcraft, the tight and imaginative arrangements, and remembered all over again that they were one of Los Angeles' finest bands. It's funny: Just the other day I was listening to an old Comas album and thinking about how, in their way, they sort of sounded like the Smashing Pumpkins but were markedly better--and just this morning, listening to Neck Of The Woods, I briefly thought the same thing. But to talk about these dudes in terms of who they may or may not sound like does them a disservice; this sounds like excellent, wholly original rock 'n' roll, and it makes me full good inside that there are still bands this accessible that also manage to be this fresh and creative. Not to exaggerate, but they're not bad!
Damon Albarn: Dr Dee (Virgin) It strikes me that I may not be the best possible human to review a new album by Damon Albarn, possibly because back when Blur was up and running I used to tell disinterested humans that Spearmint--not Blur or Oasis--was the single best "Britpop" band going, and that Blur were only mildly interesting; additionally, I simply never "got" the Gorillaz, Albarn's popular animated side project, and they've apparently been at it for over 10 years now. Still, I remain taken by the quality of this fine album, which is arty, apparently devoted to some 16th century mathematician, filled with interesting vocal arrangements, and is quite accurately described by Albarn as "strange pastoral folk." In fact, it strikes me as nothing so much as a heretofore-unheard Robert Wyatt album, and I like it quite a bit. I plan to play it again this Thursday!
Keane: Strangeland (Cherrytree) Speaking of artists with a reputation for writing memorable and slightly quirky pop tunes, England's Keane return here with a strong effort, their first full album in four years, and it's been worth the wait. They are an interesting band: It's not like anything they do is spectacular, or sounds unlike anyone else who's ever played pop music, but they do write memorable tunes that stick in your craw--and I found them to be surprise "favorites" of several people I know with massively different levels of sophistication and taste. Which means they strike a common chord--G7th, to be precise--without pandering to either critics or the general public. And they do not tend to repeat themselves. Unlike blog writers!
Glenn Frey: After Hours (Universal) It has long struck me that I spent way too much time as an adolescent and college student sitting in cars at drive-in movies watching movies that have now come to be regarded as Eurotrash classics but for me, at the time, were simply the kind of movies they played at drive-ins! So can I be blamed for looking at the cover of this new album by Eagle Glenn Frey and expecting the words "VISIT THE SNACK BAR" to appear in mere seconds? Or for wanting a Flavos Shrimp Roll? And it doesn't help that the music was largely written when drive-in theatres were in full swing: Covered are the likes of "The Shadow Of Your Smile," "I Wanna Be Around," "For Sentimental Reasons," and even Brian Wilson's "Caroline, No." The blurbs are saying this is "a total departure taking him in a whole new direction," but I for one find this strangely fascinating listening and completely in line with his past work in the Eagles! The soundtrack for a 2012 revival of the I Eat Your Skin/I Drink Your Blood double-bill? Who brought the Spanada?
Karmin: Hello (Epic) I am completely into today's most exciting new music, and it thrills me to mention that videogenic duo Karmin are renowned for playing what has been dubbed "Swag-Pop!" Famous for their YouTube clip covering Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now"--hey, so am I!--the pair soon won the ultimate accolade: they were the American Music Awards New Media honoree! Things can only get better from here! A fine new EP bearing seven songs and a cover in which the artists boldly show off their brand new shoes, Hello is pure liquid excitement--especially when heated to 182 degrees Celsius!
Barenaked Ladies: Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before! (Rhino) There's something innately nice about Canada's Barenaked Ladies: Where other bands have called themselves Free Beer, and more crass American bands might've thrown caution to the wind and simply dubbed themselves Nude Chicks, these polite, humorous gentlemen from the North offer instead humor, tasteful wit, the occasional catchy tune, and enough "good vibes" to draw fans who might otherwise like They Might Be Giants but, sadly, have taken that band's name literally and simply stayed home. This collection is not so much a greatest hits as a collection of rarities, interesting tracks and versions of familiar songs, and the sort of thing that longtime fans will likely deeply enjoy. It is difficult to believe that they are from the same country that once offered up a punk rock star named "Joey Sh**head," but Canada is nothing if not remarkable!
John Fullbright: From The Ground Up (Blue Dirt/Thirty Tigers) A word here for the debut studio recording by a singer-songwriter worth your while: John Fullbright is from Okemah, Oklahoma, and while quite young, sings original material that sounds wiser and more profound than his years would suggest. If you'd like to hear more--or see the singer in action--check Y! Music this afternoon (May 8th) to see a full live-streamed performance by him live from TRI Studios. We suspect you'll like what you see!
Mariah Carey: The Essential Mariah Carey (Columbia/Legacy) A 2-CD collection of Mariah Carey's greatest work? Featuring everything from "Vision Of Love," "Emotions," "Love Song From 'Flipper'" and "Butterfly"? Frankly, if there's only one Mariah album you need to own, it's this one! That said, it is revealing that Amazon currently lists this new release as "In stock but may require an extra 1-2 days to process"! But why even go there?
Cattle Decapitation: Monolith Of Inhumanity (Metal Blade) On occasion records emerge that are simply must-haves. And such is the case with this fine California band, returning here with their seventh album and perhaps their best! With its wonderful cover, its imaginative title, and of course the band's very name itself, Cattle Decapitation alternately recall the works of Rihanna and Paul Simon and are likely to attract fans of those artists and more! Unless they're cows, of course!
Tank: This Is How I Feel (Atlantic) "Tank is one of the most recognizable names in modern R&B," according to his bio, and who can argue? Also ranking highly: Chair, Refrigerator, Sink, Television, Bottle, PS3, and Wireless Remote! Non-English speaking audiences? Still a problem, say insiders!