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Rewinding June | The Best Rock

From Black Keys to Bruce Springsteen, here are the albums I enjoyed most.

Blowhards and no-nothings keep saying rock is dead. Clearly, musicians aren’t listening — every month, I get another batch of great rock albums. Here are the best that came out June, listed in alphabetical order. Just click on the cover pictures to find the original review page (where you can usually listen to the album in full):

The Black Keys
‘Let’s Rock’

Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney tighten up, straighten up and crank up on their tellingly titled ninth studio album, which arrives five years after the similarly descriptive Turn Blue (and after a lengthy hiatus). A comeback in every sense of the word, ‘Let’s Rock’ finds the pair toning down the keyboards and guest producers to resurrect the guitar-based attack and beefy grooves of their earlier albums. It isn’t exactly Son of Thickfreakness, but it’s closer than they’ve come for ages.

Drivin N Cryin
Live the Love Beautiful

Kickin Ass N Takin Names would be a better title for this powerful, thought-provoking comeback from singer-guitarist Kevn Kinney and his hard-hitting southern alt-rockers. Their biggest, fullest creation in decades expands and bolsters Kinney’s politically charged lyrics and pointed vocals with layers of paisley guitars and psychedelic keyboards — or strips things down to the bare bones. If this doesn’t become a part of your personal soundtrack for the foreseeable future, we are never going to be friends.

Perry Farrell
Kind Heaven

The shaman finally returns. But not for long. Jane’s Addiction / Porno For Pyros / Satellite Party frontman, Lollapalooza founder, agent provocateur and eccentric entrepreneur Perry Farrell’s first solo album in 18 years covers plenty of ground. The heavier cuts are reasonable facsimiles of Jane’s, while others dip into dubstep, electronica and psychedelia. Farrell seems in good spirits and even better voice, and producer Tony Visconti gives the affair an artsy sheen. The fly in the ointment: At 31 minutes, it’s far too short.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real
Turn Off The News (Build a Garden)

Willie Nelson’s singer-guitarist son and his California country-rock jammers have been moonlighting as Neil Young’s band lately. It shows on their fifth release — especially on the hippie-flavoured title cut. But at various points, it will also remind you slightly of Roy Orbison, Little Feat, Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty and The Grateful Dead. Turn on, tune in and pass the Doritos, brah.

Northern Pikes
Forest of Love

Just call them guys without problems. Forest of Love — the first new album in 15 years from rootsy Saskatoon rockers The Northern Pikes — delivers what you expect, want and need. Instead of chasing trends, hopping on bandwagons or trying to fix what ain’t broke, these Prairie vets play to their strengths, picking up where they left off with a solid slate of heartland guitar-rock, roots and power-pop driven by strong melodies and vocal harmonies. Spin this anytime you need a Can-rock fix.

The Raconteurs
Help Us Stranger

It’s a blast from the past as Jack White loudly and clearly reconnects with his inner rocker — and with his indie-rock supergroup featuring singer-guitarist Brendan Benson, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler. Their long-overdue comeback after 11 years hits the ground running and doesn’t let up, toggling between riff-rock swagger, bluesy stompers, psychedelic strummers, wah wah-pedal groovers and ballads that toe the line between tough and tender. Don’t be a stranger, gents.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Servants of the Sun

Former (and possibly future) Black Crowes frontman and his California hippie-rock jammers drop another dose of orange sunshine with their fifth batch of shape-shifting psychedelic trips. The musical equivalent of a hemp granola bar — or more likely a hash brownie — this is an album to savour while dancing barefoot in a festival field during a summer sunset. Speaking of brownies, does anybody else have the munchies?

Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars

Life, it is said, is about the journey, not the destination. That rings true for Bruce Springsteen — though it also seems to be about the detours like 69-year-old singer-songwriter’s 19th studio outing. Lush and sophisticated, majestic and sweeping, these tracks find The Boss expanding his sonic and stylistic horizons with grand orchestral arrangements and cinematic expanse. Simply put, it sounds like nothing else in Springsteen’s catalogue. That alone is reason enough to take it out for a spin.