Category Archives: Album Review

Review: King Khan and the Shrines – “Idle No More”

King Khan’s first new full album in six years with the Shrines (though, they also put out an EP in between) is called Idle No More, and it could not be more perfect of a title. It’s self-referential not only for the band’s extended hiatus, but reflects the band’s own penchant for wearing its influences and sources on their sleeves as prophets of high-octane, few-frills rock n’ roll. While it’s difficult to eschew that absurd tendency to recall other bands in trying to define how a given song sounds like X (along the lines of something stupid like, “It’s the Rascals showing up, covered in sweat after a marathon of drugs and playing a set with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins down in Muscle Shoals!”), it becomes difficult when the Shrines are so obvious in where they cull their tunes. Any band that plays with less self-assured confidence would come off as hacky, self-important, self-appointed saviors of rock and roll. The difference is: King Khan and the Shrines just may be those saviors of rock and roll by their prowess first, their historical acumen second.

After the Jump: King Khan and the Shrines kick it old school, as they are wont to do

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Review: “The Next Day” – David Bowie

David Bowie will never have a ‘last album.’ Sure, in terms of time and effort, there may be a few more left in his corporeal being, but he’s the kind of dude who’s entire body of even half-hearted demos can last the demanding public centuries of musical debate. And that’s the other thing: when you’ve had a career as storied, legendary, and ever-changing as his, how do you cap it all off? It’s an impossible task, and I certainly wouldn’t ask  him to.

But what to make of this J.D. Salinger-esque reclusiveness in terms of creative output, besides his many film and television cameos and the occasional word with the press? To, suddenly, release an album out into the world with barely a month’s worth of advance notice, with two music videos to appear prior to the album’s full release, and with a cover virtually irreverent to the man’s own body of work? That cover should be the stuff of debates, given the music on the record and its own presentation of a sort of in-joke, as if the input after Heroes wasn’t worth remembering, and this is exactly what was supposed to follow.

The Next Day doesn’t quite follow that blueprint, though the cover certainly influences it. You can’t say this is the return of Ziggy, or the Thin White Duke, or any other variation of Bowie you can think of. In fact, it simply is The Next Day, but what that says — either as comment on the past or a continuation of Bowie’s impressive oveur — doesn’t matter as much as media types want to have you believe. Yet, I can’t help but feel like there was a twinge of frustration with this record, a need to just release something, just to move on past the speculation about what Mr. Bowie’s been doing all this time.

After the jump, David Bowie takes us to some very familiar territories via strange routes.

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Album Review: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”

“This could be the day that we push through / the day that all our dreams come through / For me, turning at the end just to look.”

When you think of the title, and look at the album cover of Tame Impala’s second album, Lonerism, you build an assumption that this is a record that’s going to come across with certain attachments the whole ‘us and them’ mystique that a lot of prog and psych records peddle either so cheaply, or make it a hallmark of the genre. You’re not listening or experiencing a proper psychedelic album unless you’re turned on to what we’re talking about. The whole ‘are you experienced?’ trip, but combined with the kind of pastoral folk sentiment that makes me loathe to listen to stuff that concentrates on sounding like the product of a fairly entrepreneurial communal farm. Lonerism could have been that simple-as-fucking hell album, and in many ways, it is. But that’s also because Kevin Parker, the band’s chief architect for these walls of sound, gets it better than any one else who tries their hand at neo-psych these days. And while many will harp on trying to pick out the influences one by one (a fun game on any rainy day for those of us who care about the trivia), it’s more important to point out that he crafts this stuff like an old master, but still takes the time to get the record to sound painfully personal, and that is a task that goes beyond the intimacy of good lyrics.

After the Jump, Tame Impala shows that there’s not so much an ‘us’ and ‘them.’

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Why We Rank: An Introspective

Fig. 1: Some Kind of Point I’m Trying to Make.

Let’s forget about what a year-end review means in terms of best-ofs, or how records reflect the zeitgeist of a generation, a time, a country, a political movement, etc.. And beyond favorite songs that you can think of off the top of your head. Let’s forget about all of that.

If you seriously sit down and think about the songs that have influenced your taste in music more than above all else, I think you will find that the songs within the top ten will be more revealing than you think. Lately, I’ve been thinking less about the songs that I like because I instantly feel good upon hearing their opening riffs or notes, or about the songs I turn to when I feel blue, or the songs when I need to get a party started. Instead, I’ve been thinking about songs I legitimately respect, and love at the same time.

These are the songs that do so much at once for us personally. Not talking about firsts here — I don’t care about songs by artists that were the first to use a counterpoint guitar solo — a distinction, I’m going to assume, was Frank Zappa’s anyway, but I’m too busy/lazy to check. And I’m certainly not talking about personal firsts. I could give a damn about the song you heard upon your first kiss, or the first song you turned to when you learned that mom got custody and it just pissed you off, blah, blah, blah. Doesn’t matter. But I’m not necessarily talking about the songs that, in any mood, you include in a list or play over and over.

I’m talking about the songs that make you respect music as an artform, but also derive a degree of pleasure from. That simultaneous quality of being, above all else, good and capable of bringing happiness to the sedated masses. But also the quality of being a well-crafted, obviously labored-over piece of artwork on behalf of both the principal songwriter and the performer(s) who bring it to life.

Without going into a terrible amount of detail, I believe I have a personal three. But before I post my own three, I want to hear from the fans out there: What are the three most influential pieces of music in your life that are not only good and fun to listen/dance to, but also make you really think about music as an art piece? Post your answers here, as well as your reasoning behind each choice. Hell, go into extreme detail, and list why it ranks above all others.

Not saying the following is numero uno, but it belongs in my top three.

Album Review: Jack White – Blunderbuss

Admitting that he’s never wanted to go it alone, Jack White’s solo debut, Blunderbuss, offers something that many people familiar with the band/group product only get with separate solo work, and that is a sharpened focus on the ‘essence’ of that player’s talents. But, as with many of the things that Jack White has attached his name to, it comes within rules and boundaries, and ultimately ends up with listeners asking more questions than coming to conclusions. Those factors, which are ultimately diversions from the actual product itself and have little to nothing to do with the artist’s work so much as it works as a marketing strategy, will not be discussed here. Shame, because his previous work and decisions, being so fascinating in terms of questioning motives, intentions, and truths, surround every little thing about the album. If there was never a desire to go solo, why bother compiling these efforts? Why tour in support of it? Why name it Blunderbuss? Is it more like the White Stripes? The Go? The Raconteurs? Dead Weather?

All of that doesn’t matter, though the title does invite that kind of speculation in terms of meaning – in the same way the phrase Get Behind Me Satan invites the same guesswork – and some of those questions can be answered without doubt. What does matter is that Mr. White is back, and sharing his unique talents once again.

Whether or not it’s any good, well, that takes a jump into it. Continue reading

Album Review: Alabama Shakes – “Boys and Girls”

The Alabama Shakes seemed to have come out of nowhere but the sort of small-town ‘gee, let’s do this’ kind of goodness than can only emerge out of the useless mass between New York and Los Angeles called ‘America.’ It shows in their soul-and-bluesrock mixture, and the fact that no one single player emerges as a major leader in the band.

Even lone female member, lead singer, and powerhouse performer Brittany Howard plays insofar as the band will let her, knowing that this has more potential as a group effort than it does as a potential launching pad for her own solo career. And who knows, in a few years down the line, she could have the same kind of power and draw that other blues-rock frontsmen have enjoyed in recently. But for now, in an album focused on the strengths of the songwriting and the cohesiveness of the band, it’s about as good as it’s going to get for a band that started on the whim of simply having a band, went on to be a popular bar act, and, etc. etc. and on until, well. . . Here we are.

Read the rest of the review, posted now at theMusic.fm

Review: Kaiser Chiefs – “Start the Revolution Without Me”

Kaiser Chiefs sound their most comfortable, and perform to their absolute best when they’re beating out some speedy pop-friendly, Mod-indebted rock that will get the frat boys chanting along down at the pub. “I Predict a Riot” and “Ruby” may not be memorable classics in the eyes of most critics, but anyone who’s gone to college sometime before or after their immediate release will say that Employment (and to a much lesser extent, the follow up Yours Truly, Angry Mob) is a fine album for its times. While the album may not have matured in any way, the band wants to give you the impression than they have, and that seems to be the frame of mind in which most of Start the Revolution Without Me seems to be in. The result is a messy pastiche of psych-leaning nu-new wave tunes, that merely hint that these songs may have started as nuggets that the band would have been fine with seven years ago, but now seem obsolete when compared to the kind of material that most bands are releasing nowadays, even their then-contemporaries (whoever they may have been).

Read the rest of the review at theMusic.fm