Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
The Bottle Rockets – Bit Logic – 12 songs / 37 minutes
Even a so-so effort from one of my favorite country-rock bands qualifies as music worth hearing.
The Bottle Rockets have been putting out consistently enjoyable records for over twenty years now, and their music has become something of a familiar sweater to me. Brian Henneman and crew’s style is never flashy, never pretentious, and frankly never that adventurous – but they are one of the best blues/country bands going today. Their eighth studio LP surely isn’t their finest, but it is a fun listen and a fine place to start for newbies.
The first half of the album is not as strong as the closing portion, but there are a couple gems: the lighthearted stuck-in–traffic rage of “Highway 70 Blues” and “Lo-Fi”, which laments the degradation of sound quality in music today. It seems that while technology has gotten exponentially more impressive, our tolerance for poor tone and clarity has increased right along with it. Convenience sure is nice, but Bluetooth connections, streaming services, mp3s, and the rest just don’t sound nearly as good as vinyl or even a good ol’ compact disc. Brian tells us “back when I was younger, the way to go was listening to records on my stereo; I was all about the quality, I was all about the tone, now I’m happy hearing music on my telephone”. Sadly, many of us can relate.
The laidback stomp of “Knotty Pine” kicks off the great finish to the album, with Brian describing his treehouse office and the serenity it provides. “Way Down South” tells an often told tale – disdain for being on the road and away from loved ones, while “Doomsday Letter” has some eerie and dark guitar work that reminds me of Drive-By Truckers and finds Brian rebuffing end of the world claims from someone in his ear: “I aint gonna read another doomsday letter, I’m leaving it to Jesus man, the odds seem better; whatever I can do to keep my chin up is a damn good thing”.
My favorite two tracks are the closers, and while they are both admittedly a little cheesy, they are both excellent in their own way. “Stovall’s Grove” concerns a favorite country bar, where “bands play old stuff, the jukebox new, but country music’s all they do” and “we’ll drink and dance, and shoot some pool; bring some cash, cuz their old school, that single toilet’s not so great, but there’s woods out back if you can’t wait”. “Silver Ring” is a touching ballad to his wife that steals the show: “Gave you a silver ring, but it doesn’t mean that I love you any less than gold”.
Key Tracks: “Silver Ring”, “Stovall’s Grove”, “Lo-Fi”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2itWziLO62r6ITFATE65BD?si=QVmxF4hjQyWNYF5tfzd-sg
Young the Giant – Mirror Master – 12 songs / 44 minutes
More pop-rock in the vein of Moon Taxi that I find myself unable to dislike as hard as I may initially try.
Maybe I’m going soft, maybe I’m getting old – Hell, maybe I’m just happier than I used to be. Regardless, bands like Los Angeles-based Young the Giant connect with me now in a way that certainly wasn’t happening in the past. This music is irresistibly catchy and fun at its best, and while the record is no masterpiece, it sure is fun and there are earworm gems abound. After revisiting their first three albums I believe this to be their strongest effort yet, and look forward to their Boise show in March.
“Superposition” has a great beat and a chorus that is about as catchy and movement-inducing as anything I have heard this year. Sameer Gadhia’s voice is unique and lovely without being too pretty – in other words, it is perfect for songs like the smooth as silk “Simplify”. Both of the aforementioned tracks build to a nice crescendo and pause ever so briefly before the chorus kicks in, to great effect.
There are other songs worth repeated listens here (see “Darkest Shade of Blue” and “Glory” to start), but the title track and album closer is my highlight. Another bass-led groove with flourishes of guitar and just enough drums, it builds to a great chorus that finds Sameer telling us that tonight we will play the tambourine (um, okay) and wailing that “you will be the chosen master, you will leave with the girl this time; you will be the leading actor, movie of your own design”.
Key Tracks: “Mirror Master”, “Superposition”, “Glory”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/6blMxezujKgPe8HjHNveuG?si=oCbqnVFNRzi03VDlf9vkiw
Also released (and not strong enough to recommend):
Elvis Costello & the Impostors –Look Now
This is a dramatic and emotive album from one of the greats, with much of the material told from a female perspective. Strings and keys are ubiquitous, and for some real beauty look no further than the vulnerable “Don’t Look Now” or the sad truth of love gone bad on “Photographs Can Lie”. Not quite enough here for me to recommend the album, but it’s also nothing to sneeze at.
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
“Come Again” is a solid track, but the rest was just kinda fine. Maybe he should re-unite with Courtney Barnett…?
Tom Morello – The Atlas Underground
On these duets that range from rock to seriously electronic music, I feel like Tom’s gift is wasted. “Every Step That I Take”, which features Portugal the Man is a fun one, but the rest left me wanting him to go back to his whammy-rock roots.
Live – Local 717 (EP)
Lead single “Love Lounge” is some good stuff and harkens back to the glory days of the early 90s.
John Hiatt – The Eclipse Sessions
The Brevet – Legs