@@@ Big Joanie: In My Arms (Kill Rock Stars, 2022) A couple of last listens from this week’s Pitchfork 10 most reviewed albums of the week. This is the fifth track on the record and it’s a smash up of Bruce Springsteen rock and indie vocalizing. A little less New Jersey than Bruce Springsteen but connected for sure. I dig the half nasal Buddy Holly type singer here, it’s super nerdy and makes the track much more interesting. Some pretty nice guitar work as there are two guitars, one holding it down and one doing some melodic work. I’m going to check another track to see what they have going on and I’ve chosen the third track Confident Man. This track has an interesting oscillating synth to go with the indie rock guy, it’s a bit of an indie sendup of electronic music and I find it charming. All right I’m considering if this record could go on my best of year list as I dig the singer and I’m giving the opening track, Cactus Tree, a shot. It’s a bit more epic but does bring the rock and the synth action simultaneously which is kinda cool. This smells like an honorable mention type record but listen for yourself.
@@@ Horse Lords: Zero Degree Machine (RVNG, 2022) More rawk, more rawk!!! This opens with the track clipped below and this some Yes type shit — half art school, half rockin’. As it unfolds it does indeed get more wound around itself and quite proggy. I like some of what’s going on here, but it needs more grit for me to embrace it, it’s got this smooth and clean as a baby’s bottom feel to it that I can’t roll with. Just as I finish typing this they get into a quasi Meat Puppets circular madness thing that I dig, oy I can never win.
@@@ Broken Bells: Into the Blue (AWAL, 2022) Off this week’s All Music notable release email and while they’re trying to slip it into the indie slot it’s rebranded and upcycled classic rock. Big stacks of vocals, strummed acoustic guitar and epic guitar shreds, that’s classic rock is it not? Slack vocalists are cross genre. It’s very ’70s reminiscent with a faded rock flavor but with updated synth sounds. I like it all right, I always like a fresh thing and this is not aspiring to cut but to comfort. This is most definitely for folks with good jobs.
@@@ Daphni: Cherry (Jialong, 2022) This is some firm ass techno out of a dude from Toronto. May not be a dude, just typed the word, whoever made this is fine by me. Brisk, especially in the rhythms. The opening beat is borderline punishing just jumps out and beats you down with high hats and a kick drum higher up on the frequencies and less on the low end flapping. The second tune is more kaleidoscopic with the rhythmic components shuffling and bleeping all across the stereo field. Let’s see what he throws over this bad boy. Thick kick, classic hihat, then pretty minimal synth bass and then a cloud synth. I could use a booty smacking melody here but I’m going unrewarded. I’m finding the third track, Always There, the most interesting of what I’ve checked out — it’s a blend of dance music, some klezmer-y melodies, and is both a dance track and a weird concept track at the same time.
@@@ Eric Clapton and Van Morrison: Stand and Deliver ( N/A, 2020) I recently watched an amazing documentary about an anti-racist musical movement in the UK during the late ’70s/early ’80s and poor ol’ Eric Clapton aligned himself with the forces of racism in British society so this anti-vax/’pro-freedom’ track is not that much of a surprise. “Is it a sovereign nation or a police state, you better look out people before it gets too late.” It’s a notch or two under midtempo and he takes a half-hearted not quite showcased great for him in the mix guitar solo. The music is all right, it’s pretty standard and I like the drummer, but with lyrics like ‘do you want to make it better, or do you want to make it worse? I really don’t know what the hook Stand and Deliver means in this context. The original phrase stand and deliver means to give over something that is demanded, like taxes and rights, etc. Anyway, it’s not a tune really worthy of going into great detail on as the tune is okay but a bit laggy. Most likely this will go down as a historical mistake by Clapton and whatevs as this is the age of whatevs and everything comes and goes across the brain pans of society. I thought the tune would be more impassioned than this, but it’s not.
@@@ Rosali: No Medium (Spinster, 2021) I got to this female driven rock via bandcamp’s best of ’21. Various reviews invariably mention Crazy Horse and while I don’t totally agree I get it. The first tune, Mouth, doesn’t crush/rock as much as Bones, which is very retro guitar rock. It’s good to see a woman staking out this traditionally male rock space. Guitar tones are excellent and while it is slotted as indie on Apple Music it’s got a straightforward feel to the production and doesn’t traffic in much of anything I know to be indie. If this sounds interesting with you, start with the third track, Pour Over Ice, and then go from there.
@@@ LNS & DJ Sotofett: Stutters (Tresor, 2021). This record is on the best electronic music of 2021 and is described as a record rooted in techno but containing elements of other musics like dub and Appalachian folk music. No not folk music. It’s described as being a super fun record and I guess the purposely cheesy video game sounds and bumped up tempos push it in that direction. I guess a fair number of these tracks could work in blaxploitation movies or B grade television shows. I like the energy but I could actually use more. I like it but it will not be a late addition to my best of ’21 list.
@@@ Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name (Capitol, 2021) I’ve seen Guyton’s name around the interwebz and now I see she’s the African American country music artist debuting this year. Sonically what it means to me is that she has a very strong and commanding voice, she can sing for sure, but in the name of what? The sounds here are the softer in the verse, and explosive in the chorus and her strong voice kinda ends up chees-a-fying the whole tune. Unfortunately. More inflationary and epic. I let the record roll on as I beefed with somebody on Twitter and it’s a pretty steady of big big new country. Hmmmm, big new country.
@@@ Ryan Sambol: It Has (Forever Wet Paint, 2021) This is slotted as alternative music, and it does indeed sport super slack vocalizing but I do dig that it’s served up over old school church-y gospel piano (and other instruments in other tunes). I’m on my second or third track here and the sounds lean towards a 1970’s blues-y rock mashup which I appreciate — I appreciate the faithful reproduction here. The singing here is an acquired taste. I’m agnostic — part of me appreciates the slack freakiness of it and part of me is like really? This one you have to check out for yourself to see if it works for you.
@@@ Parris: Skater’s World (Can You Feel the Sun, 2021) If you took an ’80s synth rock and put a decent dollop of glitch and processing you got pretty close to this track. It’s a got a little Prince feel but not as much funk, not nearly as much funk unfortunately. It’s a celebration of skateboarding which I can’t identify with but it takes all kinds to fill the world. Female singer, big kick drum sound with a lot of percussion sounds added on top with that ’80s snare sound I really can’t abide by. Imma peep a bit of another track just to see how the madness unfolds. The fifth tune, Crimson Kano, sports the same amount of rhythm which I don’t dislike and a little bit of electro sauce over it. If you consider the rhythm to be the hamburger and the rest of the arrangement to be the ketchup I could use more ketchup on this burger, it doesn’t appear to be the right ratio for me. Oh no, I’m an idiot, it’s comin’ on strong! They musta been getting warmed up and there’s more than enough ketchup here. Check out the fifth track Crimson Kano and go from there. I also like the instrumental business more than the guest vocalist business.
@@@ Grace Cummings: Storm Queen (ATO, 2021) I got to this track via an Australian music magazine, Happy Magazine is what it’s called. I’m writing this way on purpose, the stream of conciousness is the point, I could write properly if I chose to. This is a pre-release track out on a major label branch in Australia. It’s got a faded classic rock feel, opening up with a strummed acoustic guitar. When the harder guitar comes in with the tenor sax you know it’s gonna be a blues growler. The question is whether I’m gonna hang for the whole sandwich. It was a burger in the above review and this song is a sandwich. They have a pretty classic sandwich set up here, but I’m thinking it could use the sharpness of some mustard. The piano is coming but it is yet to be rockin’. It goes out a bit skronky but I remain somewhat unimpressed, I wanted more, too storm und drang and draggy for me.
@@@ Steven Wilson: The Future Bites (Arts and Crafts, 2021) I think I got to these two recordings via this week’s All Music notable release email. I listened to these two bottom to top so I will be comparing this first recording to the recording below so don’t get confused. This is more in the Kate Bush electro big feels arena and it moves from a soft intro into a more rocking thing after about a minute. I clicked through to the next track after feeling like this is more electro garnished mainstream rock than it is electronic music. It’s got bits in it that’s about it. I don’t dislike it, it sports a bit of Nine Inch Nails self-importance that’s for sure and I’m not sure it’s as important as it vibes itself to be. Lots of gauzy background vocals, lots of serioius lyrics that seem pretty familiar. For me the background vocals are the least satisfying component but I like the production. As always I would prefer more weirdness but this is not a weird time it’s a time of pretending.
@@@ Goat Girl: On All Fours (Rough Trade, 2021) If you took some indie electronic and smashed it into a television set playing a spaghetti western you would get something close to this track. Downer voice, and the spag feels mostly come from the guitars and then a bit from the drums especially in the chorus. It’s one of those tracks that rocks a bit but I want it to rock more but it just can’t gather the mustard to get on that spaghetti horse and ride! Don’t really like the singer or the synths. I’m sure the singer is a super nice person I just don’t care for her singing style. The electro breakdown here is just icing on the cupcake, what y’all indie downer pusses know about dancefloor bangin’?
@@@ Here Lies Man: I Told You (Riding Easy, 2021) I’m not sure how I got to these two listens as I set them up last week and forgot to right down the link/referral. As the tune opens up it feels like a smashup of classic rock and a schmear of psychedelic for freshness as classic rock is a dinosaur boneyard right now. Active rock drummer with medium heavy guitar riffage and a bit of background vocal action. The intro ends and gives way to a different riff and a more shuffling/driving beat which is cool. They keep saying ‘You shall die’ which is the vocal hook of the song. That’s a good use of a hook. There is also a space organ tucked in the distortion of the guitars and that gives the tune something besides a steady diet of riffage to groove on. I like how the vocals are de-emphasized but unfortunately the riffage is pretty familiar. I’m not sure but maybe we’re at the end of fresh classic rock riffs. They slow it down for the last third of the tune which I understand but I liked the more energetic section more. Big ups to the drummer who I think steals the show here as well as ups to the organ player/riff.
@@@ Jeremiah Fraites: Maggie (Dualtone, 2020) This is slotted as classical on Apple Music but the cover makes it seem like a ragtime record, but it doesn’t sound like either of those when you click the play button. It sounds like piano driven Americana with a string droning in support. It’s hard to make an intimate piano tune these days without getting into New Age feels, I think there’s something about that instrument and the history of it where New Age feels are just right around the corner. We get some big big tom tom drum rolls starting around halfway and the whole track simmers down. I’m fully aware that when I’m feeling the cheese pressure rising that usually means most of my fellow Americans are gonna love it because it’s inspiring and feel good. He never fully summits Cheese Mountain and I’m grateful for that. I’m gonna let the player click through to the next track as I don’t oppose him and I hear a similar epic vibe to the guitar flourishes panning back and forth which I like, it’s easier to roll with the bigness when it’s not the piano. Overall I’m agnostic on this, there are things I like and things I don’t so check it for yourself.
@@@ Grace Potter: Eachother (Concord, 2020) I’m rocking a few more overlooked songs from 2020 and here we have some post hippie, mellow hippie rock/folk. Oh yeah, they’re going full classic rock with some tasteful rock guitar shredding and a lonesome togetherness vibe — shit suck and we got each other which has proved quite false as a society. Three vocalists thus far with Jackson Browne coming towards the end and it builds to a mellow crescendo towards the end. It’s entirely satisfactory, I always like a unique twist over a faithful performance but that continues to be my solo hangup.
@@@ Tayla Parx: Dance Alone (Atlantic, 2020) Sonically this sounds to me like some early ’80s pop funk with absolutely manicured sounds. A little bit of gristle on the bass which I really dig, a beat I could go the rest of my life not hearing again and Parx’s very capable singing. You gotta buy these sounds to feel the song and these sounds worked when I used to listen heavily to Prince records because he always snuck in some rock guitar for contrast. This is a sweet parfait but I could use a bit of crunch. She doesn’t want to dance alone, who does? Like the singing, not my favorite bucket of sounds.
@@@ Hayley Williams: Dead Horse (Atlantic, 2020) Super fizzy pop dancefloor banger with some techno feels and glitched up vocals. It’s got some trick vocal arrangements that are cool in places and annoying and overdone at other points. It’s a stuffed mix which I would really dig if I dug the sounds more. The song is a coiled nugget of technical achievement but the overall effect is equivalent to standing in a field in the rain in front of a dead horse, rather depressing looking at that huge barrel shaped body motionless. I feel a bit glum when it’s all over which is quite ironical if you think about what the song aspires to.
@@@ Paul McCartney: III (Capitol, 2021) Many solo McCartney records have been hailed as the return of the king, it’s a predictable move so it’s reasonable to be skeptical of his Covid lockdown record. I thought the first tune was notable for not having a lot of vocals which is the part of McCartney I don’t love but the second tune has a more prominent vocal structure and it’s not cloying. And the playing is quite fresh considering how rock has been for an extended time now. So the praise for this record unfolds in a music world that is not dominated at all by rock. He’s kind of shaming the hipsters here with weird little parts and quirky ass arrangements. Of course if you don’t like rock and classic rock in particular it’s gonna be a reach to get super into this record which is how music works. I’m not a huge McCartney fan at all and I’m on the third tune and even though it’s a ballad it’s less cheesy than standard McCartney ballads and I’m not running for the stop button. I do prefer the uptempo rockers to the slow jams but it’s definitely one of the best rock albums I’ve heard in a long time.
@@@ Duval Timothy: Brown Loop (Carrying Colour, 2020) I fucked up the other day when I said that a record by DJ Python was the #1 record at Crack Magazine in the UK. This record by a half Brit, half Sierra Leonian guy is the correct #1 for Crack. I think it’s quite adventurous to choose a solo piano record as your #1 record of the year. Unfortunately it’s more adventurous than the music. The playing is fine but I’ve heard a lot more sophisticated solo piano playing and though it’s slotted as jazz it’s more of a light jazz or even a Broadway inflected type thing as the playing never melts down or explodes in some rhythmic frenzy. I dig the lyricism here but it’s not my #1 record of the year, last year or this. Just to put a bow on it there’s more unexpectedness in Paul McCartney’s new record and that’s not a put down, it’s an observation.