The week of blizzards left me plenty of time to absorb some new music, and I chose to pick a selection of recent releases and a few from the last year or so that I hadn't got the chance to listen to before. Oddly enough for winter, this week's list features mostly rock, from metal, blues rock, to gothic. This is usually prime folk music weather, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't feeling folksy. Perhaps it was too much of the Republican presidential hopefuls trying to outdo each other with their folksy rhetoric that turned me away, or perhaps I was just too energetic. Regardless, it's a straight blast of rock for this arctic weather. Hopefully you're feeling the same. Enjoy.
Murder By Death - Big Dark Love: This week the Indiana gothic folk/country band will release it's first album in three years. Over the last decade, they've been one of my favorite bands, always making something that sounds good to my ears. In many ways they are like a Midwestern America version of Nick Cave, telling dark tales about the tortures of the soul. Easily their strongest effort since '08s Red of Tooth and Claw, this album includes many of their signature elements, but also shows growth in the sense that it doesn't feel as though they are just making the same album, something that tainted the last two records. Their arrangements are interesting and compelling and this was the kind of album I was hoping for from them. "Last Thing," "Solitary One," and the title track are my personal favorites.
BabyMetal - BabyMetal: This album was released last winter and made quite a stir in its native Japan, and sparking quite a bit of cult curiosity elsewhere. In the category of "only in Japan," this is a power metal album with cute Japanese animie vocals, and truth be told it's kind of addictive. The idea of combining J-Pop and Metal was a stroke of brilliance, and it works because the trance metal music is of top quality. The genius of it is that it will appeal to hardcore metal fans, former rrriot girl addicts, as well as young girls into poppy animie vocals. Anything that can attract listeners to new genres is something worth celebrating, and so I celebrate this unique album.
Ty Segall Band - Live in San Francisco: The San Fran psychedelic garage rock icon has been busy over the past few years with solo projects which has left little room for this side project. It's been over two years since the "Band" released an album, but this week they put out this live album recorded in their hometown. It's a fuzzed out gem of garage punk and another notch in Ty's continually impressive career. The manic energy of the band really comes out in these live recordings and the album is certainly a must for fans. "Thank God for the Sinners," "I Bought My Eyes," and "Feel" are the standouts for me.
Enforcer - Diamonds: Back in 2013, this Sweedish power metal band's third album made my best of the year list, and with a new album finally set to come out in the next few months, I decided to check out this 2010 record, their second. Definitely inspired by '80s NWOBHM, Enforcer plays authentic speed metal that fits right alongside Judas Priest and Saxon. They don't really add anything to the sound, but they aren't simply aping the past either. I like to believe they are trying to keep a genre of music alive because they love it. If you like NWOBHM, then do yourself a favor and pick up this, or any of their other albums, then put it on and crank it up. "Take Me to Hell," "High Roller," and "Running in Menace" are particularly rockin'.
The Soft Moon - Deeper: The San Fran post-punk band's third album is due out in March. I'll admit that I was attracted to this because I love the band's name and figured anything called "The Soft Moon" was worth a chance. Their minimal synth approach has a haunting vibe. Even their song titles are minimal, all of them just one word long. While there are definite links to current post punk bands, there is also a nod to older post punk outfits like Joy Division and Bauhaus. A very atmospheric album, this is one that I will enjoy listening to while I write. "Try," "Wrong" and "Far" are my favorites.
Tom Keifer - The Way Life Goes: Over the past several weeks I've been on a big Cinderella kick, listening to their '86 debut Night Songs a bunch, and I've always loved the '88 follow-up Long Cold Winter. Unlike a lot of the hair metal bands of the era, the Philly natives steeped their work in blues and Tom's voice always had more earthy quality than most. I recently found out that he released his first solo album two years ago and I sought it. Like the band, this album has a heavy blues influence like '70s era Stones or Aerosmith, but trades the band's '80s rock riffs for bluesy guitar wrangling that fits his voice perfectly. I really didn't know what to expect from this one, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Just good old boozy rock 'n roll done very well and despite suffering voice problems through the '90s, Tom sounds a powerful as ever. "Cold Day in Hell," "Ask Me Yesterday," "The Flower Song," and "Welcome to My Mind" are real standout tracks.