Saturday, March 30, 2019

Album Review: Ty Segall & Freedom Band - Deforming Lobes Live

Almost every artist now likes to release a document of each tour cycle, whether on disc or film. Paradoxically, there hasn't been a truly great live album in decades. Of course, the golden age of the live album was the seventies, back when these artefacts were usually double and came in packages dreams were made of: gatefold sleeves with wonderfully grainy pictures of Golden Gods strutting around the various stages of the world like the Budokan in Japan, the Rainbow in England or the Troubadour in the United States. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Album Review: Marvin Gaye - You're The Man

According to the press kit, You're The Man is supposed to be an unreleased album that Marvin Gaye recorded between his two seminal masterpieces What's Going On and Let's Get It On... An intriguing premise: this was supposedly the album that would bridge the socially conscious protest statement of the former and the lascivious, groove-oriented latter, at a time when the man was arguably at his creative peak.

Album Review: Manowar - The Final Battle I

Manowar is the latest veteran band to embark on a farewell tour and to commemorate this supposedly last trek around the world they are releasing a trilogy of EPs of new music. This first release contains four tracks (three if you discount the instrumental intro) and if you know the band you already know what to expect: True Metal warrior chants of blood, battles, swords, pride and the love of all things Metal (insert high pitched wail here).

Album Review: Devin Townsend - Empath

Even if you've been following Devin Townsend's career, nothing can prepare you for the psychotronic sonic assault that is Empath. It's like a symphonic metal version of Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy mixed with Queen-style vocal harmonies and Mr. Bungle's histrionics as well as a little Ministry-style industrial aggression thrown in for good measure.

Album review: Yngwie Malmsteen - Blue Lightning

When Yngwie Malmsteen announced the release of Blue Lightning, he called it a blues album and that raised a few eyebrows. He's tackled the form before but just because you play twelve bars in a pentatonic scale doesn't mean you are playing the blues and the track listing did nothing to alleviate this reviewer's fears of an over-the-top, unsubtle, ham-fisted wank-fest.

Album Review: Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

The buzz around this album was such that it was always going to be tough for Billie Eilish to live up to expectations, and if it's not quite the masterpiece that the hype makes it out to be, it's still a solid debut from an artist with a singular vision, bold production choices and more importantly some very good songs.

Album Review: L.A. Guns - The Devil You Know

L.A. Guns is scraping the 80's sleaze-rock barrel, and when the top of that barrel is Mötley Crüe you know shit is pretty abysmal down in the bottom. Even at their best, they were never contenders but for some reason they managed to fool a few people in the late eighties into thinking they were better than they really were. They were not, and they are thankfully back in the Z-list gutter where they belong.

Friday's Playlist: Sad Shit

Do you feel like wallowing in self-pity? Do you plan on crying in your beer all evening? Well, we've got the musical accompaniment for that. Music to slit your wrists by.

Album Review: Robin Trower - Coming Closer To The Day

The last few years have seen Robin Trower in a particularly productive mood: this new record is his seventh studio album in under ten years. It would be tempting to impart the surge in his output on the realisation that it is, indeed, Coming Closer To The Day as the title says but no symbolism in the title or elsewhere in the record can explain the staggering quality of this late-career boom.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Amy MacDonald @ Élysée-Montmartre, Paris - March 26th, 2019

It's been over a decade since Amy MacDonald's debut album and the smash hits This Is The Life and Mr. Rock & Roll. For everyone who hasn't been keeping up with what she's been up to since, she recently released a compilation of her best songs and it's a great reminder of this young woman's talents as a songwriter and as a singer.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Album Review: Zeal & Ardor - Live In London

Although the band was originally formed around an artificial if intriguing conceit (what would black metal and blues sound like? What music would the African slaves of America have been playing had they turned to the Devil instead of God?), Zeal and Ardor's music never sounds forced or patched together. Their blend is actually quite seamless, and it's due to the quality of the songs.

Album Review: Ex Hex - It's Real

Wait, what year is this? Ex Hex are three young women from Washington D.C. playing 80’s-style rock without even a hint of irony. In fact their approach is refreshingly earnest. There are no winks and nods, no fake hair and no affected poses: this isn’t a joke or a tribute band.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Album Review: These New Puritans - Inside The Rose

The new record from twin brothers George and Jack Barnett sees them blending the neo-classical approach of Field Of Reeds with post-rock elements to create a listening experience that’s at once cinematic and experimental.

Friday's Playlist: Bawdy, Ribald Songs

This playlist compiles some of my favorite naughty tunes ripe with ribald double entendres, bawdy metaphors or just straight-up dirty talk.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Album Review: Karen O & Danger Mouse - Lux Prima

It’s been a while since Karen O released a record in her name, and it’s been even longer since she was the promising young star of one of garage rock’s most exciting new band. This isn’t her being fickle or unpredictable (although she is most certainly that) but she doesn’t feel the need to resurface unless she has something to say. Also, real life tends to get in the way and becoming a parent certainly falls into that category.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Album Review: Francis Rossi & Hannah Rickard - We Talk Too Much

We Talk Too Much is the unexpected collaboration between Francis Rossi of boogie-rock stalwarts Status Quo and retro-rock and roll singer Hannah Rickard of Hannah Rickard & the Relatives. If like me you were expecting a collection of rockabilly, swing or even blues-rock songs you're in for a surprise: the record is pure Country & Western.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

O.R.K. @ Petit Bain, Paris - March 17th, 2019

You know the music scene in Paris is bad when a band like O.R.k., comprised of fantastic musicians and hot off the heels of the release of an excellent record, can only attract forty-some punters on a Sunday night. Sad turnout notwithstanding, it was a great evening of music and everybody in attendance had a great time listening to singer/keyboardist L.E.F. (Owl, Berserk, Onake), guitarist Carmelo Pipitone (Marta Sui Tubi), bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and drummer Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mr. Mister...) play their neo-prog pieces in such a casual and intimate setting.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Album Review: Cinematic Orchestra - To Believe

Twelve years after Ma Fleur, the Cinematic Orchestra returns with another savant blend of evocative soundscapes, dramatic strings, slow jazz rhythms and a decidedly modern subliminal hip-hop undercurrent. Surprisingly, To Believe is a very uplifting record. Even when things get moody and when the ambiance turns to melancholy (which happens a lot) there is surprisingly very little darkness and the tone is never somber or ominous.

Friday's Playlist: Ry Cooder - Sessions & Contributions

In honour of Ry Cooder's 72nd birthday, we made a playlist focusing on the guitarist and musicologist's sessions and contributions to other people's records, as well as some of his collaborations with other artists. This isn't even the tip of the iceberg, but it's a good start.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Album Review: Durand Jones & the Indications - American Love Call

Durand Jones & the Indications's new LP is a direct continuation of their debut, which is good news since the self-titled record was one of the best releases of 2016. This new set finds them a little more polished perhaps, and their sound a little more ornate, but at the core are the same honesty and authenticity.

Album Review: Foals - Part 1: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

Foals' first new album in almost five years is the first of a two-disc project and is almost dizzying in its diversity. In that sense it feels more like a collection of songs than a cohesive statement, but it'll take a listen alongside part two to assess that for certain. What's absolutely undeniable however is the fascination for the 80's styles and sounds. In fact, each track seems influenced by an artist of the era. It is unknown how conscious those references are, but they are very obvious.

Album Review: Royal Trux - White Stuff

Usually, the main reason for a band to reunite is money but I can't imagine there being much to be made from Royal Trux, and that's just one of the reasons why White Stuff is one of the most unlikely reunion records ever to be released. To absolutely no one's surprise, the reunion seems to already be over, but then again maybe not, who knows? Some things never change and chaos, volatility and dysfunction still reign supreme in the Royal Trux camp.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Album Review: Dido - Still On My Mind

Dido’s first album in nearly six years can be summed up in one word: delicate. Even when the beats drop and the instrumentation gets dense, things never get heavy or base. But it’s not a light-hearted affair either, as the title indicates: most songs revolve around the themes of loss or soured relationships.

Album Review: Children of Bodom - Hexed

If like me you have a problem with guttural vocals, black metal shrieks or death metal growls then you probably won’t attempt to digest this new effort by Finnish extreme metal veterans Children of Bodom and it’s a shame because it’s a killer record replete with complex compositions and astonishing musicianship. In the twenty plus years since their debut, they have gone through several phases and experimented with different sounds like melodic technical death metal or more challenging, experimental material. On their new record Hexed, it seems that they have decided to streamline their approach and deliver their most straightforward record in a long time. In fact, vocals notwithstanding, this is probably the most “Rock” album they’ve released since Hate Crew Deathroll in 2003.

Album Review: Patty Griffin - Patty Griffin

The music on Patty Griffin’s eponymous new album is at the image of its beautiful pastoral psychedelic cover: symbolic, old-fashioned and rustic. Also like the cover, it puts the artist in full display not in an ostentatious manner but in earnest, honest way.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Music And Me: Can We Still Listen To Michael Jackson?

I’m not going to watch the Michael Jackson HBO documentary. I guess I’m weak. I can’t watch harrowing stories involving children, I just don’t have it in me. I have no doubt that it makes a compelling case, but that’s what documentary filmmaking is. If Orson Welles’ F For Fake has taught us anything it’s that any point of view can be credibly enforced or reinforced by the power of images and editing.

Album Review: Maren Morris - GIRL

Probably prompted by the success of her collaboration with Zedd, Maren Morris is the latest in a long line of country singers to cross over to the pop world. Shaniah Twain did it twenty years ago and Taylor Swift is a more recent example. Fortunately, Maren doesn’t seem to be going the same route as her elders: while GIRL is definitely more of a dance/pop album, it isn’t explicitly soliciting and it’s doubtful that we’ll see her half undressed at the VMAs collaborating with a SoundCloud rapper on a Dr. Luke production.

Album Review: Tesla - Shock

80's runner-ups Tesla are back with another set of well-crafted hard rock, their first in five years. They had always been unfairly lumped in with the fluff metal crowd when in reality they were always a much rootsier outfit, their sound being informed by classic 70's rock and eschewing the party rock clichés of all of their Van Halen and KISS loving contemporaries.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Johnny Rotten vs. Punk vs. the world

John Lydon performing with P.I.L. in Paris in 2013
John Lydon is still awesome, I don't care what anyone says. He's old and fat and drunk and he makes butter commercials but he can still rile people up like no one else. That video of him being belligerent with Marky Ramone is a fucking riot. Sat in the middle of ageing "punk stars" (if such a term doesn't strike terror in your soul then you don't have one) taking themselves way too seriously (when has Henry Rollins not been full of himself?) he does his usual number, disparages the whole movement, its participants (including himself) and in the process manages to redeem and exemplify it.

Friday's Playlist: New Wave, Post-Punk & Gothic

Feeling chipper, Buck-O? I got something to knock that stupid smile off of your face. Oh, sure, you'll dance, but it won't be a happy dance. It'll be a suicide dance.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Album Review: Delicate Steve - Till I Burn Up

This is an instrumental guitar album, but if you’re coming in expecting shred you will be sorely disappointed. Maybe the artist’s name should have tipped you off that this is not going to be a guitar neck-burning metal wank-fest. But this ain’t Larry Carlton, either. In fact, it’s hard to put a name on what it is.

Album Review: Last In Line - II

Last In Line started as a fun side-project for ex-members of the original Dio band after the passing of Ronnie James Dio. Despite the bad blood and the unfortunate public rift between the musicians and their former leader, there was always one thing everyone could agree upon: the first two Dio records are among the greatest statements of the Heavy Rock idiom.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Album Review: Weezer - Weezer (Black)

The new album by Weezer comes mere weeks after their EP of (mostly) 80’s covers. While that experiment was anecdotal at best, this is a more “serious” addition to the band’s canon and I’m happy to report that it’s also one of their best in probably a decade.

Album Review: Backyard Babies - Sliver And Gold

Swedish Sleaze/Punk veterans Backyard Babies return with a banger of a new record which sounds like a mix between KISS and the New York Dolls with a little Social Distortion thrown in for good measure. Needless to say, that’s a good thing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Album Review: Hozier - Wasteland, Baby

Hozier’s second album comes nearly five years after the Irish songwriter’s self-titled debut and the fact that he took his sweet time for a follow-up makes it all the more surprising that this new set of songs is more of the same. This is not a criticism, it’s actually quite commendable that the young singer has found his style so early in his career. And if you were one of the millions of listeners who enjoyed his massive single Take Me To Church, you will no doubt love this record.

Monday, March 4, 2019

What A Drag It Is Getting Old

It was a slow process but I started noticing it about 15 years ago, which means it might have started before but it’s only within the past couple of years that I was eventually completely disconnected with what’s hip musically.

By now it has been confirmed by The Prodigy’s mastermind Liam Howlett that the band’s MC/Vocalist Keith Flint has committed suicide over the weekend at the age of 49. Another entry in a long, sad list of pop figures who have chose to end their lives early, a list that is growing at an increasingly alarming rate. It’s too early and too morbid to speculate as to why or how. In fact it’s no concern of ours.

Album Review: Bryan Adams - Shine A Light

Bryan Adams’ new record is, as usual, a well-crafted affair. At thirty-six minutes, it is a perfectly paced collection of consistently good songs that toe the line between classic rock and more modern sounds tailored for today’s radio, sung in a powerful and distinctive voice.

Album Review: Dream Theater - Distance Over Time

Dream Theater’s previous record was the impossibly long, challenging (and, at first glance, indigestible) The Astonishing, a multimedia science-fiction concept that ends up being incredibly rewarding for those patient enough to invest their time and attention. The ensuing tour also tried the listener’s patience and good will but was ultimately successful, at least from an artistic standpoint.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Hollow Drama: Thoughts on the Frank Zappa Hologram

A couple of days ago the Zappa Family released a teaser video of the Frank Zappa hologram that’ll be touring the world later this year. While the footage doesn’t show the actual hologram in the context of a live band, thus making an estimation of its integration and believability hard to establish, we have an idea of its likeness and how it will look in motion. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

6 Questions with Pat Mastelotto from O.R.K., King Crimson, etc.

Pat Mastelotto has had quite a long and illustrious career: he had a few hits in the eighties as the drummer for Mr. Mister, played with XTC on their Oranges and Lemons album, and has been with King Crimson since 1994 through all their different incarnations: the Double Trio, the 2000 Quartet, various ProjeKct fraKctals, and he is currently the stage right drummer in their present three-drummer, eight-headed beast incarnation. I'm not even mentioning hundreds of sessions and collaborations in every genre imaginable, and as you'll see from the answer on the last question, the man is showing no sign of slowing down. We caught up with him in the middle of a European tour with neo-prog band O.R.K. who is touring behind their awesome new album Ramagehead (you can check our review HERE) so we really appreciate him taking the time to answer our questions in the middle of such a busy schedule. Without further ado, here are our 6 questions with Pat Mastelotto:

Friday's Playlist: Fusion Hits

Here's another long one for ya: this playlist compiles some of the best, most famous tunes from a genre that is considered an abomination by many jazz fans, and by many rock fans.