I spent most of this past week listening to albums I hadn't listened to in years, going through my CDs and pulling out piles and piles in order to make a soundtrack playlist to fit a certain atmosphere. It's always enjoyable rediscovering records that you've lost track of over time and finding them to be just as impactful as ever. But I've decided to spare you all the nostalgic ramblings of records past and instead have chosen to take a completely different approach by reviewing albums that I've heard for the first time this week. Sometimes it's good to get a fresh response to something, based on immediate reaction. Though I will caution you that my opinion of any record on here is subject to change of the next few listents, so I cannot be held completely liable for what I may or may not say. Enjoy.
Black Sabbath - 13: This is the legendary band's first studio album with Ozzy on vocals since 1978, produced by equally legendary Rick Rubin, and despite the early praise, I admit to being very nervous given the disaster that The Stooges return to the studio has been. On the other hand, Sabbath has been back together, off and on, for the last sixteen years, so there's no reason to believe that they would sound like a bunch of guys who hadn't played together in 30 years. In fact, they sound about as tight as they ever been. This isn't some attempt at recreating the past, it's a very forward sounding doom metal album. The masters of reality have returned and it looks like rock might not be dead after all...because this album stone cold \nn/ !!
Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor: The horror metal icon is perhaps better known these days for his film directing credits, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to record. This is the first album of his that I've heard since 2006's Educated Horses, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was attracted by the Captain Beefheart feel to the cover and title, and the comparison isn't terribly far off. Sun soaked psychedelic metal infused with a healthy dash of psychotic hillbilly horror, without ever managing to feel like a gimmick.
Scout Niblett - It's Up to Emma: Though the California native singer songwriter has been making albums since 2001, this new record is only her sixth album in that time. I first fell in love with her earthy brand of sadness on 2007's This Fool Can Die. The follow-up to that album failed to grab me in the same way, but now six years later, I immediately feel the same connection to this album as I did way back when. She has a soulful darkness that reminds me of early Cat Power records, or Beth Orton, but with the eerie guitar mood of quieter Sonic Youth tunes. "My Man," "Second Chance Dreams," and "Gun" are my favorite tracks.
Queens of the Stone Age - Like Clockwork: It's been six years since the original kings of stoner rock have put out an album, and eight years since they put out an album that I enjoyed. In the time off, Josh Homme has been busy as a producer and apparently rediscovering his demon. This album signals a return to the brand of rock found on Lullabies to Paralyze, and though there's nothing truly groundbreaking on this record, it's consistently good from start to finish. There are softer moments on the album the really work well and I found myself really enjoying it. Definitely worth checking out and could grow on me even more over the next few listens.
Beady Eye - BE: It's been four years since Oasis split, and the band born from its ashes has finally come through with their second album, following 2011's Different Gear, Still Speeding. It opens with the phenomenal "Flick of the Finger," the first song to be released online a few months ago. From there, the album proceeds with two remarkable Monkees-esque psychedelic pop gems in "Soul Love" and "Face the Crowd." The mild "Second Bite of the Apple" follows, but is buoyed by the amazing "Soon Come Tomorrow," a very Ride sounding number. There are a number of beautiful soft tracks like "Ballroom Figured" and "Start Anew" that are balanced with an appropriate number of rockers. Over the course of 17 songs, the band has finally found it's identity beyond Oasis. This doesn't sound like Oasis, it sounds clearly like a Beady Eye record. The band has moved on, and without Noel on board, the other members seem to be hitting their creative stride, quite impressive for musicians with such amazing careers.
Seasick Steve - Hubcap Music: Despite a late start to his recording career, Seasick Steve has managed to put out an impressive catalog in the last decade. His new album, released in April, is another solid southern inspired blues rock record. He has a great Hank Williams type voice, which mixes well with the ZZ Top riffs and steady drum beat that roll through the songs. By it's nature, it's nothing that hasn't been done before, but the blues has never been about innovation, rather it's steeped in the traditions of the genre and Seasick Steve is obviously a well informed student. A quality electric blues album.