The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

EOB’s Earth: A Track-By-Track Review — April 17, 2020

EOB’s Earth: A Track-By-Track Review

Well it took roughly a decade but Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien (under the moniker EOB) has finally released his debut solo album Earth. The journey of Earth first began in the fall of 2012 after Radiohead finished their King of Limbs world tour. Ed decided to pack up the wife and kids to live in the Brazilian countryside (on the edge of a rainforest) for several months that would stretched into the start of 2013. While in Brazil, Ed decided to do a hard disconnect, focusing solely on “family, food and music”. In those months Ed was deeply touched by nature, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica and Carnival. The roots of Earth might have been planted in Brazil but it would take several more years of careful nurturing between a Radiohead album release (A Moon Shaped Pool) and two world tours to finally bring the project to a happy conclusion. Ed linked up with legendary producer Flood (Mark Ellis) in 2017, long with producers Catherine Marks and Alan Moulder, who all helped O’Brien hone in on the sounds he had envisioned in his head; an existential dance record. 

Earth almost feels like a NBA “Dream Team” when you look at the roster of musicians Ed collected for the LP. Joining Ed under the EOB banner are drummer Omar Hakim of recent Daft Punk fame, Invisible members Nathan East and Dave Okumu, folk singer Laura Marling, Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and Radiohead’s very own Colin Greenwood laying down some initial bass work on the track “Brasil”. Ed should be very proud of the end results for Earth. Nothing in the Radiohead realm which includes Thom, Jonny, Phil, Colin or Nigel is this direct, open and honest. Ed has called Earth “a record from the heart, not of the head” and that is exactly what he accomplishes over the album’s 46 minutes. Speaking recently to KEXP’s Kevin Cole, Ed said that Earth is part one of a trilogy of albums he is already plotting with producer Flood. We will now all wait with bated breath after a stellar debut.

Shangri-La 

The second single from Earth. Inspired by late night gallivanting at Glastonbury in 2014. Easily the most direct and poppy song from anyone associated with Radiohead in decades. You can hear the influence of U2 guitarist The Edge all over this one. A standout  track from Earth. 

Brasil

Ed ushered in the Earth promotional campaign with this 8 minute folktronica banger back in December 2019. I think we were all properly excited about what lay ahead after hearing this bad boy rave up. Colin Greenwood even pitches in with some pulsating bass work on the back end. Ed said that this tune is the heart and soul of Earth. One of the show highlights when I saw EOB in New York City in early February. I can feel the existential dance party going round and round.   

Deep Days

A funky soul song with phenomenal percussion work and a danceable groove. A seductive love song. “Where you go, I will go, Where you stay, I will stay, Where you sleep, I will sleep, And when you rise, I will rise.”

Long Time Coming

Strong Led Zeppelin III vibes flowing throughout this beautiful acoustic ballad. Safe to assume this was definitely written in the Cambrian Mountains in Wales. 

Mass

The atmosphere and production created on this spacey slow burner reminds me of the album Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Ros. I believe this song was inspired by Ed’s friendship with American astronaut Mike Massimino and his experience of looking down at Earth from outer space. Very euphoric and cinematic. 

Banksters

The very first song Ed wrote for his future solo album Earth way back in 2009! Influenced lyrically by the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 and by being taken advantage of by a close friend. As many have pointed out after seeing Ed’s North American promotional tour in February, this track shares a lot of DNA with Coldplay’s “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face”. Very similar acoustic chord progressions and overall bounce. I for one dig the darker samba tones. 

Sail On

A heartfelt tribute to a cousin who recently passed away while Earth was being created. A song about passing into the afterworld or whatever lies beyond. Reminds me of latter day Pink Floyd. The most sparse song on the record.

Olympik 

An absolute banger. Both on the album and in person. If you told me this song was leftover from U2’s Achtung Baby sessions in Hansa Studio I’d believe you. In fact it sounds like a Kaleidoscope of sounds that U2 excelled at in the 90s. Think “Discotheque” meets “Lady With The Spinning Head” divided by the song “Zooropa”. Tremendous stuff overall. Ed has said this is his favorite song on Earth and likened it to “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” from Radiohead’s In Rainbows. 

Cloak of The Night

A fantastic folk duet with singer/songwriter Laura Marling. It’s so good and has all the right feelings that you could picture it being on The Beatles’ White Album. A perfect way to conclude Ed’s debut album. 

Pearl Jam: Gigaton Track-By-Track Review — March 27, 2020

Pearl Jam: Gigaton Track-By-Track Review

What crazy days we have all been living over the last two weeks or so. The COVID-19 pandemic has seemed to put a damper on so many fun aspects we take for granted in life. The first signs that struck Pearl Jam fans was the postponement of the North American leg of the Gigaton tour slated to begin in mid March. Pearl Jam was one of the first bands to see the devastation happening in their very own state of Washington and decided to put the breaks on everything tour wise for the health of all parties involved. It was the right move. There is no doubt in my mind that when this world crisis subsides Pearl  Jam will be back and rock us even harder than before. 

Until that day arrives we can all enjoy their 11th studio album Gigaton that dropped today (3/27/20). It’s been a long seven years since the band dropped Lightening Bolt in 2013 which divided fans and critics alike. It certainly wasn’t my favorite Pearl Jam but it did contain some fantastic material like “Pendulum”. It’s cliche to say that Gigaton is a “back-to-basics” type album but it kinda plays out that way. The group is certainly more focused and the songs hit in a more direct way than anything the band has released since the Avocado days. It’s always a great sign when every member of the band is contributing on the songwriting front and new producer Josh Evans has Pearl Jam sounding as modern as possible in 2020. So go ahead, pop in the CD, spin that black circle or stream it as you please while struck in quarantine. There will be brighter days on the five horizons….

Who Ever Said – A fast charging rocker with a soaring chorus that properly kicks off Gigaton in style. Always a fan when Pearl Jam lets it rip straight from the gate. This is going to be a nice addition to the setlists whenever the Gigaton world tour can launch. 

Superblood Wolfmoon – Pearl Jam keeps the high intensity swagger flowing on Gigaton’s surf rock inspired second single. The song features a pretty bad ass howling guitar solo from Mike McCready. It’s going to be a great addition to the live sets. 

Dance of the Clairvoyants – The very first tasting from the Gigaton era. The sounds of The Talking Heads meets Devo. One of the freshest sounds the band has cooked up in well over a decade. I must have listened to it over a dozen times while attempting to buy tickets to see the band at Madison Squads Garden during the fan pre-sale in January. It was a lucky charm because I did score tickets (behind the stage). Very much looking forward to this Garden Party whenever the COVID-19 crisis is over. 

Quick Escape – Heavy Led Zeppelin guitar riffs open this tune with Eddie singing into a slightly distorted mic. A real throwback cut composed musically by Jeff Ament. Again more fantastic guitar soloing taking place as the song draws to a conclusion. The band has really upped their game with some meaty guitar work on this go around. Pearl Jam also suggest that mankind’s future might rest on another planet like Mars. “And here we are, the Red Planet/ Craters across the skyline/ A sleep sack in a bivouac/ And a Kerouac sense of time.”

Alright – Jeff Ament supplies the music and lyrics to this spacey keyboard led track that eerily describes the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s alright, to shut it down, Disappear in thin air, it’s your home, it’s alright, to be alone.”

Seven O’Clock – The best way of describing this 6 minute slow burn anthem (the longest on Gigaton) is Bruce Springsteen meets mid 80s Pink Floyd synthesizers. One of the strongest tracks from this LP hands down. 

Never Destination – Another chugging rocker returns for the album’s mid point junction to liven things up again. The tune even name checks Sean Penn’s debut novel “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff”. It’s a breath of fresh air that all the rockers found on Gigaton avoid the cliche traps they were previously seen on Pearl Jam songs like “Ole” and “Can’t Deny Me”. Nobody wants this group on auto pilot. 

Take The Long Way – The guitar thrashing continues on this Matt Cameron composed track. Not only does Matt supply the steady drum fury but he also sings backup vocals along with Meagan Grandall (aka Lemolo) which I believe is the first time a female has appeared vocally on a Pearl Jam record. 

Buckle Up – Leave it to Stone Gossard to supply Gigaton with its most unique and gentle sounding offering despite extremely dark lyrics. I absolutely love this acoustic chord progression. It’s dreamy, it’s melancholy and feels like a tragic lullaby. This tune reminds me of Pearl Jam’s attempt at a sequel for Radiohead b-side “Killer Cars”.

Comes Then Goes – This one could almost be a track from Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack album to the film Into The Wild. To my ears it sounds like only Eddie and his trusty acoustic guitar. The subject matter is rumored to be about the passing of longtime friend Chris Cornell. Only time will tell if that is the case or not. Either way it’s an ode to friends long since gone. “We could all use a savior from human behavior.”

Retrograde – Mike McCready wrote the music for Gigaton’s spacey penultimate track that features former veteran producer Brendan O’Brien on supporting keyboards. This is another track that could have easily been on the Into The Wild soundtrack. Eddie’s lyrics allude to the destruction of Mother Earth by mankind. Will this be the final verse contributed by humanity before its downfall? We shall see. 

River Cross – The fingerprints of Neil Young are all over this rousing finale to Pearl Jam’s 11th studio album. Think “Like A Hurricane” from MTV Unplugged meets “Organ Solo” from the Dead Man film soundtrack. You have the classic pump organ swirling and Eddie longing for a dream that seems unattainable. “I want this dream to last forever, A wish denied to lengthen our time, I wish this moment was never ending, Let it be a lie that all future’s die….”

 

Welcome To Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony — March 13, 2020

Welcome To Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony

Well, it only took 13 long years for Jay Electronica to emerge with his debut album A Written Testimony. Electronica first came to musical prominence during the summer of 2007 with his stunningly excellent mixtape Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge) which featured Jay rapping over select cuts from Jon Brion’s film soundtrack for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. From there he would release “Exhibit A (Transformations)” and “Exhibit C” in 2009 to much fanfare creating a bidding war for his services by major hip-hop labels. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation would eventually be the lucky winner for Jay Electronica’s musical prowess. What came next were whispers of a proper album, endless production work and over a dozen collaborations sprinkled throughout the last decade. That all ended Thursday night when Electronica finally dropped his very first album, A Written Testimony, backed strongly with uncredited vocal support from Jay-Z himself. Was it worth the wait? It sure the fuck was.

The Overwhelming Event – The album opens with a stirring string section sampled from French composer Éric Demarsan and then is followed by a speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan who Jay is a disciple of. “I ask the question, ‘Who are the real Children of Isreal?’ And I’d like to answer it right away…….That the black people of America are the real Children of Israel And they, we, are the choice of God And that unto us, he will deliver his promise.”

Ghost of Soulja Slim – After a second brief Louis Farrakhan intro speech, Jay Electronica benefactor, Jay-Z, fires the opening volley on A Written Testimony. This seems fitting given the personal bond between the two men over the last decade and the steadfast loyalty Hova has showed towards Jay Elec since the day he signed with Roc Nation. The dynamic duo trade verses over a pretty obscure sample of composer John Williams’ song “Jennifer’s French Movie” from the 1967 film Valley of The Dolls. The track is an ode to the memory of James Adarryl Tapp Jr (Soulja Slim). Best known for his Billboard Hot 100 #1 single “Slow Motion”. Sadly, Tapp was gunned down and murdered on November 26, 2003.

The Blinding – Electronica joins forces with Travis Scott for another star-studded cameo on A Written Testimony. Scott isn’t the only high profile rapper on “The Blinding”. Swizz Beatz and Jay-Z both lend their helping hands to shape the track into its final form. “Extra, extra, it’s Mr. Headlines, who signed every contract and missed the deadlines, 40 days, 40 nights, tryna live up to the hype.”

The Neverending Story – This song might as well be the theme for Electronica’s decade long struggle to complete his much ballyhooed debut album. Set over a vintage Argentine rock sample by Litto Nebbia, Jay Elec trades verses once again with Hova (Notice a trend yet?) about artistic perseverance. “What a time we livin’ in, just like the scripture says Earthquakes, fires, and plagues, the resurrection of the dead.” Electronica’s timing with current events is impeccable. The Alchemist handles production work for this one.

Shiny Suit Theory – Well hello there! A blast from the past pops up mid way through the record. “Shiny Suit Theory” is literally the first project Electronica released once he signed to Roc Nation a decade ago. This version sounds pretty much unchanged from when it dropped in November 2010. The killer verses by Jay-Z still remain as does a sample of The Ambassadors’ song “Ain’t Got The Love (Of One Girl On My Mind)” but this time around award winning producer, songwriter and singer The-Dream plays a role in its final form.

Universal Soldier – Opening with the sounds of a WWII Pacific Theater newsreel from 1945, the song then morphs into Electronica reciting Arabic phrases before launching into Electronica’s pledge to remain a faithful servant to the Nation of Islam over a fantastic hypnotic beat. “My poetry’s livin’ like the God that I fall back on And all praises due to Allah for such a illustrious platform The teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s my backbone, When I spit, the children on the mothership bow on a platform.” British singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer James Blake joins the party to sing on the outro.

Flux Capacitor – Pretty sweet “Back To The Future” reference in the title. A whirlwind of influences and references are found all over this track ranging from “Get The Gat” by Lil Elt, Rihanna’s “Higher“, “Wheel ‘N’ Deal” by DJ Gunshot and even “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls.  Overall it sounds like a wild parking lot party and the most overt Jay-Z appearance.

Fruits Of The Spirit – No I.D. handles production duties on this baby. This is the lone song on A Written Testimony (excluding “The Overwhelming Event”) where Jay-Z does not appear. It’s simply Electronica doing his thing over a running loop of The Imaginations’ song “Because I Love You“. It is also the shortest track on the album at 1 minute and 35 seconds.

Ezekiel’s Wheel – The three headed monster that is Electronica, Hova and The-Dream are in peak form in this almost 7 minute tour de force performance that integrates portions of “Evensong” by Robert Fripp & Brian Eno. Again the idea that Electronica is a prophet like figure sent by Allah is explored. Some of the best verses on A Written Testimony are found all over this track. “I started on Tatooine but now I’m way out in Dagobah, Mastered the force, made my saber, I’m in the light now….”. Later Electronica references Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, “Sometimes, like Santiago, at crucial points of my novel, My only logical option was to transform into the wind.”. A verse that perhaps is a meta statement on his own struggles to finally complete this much hyped debut album. 

A.P.I.D.T.A. – The real treasure of the album but also an extremely somber song to close out Electronica’s debut. Written following the sudden news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died tragically in a helicopter accident earlier that day. Using the Khruangbin’s song “A Hymn” as a backing guide, Jay-Z and Jay Elec trade mournful verses of loved ones they can no longer reach in the grave. “I got numbers on my phone that’ll never ring again, ‘Cause Allah done called them home……….I got texts in my phone that’ll never ping again, I screenshot ’em so I got ’em, I don’t want this thing to…..”. Easily an album highlight and one of the best tracks to emerge thus far 2020. 

Noel Gallagher’s Three E.P.’s — March 2, 2020

Noel Gallagher’s Three E.P.’s

Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds tried something new over the last 10 months as he attempted to spice up his artistic release patterns. He didn’t release a proper album to follow up 2017’s brilliant Who Built The Moon? but he did treat fans with three distinct sounding EPs that were dropped in June 2019 (Black Star Dancing), September 2019 (This Is The Place) and the last one in March 2020 (Blue Moon Rising). All together the three EPs featured 9 brand new tracks that covered a wide range of genres from acoustic based tunes to acid house infused guitar rock. Noel has said that these EPs were designed to flush out his back catalog of unused material, release more experimental tinged tracks and tide over fans until he begins work on his 4th solo album later this year once his new home studio is completed. No word yet on who will produce or what sonic direction he might go outside of Noel telling Zane Lowe in November “it could be a double album….with lots of eclectic stuff on it”. We shall see what comes to pass over the next year or so. Overall this EP campaign has been a rewarding experience for all Oasis and Noel Gallagher fans alike. 

Black Star Dancing EP

Black Star Dancing – The first single out of the gate keeps the vibes of Who Built The Moon? alive and well. A thumping bass Line and a ZZ Top style guitar solo keep this tune buzzing with fresh surprises. Noel has said this song was heavily influenced by his David Bowie obsession. Guitarist Nile Rodgers who dropped by the studio during recording sessions called the track “dope”. Good enough for me!

Rattling Rose – A more traditional sounding Noel effort that could have easily been on his debut album or Chasing Yesterday. Led by a bouncing acoustic strum and a shuffling beat, the most interesting aspect of this track is the The Left Banke style horn breakdown featured in the finale. In classic Noel fashion he described the song as “It manages to combine the influences of Chris Rea, Chris De Burgh, Mike and the Mechanics and Slipknot FFS!!! I may have eaten too many gummy bears recently.”

Sail On – A stunningly beautiful acoustic/banjo ballad about lost love and finding your place in the world. “Sail On” feels like a lost cousin of previous B-side “I’d Pick You Every Time” from 2011. Noel has said this track dates back to the Chasing Yesterday era and was only included at the persistence of the girls who work at his record label who adored it. Hats off to them!

This Is The Place EP

This Is The Place – For my ears this is the crown jewel of the EP project. A proper acid house banger with heavy echoes of New Order. Noel’s very own ode to Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub. I hope Noel cooks up more babies like this moving forward.  It is also fantastic to hear live. 

A Dream Is All I Need To Get By – A gentle floating acoustic number that Noel has described as “To my ears it sounds like one of those iconic B-sides by The Smiths, only obviously not as good.”. This is the safest sounding song released from any of the EPs and is sure to please any fans of Noel’s previous work while in Oasis. 

Evil Flower – A dark hypnotic driving tune that sounds equal parts “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” and “Soldier On” from Oasis’ Dig Out Your Soul. Heavy electronic Spaghetti Western vibes are drenched all over this composition. In terms of being “experimental” this is the most challenging offering from Noel out of anything found on the three EPs. 

Blue Moon Rising EP

Blue Moon Rising – Each of Noel’s previous EPs started off with a heavy dance influenced rocker and this current offering is no different. You can really feel early 1980s New Order rubbing off on Noel immensely. I am very much looking forward to Noel traveling down this road further as I’ve been extremely pleased with the results of the tracks “Black Star Dancing”, “This Is The Place” and “Blue Moon Rising”. I suspect that if Noel continues to work with producer David Holmes I just might get my wish. Both fingers crossed! 

Wandering Star – A much anticipated release by the fan base all summer long with the belief it had the potential to be a “huge” throwback hit. What Noel ended up giving us was an unofficial Christmas holiday jingle packed to the brim with sleigh bells, church bells and cheerful horns. Noel even hired actor Stephen Graham to star in the music video as a shoplifting but good hearted Santa Claus. Terrific casting. Just put Stephen Graham in everything already!

Come On Outside – It took over 12 years for this legendary unfinished Oasis track to see the light of day. The origin of this song began during studio sessions for Oasis’ 7th album Dig Out Your Soul in the winter of 2007. At one point it was going to be the lead single off Dig Out Your Soul until Noel said the band “ran out of time” to record vocals for it as a result of his brother Liam abandoning the sessions to fly back to England unannounced to marry his girlfriend at the time Nicole Appleton. Oasis had been in Los Angeles with producer Dave Sardy mixing the album in early 2008 when this alleged incident went down. The song would not see the light of day (outside a demo leak in 2013) until last week. The end result is a bombastic groove filled rocker with supporting keyboards and a female backing choir. It’s very easy to imagine Liam singing this song. In an alternate timeline it was a smash single off Dig Out Your Soul. Instead it’s the last track in a series of EPs intended to bridge the gap between Noel Gallagher solo albums. Either way the song is ours now.

Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush: Song-By-Song Breakdown — March 1, 2020

Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush: Song-By-Song Breakdown

It has been a long 5 years but Kevin Parker has finally delivered his follow up album to the cross over smash hit Currents. Originally The Slow Rush was planned to be released to coincide with Tame Impala headlining the Coachella Music Festival last April. Tame Impala first dropped the song “Patience” followed by “Borderline” a week later to wet the appetite for the forthcoming LP that spring. Eventually Parker, being the perfectionist that he is, believed the album needed more time to bake in the creative oven. Thus another calendar year would pass us all by. If you were expecting an album closer to Innerspeaker or Lonerism, well you have come to the wrong place. Those days are a thing of the past. Tame Impala’s 4th album is really an extension of the electro-pop that was found on Currents from 2015. Think less of a heavy guitar workload and more big beats/drum patterns. It has been a fun transition witnessing Tame Impala being a guitar driven outfit, to one leaning on heavy synthesizers to finally being an act that features looping drum beats. If I had to summarize this album in one sentence thematically it would be this: Kevin Parker is drunk on nostalgia. 

One More Year – A shimmering wave of distorted vocals opens The Slow Rush as Kevin Parker sets the stage for everything to come on this album. The concept of time has become a major theme in Kevin’s life since we last met him. “We’re on a rollercoaster stuck on its loop de loop”. Tame Impala records always have killer opening songs and this one is no different. 

Instant Destiny – I can only interpret this song as a marriage proposal to his wife Sophie Lawrence and a lifetime of future bliss. Lyrics of moving to Miami, getting name tattoos and drinking potions made of devotion. Kevin has never been so on point lyrically. “I’m about to do something crazy, no more delayin’”.

Borderline – This is the second incarnation of the song. It was first debuted on Saturday Night Live in March 2019 along with another new song called “Patience”. Later it was released in April 2019 as duel promotion for a headlining Coachella appearance and upcoming album. As we know the album was shelved and Kevin went back to the drawing board on “Borderline” feeling that the song was lacking his intended sonic vision. Kevin beefed up the basslines and made the drums more hard hitting in the mix. Also 30 seconds were shaved off when comparing the 2019 single version to the one found on The Slow Rush. I still wish that “Patience” made the album. That song is just too good to sit without calling an album home. 

Posthumous Forgiveness – On the third single from The Slow Rush Kevin wrestles with unresolved issues with his father who passed away back in 2009 from skin cancer. The 6 minute track is really a tale of two cities. On the first half Kevin shares resentment and anger towards his father who died before they could potentially take back any regretful words or actions. “And while you still had time, you had a chance, but you decided to take all your sorrys to the grave.” The second half sees a sonic turn in Kevin embracing the tender moments they did share prior to his parents divorce and how he wishes his father could see the man he has become today. “Wanna tell you ’bout my life, Wanna play you all my songs and hear your voice sing along….”.

Breathe Deeper – One of the album’s biggest bangers. Full of groove filled synthesizers and piano playing that has echoes of last year’s standalone single “Patience”. This track serves as a mantra for Kevin to relax, take it easy and most importantly to breathe deeper. A sure fire highlight off The Slow Rush. 

Tomorrow’s Dust – So many of us were enamored with this song the moment we first heard it in The Slow Rush album trailer. The track begins proper with guitar fingerpicking that reminds me of “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” by Radiohead. The concept of time begins to creep back into Kevin’s mind throughout the tune. “There’s no use trying to relate to that older soul, and no use biding your time if the bell is tolled.”. Time keeps marching forward and so does Kevin Parker. At the end of the day, no matter what we do or what we say, everyone is going to end up tomorrow’s dust. No exceptions. Pretty grim when you think about it. Nevertheless it is one of best tracks featured on The Slow Rush. 

On Track – This is best described as a Tame Impala power ballad. Despite a long hiatus between Currents and The Slow Rush, KP is letting us know he is exactly on pace for his own life’s timeline. For me this is the “Eventually” of this album. 

Lost In Yesterday – A song deeply rooted in thoughts of nostalgia and regret over the outcome of certain life choices. “And you’re gonna have to let it go someday, You’ve been diggin’ it up like Groundhog Day, ‘Cause it might’ve been somethin’, don’t say, Cause it has to be lost in yesterday”. Led by a driving bassline and keyboards, “Lost In Yesterday” is easily one the clearest callbacks from the Currents era. 

Is It True – Has the potential to be the biggest banger on the album long term. It checks all the boxes that Kevin loves. Toe tapping drums. Groovy bass. Psychedelic keyboards. Kevin said he spent less than 8 hours composing the song proving that maybe he can deliver products in a shorter timespan than his usual endless studio tinkering. Lyrically Kevin is at war mentally with the thoughts that true love might not last forever and it may be only transient in nature. I wonder how the new Mrs. Parker feels about this one?

It Might Be Time– Heavy on bombastic drums, keyboards and a swirling siren that recalls the Quincy Jones song “Ironside”. Best remembered for being used in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films. Officially the albums 2nd single after “Borderline”. This track wouldn’t feel out of place on a Supertramp record. 

Glimmer – The sounds of the historic The Haçienda in Manchester. I wish this song was in the 5-6 minute range because it potentially has so much more to give. The opening keyboard shutter reminds me of the intro to Underworlds’ “Born Slippy .NUXX”. When in doubt…….CRANK THE BASS UP. 

One More Hour – Well time is almost up on The Slow Rush. The mission statement Kevin provided in “One More Year” about having one more year, 52 weeks, 7 days each, 4 seasons, is down to its very last hour. Better make it count. “I’m with you and I can roll into another year”. This is the most traditional sounding rock song on the album with huge crashing crescendos during the choruses. I can almost picture this song being played in arenas during the late 70s.

Coldplay’s “Everyday Life” Track-By-Track Preview — November 16, 2019

Coldplay’s “Everyday Life” Track-By-Track Preview

Coldplay’s latest album, Everyday Life, stuck up on pretty much everyone. Sure it has been four years since the overtly pop centric and saccharine filled A Head Full of Dreams was released but Chris Martin and the gang kept things relatively low key this time around. The ball got rolling with some vague twitter rumors followed by strange appearances of album ads in smaller newspapers around the globe and finally the band actually dropping snail mail to random fans announcing a double album due on November 22nd, one half called “Sunrise”, the other “Sunset”.  The band have said it’s an album of ruminations on how “we feel about things” going on right now in…….everyday life.

Sunrise 

Sunrise – The album opens with an unlikely violin filled instrumental piece that would not feel out of place in a World War I era film. The track was first teased in an instagram post by the band back in October.

Church – A fine mix of the production style found on Viva La Vida and Mylo Exloto. This wouldn’t be Coldplay if Chris Martin isn’t trying to chase down love by any means necessary somewhere on the album. A potential single for sure.

Trouble In Town – Dare I say this is the first time Coldplay have been openly political during a song? Lyrics critique racial profiling in America and the impact it has on so many lives of innocent people just trying to get by in 2019. To add on top of that is the audio of an infamous police exchange that went viral on YouTube several years prior. Coldplay holding nothing back on their message here. Dynamic second half musically with a killer guitar solo by Jonny Buckland. 

BrokEn – Move over Kanye, you aren’t the only one doing gospel in 2019. Coldplay’s very own version of “This Little Light of Mine”. Fitting it follows the racially charged “Trouble In Town”. 

Daddy – This album’s “O”. It has the atmosphere of a lullaby in reverse. Not for a child but for a missed parent. Tender and beautiful. It is hard to tell but is some of that piano melody borrowed from the unreleased “Famous Lost Painters”?

WOTW/POTP – A short acoustic sketch of a song which passes by in barely a minute. Has a very White Album feel to it. Loose and raw. The most under cooked studio track by Coldplay in decades. Maybe since the song “Parachutes”. 

Arabesque – Sonically this is the crown jewel of Everyday Life. Coldplay have not sounded this bold and brave since the Viva La Vida days. Led by chugging percussion, heavy bass lines and loads of saxophones! Sax crimes all over the place on this tune and it all works to great satisfaction. Great freak out towards the end as everything comes crashing down. Reminds me of “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac or the ending of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” by Paul McCartney.

When I Need A Friend – It seems like Coldplay have been spending a lot of time hanging out in old churches between the songs “Church”, “BrokEn” and now “When I Need A Friend”. This track in particular sounds like an old fashioned Christmas carol you’ve been singing at the holidays each passing year. Coldplay’s “O Holy Night”.  Another album curveball. 

Sunset 

Guns – Shades of both “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face” and “Major Minus” running throughout this acoustic based stomper. Again Coldplay are tackling real world issues this time with gun violence in America. Satirical in nature, Chris holds nothing back as he torches government policy and big business for allowing weapons of mass killings to be so easily obtained. 

Orphans – Every Coldplay album needs its stadium banger and “Orphans” does that job fantastically well on Everyday Life. Chris Martin might have unlocked the cheat code of life by just wanting to “get drunk with my friends”.  Don’t we all Chris? Don’t we all….

Eko – The acoustic guitar finger picking evokes imagery of figure skaters dancing effortlessly on ice. I am also reminded of the song “Graceland” by Paul Simon whenever I listen to this song. Warms the heart. 

Cry Cry Cry – One of the most unique sounding songs not only on Everyday Life but also in the Coldplay discography. Feels like a song from alternative history 1950s America.  Total doo-wop action. Enchantment Under The Sea dance.

Old Friends – Very similar in vibe to “Eko” but this time the subject matter drifts to a long lost friend and the bond of that friendship over time. 

Bani Adam – Another instrumental but with two distinctive halves. The first begins on piano with shades of “Postcards From Far Away” running through it. About two minutes in an unexpected transition occurs as Coldplay drift into U2 territory. Think Zooropa meets Passenger.

Champion of The World – A true album highlight. A soaring anthem of personal perseverance supported with wonder Echo and The Bunnymen guitar effects.  Nice to see Coldplay embrace their previous musical influences even for just one song. Will be a killer track when performed live. 

Everyday Life – First debuted on SNL two weeks ago. It’s a simple yet direct piano ballad that cuts straight to the point. You can see why the band selected it to be played on national television along with “Orphans”. My favorite part of the song are the beautiful sonic textures behind the piano and the accompanying violins. 

Coldplay have said they will not tour this album proper and will be donating all proceeds to reforestation which is an extraordinary act of kindness for a band to do. There have been many rumors of a quick follow up album to Everyday Life due in 2020 at some point with a huge supporting world tour. We shall see if that comes to pass or not. Until then we can enjoy this unique entry into the Coldplay canon. 

Wilco Bring The Poetry and Magic To “Ode To Joy” — October 13, 2019

Wilco Bring The Poetry and Magic To “Ode To Joy”

Wilco returned last week with their 11th album after a three year hiatus as a group. It wasn’t a complete break for band leader Jeff Tweedy however. He was hard at work penning his well received and outstanding autobiography Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). On top of that Tweedy released not one but two solo albums cheekily titled Warm (2018) and Warmer (2019). Both were acoustic driven and extremely self reflective on his life once he reached the ripe old age of 50. These themes and style would carry over to Wilco’s newest effort Ode To Joy. A lot of this album feels like it could have been Jeff’s third solo album except now it’s been beefed up by his Wilco buddies and ready to sit firmly in the band’s pantheon. 

Jeff Tweedy and drummer Glenn Kotche made a concentrated effort to record drums for this record in a unique and organic manner. No better example of this then on the opener “Bright Leaves” where such pronounced drum skin pounding is heard. Elsewhere Wilco produce one of their more poppier tunes in years with the bouncy “Everyone Hides”. Lead guitarist Nels Cline makes his presence known on the beautifully understated “We Were Lucky”. His restrained guitar solo sounds like a downed power cable sparking with electricity just ready to roast whoever comes in contact with it. Echoes of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse work easily spring to mind. The best is yet to come with the calvary charge guitar playing of lead single “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”. You have to hand it to Wilco. They’ve been a band for almost 30 years and can still cook up ideas that impress your ears. This tune is a real pleasure to listen to. 

One could say the overall thesis of Ode To Joy is found in the song “Hold Me Anyway” where Tweedy attempts to make sense of the randomness of life and the hope of a cosmic connection between us all. “Are we all in love just because? No, I think it’s poetry and magic, Something too big to have a name…”. What’s next? Wilco has already embarked on a North American tour this month that will take the band across the states and into Mexico for 2020. I highly recommend catching a gig. Always a great time.  Also be on the look out for a Jeff Tweedy cameo in Curb Your Enthusiasm which is due to return to HBO in 2020. 

Grade: B

Checkout: “Everyone Hides”, “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”, “We Were Lucky”, “Hold Me Anyway”

Liam Gallagher Strikes Back With Why Me? Why Not. — September 22, 2019

Liam Gallagher Strikes Back With Why Me? Why Not.

Liam Gallagher has been on one hell of a roll since officially announcing his solo career in the summer of 2017. Out of the devastating breakup of Oasis in 2009 and later the ashes of Beady Eye in 2014, Liam has not only resurrected his good name and public perception but also delivered not one, but two well rounded solo albums. As You Were set the table in October 2017 proving that Liam could successfully navigate a post Oasis world without his big brother Noel guiding the way both lyrically and sonically. That album would go on to be a #1 record in the UK, become one of the biggest sellers in England that year and his concert venue sizes would continue to bloom with each passing month. Liam jokes that soon he could play his own Knebworth. Maybe that is a bit tongue-in-cheek but he might have a solid point. Things are escalating rather quickly for Gallagher who only 4-5 years ago was down on his luck, basically out of the music business and slowly piecing his personal life back together after a bitter divorce sparked by an affair with an American journalist. 

Now in 2019 Liam has unleashed his newest solo record titled Why Me? Why Not. It’s not a grand departure from his debut which was a lot of straight forward rockers and power ballads built to be sung by legions of adoring fans. The album was previously teased with lead single “Shockwave” that feels like it was destined to be in a Guy Ritchie crime caper, followed by the swamp rock of “The River”, then the self reflective ballad “Once” which many see as an olive branch to his brother Noel and lastly “One Of Us” with its military like stomp. Four different slices of the Liam Gallagher pie that should fill the appetite of any former Oasis fan. As with As You Were, Liam reunites with uber producers Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt (fresh off an Oscar win for “Shallow”) to help craft the sounds he envisions in his head. So get ready for a steady diet of 1967 Beatles, All Things Must Pass slide guitar action and some Between To Button era Rolling Stones. 

Highlights from the album include the catchy singalong “Now That I Found You”, the driving piano rocker “Halo”, the Magic Mystery Tour drenched “Meadow” and spaghetti western tinged closer “Gone”. There is a lot more musical diversity on this album compared to As You Were and it makes for a very enjoyable listen. It must have been difficult for Liam and his management to select what songs to make singles. Pretty much all 11 tracks could be commercial enough to promote the record. It wouldn’t feel out of place to have songs like “Halo”, “Alright Now” or the title track “Why Me? Why Not” set the table for what is to come on Liam’s newest LP. When it comes to musical accessibility look no further than the men behind the controls, Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt, who really understand how to not only get the most out of a song but also the artist performing them. Liam’s good fortune of linking up with these two Hollywood hitmakers could not be better timed as both helped to solidify his solo career with some serious musical thump and prestige behind it. We can only hope that Liam’s third album isn’t too far down the road. Now about that Knebworth gig….

Grade: B+

Checkout:   “Halo”, “Why Me? Why Not.”, “Meadow”, “Gone”

The Music of Quentin Tarantino — August 6, 2019

The Music of Quentin Tarantino

And away we go….

Every Quentin Tarantino movie is a grand adventure and spectacle. Few directors command the respect, attention and globally admiration that Tarantino does. When he releases a film it’s appointment viewing. I can’t really say that about too many other current directors. Maybe Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan or Paul Thomas Anderson. Needless to say it is a short list of prime movie directors. This is no different than Tarantino’s 9th feature film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a fading tv star named Rick Dalton. Best Pitt plays his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth. Together they toy around 1969 Hollywood trying to resurrect Rick’s struggling movie career while the Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski and Manson Family looms large in the periphery. It’s a new tone for a Tarantino movie and often very melancholy. It’s more Jackie Brown than say Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. This is very much a love letter to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Tarantino fell head over heels with as a young boy growing up in the city of Angeles. It’s also an excellent film worth repeated viewings for all the snappy dialogue, subtle LA references and Tarantino Easter eggs. 

With each new Tarantino film comes an eclectic soundtrack packed full with killer songs from yesteryear. Tarantino doesn’t just rescue fading Hollywood stars like John Travolta or Pam Grier or even David Carradine. He also exhumes lost musical nuggets that the hands of time have forgotten about. He’s done this over and over beginning with his very first film Reservoir Dogs going straight through to Hateful Eight. Songs like the George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag”, Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You”, Urge Overkill’s cover of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”, Dick Dale’s cover of “Miserlou”, The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time”, Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” and The 5.6.7.8’s cover of “Woo-Hoo”. Each one of these songs re-entered the pop lexicon to tremendous success and lasting impact. Whenever you hear these songs they automatically transport you right back to his films in which they appear. Often times creating a perfect marriage of sound and cinema. That is part of the gift that is Quentin. 

The soundtrack to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood continues this time honored tradition. As the story goes Tarantino had two rules for the soundtrack. First, no songs could be included past the year 1969 and second the songs needed to be played on Los Angeles’ KHJ radio (AKA Boss Radio) in the summer of 1969.  He accomplished the latter by contacting tape trader communities who made it a hobby of recording popular DJs on KHJ throughout the 60s. He ended up with over 14 hours of material to comb through. Anything he heard on those tapes were in play to appear in the film. Tarantino zeroed in Paul Revere & the Raiders who in their own time were quite popular in the late 60s but have since been lost in the infinite shuffle of popular culture. Three of their songs feature in the movie including the extremely catchy “Good Thing” with its sunny day Beach Boys vibes. Also unearthed were Neil Diamonds’s gospel preacher anthem “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” and Los Bravos absolutely rollicking “Bring a Little Lovin’”. Those three tracks in essence make up the backbone of the film musically. I don’t think I have ever heard any of them prior to this film being released. Now I’m happy to have them living and breathing on my iPhone at all times. As an encore, Tarantino deploys Vanilla Fudges’ psychedelic freakout “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” during the film’s dramatic conclusion on Cielo Drive. Few do it better than Tarantino on a continual basis and this article doesn’t even touch on all the brilliant movie scores he’s borrowed and mixed in over the last two decades from old spaghetti westerns, vintage war films, defunct tv shows and forgotten Ennio Morricone compositions. That is a story for another time. For now enjoy Tarantino’s new film effort and the music he painstakingly selected for your listening pleasure.

 

All songs that appear in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood….

  1. Treat Her Right – Roy Head & The Traits (1965)
  2. The Green Door – Jim Lowe (1956), performed by Leonardo DiCaprio
  3. I’ll Never Say Never To Always – Charles Manson (1970)
  4. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel (1968)
  5. The Letter – Joe Cocker (1970)
  6. Summertime – Billy Stewart (1966)
  7. Funky Fanfare – Keith Manfield (1969)
  8. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – The Bob Seger System (1968)
  9. The House That Jack Built – Aretha Franklin (1968)
  10. MacArthur Park – Robert Goulet (1970)
  11. Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course – Chad & Jeremy (1968)
  12. Hush – Deep Purple (1968)
  13. Son of a Lovin’ Man – Buchanan Brothers (1969)
  14. Choo Choo Train – The Box Tops (1968)
  15. Kentucky Woman – Deep Purple (1968)
  16. Good Thing – Paul Revere & The Raiders (1966)
  17. Time for Livin’ – The Association (1968)
  18. Hungry – Paul Revere & the Raiders (1966)
  19. The Circle Game – Buffy Sainte-Marie (1967)
  20. Jenny Take a Ride – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (1965)
  21. Can’t Turn You Lose – Otis Redding (1967)
  22. Soul Serenade – Willie Mitchell (1968)
  23. Bring a Little Lovin’ – Los Bravos (1966)
  24. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond (1969)
  25. Hey Little Girl – Dee Clark (1959)
  26. Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon – Paul Revere & the Raiders feat. Mark Lindsay (1969)
  27. Don’t Chase Me Around – Robert Corff (1970)
  28. California Dreamin’ – Jose Feliciano (1968)
  29. Dinamite Jim (English Version) – I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni (1966)
  30. Out of Time – The Rolling Stones (1966)
  31. Straight Shooter – The Mamas & The Papas (1966)
  32. Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) – The Mamas & The Papas (1968)
  33. Snoopy vs. The Red Baron – The Royal Guardsman (1966)
  34. You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Vanilla Fudge (1967)
  35. Miss Lily Langtry – Maurice Jarre (1972)
  36. Judge Roy Bean’s Theme – Maurice Jarre (1972)
  37. Batman Theme – Neal Hefti (1966)
Strange Ranger – Remembering The Rockets Review — July 28, 2019

Strange Ranger – Remembering The Rockets Review

Every once in awhile an album comes along that catches you completely off guard. That happened this very week with Strange Ranger’s fantastic new LP Remembering The Rockets. I first came into contact with this hot new young band by listening to Princeton University’s college radio station 103.3 on a drive home over the Christmas holiday in 2017. The tune played was “Most Perfect Gold of the Century” from their album Daymoon. It’s a sprawling, guitar shredding, indie gem that is equal parts Modest Mouse, Built To Spill and Crazy Horse Neil Young. A great introduction to the band. Later I’d find Daymoon on vinyl at the Princeton Record Exchange brand new for $5. A huge score for a random spring evening. Also purchased that night on vinyl was the Burial/Four Tet/ Thom Yorke collaboration from 2011 for $24. Anyways, I digressed, Remembering The Rockets is an album perfectly paired with the warm sunny summer. 

The album was teased over the last few months with the addictive bubble gum indie pop of “Leona”, the synth drenched “Living Free” and “Message To You” which channels the likes of Massive Attack crossed with Yves Tumor. It’s a total flex move having the ability to have keyboard player Fiona Woodman take over to write and sing a tune on an album that already features the pipes of lead singer/guitarist Isaac Eiger. Toss in the fact that bass player Free Nixon can also rock the mic with the best of them. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. Isaac recently told Fader.com that The Cure’s Disintegration was a huge influence on Remembering The Rockets, not lyrically but sonically. This is clearly evident on “Sunday”, “Nothing Else To Think About” and “Living Free”. All three lean heavy on The Cure. The first two sound like the best parts of Wish, “Sunday” has hades of “Friday I’m In Love” with R.E.M. guitar jangle, and the latter of the trio is pure Disintegration bliss. 

Elsewhere on Rockets, another silky smooth indie anthem is found with “Planes In Front of the Sun”. A clear cut highlight from this album that rivals the addictive qualities of “Leona”. Also sprinkled throughout the album are three short ambient pieces of music that lend added sonic textures to an already rich palette. The best of the batch being “‘02”. The album closes with a beautiful yet melancholy ballad called “Cold Hands Warm Heart” which evokes memories of Wayne Coyne’s vocals on The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips. This is a proper album send off for one of 2019’s strongest efforts to date. I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more from this Montana/Portland/Philadelphia band over the coming years.

Grade: A-