Saturday, November 5, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

Another week has ended, perhaps the last weekend of democracy in this country if a certain dictator in chief manages to sneak his way into the Oval Office. But let's not dwell on that unpleasantness during this weekend. Let's find some escape in music. This week's list features a few solid new releases and some old finds that I've been digging of late. There's a wide range of genres on here, so that means there's no excuse for not checking out something. Hopefully you'll find something here to help you escape those election blues. Enjoy.

Korn - The Serenity of Suffering: The twelfth album from California nu-metal pioneers is perhaps their best yet, and certainly their best since 2005's See You On the Other Side. This band has had an extremely uneven career, and too often produces uneven albums. This isn't only solid from start to finish, it gets everything right that they do well and leaves out the things that usually spoil a track for me. I had low expectations given their couple of records, but this is a great rock album.

Essra Mohawk - E-Turn: Ever since I heard her first album, under her real name Sandy Hurvitz, I've searched for the rest of her albums. Frequent readers may remember two other previous albums reviewed over the past few months. Someone must have sold their collection to a local store, I bought them. This one from 1985 is later in her career, and shows an evolving from the proto-dance punk of her late '70s work. It's still dance punk in the vain of Blondie but with '80s new wave elements. Could easily feel like Pat Benatar, but there's an edge that only a member of The Mothers of Invention could add to that sound. "You're a Mover," "Mankind," "Digital," and "All For Your Love" are my personal favorites.

Conor Oberst - Ruminations: Released a few weeks ago, this is the sixth solo album from the prolific singer songwriter behind Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk. I've been following his work since the Bright Eyes debut nearly twenty years ago and this album is perhaps his most honest record since that album. He channels his inner Dylan on here, lots of piano and harmonica and straight forward meditations on life. "Tachycardia," "Gossamer Thin," "The Rain Follows the Plow," and "Till St. Dymphna Kicks us Out" are standout tracks for me.

The Vapors - New Clear Days: The 1980 debut from the Surrey new wave band is best known for it's hit opener, "Turning Japanese." Oddly enough, that song is the most new wavey pop track on the album, which is probably why it was such a hit. The rest of the record is more working class hero material that is heavily influenced by the work of The Jam. This was a recent bargain LP bin purchase for me, and has been a surprise in how solid it is from start to finish.

Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows - Dead Lovers' Sarabande (Face One and Two): Released in 1999, these two albums were a breakthrough of sorts for the German darkwave band. I recently listened to both together. The first album is typical of their work, the soundtrack to dead child's dreams, while the second is mostly instrumental, capturing the delicate beauty of their music. This is definitely a band that more people should hear and whose music should be used to score any number of intriguing movies.

Elton John - Rock of the Westies: This 1975 album completes my collection of Elton records up to the point when his partnership with Bernie dissolved and his career went south. Though this album falls firmly in his glam era, it has much more in common with his piano blues records. The opening track could easily be a John Lennon '70s song and the entire side is pretty fantastic. "Dan Dare," "Hard Luck Story," and "Feed Me" are my personal favorites.

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