This week has an overflowing handful of interesting new releases including the debut solo album from Amber Coffman (formerly of Dirty Projectors but when you break-up with your boyfriend and he’s the leader of the band a solo career suddenly seems like a really good idea) “City of No Reply”, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys is releasing his second? solo album “Waiting on a Song”, Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) is releasing his first solo album in quite some time “Is This The Life We Really Want?”, Alt-J are dropping “RELAXER” and on the harder side Mutoid Man featuring Stephen Brodsky (Cave In) and Ben Koller (Converge) share their second album “War Moans” and Philly-rockers Elder give us their 5th album “Reflections of a Floating World”
Chris Cornell’s toxicology report showed multiple prescription drugs in his system, including 4 Ativan, Narcan (from EMTs), Butalbital and Pseudoephedrine (decongestant). Clearly he wasn’t in his right mind and it resulted in a catastrophic impact.
For you Tool fans (or the curious) here’s a link to the show I was aa a couple weeks ago in Virginia. If you’re not familiar with them, go right to 1:38:36 and watch their final song. Another good part to check out is the 18:00 mark with “Schism”.
This week I’m highlighting the latest release from Wolfmother, which is basically Andrew Stockdale and whoever else he assembles to record their current album. Wolfmother has a classic hard rock sound that harkens back to the ‘70s, showing glimpses of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and many other bands from that era. Generally Stockdale plays at a high energy and higher tempo level though, and FUN is always a priority. Wolfmother favors soaring choruses and massive guitar riffs with plenty of effects. Are they the most original band playing out there today – no. Are they usually fun as hell to listen to when you’re in the mood to hear this type of music – most definitely! Every album has at least half a dozen tracks that are a complete blast. Consider them the aural equivalent of a classic comedy movie that doesn’t score well with movie critics but nevertheless is still a favorite for many moviegoers. Wolfmother delivers on all that they attempt to offer, which is simply some classic hard rock good time songs.
To give you a little background on the band, they first formed in Sydney, Australia back in 2000, when Stockdale (guitar/vocals) formed the band with a drummer and bassist/keyboardist (really the names don’t matter since it’s a revolving door for everyone else – for the third album Stockdale decided to release it as a solo effort because it really was just him at that point in time and no one else). The early days were literally just jamming in a garage before the band even performed their first concert 4 years later. A few months later they got a deal to cut an EP. The EP charted in Australia and they kept touring before signing with Universal Records to record their debut full-length album. This self-titled album was huge after it came out in Australia at the end of ’05, eventually reaching quintuple platinum status there (there’s always a good audience for fun hard rock). This led to the album coming out in other countries throughout 2006, with multiple singles and plenty of film and video game placements. This started the revolving door of other personnel in the band. They expanded to a quartet with a second guitarist and released their sophomore album at the end of ’09, titled “Cosmic Egg”. While it still charted in many countries, #3 in Australia and top twenty in the U.S., it did not generate the same level of excitement as their debut. This led to many more personnel changes, the aforementioned “3rd album” which was an Andrew Stockdale solo album “Keep Moving”. This solo effort did not fare well on the charts, even in Australia it peaked at #32. This led Stockdale to go back to the Wolfmother moniker again and go with a trio for the official Wolfmother 3rd album “New Crown”, released in 2014. Now, in 2016 Wolfmother’s 4th album “Victorious” has been released. Legendary hard rock producer Brendan O’Brien produced the album (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, Black Crowes, Stone Temple Pilots). Stockdale handled guitars, bass, vocals, he picked up a keyboard guy and used a couple of seasoned drummers on the album (Josh Freese and Joey Waronker).
“Victorious” is a solid effort, while there are some missteps there are enough hits to make it worthwhile. It might as well be a Stockdale solo album, the one element that is missing is more band interplay that could have made the overall album stronger. But if you listen to it more as a series of singles, it works just fine. Here are a few tracks to give you a taste of the Wolfmother sound.
“Victorious” – The title track certainly is an example of a classic Wolfmother song. Soaring vocals on a simple chorus spun around a classic guitar riff. Verses with Stockdale’s high-pitched vocals floating amongst some chugging riffs. Instrumental breakdown in the latter half of the song, introducing a new pedal effect. It’s all here and done quickly and efficiently so you’re not tired of the song before it ends.
“City Lights” – A screeching distorted guitar riffs rings out to kick this track off. The bass drives the verses more, with some nice keyboard accents. The chorus is the highlight, as everything comes together nicely and it hits hard and fast before backing off and starting the whole process over again. The instrumental breakdown on this track has Stockdale playing two guitar parts for a nice effect. Phrases like “psychedelic satellite” are thrown out just because they sound cool, not to provide any real meaning. But that’s ok, you’re not listening to Wolfmother to interpret the meaning of the songs, you just want to rock out.
“The Simple Life” – Another flavor of a typical Wolfmother song – this one highlights the drums a bit more and nails another epic chorus with some more cool guitar sounds. The instrumental breakdown in this song adds some different keyboard elements as well. Stockdale does a nice job over the last 30 seconds or so bringing everything together to a suitable conclusion.
Noteworthy releases this week I’ll be checking out include potty-mouth pop singer Tove Lo’ssubdued sophomore album “Lady Wood”, the first album from Nick Valensi guitarist from the Strokes and four other musician friends recording as CRX with “New Skin”, Bay Area thrash metal stalwarts Testament unleash “Brotherhood of the Snake” and Philly pop-punk band Mannequin Pu**y drop “Romantic”. And if you’re a fan of Christmas albums, that time of year has come when the holiday albums are dropping like flies – check out holiday releases from She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Jennifer Nettles, Neil Diamond, Jimmy Buffet, Straight, No Chaser and others this week.
This week I’m featuring one song by one artist – Father John Misty and “Real Love Baby”. Father John Misty released a well-regarded album last year titled “I Love You, Honeybear”. It was alright, some of it was a little too mellow for me. But I’m fortunate enough to hear this single he released on the independent artist-focused SiriusXM channel I usually have playing in my car. It was a little bit of a grower. I did like it immediately but it’s grown on me even more since. It has a very retro-vibe and a relaxed feel. There’s some great harmonies and background vocals, something Father John Misty is familiar with and is highlighted on his work with Fleet Foxes. A little background on Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty. When he was in college in NYC, he played drums in a couple of indie rock bands. But he was writing his own music as well, and he began performing as a solo artist and recording some records. After a couple of years as a solo artist, he joined Fleet Foxes as their drummer in 2008. Their debut album made a big splash and they did a lot of touring. But by 2011, Tillman was ready to go back out on his own. At this point he took on the moniker Father John Misty and began recording under that name. I hope his next album is right along the lines “Real Love Baby”. It’s a breath of fresh air every time it pops up on the radio.
Finally, since Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago, here’s one of my favorite “Halloween” songs:
Notable new releases this week are completely overshadowed by the Sunday digital release of Radiohead’s 9th studio album (could it be their last?) “A Moon Shaped Pool”. This is all I’ve been listening to all week in the car, and it’s a pretty incredible piece of work. It’s a moody, mellow effort and loaded with the most intricate aural effects and sounds – extremely well-crafted. If you’re already a fan you’ll love it, if you’re not a fan you may still want to check it out. I’m still absorbing it almost one week in and discovering new things in the music each day. So it’s great if you want to sit and just fully concentrate on absorbing the music, but it would also work well playing in the background. It’s not something you throw on to listen to while working out or exercising though. The amount of devotion/obsession shown by their fanatics online is beyond crazy though. These guys are treated like deities by their fans, and to a ridiculous level in many cases. Hey, I’ve been a big fan of the band for 20+ years and I have all of their albums, but c’mon people, get a grip. Yes, they are an immensely talented band and create some very unique music, but there’s no need to get overly carried away by it. Anyway, I’m not featuring Radiohead this week and may not ever, they get plenty of attention on their own. But if you’d like me to highlight some music from their latest album, let me know and I can put something together in a future email. Other releases to note this week include the third album “Nattesferd” from Norwegian metal maniacs Kvelertak, Chance the Rapper’s self-released follow-up to the acclaimed “Acid Rap” – “Coloring Book” featuring a slew of guests, and a new single from Manchester legends the Stone Roses just came out Thursday. If you’re not familiar with the Stone Roses, then go seek out a copy of their S/T debut album which came out in 1989 – and you’re welcome.
There’s been so many great new releases the past few weeks, that I’ve failed to tout a few albums that came out right before then. So this week I’m highlighting the 3rd album from Parquet Courts titled “Human Performance”, which came out in early April. Parquet Courts are yet another Brooklyn band (originally hailing from Texas), that came together in 2010. They have an indie rock sound with some jagged punk edges, and at times you can hear a lot of Pavement influence in their music. They released their first album on cassette only in 2011 “American Specialties”, which also got a vinyl release a year later. Their “official” debut came out in the summer of 2012 “Light Up Gold” and it quickly gained critical acclaim and they built a solid fan base as they toured to support this album. They cut an EP in 2013 and then released their second album in 2014 “Sunbathing Animal”. This then led to a slew of different recordings (not proper albums) including a full-length as the Parkay Quarts, a concert album, a few 7” singles and a mostly instrumental EP. Obviously the band was working through a lot of experimentation and songwriting techniques. Their 3rd proper album “Human Performance” is their first album with songwriting contributions from all four members (Andrew Savage vocals/guitar/keyboards, Austin Brown guitar/vocals, Sean Yeaton bass/vocals and Max Savage behind the kit + vocals). All of the experimentation the band did between albums seems to have really paid off because “Human Performance” is their best and most focused effort yet. Not that they don’t have their share of curveballs worked in throughout the 13 songs on the album. But the band has kicked it into a different gear and seem to have settled into a nice groove. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
“Dust” – This is a good example of how the band has evolved on the new album. “Dust” is a straightforward, catchy track that highlights some of the deadpan humor the band often shows “It comes through the window and it comes through the floor, it comes through the roof and it comes through the door. Dust is everywhere. Sweep! Sweep.”. It’s executed far better than it reads! Great guitar, a hooky chorus and some interesting keyboard work are highlights on this track.
“Berlin Got Blurry” – This song starts off with a guitar that sounds like it was plucked from a western movie. The verses then speed up and go on a different path. Then that western guitar comes back in the instrumental breaks between verses. During the choruses, there’s a cool keyboard burst that brings on a ‘60s vibe. The keyboards and organ later on start playing together to fully flesh out the track. The band packs a lot of words into the verses on this song, which is completely the opposite of the minimal lyrics in “Dust”.
A handful of notable new releases out today, at the top of my personal anticipation list is the new album from SoCal rockers Rival Sons “Hollow Bones”. Also, you can find new albums from the quadruple guitar attack of Diarrhea Planet on “Turn to Gold”, alt-rock/country stalwarts Band of Horses with “Why Are You OK”, and Garbage pull out a surprisingly strong release in their genre with “Strange Little Birds”.
I first heard Xenia Rubinos just this past week from Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist that’s updated every Monday and assembled based on your music listening preferences. I often have some pretty random artists selected since my listening preferences are all over the board; I’m sure I make it pretty difficult for their algorithms. But since I’m always open to hearing new and different music, I’ve discovered some interesting artists that were pushed to me from Spotify. Rubinos is an excellent example of this, because I don’t think I would have come across her otherwise (although Pitchfork put up a solid review of her new album later on in the week so it may have hit my radar anyway). Rubinos’ new album “Black Terry Cat” is her second release, and I was impressed by her eclecticism and originality. She is definitely bringing something fresh to the table. While Xenia is currently based in Brooklyn, she was raised in Hartford, CT in a household of Cuban and Puerto Rican heritage (and you hear this influence in her music). She studied voice at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she met some of her backing band. Her first album was released in 2013 “Magic Trix”, which was equally ambitious and mixed jazz, hip-hop, funk, Caribbean rhythms and electronics into her sound. Her jazz vocal stylings with this musical mishmash creates a unique sound for her. On her latest album, I hear some Erykah Badu influence on her vocal stylings, but it doesn’t take away from her uniqueness. The sounds on “Black Terry Cat” highlight some good grooves, a mix of organic and mechanical sounds and solid production. Rubinos also isn’t afraid to shy away from social commentary and politics in her lyrics, bringing an added fierceness to some of her songs. So with the diverse influences in her music, and the ability to challenge while keeping the grooves infectious, Rubinos has crafted an album that stands out from most other releases. Here are three tracks to check out.
“Mexican Chef” – A big bass line and crisp drums kick off my favorite track on the album right now. I love how Rubinos delivers her vocals on this song as well, mixing in some hip-hop/rap with some jazz and R&B, trading off between verses and the chorus. And the guitar wraps it all up to complete the package. This song will get you bouncing!
“Black Stars” – On this track, you can hear much more of an electronic influence in the music, but it’s deftly mixed in with organic sounds of the piano and drums. The music is very cool on this song. Rubinos also breaks out more actual singing, showcasing another element of her voice.
“Right?” – A big fuzzy organ sound dominates this song, along with a solid rhythm section (her drummer is also the producer on the album and co-writer on some of the tracks). Rubinos’ vocals also get a spotlight on this track, which really is very simple instrumentally. But after mixing her vocals in, the song sounds much bigger than the few elements contributing to it. This is another good example of her uniqueness as an artist.
Notable new releases this week include another solid effort from underrated alternative rockers Band of Skulls “By Default”, new dance music from up and coming Australian electronic musician and producerFlume (and a bevy of guests) with “Skin”, spirited Toronto punk rockers PUP with “The Dream Is Over” and only because this is such a WTH release, the Monkees are dropping a new album “Good Times!”.
British alt-rocker PJ Harvey recently released her 9th album “The Hope Six Demolition Project”. Harvey has evolved her sound over the years since her ’92 debut “Dry”. Her music started out as loud, fierce and very raw guitar driven sound to slightly more polished but still alternative rock, to a much more stark and hushed tone. On “White Chalk” she even learned how to play the piano and limited her songwriting to that instrument. Her prior release before her latest album “Let England Shake” moved away from a personal-based songwriting approach to drawing more from current events. With “The Hope Six Demolition Project”, Harvey continues to write songs from a different perspective, traveling to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. and writing songs about what she saw. Parts of the new album were recorded in public as a type of art exhibit at London cultural center Somerset House.
I’ve been following Harvey since ’92 and I’m obviously a fan. I haven’t been that into her last few albums though. “The Hope Six Demolition Project” has evolved her sound back into a mode that I enjoy more, although still not quite as much as earlier albums. Harvey has had a very interesting career, including coming close to a nervous breakdown in between her first and second albums. She found a way to deal with the pressure though, and has accomplished quite a lot in her career. She is the only artist that has won the Mercury Prize twice (awarded to best UK/Irish album of the year from a list of 12 nominees). What I like the most about “The Hope Six Demolition Project” is the vibe on the album, it has a retro-sound but still has a contemporary element as well. While I recommend checking out her new album, I also recommend going back and listening to any of her first 5-6 albums if you’re not familiar with her as an artist. Here are two good tracks from “The Hope Six Demolition Project”.
“The Wheel” – First time I heard this on the radio, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it, but it quickly grew quite a lot on me. This song almost has a campfire like vibe, it sounds very loose and spontaneous. There’s energetic handclaps, ringing acoustic guitars, a nice horn section and a group singalong that standout on this track. Now that imagery is stuck in my head – a great big campfire jam.
“The Community of Hope” –This song kicks off the new album and sets the tone for what to expect throughout the album. Like “The Wheel”, this track has a raw and spontaneous feel. Harvey has taken some flak for her lyrics on this track, which is based on her observations while in D.C. If you listen, you’ll understand why there was some controversy. Of course, Harvey’s observations were gathered over a day or two of driving around the city, not living there. But many thought she was out of line and painted a bleak and unbalanced a picture. Her words are strong though, and work well in the context of the song. In addition to her interesting verses, the chorus is very strong on this song, with the minimal percussion and background vocalists coming in to provide a contrast to the verses.