Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
A quickie version from the road – three solid albums as I continue to try to catch up.
Jimmy Eat World – Surviving – 11 tracks / 42 minutes
In case you missed their excellent Integrity Blues, here is your second chance to experience Jimmy Eat World’s impressive second act.
If you haven’t listened to Jimmy Eat World in a while, I understand. Most people consider them a late 90s/early 00s flash in the pan, and I include myself in that camp until about three years ago. Turns out, they have a lot left, and this is their second consecutive record that shows it. The title track hits hard and sounds like their early days, with an accessible brand of rock complete with power pop hooks. “Criminal Energy” and the sprawling “Congratulations” are my highlights on what I promise is a worthwhile album.
Key Tracks: “Congratulations”, “Criminal Energy”, “All the Way (Stay)”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1oXiDeNuXr0A4DFQEr3fhI?si=9ExzwF8CSb2mXJa8eHXtkw
The Milk Carton Kids – The Only Ones – 7 tracks / 26 minutes
Joey and Kenneth get back to basics on this mighty fine EP.
When this incredible duo brought a full band into the studio with them on last year’s All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do it was a shock to their long-time listeners like me. The complete shift in sonic style coupled with songs that didn’t feel up to their impressive catalogue led to their first disappointment, which is impressive since it was album number four.
Well, the boys are back in business on this EP that finds just the two gentlemen, their lovely voices and acoustic guitars. Leadoff track “I Meant Every Word I Said” is classic MCK and oozes with beauty: “Turn around and close the door, I don’t want to hurt you any more”. “I’ll Be the One” is a short and sweet diddy that doesn’t rock but comes fairly close, at least for these two. The chorus on “The Only Ones” is an absolute gem: “oh baby where did you go, how did you get down in that deep dark hole; how the Hell we gonna get out, where the Hell we gonna go”.
They throw an unexpected curveball in the form of a ballad sung in the first person from Anne Frank, which I still can’t decide how I feel about. I don’t doubt their sincerity and their understanding of the gravity of that young girl’s story, but the song does come off a tad flippant and strange. I’m probably thinking too hard, after all it is a pretty (albeit devastatingly sad) song. All in all, this is a welcome return to the sound we became accustomed to from these ultra-talented fellas, and it makes me smile to know that The Milk Carton Kids as I know them aren’t missing after all.
Key Tracks: “I Meant Every Word I Said”, “The Only Ones”, “I Was Alive”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/72jSY4ND11mZ9qeOmIsVJh?si=CL3mnps6SbOgYbo8Iz5ONw
The Talbott Brothers – Ghost Talker – 11 tracks / 40 minutes
That these guys have the talent has never been in question – they are here again to show that they also have the chutzpah.
Themes of regret and looking back on a life of running from problems “run” rampant on this enjoyable fourth LP from the very talented brothers from Nebraska. I had the pleasure of seeing them live last year and found myself truly captivated for two hours – side note, I am really excited to see the again in the same venue next week.
“Run No More” covers the themes I described above over a mostly-electric guitar mix that hits harder than most of the material here, which is based largely on acoustic strings. “Shadowboxing” tells of a strong desire to try harder, giving everything to succeed instead of merely getting by. If you can’t relate to that, well, God bless you, my friend.
On the epic and dense “Without a Doubt”, we hear longing for a reciprocated love that knows no bounds, and its sincerity rings true throughout. Trust me on this: this folksy Americana meets country dup is worth your time, and this effort is as good as anything they’ve released so far. Check it out.
Key Tracks: “Run No More”, “Without a Doubt”, “Man on a Ledge”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2rfeqOgzERqANmgbJwcsnW?si=3JmaEordQjyd1P9S5USzGg
Stone Temple Pilots – Purple (25th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)
The remastered version of the classic album (my pick for the band’s greatest) comes with some live selections that are worth hard-core fans’ attention. To start, there are six acoustic numbers – well, five plus an acoustic/electric “Dancing Days” (yes, the Led Zep song). Three of those mellowed out tracks are a Christmas show done for KROQ back in 1994 and the goofy highlight is Scott’s take on the famous Charlie Brown composition “Christmastime Is Here”. Ho, ho, ho, folks.
The real meat of the bonus material is a 1994 concert from New Haven that includes virtually all of the goods from their first two records. As most folks know, Mr. Weiland had his fair share of demons and struggled with substance abuse throughout his career, which led to his way-too-soon death a few years back. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform twice, and I got both versions – the clear-eyed mega-talent and the strung out disappointment, and on this night he was in full former mode.
Highlights include the hilarious intro to “Plush”: “we wrote this song today, on the bus”, and his angelic falsetto on the first “I am smellin’ like a rose that somebody gave me on my birthday deathbed, I am smellin’ like a rose that somebody gave me cuz I’m dead and bloated”. Chills. This may not be “new” music, but for fans of this great band of the more glam side of grunge in general, it is a treat.
Fastball – The Help Machine
The Austin veterans’ second act continues to bear fruit on this solid follow up to 2017’s Step Into Light. No, this isn’t going to be on anyone’s albums of the year list but it does have a few solid tunes, which is more than I can say for some other 90s bands still cranking out material today.
“Friend or Foe” freaks out my brain – it’s a beautiful song and a highlight here, but sounds musically like a blend of their smash hit “The Way” and Father John Misty’s “Nancy from Now On”. Maybe it’s just me – probably it’s just me. “Holding the Devil’s Hand” might be a bit cliché lyrically but the intriguing music and beautiful vocals more than make up for it. On the rebuttal to an overzealous Born-Again Christian “Redeemed”, Fastball does a more polished and prettier version of The Violent Femmes trademark religious sing along folk.
Mark Lanegan – Somebody’s Knocking
Mark takes a sharp turn towards music full of beats, grooves, and a disco-tangent feel. It will not surprise any frequent reader of this blog that I am less than impressed. His croon is as powerful and uniquely haunting as ever, it’s just too bad the songs aren’t strong enough to complete the scene. “Stitch It Up” has a sound that would have fit just fine on his terrific Gargoyle record. The obliquely threatening “War Horse” is my highlight here and finds Mark’s delivery a borderline rap flow over a hefty beat -no song on this album with a distinctly different sound for Lanegan works better than this one.
Saint Motel – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Pt. 1
This 5-song EP finds the band continuing to craft nuggets of their trademark pop/rock sound. “Old Soul” is a fun take on reincarnation, and of course it is a superbly catchy earworm even if it is a bit down-tempo for the group. Even when the band annoys me a bit (as on the over the top “Sisters”), I just can’t hate on it, it’s too peppy and fun. “Save Me” is another slower ballad that broadens the sound on the album, and comes with some lovely background horns.
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Cypress Grove
The bluesman gets the Easy Eye Studios treatment, but this collection of songs didn’t reach out and grab me, with the exception of the great “Gonna Get Old Someday”. On that track (the finest lyrically and musically here) Jimmy explains “boy, if you keep on livin’, I swear you gonna get old… you gonna wake up one morning and you can’t do the things you used to do.”
Third Eye Blind – Screamer
White Reaper – You Deserve Love