New Music 5/18/18: Low Cut Connie, Ray LaMontagne, Courtney Barnett

Hot off the presses: new music!  Better said, new music that is worth your time.

 

Low Cut Connie – Dirty Pictures (Part 2) – 10 songs / 30 minutes

Up and coming group from New Jersey releases their finest set of songs while maintaining just enough of their bar-band rock edge.

 

Low Cut Connie have been making great music for 7 years, but lately seem to have been catching on and gaining in popularity.  Adam Weiner and company have always been known for being a solid piano and guitar based band with a throwback sound, with plenty of sleaze and grease to spare.

On this record, we hear less of the sleaze and bravado, and some deeper songwriting.  “Hollywood”, for example, is just solo Adam on acoustic guitar singing about how he is “not a real bad guy, after all”.  This is a definite departure from most of their catalogue, and it is nice to see Adam willing to step out into the spotlight in his writing, which he has always been comfortable doing during their legendary live shows.  “Every Time You Turn Around” is a genuine love song, and one of my favorites of 2018 thus far.

Of course, there are still some raucous tracks, including the not tongue-in-cheek at all “All These Kids Are Way Too High”, which Adam wrote in response to the many college campus shows they used to play.  The lyrics say all he needs to about those experiences and why they no longer play those gigs.  “Oh Suzanne” is a fun and up-tempo piano/drum song that finds Adam telling Suzanne that she isn’t the one because “you don’t respect my privacy”.  This one hits home, because even with his ultra-outgoing stage presence, Adam is a pretty private person.  He may have to learn to balance things out as he and his band look to become more and more famous – especially if they continue to release albums as diverse and lovely as this one.

Key Tracks: “Every Time You Turn Around”, “One More Time”, “Beverly”

 

Ray LaMontagne – Part of the Light – 9 songs / 46 minutes

On his 7th studio album, Ray finds a nice balance between the psychedelic near-rock of Ouroboros and the folksy feel of his debut, but only some of the songs are up to the challenge.

 

When Trouble, Ray LaMontagne’s debut album, was released in 2004, he instantly catapulted to the top tier of the Americana singer/songwriter scene.  With interesting and at times piercing songwriting (see “How Come”, a personal favorite track), a smooth yet rustic voice that seems to make ladies swoon universally, and just a touch of aloof don’t-give-a-shit vibe, the guy was destined for a great career.  He has followed that up by doing what most truly inspired musicians do: whatever he wants.  He has followed his muse, which lately has found him exploring electric guitars, synths, and a more “rock” sound – particularly on the aforementioned and underappreciated Ouroboros.  This album is Ray straddling the middle of those two albums, a sound that fits him very well.

However, the songs here are not as strong as one would hope.  There are gems, including the loud chorus/soft echo-vibe verses of “Paper Man”, the guitar rock of “As Black As Blood Is Blue”, and the heartfelt lead single “Such A Simple Thing”, in which Ray practically begs his lover to just tell him what her heart wants.  You see, it’s not always such a simple thing.

At times the songs feel rambly, and without much to them – especially on the title track, and the opener “To the Sea”.  “No Answer Arrives” sounds like a song from the Ouroborous recordings that couldn’t make the cut on that record and was added on here – I don’t know that, just a guess.  A few duds can’t kill what is overall a solid effort, but given that there are only 9 compositions here, the clunkers certainly dilute the album.

Key Tracks: “As Black As Blood Is Blue”, “Paper Man”, “Such A Simple Thing”

 

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel – 10 songs / 37 minutes

I just can’t get enough of her 90’s rock vibe and thoughtful yet aggressive lyrics that are delivered in a manner more spoken-word than singing.

 

Coming off of her grunge/alternative rock saturated record with Kurt Vile, 2017’s Lotta See Lice, Courtney shows she is more than capable of making another similarly great record on her own.  If I didn’t know Courtney, the album title and a quick scroll of the song titles alone would have interested me (“Hopefulessness”, “Nameless, Faceless”, “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”, “Crippling Self Doubt and A General Lack of Confidence”, to name a few).

Lead single “City Looks Pretty” laments living in the city while feeling depressed, and how great it can look after spending 23 straight days inside.  Over super-quiet drums and a minimal guitar riff, one of my favorite lines from the album comes from this track: “Friends treat you like a stranger and strangers treat you like their best friend, oh well”.

However, the real showstopper here is the aptly titled “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”, which last all of 110 seconds of fury.  Courtney tells someone that thankfully isn’t me that “I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch; I hear you mutter under your breath, put up or shut up, it’s all the same; it’s all the same, never change never change!”  Add clanging guitars, pounding drums, and repeat.  Simple greatness.

Key Tracks: “Need A Little Time”, “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”, “Charity”

 

Also heard:

Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!

Michael Rault – It’s A New Day Tonight

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Sparkle Hard