This week Drake profiles some strong releases from The Heavy and The Black Keys and is a little less enthusiastic about the latest “rushed” effort from The Raconteurs. (By the way, the tardiness of this week’s “take” is all on me). -ed.
Drake’s Take: New Releases 03.25.08
As with Gnarls Barkley last week, The Raconteurs’ sophomore release is moved up for release by principles Jack White and Brendan Benson, to ward off any leaks — but it still leaked thanks via iTunes. Is this part of Jobs’ evil/genius plan, perhaps? No word yet on if an angry White called up Jobs over the leak — would love to be a fly on the wall hearing that ego clash. Also getting an early release (exclusively via Rhapsody) is the latest from The Black Keys, who team up with Gnarls’ Danger Mouse for some delicious blues rock. Also noteworthy this week are releases from The Heavy, De Novo Dahl, Elf Power, Guilty Simpson, the Seattle shoegazers Voyager One, and the first from The B-52’s in 16 years.
Playlist: New Releases 03.25.08
It started out with Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley) approaching Akron’s The Black Keys to write some songs for an Ike Turner album. But Turner’s personal problems (leading to his death via overdose) made Daniel Auerbach and Patrick Carney work on the songs for themself, maintaining the relationship with Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) making the trip to Cleveland to produce Attack and Release, the Black Keys’ fifth long player. The result is a delicious mix of BK’s stripped down blues rock and DM’s mood-shifting touches. The best example of how it works is in the fascinating first single “Strange Times,” which initially sounds like a typical BK burner, but when the chorus pops in, Danger Mouse’s ghost-like presence is hard to ignore. But aside from the track “Psychotic Girl,” which has DM’s fingerprints all over it, DM lays low, making the subtle arrangement addition, but mostly letting the BK’s do their thing (“I Got Mine.”) Another new BK classic is the closing ballad “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be,” which mixes in some Garth Hudson-like organ for an earthy feel to the song. When you think about it, Auerbach and Carney had mined about as much as they could with their lo-fi bare bones approach, and Attack and Release feels like the perfect and natural progression of a band growing as artists.
By releasing the album as soon as physically possible (synching up all formats),) the music of Consolers of the Lonely is somewhat hijacked by the story of it’s release. It’s hard not to draw a parallel of rushing it to the consumer, with how rushed the songs themselves feel upon first listen. From the start, with the Bad Company-like riff of the title track opener, I got an uneasy feeling. Both the lead single “Salute Your Solution” and the stomper “Hold Up” open with riffs that start akin to Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight,” which is why they’re not back-to-back tracks on the album obviously. “You Don’t Understand Me,” comes off like a inferior sequel to Broken Boy Soldiers‘ sweet “Together.” But those are the initial gripes. Whereas much of the Jack White-led guitar blasts come off like White Stripes b-sides, Brendan Benson‘s contributions is his a-side material. “Old Enough,” “The Switch and the Spur” and “Many Shades of Black” all sound all the more dynamic in this setting, perhaps because of the different instrumentation making them standout in an otherwise exercise in Guitar Hero placement – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, The Raconteurs seem like a fun side project for it’s members to scratch their classic rock itches, and the danger lies in over thinking their material. Which is why releasing it as soon as possible was probably the best thing for this album, like vinyl in the 70’s that you bought on sight, not sound.
The common thread with the three releases I’m profiling this week is one of last week’s artist, Gnarls Barkley, and The Heavy represent a sort of UK version of that popular duo. The Heavy are more funky, though, and… well… dirty. Like Curtis Mayfield fronting The Sonics, that kind of funky meets dirty. I predict that I’ll be playing lead single “That Kind of Man” to the point that folks will ask me please to find another song, but I won’t — it’s that kind of goooood. The Heavy, I have to confess, are right in my sweet spot. That spot being soul-rich falsetto vocals over funky rhythms and grunged-up guitars, complete with some vinyl-scratch atmospherics. Sure, there’s points in the album where the formula strays, bringing it down from masterpiece to good, but it’s still some sticky sounds that will remain with you when you try and put it down. Maybe you’ll have better luck than me at putting it down…. I can’t stop.
More on the radar this week
R.E.M.’s Accelerate is streaming a week early at iLike
De Novo Dahl – Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound / Free album stream from AOL
Snake and Jet’s Amazing Bullit Band – X-Ray Spirit
Elf Power – In a Cave
Guilty Simpson – Ode To The Ghetto
Voyager One – Afterhours in the Afterlife / “Here” , “The Future is Obsolete” [mp3]
The B-52s – Funplex / Free album stream from AOL
Lindsey Buckingham – Live At The Bass Performance Hall
Under Byen – Siamesisk
Justin Townes Earle – The Good Life
Head Of Femur – Great Plains
Pennywise – Reason To Believe
Tim O’Brien – Chameleon
Temposhark – The Invisible Line
Excepter – Debt Dept
Soltero – You’re No Dream
Panic At The Disco – Pretty. Odd. / Free album stream from AOL
Morrissey – Morrissey Greatest Hits
The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray [Expanded
Edition] / Free album stream from AOL
David Thomas & Two Pale Boys – Erewhon
The Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy, Darklands, Honey’s Dead, Automatic / Free album(s) stream from AOL