Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

The dog days of summer have arrived and bands have either released their records by now, or are saving them for the Fall, leaving very few exciting releases in these weeks. Luckily I had a handful of good albums that I haven't had the chance to review yet - some new, some old. So this is a bit of clear-out week on the Roundup, but sometimes those are the best. There is everything from folk, to metal, to hip-hop on this list, so definitely something for everyone. And as always, I encourage everyone to take a journey outside their comfort zone. You never know what will surprise you. Enjoy.

King Creosote - From Scotland With Love: Released last month, this is the UK folk singer's 20th album since his debut in 2000, though his output in recent years has been limited to a more manageable one album per year. Like his last few albums, this one has more of a roots feel, inspired by traditional Scottish folk. Some songs, like "Largs," incorporate swing era jazz elements, which gives it a fresh feel and keeps the album from feeling too repetitive, which can be a problem with singer songwriter folk. "Cargill," "Pauper's Dough," and "Miserable Strangers" are my personal favorites. 

Black Pistol Fire - Hush or Howl: The Austin based indie rock band's third album, released this past spring, is a garage blues rock album that feels reminiscent of Dead Weather. The energy on this record is fantastic. It consists of 11 short songs that bleed into the next, providing a the kind of chaotic pulse that every good garage rock album should have. Though at times it can feel slightly too derivative of albums that have come before, this is a solid rock record. Had it come out a decade ago, it would have been transcendent, but seeing as how garage rock is in short supply these days, perhaps the lack of competition adds to the appeal. A thoroughly enjoyable album with several standout tracks such as "Baby Ruthless," "Alabama Cold Cock," and "Run Rabbit Run."

Christian Death - Only Theatre of Pain: This is the L.A. goth band's 1982 debut and an album I've waited far too long to acquire. Like most early goth bands, there's a punk influence which is drifting into darker areas. Unlike their British contemporaries, Christian Death also seem to be influenced by the guitar driven rock that was thriving in L.A. at the time, especially on songs like "Mysterium Iniquitatis" where musically it has a lot of glam rock elements, making them sound like a heavy version of early The Cure. The great thing about this album, and all of their music, is that it's so unique that it still feels interesting more than two decades after it was recorded. "Cavity," "Dream for Mother," "Romeo's Distress," and "Resurrection" are among my favorites.

Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Democracy: Recorded during their residency at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas back in the fall of 2012, this concert was released last month on DVD and finally an audio version has emerged. For anyone who hasn't heard the new line-up, perhaps this live setting is the best way to introduce yourself to them. Forget the calls for a reformation, these guys can straight up rock. This set rockets through their catalog of hits, featuring every song you'd except, along with a few covers like "Another Brick in the Wall" and songs from supporting members like Tommy Stinson (of The Replacements) and Bumblefoot. You can say what you will about Axl, but the guy's a performer and when he does actually play a concert, he gives it his all. It's hard to pick favorites, but "Catcher in the Rye" has really become a favorite of mine and this version is terrific."Rocket Queen," "Civil War," and "Patience" are also great renditions.

The Sword - Gods of the Earth: I've been working my way backwards through the Austin stoner metal band's albums, having started with their third and forth, I finally got this, their second album which came out in 2008. This is one of the best throwback metal bands around, meaning they are actually playing proper fucking METAL. They seem like a wonderful amalgamation of everyone from Black Sabbath to Judas Priest and Metallica, but manage to feel very contemporary with their incorporation of a stoner metal sound that feels a bit like Electric Wizard if they played a more thrash style of metal. They also seem to always nail the album artwork, playing on classic metal tropes and images in a fun way. "The Black River," "Maiden, Mother and Crone," "To Take the Black," and "How Heavy This Axe" are my personal picks.

Immortal Technique - Revolutionary Vol. 1: One of the most political hip hop albums ever recorded, released just days after 9/11, this remains one of the last classics in the hardcore East Coast rap movement of the '90s. Born from the likes of Wu Tang and Mobb Deep, Felipe Coronel converted the style into something, as the title suggests, revolutionary. He attempts to turn the hip hop of violence away from neighborhood against neighborhood and toward a more global outrage against poverty and oppression. Just as Digable Planets did in 1994 with "Blowout Comb," Immortal Technique presents this as a wake-up call to the hip hop culture to begin focusing on the bigger issues that contribute to their smaller problems. It shuns materialism in a way that is rare for hip-hop, and can be seen as the beginning of the conscious hip hop movement, along with Aesop Rock's "Labor Days" which came out four days later. As a bonus, the final song, "The Illest" opens with a five-star verse from Jean Grae.

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