Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
The Cactus Blossoms – Easy Way – 10 tracks / 35 minutes
With a little help from Dan Auerbach, the harmonizing brothers bring more goodness on their sophomore effort.
When this duo released their incredible and Everly Brothers-influenced debut You’re Dreaming in 2016, it served as a breath of fresh air and a throwback to another era. It comes as no surprise that Dan Auerbach, a music historian and man who seems to have his hands in most of the good music being made today, teamed up with these guys and co-wrote a few of the gems found here. While there is more social consciousness heard here (see the stinging lyrics of “Downtown”), what carries the day is the simple yet lovely melodies and always soothing harmonizing of Jack Torrey and Page Burkum.
After such a marvelous first release, a sophomore slump seemed inevitable, but it’s hard to find faults in this recording. Many of the songs are repetitive lyrically, but in a comforting and familiar way that avoids seeming redundant. And the overall sound of their attack is so soothing and gorgeous that it takes you back to another time and place – basically, this is music that hits the mark Mr. Auerbach attempted (and failed) to find on his last solo record. Consistently great, this is a must-listen and one of the finest releases of 2019 so far.
Key Tracks: “See It Through”, “Blue as the Ocean”, “Please Don’t Call Me Crazy”
Spotify album link:
Lonesome Shack – Desert Dreams – 10 songs / 36 minutes
On their fourth LP, Ben Todd and crew continue to bring the backwater blues boogie.
Give the first few seconds of leadoff track “On the One” a listen, and you will have heard the essence of Lonesome Shack. These guys have been delivering a steady dose of organic and groovy blues-inspired boogie jams since their 2013 debut, City Man. The Switcher seemed like a high point for the trio at the time, but they have exceeded that on this outing. Ben Todd’s mellow finger-picked grooves are quite a bit different than those of Seasick Steve, another unheralded and self-taught contemporary blues guitar player and songwriter – but their stories have similarities and add to their mystique and allure.
When Ben sings of “time in a lonesome shack, made up my mind I can’t go back” on “No Way Back”, it is as much confessional as it is storytelling – the man lived for years in a shack in rural New Mexico, where he learned how to play the blues and rockabilly guitar that is now his trademark. Hence, the name of the band and overall themes of desert life, alienation, and desolation found in his songwriting.
As for the songs, this is the strongest collection they’ve brought to date. These tunes are driven by Ben’s guitar playing and some simple percussion that serves the basic function of keeping time, but the fuzzy riffs and Ben’s laid-back crooning will stick in your head long after listening. The last half of the album is the strongest, with “King Clone” lamenting mortality over an absolutely filthy blues riff, singing “I ‘m alright with death, it’s only natural; I’m alright with death, the things that comes to all; but I don’t wanna die, while you’re still alive”. “No Way Back” is my favorite track here and one of the finest yet from this band that should be a household name.
Key Tracks: “No Way Back”, “King Clone”, “Lonely”
Spotify album link:
Frankie and the Witch Fingers – ZAM – 11 songs / 61 minutes
These guys bring unabashed and relentless rock and roll, and I hope they never change.
The easy way to describe this terrific band is to say that they play a punk-tangent breed of psychedelic guitar rock- but make no mistake, there is plenty of prog-rock influence here. Their sound is reminiscent of the experimental rock of Wooden Indian Burial Ground or Cool Ghouls, but superior to either of those bands. While many of their contemporaries are still finding their way and have yet to lock in on a complete recording, Frankie and the Witch Fingers have finally done just that on this effort.
An hour of riffs and manic drumming begins with the opening moments of quiet (and even the sound of crickets) on leadoff track “Dracula Drug”, which is the first of the three eight-minute plus jams found here. The second of these is the excellent title track, which noodles around for about a minute before the sharp whirling whine of the driving guitar riff finally kicks in. These two songs are 17 minutes of legit rock and roll and are worth the price of the album itself, but the show-stopper is “Cobwebs” with its numerous time changes between plodding verses, melt your face shredding, and pogo-lunatic rants.
Five albums in, these guys have managed to continue to improve their sound while maintaining their raw and unapologetic style. Sure, their name is silly, but I hope these guys never change.
Key Tracks: “Cobwebs”, “ZAM”, “Dracula Drug”
Spotify album link:
Reignwolf – Hear Me Out
This Seattle-area guitar man struggled in obscurity for years before finally getting his break, and this debut LP has a few killer cuts while coming up a little short overall. My biggest takeaway after listening to this album a few times was the variety of sounds and influences I heard: there is a hint of the raw garage-rock attack of early Black Keys throughout, while “Son of a Gun” screams Shakey Graves, “Wanna Don’t Wanna” has a simple and heavy attack that reminds me of Royal Blood, and album highlight “Over & Over” has a circling riff and some seriously gruff and almost rapped vocals that harken back to early Hanni El Khatib or even Devil Without a Cause-era Kid Rock.
Hozier – Wasteland, Baby!
After the colossal hit that was his debut, the follow up is pretty top heavy. However, the first three tracks are all solid, highlighted by one of my favorite songs of the year so far (“Movement”).
Weezer – Weezer (Black Album)
No, just no. After their great covers album earlier this year, I had hopes that the singles teased from this LP would be a poor representation of the music. Turns out, they weren’t – this is not good, folks. Where have my slacker rock friends gone? Whatever this is makes me hope they will still rock a bit when I see them live next month (and grateful that the great Pixies are opening for them).
Citizen Cope – Heroin & Helicopters
“Justice” and “The River” belong among his great recordings, and sounded lovely at his live show I caught this week, but most of this feels like filler and is probably best for hard-core fans.
Sun Kill Moon – I Also Want to Die in New Orleans
Mark continues to ramble and deliver spoken-word stream of consciousness in place of actual songs.