David Gilmour: Rattle That Lock (Columbia) For all the international acclaim that’s gone on for nearly 50 years, it’s difficult to describe anything about Pink Floyd as being underrated. Yet here is that band’s famous guitarist—the “new guy” who joined up circa album two, back in ’68 or so—crafting a subtle, catchy and sophisticated pop album, after all these years, sounding as substantial vocally and instrumentally as he ever has. This is not usual. While the degree of fame he’s enjoyed has always distracted from his actual music output, it’s worth remembering that his non-Floydian collaborators have included the likes of Robert Wyatt, Peter Blegvad, David Crosby & Graham Nash and, as here, co-producer and guitarist Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music. This album oozes class and does not drift all over the listening room searching for a place to land: It’s well thought out, well arranged stuff, and it’s the sort of thing David Gilmour has had his hand in for the duration of his career. I would imagine fans of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here or Gilmour’s own On An Island from 2006 will find much to enjoy here; songs like “The Girl In The Yellow Dress” and the title track depict a vital performer who hasn’t lost one iota of his creative flame. Superb, but again surprisingly subtle, stuff.
[Related: The 50 Most Anticipated Albums of Fall 2015]
Keith Richards: Crosseyed Heart (Universal) Well, if you haven’t figured it out already, it’s the week that aging lead guitar geezers from classic ‘60s rock bands return with their own, sporadically released solo albums, and Mr. Rolling Stone is especially fortunate due to the vagaries of his chosen field: When you spend your life emulating the works of elderly blues legends, you can’t help sounding more authentic than ever when you’re 71 or so. And while he may have sounded vaguely like Alfalfa on those past occasions when he sang lead with the Stones—I am thinking of “Before They Make Me Run” here—the physiologically inevitable vocal croak he now employs is endearing and, indeed, distinctly bluesy, and good for him. Typically every solo album a guy like this puts out is deemed “classic” by critics and then quickly filed away and never discussed again, but this one—his first of the century, mind you—sounds more substantial and more like a “real” album, less a side project, than any of his others. Really. Still, the occasional lyrical references to the police, the law, being robbed blind, and the sort of nasty hijinks young punks are supposed to sing about—all on display here—do sound a tad jarring, especially considering that the man who sings them might have opinions about the various flavors of Metamucil he feels more strongly about. But that’s show biz.
Jóhann Jóhannsson: Sicario (Original Soundtrack) (Varese Sarabande) One of the more captivating albums of the week is this marvelously moody instrumental soundtrack by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose prior work has been well documented on the 4AD label and several equally compelling soundtracks; I’m personally partial to that 2008 Fordlandia set on 4AD, but there’s been much, much more, and it’s garnered him the inevitable award acclaim (Oscar nom, Golden Globe for The Theory Of Everything, etc.) and enviable collaborators list (Jaki Liebezeit, Marc Almond, Barry Adamson) you might naturally expect. An ominous, percussive sounding affair that might lend boatloads of mood to the Sicario film but sounds just fine all by itself, this is one of the year’s best soundtracks and a compelling artfest worthy of note for—and get this—featuring a 65-piece orchestra and, per the composer, being inspired by the Swans. Yikes!
Robert Forster: Songs to Play (Tapete) There are few more interesting, compelling or intelligent figures in pop music than Australian Robert Forster, whose pioneering work with the late Go-Betweens continues to garner a larger audience every year. Domino’s spectacular box set G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume 1—this year’s large, deluxe, boxed set in and out of print in a flash but apparently coming back shortly—has helped spread the word about Forster’s former band, but hopefully Songs To Play will generate similar interest in the new stuff. His first new album in seven years, it follows the much-lauded The Evangelist, is adeptly textured with contributions from backing musicians, and is, as always, filled to the brim with the unique character and personality that has populated every one of his songs from the start. He’s a fascinating figure, and time has not dulled his appeal, or his songwriting craft, in the slightest. “I Love Myself (And I Always Have)”? Yep, that’s Robert Forster, and you should hear him.
The Apartments: Seven Songs (Riley/Talitres French import) Speaking of the Go-Betweens, one-time band member Peter Milton Walsh has his hand in yet another distinguished legacy–and that would be his band the Apartments. An on-again, off-again affair that since their mid-80s album debut The Evening Visits…And Stays For Years have never been less than superb—albeit only a half-dozen times or so, as actual albums have been scarce—the band is unexpectedly having their biggest year ever in 2015. Earlier this year Captured Tracks reissued Evening Visits with fabulous new bonus tracks; a few months later the French Microcultures label released No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal—the first new album in nearly a decade, and one of this year’s best and most harrowing. And here’s the missing link—a live radio session, recorded in Paris in 2012, and featuring seven tracks that are among Walsh’s finest compositions. You can find out more here, and I strongly recommend you do.
Taste: What’s Going On: Taste Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (Eagle Rock Blu-Ray) I’ll Remember: A Box Of Taste (Republic) Anyone who missed the magic of Rory Gallagher in live performance can get a delightful serving here via this spectacular Blu-Ray presentation of his work during the early days. The Irish guitarist rose to fame via his trio Taste in the late ‘60s, and that group was a high-energy combo playing in the same stratified regions of loud, blues-inspired rock as Cream, Free and other one-word mega-combos, and were similarly fab. The Blu-Ray features the band performing at both the Isle Of Wight and on Germany’s Beat Club TV show and is absolutely bursting with energy. Get it, be captivated, then pick up the 4-CD A Box Of Taste, which includes the band’s first two studio albums, a batch of singles and live tracks, and the sorts of things you will probably want to listen to again and again. Which is kind of the idea here in the first place.
Windhand: Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse) I am fully impressed by the plodding, doom-infused YAAAAH of Grief’s Infernal Flower, the third album from Richmond’s Windhand—really one hell of a great name for a band like this, no?—which is produced by well-known dude Jack Endino and is so polished it’s unpolished. Unusual for having a female vocalist (Dorthia Cottrell) and a pair of guitarists named Garrett Morris and Asechiah Bogdan—this is like satire, but it’s not—the band is really, really good at what they do. Slow, slow, slow, loud, loud, loud—it is deliberate, pointed and oddly sophisticated in its approach. “Hesperus” rules.
Randall Bramblett: Devil Music (New West) Sometimes we can take our very best musicians for granted, and while multi-instrumentalist Bramblett is no stranger to the spotlight, with an impressive resume that stretches back to the early ‘70s and includes stints with Many People You Know, this album—his 10th–is really, unexpectedly, damn good. Soulful, bluesy—the title track takes its inspiration from the description given to Howlin’ Wolf’s by the bluesman’s mother, no less— and rocking, there are guests on board like Mark Knopfler, Derek Trucks and Chuck Leavell, but the show is entirely Bramblett’s. This is not a jam-filled ramble–it is a full-on, song-filled album that will bring you joy upon repeated plays, and it will surprise you. Theoretically.
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