Wait, it’s July already? Damn. That was fast. I’d say time flies when you’re having fun, but I don’t know anybody who’s actually having any. But even if the world is a dumpster fire being towed by a clown car these days, at least we’ve got some decent music. Here are my favourite albums of 2022’s first half, listed in alphabetical order. Who knows how many of them will make the cut six months from now. Hell, who knows if any of us will be here six months from now. So carpe diem, bitches. Enjoy. And to read more about any of the albums below, click on the cover art.
MY TWO CENTS: Proggy and psychedelic, moody and melodic and much more, the post-hardcore vets’ first LP in 15 years stands as a triumphant return on their own uncompromising terms.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “A continuous thread through the fabric of Alexisonfire is the state of otherness. Otherness drew us all to spaces where a band like this could be formed. We attract the type of individuals that have all felt the sensation of being strange or unique. Perceived or otherwise, otherness has followed us through childhood, adolescence, and into our adult lives. It drives our tastes and proclivities. It bonds us with ourselves and others. And make no mistake, even at our most domestic and mundane moments, we are true outliers.”
MY TWO CENTS: Encompassing everything from trip-hop & country to songs about potatos, the indie folk-rock quartet’s magnificently wild fifth album is every bit as sprawling as its title.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a sprawling double-LP exploring the deepest elements and possibilities of Big Thief. To truly dig into all that the music of Adrianne Lenker, Max Oleartchik, Buck Meek and James Krivchenia desired in 2020, the band decided to write and record a rambling account of growth as individuals, musicians, and chosen family over four distinct recording sessions. In Upstate New York, Topanga Canyon, the Rocky Mountains and Tucson, Big Thief spent five months in creation and came out with 45 completed songs. The most resonant of this material was edited down into the 20 tracks that make up DNWMIBIY, a fluid and adventurous listen. The album was produced by drummer Krivchenia, who initially pitched the recording concept for DNWMIBIY back in late 2019 with the goal of encapsulating the many different aspects of Adrianne’s songwriting and the band in a single record.”
MY TWO CENTS: The future may be uncertain for the British indie-rock outfit, but their sophomore album is a stunning triumph that melds post-rock, chamber-pop, roots and more.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Black Country, New Road’s second album Ants From Up There arrives almost exactly a year to the day from the release of their acclaimed debut For The First Time — and days after singer-guitarist Isaac Wood quite the band. The band (Lewis Evans, May Kershaw, Charlie Wayne, Luke Mark, Tyler Hyde, Georgia Ellery and Wood) have clearly harnessed the momentum from that record and run full-pelt into their second, managing to strike a skilful balance between feeling like a bold stylistic overhaul of what came before, as well as a natural progression. With For The First Time, the band melded klezmer, post-rock, indie and an often intense spoken word delivery. On Ants From Up There, they have expanded on this unique concoction to create a singular sonic middle ground that traverses classical minimalism, indie-folk, pop, alt rock and a distinct tone that is already unique to the band.”
MY TWO CENTS: Neither advancing age nor the pandemic nor the loss of an original member can deter the Canadian harcore stalwarts from kicking your ass yet again.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Psychic Jailbreak is the seventh studio album from Canadian hardcore punk heavyweights Cancer Bats — and their first to be written and recorded by the current lineup of Liam Cormier (lead vocalist), Jaye Schwarzer (bass and guitar) and Mike Peters (drums), following the departure of founding member and guitarist Scott Middleton. The followup to 2018’s critically acclaimed, commercially successful and Juno-nominated album The Spark That Moves, Psychic Jailbreak sees the beloved metal stalwarts stepping up their game once again, eagerly pushing themselves both musically and lyrically beyond what they have achieved as a band to date — and creating a record that is destined to invigorate fans with its punishing drum patterns, memorable riffs and infectious choruses.” And don’t forget to watch my interview with Liam Cormier HERE.
If Elvis Costello has made a bad album, I haven’t heard it. And I’m pretty damn sure I’ve heard them all.
Having said that, it’s true that not all Costello albums are created equal. Some are serious and some are playful. Some are softer and more sophisticated. Others flirt with country, soul, hip-hop, jazz or even classical. I dig them all. But most of all, I love the ones where he cranks up, cuts loose, lets his hair down (figuratively speaking) and rocks. That’s why I love The Boy Named If. As always with Costello, pretty much every song is smart and sharp, snappy and superbly crafted. But most of all, these cuts also pack the punch, potency and propulsion of a lot of his earliest and strongest work. The drums are earthy and loose, the guitars sting and sear, the keyboards are rich and often rollicking, Costello’s vocals are delivered with gusto, and the whole thing has the sort of urgency and vitality that grabs you from the first song and holds you until the last. It’s a keeper. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
MY TWO CENTS: Melding jazz, folk, dub, spoken-word poetry and more, the Mancunian multi-talent’s boldly adventurous double album inhabits a shape-shifting, fascinating dreamscape.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Gus Fairbairn, aka Alabaster DePlume, has a pocketful of phrases that he uses all the time whether he’s walking down the street or holding court with musicians and an audience. For a long time the Mancunian would tell anyone who’d listen that they were doing very well. More recently, it’s another phrase which has a similar effect and which belies his unwavering commitment to personal vulnerability and collective politics: “Don’t forget you’re precious.” A process that is people-first not product-first ensures that the music is unique; often gem-like. DePlume’s songs are built on sonorous circular melodies and luminous tones that transmit calmness and generosity in warm waves — unless they’re raging against complacency and the everyday inhumanity of end-times capitalism. Most importantly, he brings a valuable transparency to his work. “This is what I’m really doing,” he says. “I want to talk about why I’m doing this, and how I’m doing this.”
MY TWO CENTS: For album No. 8, Steve Wynn‘s post-psychedelic alt-rockers fold some mesmerizing Krautrock grooves, ambient Eno textures & U.K. glam into their VU-inspired sound. And it is good.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “On their eighth studio album — and fourth release since reuniting a decade ago — post-psychedelic alt-rockers The Dream Syndicate have moved well past their early Velvet Underground influence and taken on British glam, German prog, and plenty more. Featuring singer, songwriter and guitarist Steve Wynn, drummer Dennis Duck, bassist Mark Walton, lead guitarist Jason Victor and their newest member Chris Cacavas (from the 1980s L.A. band Green On Red) on keyboards, Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions features guest appearances from Stephen McCarthy (of The Long Ryders) and Marcus Tenney’s expressive sax and trumpet work.”
MY TWO CENTS: Written and recorded on the fly, the southern indie-rockers’ 14th studio album leaves politics at the roadside as they take a late-night drive through their chequered past.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “On the title track to Welcome 2 Club XIII, Drive-By Truckers pay homage to the Muscle Shoals honky-tonk where founding members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley got their start: A concrete-floored dive lit like a disco, with the nightly promise of penny beer and truly dubious cover bands. “There were no cool bars in town and Club XIII was the best we had — but it wasn’t all that good, and our band wasn’t particularly liked there,” says Hood, referring to the singer-guitarists’ former band Adam’s House Cat. “From time to time the owner would throw us a Wednesday night or let us open for a hair-metal band we were a terrible fit for, and everyone would hang out outside until we were done playing. It wasn’t very funny at the time, but it’s funny to us now.” The 14th studio album from Drive-By Truckers looks back on their formative years with both deadpan pragmatism and profound tenderness, instilling each song with the kind of lived-in detail that invites bittersweet reminiscence of your own misspent youth.”
MY TWO CENTS: The hardcore troubadour pays tribute to another fallen mentor with this deep dive into the idiosyncratic, joyful and off-kilter songs of the late, great Jerry Jeff Walker.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Last June, Steve Earle traveled to Luckenbach, Texas, about an hour away from where he grew up, to play an outdoor concert celebrating the life of Jerry Jeff Walker. Walker – the colorful cowboy troubadour whose ballad Mr. Bojangles marked a new era of imaginative folk songwriting — had died at 78 from throat cancer. His wife Susan threw a party for his fans, with Emmylou Harris, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Jimmy Buffett all singing Walker’s songs and telling stories. “At one time, many of us thought we would live forever,” said Susan, who married Walker in 1974. “At least we acted like it. But not one of us thought Jerry Jeff would.” The event transported Earle back to his teens, when “I wanted to be Jerry Jeff Walker more than anything else in this world,” he said. Earle, 67, first heard Walker when he was 14 years old. His high school drama teacher gave him a copy of Mr. Bojangles. He was staging The World of Carl Sandburg, a play of Sandburg’s poetry and prose, and wanted Earle to sing Walker’s classic ballad about an unforgettable character he met in a New Orleans jail (Sandburg was an avid song archivist). The album was a revelation.” Watch Steve and I talk about it HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: Inspired by the defiant love story of his seventh great-grandparents, the acclaimed singer-songwriter delivers his most ambitious and personal masterpiece to date.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The story of White Jesus Black Problems begins roughly 270 years ago, when a white indentured servant from Scotland named Elizabeth Gallimore fell in love with an enslaved Black man whose name, like so much else, had been stripped away from him by his captors. The pair lived in the colony of Virginia, where interracial relationships were not only taboo, but legally forbidden, and their romance put their very lives in danger. The same laws that prevented the two from ever marrying, however, also affixed their offspring’s legal status to that of their mother, meaning that after seven years of their own indentured servitude, Gallimore’s children would be granted their freedom, as well. And so the unlikely couple begot a generation of free African-American children, who in turn begot another generation of free African-American children, who in turn begot another generation of free African-American children, on and on down the line until the birth of their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson, Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz. Or, as you most likely know him, Fantastic Negrito. “I remember learning all of this for the first time last year and it felt like the room was spinning,” says Negrito. “I’d never heard anything like it. These two risked an incredible amount of pain and suffering all in the name of love. They took on white supremacy in the 1750s, and now I’m here as a result. I had to write about it.” See Xavier and I talk about it HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: Cut in one day, the Sheffield noise-punk fiends’ latest drops 10 songs in 14 minutes — and still delivers more riffs and hooks than most bands generate in a double album.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Prolific punk noisenics Get The Fuck Outta Dodge have just released their new slab of aural thuggery on an unsuspecting public. The 10 track onslaught It’s Not Our Fault That Your Boyfriend’s Stupid was recorded on Nov. 21 by Sheffield music stalwart Alan Smyth (Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, 65 Days of Static) at his legendary 2Fly Studios. Showing a marked progression from their sophomore release Buzzkill, the songs on INOFTYBS are tighter, fuzzier, louder and more in your face than ever. Their music is still making people say stuff like…”messy, but cool AF”….”god damn! sick punk music, man I’m hyped! and “I’m a fan.”
WHO ARE THEY? The insanely prolific, creatively restless Australian sextet whose sound encompasses everything from indie rock, psychedelia and prog to country, metal and electronica, depending on what mood they happen to be in that week.
WHAT IS THIS? Their 20th studio album in a decade (I told you they were prolific), first double album, and second release of the year, following last month’s more experimental and conceptual outing Made In Timeland and last year’s keyboard-driven Butterfly 3000.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A little bit of everything. And anything. In keeping with its title, the 16-song set covers the band’s musical waterfront, delivering everything from blazing guitar-rock flights and metallic post-punk blasts to soulful grooves, funky jams, catchy indie-pop, ’60s flute-folk and more — along with tons and tons of gong.
MY TWO CENTS: After going home six years ago, Crispian Mills and co. return — and go big with this ambitiously theatrical collection of ’60s-style rock, searing guitars and grand themes.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:“Yea, though we walk through the valley of dark shadows … and though there is a famine of supercharged, spirit-jangling, fractal protest rock, there are good tidings. The battle has not been lost to average digital earworms; the zeitgeist has gone into a spin and Kula Shaker have been called forth to deliver their most inspired album in years. 1st Congregational Church Of Eternal Love and Free Hugs is a firebrand double-album, energised and purposeful in a way that few guitar bands currently manage. It spills over with blazing songs (15 in total), cross-genre sonics and a renewed super confidence in its wish to joust into the big themes: Love vs. fear; Lucifer vs. St. Michael; freedom vs. autocracy; colonials vs. Indians; the empire vs. the rebellion.”
MY TWO CENTS: The Compton rapper’s long-awaited fifth release continues his artistic and emotional evolution, going deeper and getting personal with tracks about aging, grief & family.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “I spend most of my days with fleeting thoughts,” says Kendrick Lamar. “Writing. Listening. And collecting old Beach cruisers. The morning rides keep me on a hill of silence. I go months without a phone. Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family. While the world around me evolves, I reflect on what matters the most. The life in which my words will land next. I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years. The Struggles. The Success. And most importantly, the Brotherhood. May the Most High continue to use Top Dawg as a vessel for candid creators. There’s beauty in completion. And always faith in the unknown. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. I’ve prayed for you all.”
Let’s just get it out of the damn way right off the bat: Yes, Mickey Leigh is the little brother of Johnny Ramone. Yes, their voices sound similar. And yes, there are a couple of songs on his new album Variants Of Vibe that would not be out of place on an LP by his late sibling’s band.
But what else would you expect? After all, Leigh was basically the fifth Ramone. He was in a teenage combo with Johnny and Tommy long before Joey came along. He sang backup on The Ramones’ first album. He was the band’s roadie for years. And he contributed to plenty of Ramones songs over the years. So if anybody is fully entitled to carry that particular torch, it’s him. But here’s the rub: Leigh is no one-trick pony. No coattail rider. And Variants Of Vibe is no Ramones tribute. If anything, this raucous and rambunctious album — which combines new songs with recently recorded versions of songs culled from his long and varied career — is a tribute to the music he (and Joey) listened to, learned from and loved. In keeping with its title, its 14 songs will also appeal to fans of The Stooges, The Who, ? And The Mysterians, The Monkees, The Dead Boys, Suicide, Johnny Thunders, Billy Idol, Jim Carroll and even Tom Petty and Simon and Garfunkel. Mostly, though, it will appeal to anyone who wants to hear timeless rock ’n’ roll played the way it oughta be: Fast, loud, loose and with plenty of attitude. That’s why Variants Of Vibe is an album that both defies and exceeds your expectations. And an album might finally help him get out of the long, tall shadow of you-know-who. Watch my interview with Mickey Leigh HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: With his most diverse and expansive album, the prolific Toronto singer-songwriter cements his status as the greatest Canadian artist most people have never heard.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “In these trying times, we could all use a little hope. Continuing on a path first forged by 2018’s critically acclaimed Tantramar album and even more lauded followup Guts in 2019, Eamon McGrath unveils Bells Of Hope, the third in a trilogy of releases defined by an ever-evolving and maturing sound by the road-hardened, working class Canadian musician. Tantramar and Guts saw McGrath move away from the trademark bombastic and savage rock ’n’ roll of his early years into a new era of growth, celebrating and embracing new sounds, atmospheres and textures. Moving past the tarnished and primal Neil Young-meets-Black Flag approach of his early twenties, the complementary albums found McGrath channelling inner darknesses, turning somber and harsh experiences into moments of beautiful noise.” Watch Eamon and I talk about the album HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: The dynamic British duo continue to push limits and buttons with their explosive sophomore album.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Supernova is a piece of work that’s fearlessly itself — once again playing with genre and rich in different moods, textures, and layers, all the while retaining that purity and simplicity of the essential elements: Georgia South, Amy Love, bass, guitars, drums, and a whole lot of energy. Ultimately, it captures the tension and release that we’ve all been through lately, while imagining what’s to come. Speaking on the album, Amy and Georgia said, “Supernova is the beginning of a new era. As we delved into the unknown, making this album became our medicine through a turbulent time. It’s a reflection of where we were and how far we have come, encased in a fantasy world that we imagined. Supernova is made out of dreams, triumphs and colourful nightmares. When you get to the other side, you will always come out a winner.”
MY TWO CENTS: Synthesizers! Saxophones! Sardonic concept pieces! The pop-punk fuckups have never sounded weirder — or more inspired — than they do on their wild fourth album.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Every Pup record arrives with an implied “contents under pressure” warning; the tension between the band’s instinct for the melodic and its gift for chaos propels the songs forward while making them also seem close to flying apart in a horrifying spray of tears and gore. To listen to Pup enough is to spend parts of every day mentally echoing some hilariously self-lacerating, utterly undeniable choruses; you will find yourself thinking “this is the mosh part” at moments when you would otherwise be tearing yourself apart. It is one thing to feel, as Babcock sings on The Unraveling Of Puptheband’s Totally Fine, “like I’m slowly dying / and if I’m being real I don’t even mind,” but it is another, very different thing to find yourself shouting along with those words. There’s a tension here, too. “There’s only so many times you can write a song about how much you hate yourself before you write a song about how fucking good you are at hating yourself,” Babcock says. “It’s funny that we’ve provided for ourselves by being fuckups and writing songs about being fuckups. We’ve been fuckups forever, and now we’ve got a responsibility, to others and to ourselves, to fuck up in a productive manner.” Watch Stefan tell me about it all HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: The Grammy-winning Spanish singer-songwriter deconstructs Latin-pop music and rebuilds it from the ground up on her adventurous and ambitious third studio album.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Rosalía’s much-sought-after third album Motomami has been declared ‘one of the most anticipated albums of 2022’ by multiple global press outlets. And no wonder: The album’s spirit combines grit and grace, strength and vulnerability, fierce femininity, and an unapologetic, brave attitude. Recently, Rosalía rewarded fans with Saoko, a new track accompanied by a Valentin Petit-directed colorful video, complete with an all-women motorbike gang. “Naming my next track Saoko and sampling Yankee and Wisin for me is the most direct homage I can make to classic reggaeton, a genre that I love and that has been a constant and great inspiration throughout the Motomami project,” Rosalía says. “I started Saoko’s beat playing the upright piano at Electric Lady’s Studio B in NY, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was at night and making this beat seemed as fun as driving a Lambo. I then distorted this piano and added some classic reggaeton drums from a library that NaisGai had sent me some time ago, which by the way is something very special to me because this library has been passed from one generation of producers to another for a long time.”
We are all the heroes of our own stories. So it only makes sense that guitarist Sam Jr. is the guitar hero of his. Finally.
After more than a decade of mostly ducking the spotlight in Canadian supergroup / collective Broken Social Scene, Sam Jr. takes center stage with his long-overdue solo debut. But if you’re expecting anything approaching the experimental pop artsiness of his day job, you’re in for a surprise. A fuzzy, hazy, gnarly, lazy and totally pleasant surprise. Sam Jr. (the album) finds Sam Jr. (the bearded six-stringer) taking his act to the sonic sub-basement — while simultaneously setting a course for the stratosphere, if that makes any sense — and cutting loose on a solid slab of spaced-out, slow-burning, space-rock overdrive. Imagine the first 10 seconds of The Stooges’ 1969 turned into a lifestyle and you’re cooking with gas. Then toss in dashes of Jesus And Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Spacemen 3, Living Things and a few other likely suspects, angel-dust it with some flutes, saxes and bongos for the beatnik brigades, and wash the whole thing in wah-wah-pedal love and you’re home free. Which is not to suggest that this is just some no-holds-barred psychedelic freakout — even as he sets his (and your) sonic controls for the heart of the sun, Sam keeps things grounded with tightly reined songcraft, instrumentation and production. So dig out the strobe light and the lava lamp, plump up the beanbag chairs, buy, beg, borrow or steal the biggest damn speakers you can get your mitts on — then spark the incense, fire up the light show, indulge in your favourite chemical enhancement and let Sam Jr. save the day.” See my chat with Sam HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: Ex-JSBX drummer Russell Simins and former We Are Hex singer Jilly Weiss hit the ground running with their devastatingly heavy new outfit. This is a record that walks up to you, punches you in the face, throws you to the ground, has its way with you — and leaves you begging for more.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Service are an urgent, howling, earnest rock ’n’ roll band who have steadily cemented their reputation as a great live act — and bring that same brand of explosive energy to their debut album Drag Me. Formed in the Manhattan apartment of renowned drummer Russell Simins, Service are now based in Indianapolis, home of the other two core members: Jilly Weiss (We Are Hex) and Mitch Geisinger. The band sum up their sound with the quip, “post-punk then punk again,” which reflects their smart, self-deprecating lyrics as much as the music. Jilly is an iconic frontperson with the boastful confidence of Nick Cave or Mark E. Smith, combined with the sort of confessional sincerity of PJ Harvey. Mitch’s wild guitar manipulations recall The Birthday Party and Butthole Surfers with an array of effects that Liars would admire. At the helm from behind the kit is Simins, best known for his tenure in N.Y.C. garage-rock and blues-punk heroes Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Simins’ uniquely hard-driving, powerful beats give Service their huge sound.” Watch Russell and Jilly fill me in on their music and more HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke & Johnny Greenwood cut out the middlemen — & cut to the chase, musically speaking — on the band’s sharpest, strongest side project to date.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The Smile are a band featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, along with Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner. Their debut album A Light For Attracting Attention was produced and mixed by Nigel Godrich and mastered by Bob Ludwig. Tracks feature strings by the London Contemporary Orchestra and a full brass section of contempoarary U.K. jazz players including Byron Wallen, Theon and Nathaniel Cross, Chelsea Carmichael, Robert Stillman and Jason Yarde. Says Greenwood: “I feel grateful that we managed, with Nigel’s help, to record these songs in a way they deserve. And the singles released so far have been liked — as far as I can tell — which makes me feel dangerously confident in the rest of the record. As the all-knowing algorithm has it, if you liked that, you’ll love this, right? Hope so. Aside from anything, the brass and strings players who helped out — I really can’t wait for you to hear all their work too.”
MY TWO CENTS: The hardest-working man in garge-rock introduces his new supergroup with a freaky and freewheeling disc that pushes the sonic and stylistic bounds of his trashy aesthetic.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Spencer Gets It Lit, the debut album from the indelible Jon Spencer (Blues Explosion, Boss Hog, Pussy Galore, Heavy Trash, etc) and his new supergroup The HITmakers, delivers friction, excitement, and post-modern depravity in a gonzo retaliation against idiocy that is as good a balm for our collective PTSD as any. Across layers of big beats, fuzz guitar, and fat synths, Spencer spits, croons, rhapsodises, and seduces. Spencer Gets It Lit is his most complex, groovy, and fun record in years; a dark and danceable odyssey — both a studied take-down of the early 21st century and a celebration of the place where electricity meets the mind. And it introduces his latest killer lineup: Quasi’s Sam Coomes on synthesizers and vocals, M. Sord on drums, and former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert playing trash. The touring lineup will feature former Sleater-Kinney / Jicks / Quasi / Wild Flag indie-rock goddess Janet Weiss on drums.”
WHO ARE THEY? The neo-psychedelic, gospel-tinged space-rock crew formed and fronted by singer-guitarist, songwriter and visionary Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman), formerly of the beloved underground outfit Spacemen 3.
WHAT IS THIS? Their ninth studio release and the followup to 2018’s moody and melancholy outing And Nothing Hurt. Fun fact for Kurt Vonnegut fans: The two titles form a quote from his time-shifting 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? The more rocking yin to And Nothing Hurt’s mellow yang. As those conjoined titles suggest, this was originally envisioned as a double album. Clearly, this would have been the more upbeat half (in every sense of the world). These seven energized, songs take their sonic and lyrics cues from ’70s era The Rolling Stones and Iggy Pop, before being filtered through Spaceman’s supersonic sensibilities, of course.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Spoon live, thanks to their near-perennial appearances at SXSW back in the day. But if I’m being honest, some of those early shows and albums were hit and miss for me — mostly because Britt Daniel sometimes sounded (to my ears, anyways) like he was playing it a little too cool for school. Not this time.
Regrouping their native Austin and taking their cues from a slew of classic rock influences — check out the extended YouTube playlist below to hear what the band calls “other people’s songs we were in love with during the writing & recording of the album” — the band come out swinging and pull no punches on their lively, lean and crisply punchy 10th studio album Lucifer On The Sofa. The beats come in hot and heavy. The guitars sizzle and scorch, chime and churn, chug and choogle. And while there’s definitely no shortage of consummate tunesmith Daniel’s stylish songcraft and pop penchant, everything here feels like it’s being delivered with more urgency than they’ve shown for a while. Grab a seat and get ready for a devilishly good time.”
MY TWO CENTS: After covering Derek & The Dominos’ Layla album live, the married guitar jammers and their massive band turn the ancient poem that inspired it into an ambitious four-album set.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “I Am The Moon, the fifth studio release by Tedeschi Trucks Band, is the most ambitious and, at the same time, intimate recording that America’s best rock ‘n’ roll big band has ever made: A genuinely epic undertaking in four albums and 24 original songs inspired by classical literature but emotionally driven by the immediate drama, isolation and mourning of the pandemic era. There is the recurring fight for hope too, the reaching across damaged connections — all of that trial and urgency unfolding over a robust tapestry of blues, funk, country, jazz and gospel in collaborative writing, luminous singing and the instant fire of improvisation. At more than two hours of music, the four albums that comprise I Am The Moon — Crescent, Ascension, The Fall and Farewell — are like a full evening of all-new composition and performance with Tedeschi Trucks Band, the 12-piece touring phenomenon founded in 2010 by its married leaders, guitarist Derek Trucks and singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi. In its heart and scale, I Am The Moon is also a living, evolving map of the soul: The enduring tale of star-crossed devotion in Layla and Majnun by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, brought forward to present day, through universal experience and faith. As Tedeschi sings at the start of Crescent, in the gently swinging R&B of Hear My Dear – As we watch the world go by / There’s so much we search to find / Holding on to memories / Knowing there’s so much more to say — it’s immediately evident that I Am The Moon is a record as big as its stories, not to mention the life and love inside.” Check out my chat with Derek Trucks HERE.
MY TWO CENTS: The colourfully creative, ceaselessly prolific Finnish multi-talent continues to bounce between jazz, ’60s pop, electronica, Afrobeat — and whatever else strikes his fancy.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Jimi Tenor has always been something of a Renaissance man. On leaving his Finnish homeland for New York in the early 1990s, and later as he travelled through Europe, he quickly discovered what he calls his ikigai, his great joy in life: To record and produce music in DIY mode at home with the most rudimentary of means, spontaneously and intuitively. In more than 30 years of making music, Tenor has remained true to his ideal, whether as a solo artist on his early electronic albums or in the widely diverse collaborations and constellations which followed (with the likes of Tony Allen, Kabu Kabu and Abdissa Assefa). Multiversum is his third album for Hamburg label Bureau B.Tenor and the label first teamed up in 2020 for his NY, Hel, Barca retrospective and continued their association with Deep Sound Learning, a collection of rarities, in spring 2021. Whilst Tenor has predominantly released jazz and Afrobeat records over the past two decades, his live performances have often seen him return to his minimalist roots. Enthralled by how Tenor conjured up his space music with just a synthesizer, flute and saxophone, Bureau B invited him to record an album with this basic and yet astoundingly effective setup.” Find out what Jimi has to say about it all by watching our interview HERE.
“Hey!” barks Voivod frontman Snake on Paranolmalium, the opening track to the Quebec metal mathletes’ 15th studio Synchro Anarchy. “Can you hear me? I’m alive.” Damn right they are. And that ain’t the half of it.
After nearly four decades of bashing it out in the studio and grinding it out on the road, the four horsemen of Voivod’s latest incarnation aren’t just surviving — they’re beating the damn odds, defying gravity and reversing the aging process to boot. All of which is to say that Synchro Anarchy is the latest in a long line of artistic and technical triumphs. Intricate and intense, angular and adventurous, mind-blowing and head-crushing, its nine tracks deliver all the lofty lyrical concepts, shifting prime-number time signatures, thrashing speed, flawless musical execution and psychedelic flourishes you have come to know, love and expect from Voivod — not to mention plenty of lyrics about the intensity and insanity of life in pandemic times. How do they keep pulling it off? Find out more by watching my video interview with Snake. Meanwhile, gird your loins, strap yourself in and hold on tight.
MY TWO CENTS: If you loved Chaise Longue (and who didn’t?), you’ll find more where that came from on the long-awaited debut album by the overnight sensations of British post-punk.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Wet Leg’s debut single Chaise Longue — delivered with dry wit, a Mean Girls nod and A thumping indie-disco beat — turned it into a runaway hit in 2021, and it was named one of the best songs of the year by countless media outlets. Now, the duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have dropped their self-titled debut album, an instant classic that peels back the layers of the band to reveal the smart, dark heart at the centre of it. Wet Leg was mostly recorded in London, in April 2021, and the duo chose Dan Carey (Squid, Fontaines DC) to produce the bulk of it. They had recorded a lot of their demos at home, on Garageband, and a lot of audio from those sessions was reused, rather than rerecorded.”
Fear Of The Dawn
MY TWO CENTS: If you like your Jack White albums heavy and weird, you have nothing to fear from the blue-haired blues-rocker’s first album in four years — and one of two due in 2022.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Earlier this year, Jack White announced his plan to release two new studio albums in 2022 — his first new full-length collections in over four years. Fear Of The Dawn is the first of them, to be followed by Entering Heaven Alive on July 22. White has been writing and recording music throughout the entirety of the past several years, creating two entirely distinctive albums — each defined by different inspirations, different themes, different moods. Born and raised in Detroit as the youngest of 10 siblings, White’s utilitarian approach filters through all of his work, from self-producing his own music to the Third Man empire he founded (which currently includes a pressing plant, a record label, a photo lab, a lounge/bar, and more), his upholstery and various other art and design pursuits, and anything else that crosses his desk. Over a quarter century into his professional musical career, White’s ability to weave relevant, compelling, and poignant artistry into his music leaves him unparalleled.”
MY TWO CENTS: After decades on the edge of country, Jeff Tweedy and co. finally take the plunge — and go deep with this introspective, epic concept piece about their own country.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Wilco’s 12th studio album Cruel Country is — by singer-songwriter and guitarist Jeff Tweedy’s own definition — the Chicago band’s first actual country album. “I think there’s been an assumption over the years that Wilco is some sort of country band,” Tweedy admits. “There’s a lot of evidence to support that way of thinking about our band because there have been elements of country music in everything we’ve ever done. But to be honest, we’ve never been particularly comfortable with accepting that definition of the music we make. With this album though, I’ll tell you what, Wilco is digging in and calling it country. Having been around the block a few times, we’re finding it exhilarating to free ourselves within the form, and embrace the simple limitation of calling the music we’re making country. More than any other genre, country music, to me, a white kid from middle-class middle America, has always been the ideal place to comment on what most troubles my mind — which for more than a little while now has been the country where I was born, these United States.”
MY TWO CENTS: Angular and angry, political and propulsive, the post-punk Leeds foursome pick up where Sleaford Mods and Pulp left off on their witty, wacky and wonderful debut disc.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The Overload is a record of great dexterity and curation, the output of a band who were raised on a ’00s digital-revolution buffet of wide musical influences. Growing up on U.S. MTV hip-hop, minimal ’70s no-wave and sharp-witted British indie, Leeds foursome Yard Act benefit from this rich tapestry of musical near-history, using it to create something that feels like more than a trendy pastiche. While time-travelling in parts sonically, The Overload weave a very-2021 storyline. The group made the decision early on to leave Fixer Upper and Dark Days off their album debut (“it sounds arrogant, but we felt we had enough good songs without ’em”), but the joyous specificity of their early lyrical observation is still in fine evidence, plotting a visceral, satirical journey through capitalism and greed. Across the album’s 11 tracks, an unnamed character — a bricolage of characters that frontman James Smith has met, imagined, or himself been — finds himself in quite the financial pickle, ricocheting from desk job to desperate illicit activity to police investigation, before culminating in the kind of half-cut personal epiphany that even the most law-abiding among us could relate to. Bookended by cheeky cameos from Fixer Upper’s Graeme and a clear structure of four parts, there is no getting around it — Yard Act have written a soap opera.”
Yelawolf & Shooter Jennings
I must have been asleep at the switch or something. This one actually came out a coulple of weeks before I heard it. I completely missed it. I have no idea how that happened.
I’ve been a fan of Shooter Jennings for years. I’ve heard enough Yelawolf to know he’s a cut above the usual crop of southern rappers. And I thought the preview singles were pretty solid — especially the flat-out ’80s-style rocker Make Me A Believer. Turns out the whole album is every bit as good as that. On the one hand, you’ve got Shooter’s roots-rock / ’70s glam / conspiracy theory / alien abduction / vintage pop / synth-fuelled weirdness. On the other, you’ve got Yela’s lyrical smarts, introspective poetry and melodic sensibilities. Put ’em together and you get an album that seems like some long-lost artifact from a world where Night Ranger, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Funkadelic and Ram Jam all got together in the studio. Don’t miss it. And don’t miss my interview with the duo, which you can watch right HERE.