Showing posts with label blues rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blues rock. Show all posts

Thursday, July 4, 2019

video review: "let's rock!" by the black keys

So yeah, slightly complicated feelings on this one, but I did wind up mostly liking it a fair bit more than I thought I would. Huh, go figure.

Anyway, I think it's about time I get the Trailing Edge out the door before I handle Thom Yorke, so stay tuned!

album review: "let's rock!" by the black keys

The last time I reviewed The Black Keys was five years ago, when I covered Turn Blue - and I can't be the only one who thinks that some of the backlash I've received even from the fans in hindsight might be undeserved.

Because I did get backlash when I covered Turn Blue, one of those cases where I was lukewarm on a project that nowadays is widely held as one of The Black Keys' weakest albums, the culmination of the sour, desaturated tones that Brian Burton had been giving them for years and lyrics that actually probably don't get enough credit but still culminated in an unpleasantly cohesive experience. But that album is something of an outlier to The Black Keys' formula, and for many folks' first exposure to me talking about the band, it might have presented a skewed picture. As I've said before, every guy of my generation or older will have a Black Keys phase, and mine lasted about three months - they've got a great knack for scuzzed out melody and hooks that Burton to his credit was able to ramp up, but as songwriters they frequently tested my patience and the decidedly mercenary approach they took to churning out albums led to some wild variance in quality. 

So I'll admit I actually had some expectations for this new project, "Let's Rock!", not just because Brian Burton was not producing it, but also how given the band's long absence, the sound and ideas could be revitalized. Granted, I didn't expect greatness - for me the band hasn't been consistently great since Thickfreakness or Rubber Factory - but hey, the group is coming off their worst album thus far, I had some hopes: so what did we get from "Let's Rock!"?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

video review: 'fishing for fishies' by king gizzard and the lizard wizard

So yeah, this wasn't good... eh, it happens?

Anyway, I think I might need a better rock project as a pick me up (and hopefully I can put off the Logic project for a bit too), so stay tuned!

album review: 'fishing for fishies' by king gizzard and the lizard wizard

So I'll be honest, I'm always a little tentative to tell any sort of artist that what they're looking to pursue is a bad idea. Because you never know, right - I've been surprised time and time again by acts who are willing to make wild pivots and stick the landing with their experimentation, and who the hell am I to say otherwise?

And I say this because... well, when I heard the buzz that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard were going to make a shuffling blues rock project with an emphasis on 'boogie', I had concerns. Not that it was inherently a bad idea or something that the band couldn't pull off - they've jumped across genres with aplomb and going back to the roots of the groovy garage rock tones where they've pulled inspiration has promise, especially if they took a year off in between this and the five albums they put out in 2017. Granted, the critical reception has been more mixed than normal, but again, no guarantee of what could connect - and while several critics were highlighting the increased environmental themes as a point of contention, that's been in the lyrics going back a few albums anyway especially on Gumboot Soup, so I was ready for that. So what did we get on Fishing For Fishies?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

video review: 'wasteland, baby!' by hozier

Ugh, this was exasperating... still has its moments here, though.

And yet on the topic of disappointments...

Thursday, March 7, 2019

album review: 'wasteland, baby!' by hozier

I remember vividly covering Hozier in 2014.

I remember knowing him only for 'Take Me To Church', a swampy soul song with a prominent overwritten gothic streak to match his massive, howling voice, owing obvious debts to blues and soul but also showing an intuitive grasp of the texture to make it stick. In other words, there was no way he wasn't going to become a one-hit wonder, especially in the mid-2010s where the mainstream was caught in transition between garage rock duos and rollicking indie flair and the over-polished pop rock that dominates now, but I had some hope that his self-titled debut would connect, especially as his songwriting had too much unique flair to be discounted. I went in with middling expectations...

And left blown out of the water - and indeed, Hozier set such a high bar for his brand of blues rock and soul that it's not surprising few even tried to follow him. Not only was that self-titled debut one of the best albums of 2014, but it also produced 'Jackie & Wilson', which to this day remains my favourite song of that year. And going back to that album years later I find myself awestruck how well it holds up - the huge low-end smolder balancing terrific melodic hooks, the rich diversity of tones, and that's before you got Hozier's brand of overwritten but understated melodrama, drenched in the iconography of the past but refreshingly modern in its sentiments. I place that self-titled project in the same category as an album like Dolls Of Highland by Kyle Craft in a fusion of textured, old-school rock with contemporary ideas, but where Craft was able to crank out a strong follow-up last year with Full Circle Nightmare, Hozier was more deliberate - mostly because he had the flexibility to rely on a monster hit and the frankly stunning number albums he sold in an era where albums don't sell. So while I was cooler than most on his EP follow-up last year Nina Cried Power - really damn good, just not quite great - I had high hopes for this one. I was a little less enthused to discover that he included a few songs from that EP on this project - and yet not my favourite from that project 'Moment's Silence (Common Tongue)', which was on my short list of songs that nearly made my top 50 songs of 2018 - but hey, we've been waiting five damn years for this, so what did we get from Wasteland, Baby!?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

video review: 'shake the spirit' by elle king

So yeah, this was a letdown... eh, it happens?

Next up, well, let's continue burning through my backlog here, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

album review: 'shake the spirit' by elle king

So I'm going to say something a little strange here: I'm not sure Elle King was done any favours by 'Ex's And Oh's' becoming a hit.

Now on the surface this might sound crazy - most acts in rock, especially those who can can straddle the scuzzy lane between blues, alternative country and the indie scene, would kill for any crossover success, especially when it cracks the top 10. But that's part of my point: for a moment in 2015, Elle King seized the popular attention with a blend of retro sounds that almost screamed novelty while simultaneously plainly showing her influences, which many critics described as squatting firmly between Amy Winehouse and any slew of modern blues rockers with a fuzzy pickup and a fat groove, especially The Black Keys. But while I might be mostly fond of that blend of sound, it wasn't all that unique in the indie scene - especially if you looked towards country - and going back to her debut Love Stuff, I just wasn't as wowed as I wanted to be. Yeah, there were a few great songs - 'America's Sweetheart' was a pretty great barn-burner with its banjo - and I liked Elle King's vocal texture, but as a whole the album felt too polished and direct and the blown-out groove sections could get tiresome, and could have likely done well on the radio... in an era where there was a space on the airwaves for more than just one song from her, or indeed anything in these genres.

And given that we hadn't heard from Elle King since, I'll admit I was surprised when Patrons threw a ton of support behind her sophomore follow-up Shake The Spirit, which reportedly was trying a broader selection of sounds... which to me smacked of trying to maintain her identity while trying to recapture that retro magic again, which could be risky for maintaining cohesion. But hey, I wouldn't say no to another 'America's Sweetheart' and hopefully one of those styles managed helped her strike gold, so what did we get from Shake The Spirit?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

resonators 2018 - episode #006 - 'kill from the heart' by dicks (VIDEO)

I've got a lot of thoughts that I wound up being the one doing this profile years later - the fact that I can't find any anniversary pieces on this album baffles me, or even something in Pride... but then again, hardcore punk being ahead of its time and then promptly forgotten is nothing new. /sigh

Okay, next up, let's talk about Natalie Prass and then I might handle Panic! At The Disco - stay tuned!

resonators 2018 - episode #006 - 'kill from the heart' by dicks

So there are some cultural narratives around certain genres of music like hardcore punk that I'd like to think this series at least has taken a small step in helping demystify, and today we're going to be talking about one of the more complicated ones: homosexuality in hardcore. Because just within the classic records I've covered so far we've heard gay slurs, and while the majority of the artists seem to regret them now, it's just as important to understand this was the early 1980s. It was Reagan's America, hypermasculinity was in, and hardcore punk was very much a boys club, and even though we're talking about a genre that trended left, I wasn't remotely surprised to see those slurs pop up among young guys looking to be as blunt and edgy as possible.

But that did not mean that there weren't gay artists in hardcore, and while I wasn't originally hoping for this record to top the poll for this month, given that it's Pride Month I'm kind of happy it did. That's right, folks, it's time we talk about one of the foundational albums in queercore, hardcore punk that tried to take a stridently progressive angle when it came to sexuality and gender and bringing it with as much fury as any of their more conventionally oriented counterparts. Hailing from Texas of all places and well-known for a drunken live show and their prominent socialist bent - and again, this was in 1983 - a band in Austin started as a joke by their openly gay frontman Gary Lloyd until singles and records proved otherwise, today we're going to be talking about The Dicks, and their full-length debut album Kill From The Heart, and this is Resonators!

Monday, March 26, 2018

video review: 'boarding house reach' by jack white

And here is round two - and I imagine this'll be the contentious one, with nobody being all that satisfied with the conclusions I draw. Eh, it happens.

Next up, the living hell that's going to be tomorrow's Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

album review: 'boarding house reach' by jack white

So here's something paradoxical I've noticed with Jack White: for as much as his presence and influence seems to loom over so much modern rock music, I don't think about him that much these days. You'd think I would, given his work with The White Stripes or The Raconteurs or even solo, but for as much as I really liked Blunderbuss, there was a certain distance I still have towards Lazaretto even despite liking it a fair bit. And this is coming from someone who has seen White live in concert and who generally likes his southern gothic, jagged, almost hermetic approach to his sound, spiraling down into twisted rabbit holes that might stumble towards blues rock lyrical cliches but nearly always had the tunes to back it up.

But here's the thing: not counting that overstuffed release of b-sides two years ago, this is the first proper Jack White record in four years, and I was genuinely curious how it would stick out in comparison to so many artists trying to chase some brand of his sound... or hell, even outright surpass it in the vein of artists like Ron Gallo or Kyle Craft. And I'll admit a certain amount of concern about this one: I won't deny that it was likely a natural step for White to step away from conventional blues rock in favour of a more diverse or eclectic sound, but he's never been a great lyricist and if he was refocusing there at the expense of good riffs, with even reportedly a rap-inspired song on this project... yeah, I had room to worry. But what the hell: how was Boarding House Reach?

Monday, February 5, 2018

video review: 'full circle nightmare' by kyle craft

Well, this was something... and honestly, I'm pretty pleased with how it all came together, especially as I got to go deep into themes and find a lot more to like in its defense (a defense that shouldn't have been necessary but that's Pitchfork for you).

Next up, the one you've been waiting for - stay tuned!

album review: 'full circle nightmare' by kyle craft

So I may have mentioned this on Twitter, but the lineup of records released in February that don't just seem good but damn near great or better... well, at last count I was up to at least ten, and that's damn near unprecedented for this time of year, especially when you consider they span a half dozen different genres and styles. In other words, if you start seeing me give out high scores like candy... again, this much quality concentrated this early in a year is rare, but pretty damn thrilling all the same.

And we're starting out with one of the big ones, one of my most hotly anticipated records of 2018 - and if you heard his star-making debut in 2016 with Dolls Of Highland, you'll understand why. Kyle Craft was the sort of talent that came out of nowhere: a singer-songwriter-producer from the Deep South who moved to Portland, signed to Sub Pop, and recorded the sort of awe-inspiring debut that floored nearly everyone who heard it. A huge, theatrical voice and bountiful personality that recalled Meat Loaf in his prime, production that took 70s glam and fused it with southern-fried gothic rock - emphasis on goth - and writing that was impeccably detailed, wonderfully textured, and yet framed with a modern eye for progressive melodrama so he never felt like a throwback, he was the sort of talent where critics started making unprompted comparisons to Dylan and Bowie - all the more stunning considering that debut was recorded with DIY equipment in his laundry room! Hell, I found the record pretty much by accident browsing Pitchfork and it rapidly became one of my favourites of 2016 - hell, it could have topped that list had Lydia Loveless not blown in with her own genre fusion and those two other two albums to which I gave perfect scores! 

And it wasn't just me, as Kyle Craft's cult following starting blowing up fast, and he signed on as an opener for the Drive-By Truckers all the while dropping a few sly but heartfelt political tracks and an album of covers last year, all of which I've really liked but I did find some of the covers a tad too restrained, even if it wasn't every day you get Craft covering TLC, Sharon Van Etten, Hurray For The Riff Raff, St. Vincent and Blondie! No, I was excited for his true sophomore project, which gave him a full backing band, Chris Funk of The Decemberists on production, and an actual studio. Now naturally I was a bit reticent - many an indie act has stumbled towards indulgence in going bigger, and I loved the rich textured atmosphere of Dolls Of Highland so much that I was concerned it'd be compromised here... but hey, the guy has great instincts and he's a tremendous talent, if anyone could stick the landing, it'd be him. So, what did we get on Full Circle Nightmare?

Friday, April 21, 2017

video review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Yeah, I know, I should have posted this two days ago, but given that I was hitting burnout and I needed a day or two to recuperate (plus, my birthday and such), I wanted to get this out.

And on the note of getting things out, time for some long-overdue catchup - stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

album review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Look, even despite being a longtime Deep Purple fan, I don't think anyone expected their 2013 record Now What?! to be as great as it was. 

Their first record in eight years and their first after the death of long-time keyboardist Jon Lord - it showed a band reinvigorated yet again, surging forward with the sort of progressive experimentation and flair that didn't reflect a band that had been around for over forty five years! And sure, you might be able to pass along some credit to legendary producer Bob Ezrin, but it's also hard to ignore that Deep Purple are one of the most resilient hard rock bands still working. Let's get brutally honest, you can probably count the number of rock bands who tour as extensively as Deep Purple does for as long as they have on one hand, and to see a resurgence of quality in the compositions and songwriting - long one of the areas the band has struggled on weaker albums, of which there are a fair few - was a true marvel. 

But like it or not, you can't do it forever, and there's a part of me that knew it would only be a matter of time before Deep Purple set their instruments aside, perhaps to go off on one glorious high note as hard rock legends. They had finally been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, an honor many had said they had deserved for decades, they were coming off the most critical acclaim and popular attention they had received in years if not decades, and unfortunately drummer Ian Paice had suffered a minor stroke in June of last year, which affected his right hand and fingers. And to end things off with one last ride called The Long Goodbye Tour and a record called inFinite, I had the feeling that this might just be the last record we get from Deep Purple. So enough reminiscing and nostalgia, what do we get on inFinite?

Monday, May 2, 2016

video review: 'dolls of highland' by kyle craft

So this was amazing. Seriously, everyone should be checking this out, I absolutely adore this record - so damn catchy!

Next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN, where I effectively get to enjoy myself by re-reviewing Beyonce's Lemonade, so stay tuned!

album review: 'dolls of highland' by kyle craft

So before I begin, let me talk a little about my schedule. Right now I'm at a bit of weird place: I've got upcoming releases that of course I'm going to cover, but a few records in my backlog have pretty extensive discographies to revisit and review. So while I'm intending to Aesop Rock, I just need some time to completely absorb his existing material. As such, I did the next best thing, went to Pitchfork, and scrounged around for an act that looked interesting... and here we are.

So, introductions in case you haven't heard about this guy - and I reckon that's probably a strong possibility, given that outside of the critical circle he hasn't made a huge splash just yet. Kyle Craft is a Louisiana songwriter who started off crafting some rough-edged southern glam rock before moving to Portland and signing with Sub Pop. Now immediately for me that's a good sign - Sub Pop tends to have a good reputation with signees and I was kind of intrigued by what I heard from Craft, blending a certain sort of Southern carnival theatricality with rough-edged, early-Bowie-esque melodic grooves. And while I wasn't convinced his debut would be a great record - that sort of style can get a little gimmicky if not played with smart songwriting or poise, and it can feel a little dated - at the very least it would make for a release with a lot of personality. So I dug into his debut record Dolls Of Highland - what did we get?

Monday, December 21, 2015

video review: 'tell me i'm pretty' by cage the elephant

Oh god, this review was torture to make. Reshot it twice, had too many takes... and yeah, it was just painful. Thankfully, only two more left before the end of the year and they both look solid, so Pusha T, Baroness, and a new episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN coming up before the lists begin, so stay tuned!

album review: 'tell me i'm pretty' by cage the elephant

So I'll be the first to admit that there are some producers that tend to rub the wrong way - and if you've watched any of my rock or country reviews, you'll know the name that leaps to the top of my list is Jay Joyce. Most well-known in the country sphere for working with Eric Church, he's got a knack for production that can have impact with chunkier riffs and rougher edges, but it can lack subtlety or finer instrumental details. The funny thing is that if you flip over to the rock side, there's also been a band he's been working with since the start of their career who have had some success on modern rock radio: Cage The Elephant.

And I've always been kind of on the fence about this group, in that I really wish I liked them more than I do. They've got a knack for melody and there's are broad strokes to their explosively messy sound I find appealing to go with the occasionally twisted lyrics, but they're also not a subtle group, and it's led to their past three records being good but not quite great - you can definitely see why Jay Joyce worked with them. Part of this was the gradual maturing of their lead singer Matthew Shultz, as his early vocals has a nasal quality that got grating, especially on their wilder, more punk-inspired second album Thank You, Happy Birthday. Things improved the most on their third record Melophobia in 2013, which was a much thicker, heavier, more bluesy and psychedelic album, but despite a fair few great songs there were a lot of instrumental flourishes and genre shifts that I wish were a little more grounded or given more room to breathe, especially considering most of them served as outros that didn't really fit with the rest of the songs. That said, it was their most diverse and well-structured and helped define their most unique sound to date, and it seemed like they had a good groove going...

So naturally it makes sense to pitch their lead guitarist, Jay Joyce and start working with frontman of the Black Keys Dan Auerbach on production for their newest album. Now in theory you could have seen this coming - Cage The Elephant toured with The Black Keys, they were moving more towards blues rock, Jay Joyce is busier than ever these days, and Dan Auerbach has handled production before. Unfortunately, the last thing I covered that he produced was Lana Del Rey's Ultraviolence - not a good sign, and neither was the buzz suggesting that early singles for this album had shed some of Cage The Elephant's newly defined sound in favour of sounding like The Black Keys. But hey, this was my chance to evaluate if the compositional strength and writing could hold up in a different production environment, so I gave Tell Me I'm Pretty plenty of listens - what did we get?