Here are my thoughts on the latest from Sharon Van Etten, Manchester Orchestra, Jukebox the Ghost, Major Parkinson, M83, Django Django, U2, Nickel Creek, and Depeche Mode.Continue reading
Journey – Escape: I stopped believin’… and then I started again.
In Brief: As much as they may be reviled by some for helping to usher in a lot of the cliches of radio-friendly rock music in the 80s, Journey did more with the formula than it seems like they’re commonly remembered for. Cheesy and dated as it may sound today, Escape remains their biggest-selling record for a reason. In between (and sometimes during) the obligatory power ballads and mushy love songs, there are some great moments of guitar rock glory. Add a reliably charismatic singer and a new guy on the keyboards who very quickly became an important creative force in the band, and it’s easy to understand why this was the lineup that launched Journey into the stratosphere.Continue reading
Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn into You: Her Cornucopia Overfloweth
Artist: Caroline Polachek
Album: Desire, I Want to Turn into You
In Brief: Now THIS is how you make a great pop album in the 2020s. Tack on whatever genre qualifiers you feel like you need to – maybe sometimes it’s dance-pop, art pop, indie pop, hip-pop, or even trip-pop. All I know is that Caroline Polachek pulls these influences together into an utterly irresistible set of tunes that deliver one massive hook after another, she croons her way through them with one hell of an impressive vocal range, and from the maximalist arrangements designed to get arenas jumping all the way down to the moody ambient stuff, she utterly owns her craft and somehow finds a way to make unbridled hedonism sound like the most divine pursuit ever.Continue reading
Paramore – This Is Why: I still need a certain degree of disorder.
Album: This Is Why
In Brief: While it doesn’t quite match the euphoric sugar rush of After Laughter, Paramore’s turn back toward more of a raw and urgent dance-rock sound is quite well-executed here, showing off quite a bit of self-aware wit and sonic diversity within this brief but impactful 10-song set. Somehow they’ve found quite a bit of strength and stability as a band, despite the disruptive experiences over the last several years that inspired most of these songs.Continue reading
Belle & Sebastian – Late Developers: A Bit More of Previous
Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Album: Late Developers
In Brief: If you enjoyed last year’s A Bit of Previous and would like a second helping, then Late Developers ought to be right up your alley. If you’re more of an old-school Belle & Sebastian fan and you miss the poetic simplicity of their early stuff, a few tracks here that actually hearken back to these days might do the trick, though the overall sound still leans toward their more recent full-band indie pop stylings. If you find yourself longing for this band to change things up in some meaningful way, however, then you’ll probably want to skip this one. I think it’s good for what it is, but it definitely has a few moments where the whole “leftovers from the previous album sessions” thing is a bit glaring.Continue reading
What Am I Listening To? – February 2023
Some of the new releases this month are giving me eerie flashbacks to those last few months of normalcy in 2020 before Covid completely upended modern life as we know it! Here are my thoughts on the latest from Thrice, Gang of Youths, Colony House, Paramore, Tennis, M83, Caroline Polachek, and Lovebites.Continue reading
Diesel – Watts in a Tank: Amster HOT DAMN!
Album: Watts in a Tank
In Brief: My favorite album from the year 1980 really sounds like more of a relic of the late 70s, but it’s a darn good one. There’s some seriously fun rock & roll on this album that basically surveyed the trends of the era and said, “Yeah, we can do that, and throw in some killer vocal melodies as well!” While this Dutch band might have been just a tad too late to cash in on trends that were waning elsewhere in the world at the time, you can’t blame ’em for having a blast in the process, and coming up with a few tunes that would still brighten classic rock radio playlists and make listeners want to boogie down decades later.Continue reading
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down: Cool down what, my expectations?
Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Album: Cool It Down
In Brief: This brief whimper of an album really doesn’t do much to remind us why we missed a band that had been on hiatus for almost a decade. Seven songs (and one short poem) do not comprise a complete record, as far as I’m concerned. There are a handful of powerful tracks here that have the glitz and swagger to stand up to some of the YYY’s best work from the It’s Blitz! and Mosquito era. But most of the remaining ones are sluggish and struggle to even achieve a dreamy slow burn. This is a band that can sometimes do beautiful things in a mellow mode, but they spend too much of this album’s meager runtime trying for it and failing.Continue reading
Björk – Fossora: Fungal Bungle
In Brief: I feel like one of the few people who both admires Björk and has a hard time getting into this album. It’s challenging in ways that I feel like I should be used to Björk being challenging by now, and yet at the same time its instrumentation and overall atmosphere feel naggingly familiar, like we’ve been here before, just with a different section of the orchestra. But what the hell do I know? The critics all seem to love this one, and it feels like there isn’t “mush room” for dissent.Continue reading
First Aid Kit – Palomino: I can hear the unknown road calling.
Artist: First Aid Kit
In Brief: A pleasant, poppy folk/rock record with sweet sisterly vocals and shades of 60s and 70s influence. At times I wish First Aid Kit would push themselves to be a bit more diverse in terms of genre influences, pacing, and mood from one song to the next, but I can’t deny that their formula is easily likable, and their music is a great fit for a relaxing, unhurried, take-the-scenic route sort of road trip. Nothing but good vibes here.Continue reading
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