Nut Suite. Mini reviews of albums old and new. Minimum words. No fuss. No spoilers [?]. Occasional smugs.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

YEAH YEAH YEAHS / Mosquito [2013]

Post-punk dance act Yeah Yeah Yeahs' fourth album, 2013's Mosquito pushes the electronic textures into the background and brings out the standard guitar & drums, without sacrificing the dancefloor catchiness they're known for.
The songs teeter between frantically captivating to sublimely off-beat with some tracks being the best the group have ever penned to some of the least interesting they've ever mustered up.  I respect that Karen O & teh boys have stuck to their roots, unlike some of their peers in the genre but Mosquito is simply a mixed bag of quality that could have used just a bit more time to fine-tune the weaker areas.

3 percussive railroad tracks out of 5

Songs Of Note: SacrilegeBuried Alive [feat. Dr. Octagon]

DAVID GILMOUR / David Gilmour [1978]

After dealing with the nightmare that was Roger Waters & Pink Floyd's Animals, guitarist David Gilmour stepped away to release his first solo album in 1978.
The self-titled effort is a bluesy straight-up prog-rock album without all the sound effects & cold disant emotions of the Floyd of that time.  In fact it's more of a melancholy album, filled with notions of loneliness, exhaustion and questions of one's own worth.  He's never been the imaginative one in Floyd and that lack of sticks out like a sore thumb here.  There's nothing really too special on the table but Gilmour's ear for beauty and his soothing voice is what carries the whole record which is something Waters' solo efforts are missing.

3 Joker's Wild reunions out of 5

Songs Of Note: Cry From The Street;  Short And Sweet

MIKE PATTON & VARIOUS ARTISTS / The Place Beyond The Pines: Music From The Motion Picture [2013]

Being a celebrated vocalist in a number of outlandish music projects it's interesting that Mike Patton would choose to score voiceless film scores.
With 2013's crime drama The Place Beyond The Pines being his 3rd feature length score it's even more interesting seeing as the film is so low-key, Patton's usual aggressive and flamboyant sound is nowhere to be heard.  Instead we're treated to a non-conventional film score that's eerily seductive and melancholy which perfectly reflects the lonely images it's meant to compliment.  Layered with Morricone-esque guitar twangs, haunting piano stings, a sampled choir, icy string arrangements and intimidating percussion work, Patton works with a compelling and creative palate of sounds to conjure up an impending sense of doom and mystery.

4 sharpened teardrops out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Snow AngelHandsome Luke

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

AMORPHIS / Circle [2013]

11 albums in to their career, Finnish metal band Amorphis finally drop the Kalevala folktale concept in their lyrics and run with an original story on 2013's Circle.
It's a beautifully polished album with keyboards pushed into the background making for a fully fleshed out guitar & bass sound to add an extra woompht (that's the technical term for all your musicians).  It's not nearly as experimental as their early days but that's all right seeing as strong songwriting is their main focus now and that makes for a consistently well-crafted album here.  The symphonic folk flavors are still nicely fitted in where needed as are the dramatic guitars and emotional passages leading the listener into a world long forgotten.

 4 tales of altered destiny out of 5

Songs Of Note: Narrow PathNightbird's Song

LIGHTS / Siberia [2011]

Valerie Poxleitner aka Lights offers a "grittier" more developed version of her bubbly electro-dance pop on the 2011 sophomore effort Siberia.
2009's The Listening was insanely sweet and offensively cute, so thankfully Siberia tones down the sugar flavored sap and inserts some distorted dub-step & hip-hop tinted anthems.  Lights still sounds like Cyndi Lauper overdosed on pixie sticks & rainbows but now with a little bit of attitude it's much more bearable to the ears.  Her voice is actually quite nice but I get the feeling she found a comfort zone then stuck to it without realizing her full potential.  It does get a bit repetitive in the middle but if she explores her creativity with a bit more confidence and curiosity things could get really good.

3 Holy Fucks out of 5

Songs Of Note: Banner; Suspension

THE FLAMING LIPS / The Terror [2013]

It's pretty common for psychedelic rock acts as they age to get less and less "psychedelic" to the point of creating nice soft rock music over soothing sonic backdrops.  After being together for 30 years, The Flaming Lips will have none of that and prove it with the noisy, dark and bizarre 2013 album, The Terror.
Being a colorful, cold and vivid musical expression of loneliness, broken hearts and despair, I can't help but wonder what brought up such feelings from a normally upbeat act like The Lips.  It's like a suffocating krautrock version of Damon Albarn doing Atom Heart Mother that pulls you into it's headspace and paralyzes you with mesmerizing otherworldly soundscapes and emotions.

4 suns going up & down out of your control out of 5

Songs Of Note: Try To ExplainAlways There...In Our Hearts

Monday, June 17, 2013

BLACK SABBATH / 13 [2013]

13 is Black Sabbath's first studio album to feature vocalist Ozzy Osbourne since 1978's Never Say Die! and bassist Geezer Butler since 1994's Cross Purposes.
With Rick Rubin on board as producer, the heavy metal legends have A LOT to live up to.  So do they meet those expectations?  Well, yes and no.  A band like this could easily fall into cartoon caricatures of their former selves but Sabbath somehow manage to recapture the strengths and sound of their golden days.  Not to say it sits side by side with Paranoid or Master Of Reality but it certainly stands up on it's own two feet.  Now it's Rubin's tight and dry production that's the problem here.  It's almost as if he's trying to suffocate us with too much compression and distortion to fully enjoy the groove of the bluesy songs.  There's a few moments that try a bit too hard but it's mostly standard Sabbath material and sits just fine with me.

3½ tombs of doom & gloom out of 5

Songs Of Note: LonerZeitgeist

SYD BARRETT / Opel [1988]

Opel is a 1988 compilation of Syd Barrett outtakes and unreleased material recorded between 1968 and 1970.
In keeping with the raw sound of The Madcap Laughs & Barrett, the mostly acoustic collection is uneven and rough around the edges yet mystifying and awe-inspiring as well.  If you know what you're getting into then you'll probably enjoy hearing the scratched surfaces of these familiar songs and what might have been with the unreleased songs.  The roughness of the album is something that will probably drive away the average listener but as a fan it's a tasty audio scrapbook for the die-hard fan.

3 freakouts out of 5

Songs Of Note: OpelLanky

AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR / All Hail Bright Futures [2013]

Alt. rock outfit And So I Watch You From Afar push the optimism and their outgoing musical personality on 2013's All Hail Bright Futures.
The act is known for having a very unique and clever approach to their sound, being mostly instrumental they're constantly changing tempos, seamlessly shifting their sonic palette from hard rock to poppy electronic without missing a beat and pushing the happiness an extra mile without ever getting sappy or artificial.  The ideas and musicianship are more than wonderful but with so much going on here not everything glues together when it all comes down to it.  The world's a piece of shit but it doesn't mean you have waste your time to acting like it and ASIWYFA plays like they damn well know it.

3½ steel drums out of 5

Songs Of Note: Like A MouseKa Ba Ta Bo Da Ka

THE MILK CARTON KIDS / The Ash & Clay [2013]

California acoustic guitar duo The Milk Carton Kids deliver another great album of straight-up folks songs with 2013's The Ash & Clay.
Channelling Simon & Garfunkel with hints of Gillian Welch, the pair are so straight faced yet upbeat I can't help but think of Christopher Guest's folk music satire documentary A Mighty Wind.  This is the real thing and what it lacks in originality it makes up for in genuinity with it's pitch perfect harmonies, gently strummed guitars and confidence in their timeless songwriting.  The lovely simplicity of the songs is their greatest strength and perfect for that last glass of wine & cigarette of the night.

3½ ghost towns in Graceland out of 5

Songs Of Note: Years Gone ByPromised Land

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RADICAL FACE / The Family Tree: The Roots [2011]

2011's The Family Tree: The Roots is the first part of a series of concept albums created by Ben Cooper (aka Radical Face).
It follows a fictional supernatural family known as the Northcotes, beginning in the 1800's with this particular album.  Recorded under a fairly limited budget and a simple ensemble of instruments gives the album a genuine traditional sound that's hazed over with a sense of distant memories, dreamy personality and deep thoughts.  Cooper has an elegant way of writing sad music to make you feel happy that at times feels hauntingly familiar and warm as it conjures up images of a fading childhood, your first love and the people you've lost over the years.

4 alcoholic wooden hearts out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Moon Is DownAlways Gold

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE / ...Like Clockwork [2013]

Alt. rockers Queens Of The Stone Age suffered a difficult time leading up to (and during the recording of) their 2013 album ...Like Clockwork but they channelled it all into the strength of the music.
They still have that dirty crunch but Homme & the boys have gone done down a drearier road than before inserting piano driven melodies into the mix and deeply personal lyrics to boot.  QOTSA might still be heavy hitting and loud but their strong pop sensibilities are firmly intact making for an easily accessible and infectious quality record.  With a slew of guest stars, including Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Elton John and more, it's a relief to hear it's Homme's Bowie-esque voice, guitar work and songwriting that is really the star here.

4 Bonefaces out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Vampyre Of Time And Memory; Smooth Sailing

Monday, June 10, 2013

SOAP&SKIN / Sugarbread EP [2013]

Anja Plaschg (aka Soap&Skin) breaks away from the somberness of her previous records, then takes all that emotion and twists it into something quite frankly morbid and frightening on her confrontational 2013 three song EP Sugarbread.
By incorporating some angry driving string arrangements, blood-curdling screams, haunted choirs, wailing brass sections, and unnerving percussive staccatos, Plaschg reinvents her sound but remains completely recognizable with her impressionable vocal performances.  With it clocking in at only a mere 9 minutes, it has me tearing my hair out in anticipation for more.

5 Robert Johnsons out of 5

Songs Of Note:  SugarbreadMe And The Devil

WE FELL TO EARTH / We Fell To Earth [2009]

Rich File (½ of U.N.K.L.E.) & Wendy Rae Fowler teamed up to record the eerie spaced-out 2009 self-titled trip-hop album We Fell To Earth.
Unlike their genre partners Portishead & Massive Attack, WFTE steer clear of the overly dreary and center more along the lines of a Jefferson Airplane dabbling in krautrock sort of psychedelic sound in the 90's.  Driven by pulsating percussion, subtle yet plucky guitars and vocal spotlights shared by both members, the album never really seems to tread over new ground but remains a pleasant listen nevertheless.

3 earthlings? out of 5

Songs Of Note: Careful What You Wish For; Lost In Flames

CARTER U.S.M / A World Without Dave (1997)

AWWD is a sombre mini-album from USM that lacks the anarchic spark of their early albums and the pop assault of their middle years. The trio sound worn out by this stage, but oddly at peace with a resigned attitude. Their record label may not have wanted them (they wanted more rubbish Britpop) but the fans did, so if you're one of them, then it's worth tracking down. It can be hard to find, but if you go instead for the Brixton Mortars (2004) double album you'll get the extended version of Dave alongside its follow-up album, I Blame the Government (1998).

Songs of Note: Broken Down in Broken Town; Johnny Cash

3 community care programs out of 5

Saturday, June 1, 2013

IRON MAIDEN / Somewhere in Time (1986)

The Iron Maiden sound has remained traditionally galloping from day one, but it was shaken up quite dramatically on Somewhere in Time with the addition of synth guitar; it's surprisingly good, so don't knock it until you've heard it. It was mostly due to Adrian Smith, who composed the riffs for some of its strongest songs. Adrian had always been dependable but hadn't contributed his own vision before.
The second half of the album is less interesting. It's Maiden by numbers, and if not for Stranger in a Strange Land being placed there it'd be largely forgettable.
The full album cover (HERE) by long-time artist Derek Riggs is densely packed with Maiden lore and classic sci-fi references and is perfect for desktop wallpaper.

Songs of Note: Caught Somewhere in Time; Stranger in a Strange Land

3½ golden years out of 5