The first of two Drake catch-up posts. Hey, Happy Birthday buddy! -ed.
Drake’s Take: New Releases 09.27.11
Traditionally, my [Drake’s -ed.] birthday week has been pretty good for new releases, and this year is no different. There’s the latest from Wilco, Matthew Sweet, metal purveyors Mastodon, along with new ones from Dum Dum Girls, Dan Mangan, Dominant Legs, Twin Sister, Spank Rock, Van Hunt, Craig Wedren, Kasabian, VHS or Beta, Sleeper Agent, Pieta Brown, the Knux along with the return of veterans like The Bangles, Mekons and Daryl Hall. Meanwhile, reissues this week include the big deluxe 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s Nevermind and a remastering of all Pink Floyd’s catalog, put together in the box set Discovery. Not a bad birthday.
Playlist: New Releases 09.27.11
After two albums that had Jeff Tweedy & Co. settling into a comfortable zone of parenthood, the band is back to more challenging material. Not that Tweedy’s second job as father dictates his material, or that Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (the album) were necessarily “dad rock,” but his oldest (Spencer) is now at the challenge age of 15 and playing in his own band. Speaking as a father of a child who is 6-going-on-13, as much you try to keep it separated, the trials and tribulations of the son(s) seep into all that you do. I’m probably projecting the fuck out of this, but The Whole Love reeks of such complications, and not just the sarcastic aside in lead single (“I Might”) of “You won’t set the kids on fire, but I might.” The opening of the album (“Art of Almost”) suggests a Radiohead-like challenge, but that turns out to be a bit of a red herring, as there’s plenty of conformity throughout, making this more of a compendium of the past decade for the band and possibly their least focused release. That’s not a bad thing, in fact I’d rate it their best since their holy grail (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), but it keeps it from residing in their ‘top shelf.’ Maybe, with the help from the father-son combo The Racoonists, the next one will reach as high.
For the past decade, the state of metal has always seemed to ebb and flow with but one constant: Regardless of taste, Mastodon inevitably will blow your face off. Up until now, the Atlanta quartet has mostly remained in the margins of popular music that heavy metal provides, but with The Hunter, the band threatens to break through, and most deservedly so. Forgoing the concept album formula that has dominated the past three releases (and leaving behind their proggy-er notions, for the most part), The Hunter is easily their most straightforward affair to date, and yet, it still contains the need to blow your face off. The first three songs are the closest things to hits that the band has ever produced, with the hardest hitting being the opener “Black Tongue,” the prettiest being the short “Blasteroid,” and the best of both worlds being lead single “Curl of the Burl.” The album is born in mourning, with the death of guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds’ brother, a hunter who died of a heart attack doing what he loved to do. Instead of wallowing in black, though, the band chooses to raise a fist triumphantly in his honor, and it’s hard not to follow suit with each attack on the ear drums. 2004’s Leviathan may still be their apex, but this is a wondrous cross-over that remains tried and true to the band’s metal ethos, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
When Matthew Sweet began talking about and previewing tracks from his latest, Modern Art, there was a feeling of the majesty of 1999’s In Reverse and Sweet’s enthusiasm for the release was indeed contagious. The result falls a bit short of both the aforementioned masterpiece and the pre-enthusiasm, but it is at it’s very least, a feast for headphone listening. Relying less on his songwriting craft, Modern Art is more about building moods, sounds and harmonies that evoke the past — more ‘art’ than ‘modern’ to be sure. There’s nothing here that quickens the pulse, as any prior release could boast, but because it’s such an intimate affair, it’s missed opportunity that’s easy to forgive. This is all Brian Wilson’s Smile, the Beatles at their haziest mixed with a dose of the Byrds — a potent mix that only begs for a touch of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse to make it complete.
More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams / “Bedroom Eyes” [mp3]
Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
Dominant Legs – Invitation / “Hoop of Love” [mp3]
Twin Sister – In Heaven / “Bad Street” [mp3]
Spank Rock – Everything Is Boring And Everyone Is A Fucking Liar / Van Hunt – What Were You Hoping For
Craig Wedren – Wand / “Cupid” [m4a]
Kasabian – Velociraptor!
VHS or Beta – Diamonds and Death / “I Found a Reason” [mp3]
The Bangles – Sweetheart of the Sun
Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Phantom Family Halo – The Mindeater EP
Sleeper Agent – Celebrasion
Pieta Brown – Mercury / “I’m Gone” [mp3]
The Knux – Eraser
Mekons – Ancient Modern
Daryl Hall – Finest Hour
Josh Rouse and the Long Vacation – Josh Rouse and the Long Vacation
Extra Classic – Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like A Laserbeam / “You Can’t Bring Me Down (Discomix)” (via Rolling Stone) [mp3]
Note of Hope – A Celebration of Woody Guthrie