By Chris Moore:
Well, it seems that I won’t be able to post the set-list for tonight’s Pearl Jam concert in real-time after all, due to either issues with the site or my WordPress app or both.
Instead, let’s talk new music!
It’s been two weeks since the first third of the year flashed by, and it’s been quite a year for new music. Perhaps my surprise and excitement is due to the fact that I didn’t have high hopes for this year. After all, nearly all of my favorite bands have put out music very recently (i.e. the past two years). And yet there have been more than enough new releases to pick from these past four months.
Some artists, like Ringo Starr and Jakob Dylan, continue to put out music that lives in the shadow of their greater efforts of the past. Others, like the Barenaked Ladies and Spoon, have somehow managed to create some of the best music of their lengthy careers. Still others, such as She & Him and Broken Bells, are creating music and casting the shadows that future efforts will need to live up to.
This year has certainly had its hits and its misses, and it got off to an eclectic but ho-hum start, but I have already been hooked by five outstanding records. Now, only one of these has received my five-star stamp of approval (All in Good Time), but the other four are a full four stars without question (Broken Bells, Volume Two, Heaven is Whenever, & Sea of Cowards).
The latter four albums represent an interesting range of sounds and influences. Broken Bells have found a compelling sound by blending the rock basics with some more experimental, synthesized sounds. She & Him give you the eery feeling that you’ve stepped into the past without actually sounding dated. The Hold Steady have put together the best all-out rock and roll album of the year, to be sure. And the Dead Weather present an out of control frenzy of rock, this time around with more single-worthy songs and considerably better continuity as an album.
In the midst of the outstanding and the forgettable are some interesting records. Take American VI: Ain’t No Grave, Johnny Cash’s final posthumous release of new material. It certainly doesn’t stand up to IV or even V, but it is such a beautiful that includes a perfect closing track for his long and storied career. Steven Page’s first solo effort incited extreme reactions from most fans and critics, divisions in both categories respectively hating it for being so unlike his other music and loving it for… well, the same reason, I suppose. As for me, I’ve very much enjoyed A Singer Must Die, although I rarely listen to it in the car and I’m very anxious to hear his first solo album proper, which should arrive later this year. (And, to be fair, I downgraded it from four to three and a half stars in deference to what a full four stars should really represent.)
If you haven’t been listening to the first albums of the new decade, then you’ve been missing some real gems. And, if you’ve missed my reviews along the way, I’ve compiled them below for your reference. I’ve even translated my “Yes, No, or Maybe So” reviews to the standard five star system for your ease. I’ve been listening constantly to the four listed as “coming soon” — between rounds of BnL, She & Him, and the Wallflowers, that is — and I’ll have those reviews posted throughout the next two weeks.
New Albums, 2010:
Y Not (Ringo Starr) – 2.5 stars
Transference (Spoon) – 3.5 stars
Realism (Magnetic Fields) – 2.5 stars
Heligoland (Massive Attack) – 2 stars
A Singer Must Die (Steven Page with the Art of Time Ensemble) – 3.5 stars
American VI: Ain’t No Grave (Johnny Cash) – 3 stars
Broken Bells (Broken Bells) – 4 stars
All in Good Time (Barenaked Ladies) – 5 stars
Volume Two (She & Him) – 4 stars
Women & Country (Jakob Dylan) – 2.5 stars
Forgiveness Rock Record (Broken Social Scene) – coming soon!
Court Yard Hounds (Court Yard Hounds) – coming soon!
Heaven is Whenever (The Hold Steady) – 4 stars
Sea of Cowards (The Dead Weather) – 4 stars
High Violet (The National) – 3.5 stars