The best of what our musically inclined cohorts had to offer from last week, wrapped up in one easy to read place – you’re welcome!
Anderson East – Encore – 11 songs / 40 minutes
Solid sophomore effort from a man with top-notch songwriting chops and a voice that belies his young age, with a ton of help from his friends.
On his second LP, Anderson East rides his soulful, R&B tinged take on folk rock and rides it hard, to great effect. Perhaps best known to many as Miranda Lambert’s boyfriend, this guy is one to watch. It is meant as a sincere compliment when I say that the two weakest songs on this album are the covers he selected: the Ted Hawkins classic “Sorry You’re Sick” and Willie Nelson’s “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces”. Honestly, while these songs are just fine, I am left wanting more of the originals on this record.
Anderson shares songwriting credits with a solid cast of characters, including his producer Dave Cobb and superstars Chris Stapleton and Ed Sheeran, among others. It goes without saying that Anderson had help with this terrific release, both in the songwriting realm as well as the quality of his backing band. Throughout the album we are treated to glorious organ and piano riffs, as well as angelic and choir-like backing vocals, and supplemental guitar riffs.
Lead single and opening track “King For A Day” features the trademark Anderson sound: a simple, yet catchy mix of guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, and organ coupled with his soulful crooning as he tells us that he would rather be “King for a day, than a fool forever”. This is a song we can all relate to: as we are falling in love anew, that rush of euphoric zen is worth any potential future heartache.
“House Is a Building” is a piano-driven track that explains just what love means: everything. He sings “If you got a heartbeat, you know you got me; If a house is a building, then home is a feeling”, as the horns are piped in. A few tracks later we are treated to the ever-catchy and slightly aggressive hit single “Girlfriend”, where Anderson makes no mistake about and takes no apologies for being in love with his buddy’s special lady. This song is about as catchy and fun as it gets, complete with a horns-up-front riff and some tasty, minimal keyboard in the mix (oh, the key/synth solo is for real, also).
I have always been a sucker for a closing track that strays from the rest of the record, especially if it punches the listener right in the gut. Look no further than “Cabinet Door” as example 1A of what I mean. This gem, written from the perspective of an elderly man lamenting the recent loss of his wife, is a serious tearjerker. The amazing chorus goes something like this: “I miss holding your hands on Sundays, talking over the TV, watching the Braves games; I know the Good Lord called you up yonder, guess what they say is true; your absence makes this weary heart grow fonder”. The song closes out with a perfect parting shot, as Anderson sings “Jason and Margaret are expecting one more, you’ll be happy to know I fixed that cabinet door”.
Key tracks: “All On My Mind”, “Cabinet Door”, “Girlfriend”
Unlikely Friends – Crooked Numbers – 14 songs / 30 minutes
A short and sweet lo-fi slacker rock gem in the vein of classic Ween (or any number of 90s indie-stoner rock bands) from the “supergroup” that is Unlikely Friends, featuring the frontmen from BOAT and Math and Physics Club.
If you are looking for music that inspires or moves you, or the next songwriting masterpiece, look elsewhere. If you are ready for a half hour of loose and supremely catchy rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this is for you. The record starts out strong, with “Fifteen Rounds” comparing life to a boxing match, complete with broken bones, and feeling like “hanging on the ropes for fifteen rounds”. Over a catchy – yet strikingly simple – guitar riff we are left with nothing but sympathy for our down-on-his-luck protagonist.
The next track, Broken Again, is pure magic. The verses are swell also, but the chorus is catchy as all get-out, and I am warning you that this lyrical/melody combo will be stuck in your head: “I’ve been dragging around this old suitcase, everywhere that I go I feel so out of place; I just wanna be like everybody else with the same old things in the same old house”.
“King of the Last Calls”, at just over four minutes, is easily the longest song on the album. It is also one of the most fulfilling, as it revisits a familiar but personal favorite theme: the existential debate about exactly how much time spent drinking and goofing off is too much. One of my favorite lines on this album is “I don’t wanna go to bed earlier, don’t wanna get up with the sun; don’t wanna eat more vegetables, don’t wanna go for a run… I just wanna sit here like the King of the last calls, everything I need is in front of me”. Pretty well said, if you ask me, and a perfect slacker mantra.
Even the roughly one-minute interlude/songs like the title track, “39 Steps”, and “Kool Aid Smell” are catchy, making the 30 minutes elapsed on this record go by very quickly. If you are open to new things, or a fan of minimalist rock, this one is worth your time.
Key Tracks: “Fifteen Rounds”, “King of the Last Calls”, “Broken Again”
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Wrong Creatures – 12 songs / 59 minutes
Worthy effort from these long-running San Francisco rockers, and possibly their best yet; but still leaves me wanting more.
All in all, this atmospheric and rocking effort from BRMC is deserving of the listen of any discerning rock enthusiast. However, each time I listen to it, I am left feeling like it is Band of Skulls-lite. Every single thing the band does on this record, Band of Skulls (and others) also do – and better. That is not to say that this album is without its high points, like the loose, mellowed-out sonics of “Echo” or the pounding drum beat and mantra-style vocals of “Question of Faith”. For my money the best part of this release is the chorus on the latter song, which says promises to “give you what you want, if you promise you’ll keep walking away; ill give you what you want, keep walking away”.
Side note: Have you ever wondered what Stone Temple Pilots would sound like if Scott Weiland was British? In all honesty, I hadn’t either, until I heard the answer on “Little Thing Gone Wild” – which I swear sounds like early 90s STP – complete with Scott Weiland (with a slightly British accent) and the DeLeo brothers playing some straight-up LA glam/grunge. Maybe it’s just me (probably it’s just me…).
Key Tracks: “Question of Faith”, “Calling Them All Away”, “Echo”