There have been a lot of new albums coming out recently that I’ve been looking forward to hearing. I’ve heard at least a sampling of a song or two (in a few cases I’ve been lucky enough to listen to the whole album), but there are a lot of tracks I still have yet to hear, especially in the context of the entire album in its planned and sequenced arrangement. I’m one of those crazy purists. I hope to avoid any sort of numerical list (similar to those that have taken over the internet — it seems one can’t simply list anything without including a number in the title). These are only arranged chronologically by release date and not ranked in any other way, shape, or form. Just some good music from tried and true artists.
Failure is an amazing band. Creative writers, proficient musicians, and technically accomplished as even their new record’s mixing was done by the lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Ken Andrews. Andrews has not only produced, but also mixed several tracks by many other artists including Beck, Chris Cornell, and Tenacious D. Failure falls into the niche category of “space rock,” an odd way to describe alternative avant-garde-esque rock music that isn’t entirely experimental, as it tends to have discernible hooks, verses, choruses, and bridges, but the sound is quite forward-thinking and tends to be far more nuanced and layered than typical constructions of rock songs. Everything feels a bit alien, but familiar. Music is sure hard to put into words sometimes. Failure recently reformed with their original lineup (they were a trio so that probably made the process a bit easier) performing songs from their first 3 albums including most of the tracks from their 1996 masterpiece, FANTASTIC PLANET. The reunion led to a new record, THE HEART IS A MONSTER, released in June. It thankfully follows FANTASTIC PLANET in sonic terms, but has a rich texture all its own. This has been the album I’ve most frequently listened to this past summer. I also had the pleasure of seeing Failure, along with Hum, at a concert in New Haven this past August. They still sound great and have no problem writing a rock and roll song:
In June, Joseph Arthur also released his new album, DAYS OF SURRENDER. In keeping with the possibilities of an unconventional delivery for music nowadays, the record was first released only on USB drives that were packaged with an art print or one of his original paintings. DAYS OF SURRENDER was also available on CD. However, there was only one CD produced and it was paired with a van that Arthur decorated for a price of $14,999. I decided to forgo the latter and certainly considered the former, but I’ve purchased a lot of posters and prints over the years so, not wanting to add to my backlog, I waited for another version of the release. Another option appeared about a month ago in the form of a cassette (staying with the theme of the atypical distribution) as well as a standard download in MP3 and FLAC format. I plan to buy this one shortly, but I’ve been enjoying the video created for the closing track, “If I Could Get Out,” and this KEXP performance has kept me satisfied:
The beginning of September marked the release of WHEN I’M FREE, Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun‘s latest full-length album and it’s great to hear her return to form. There was a 4 year gap between this one and her last record, IT ALL STARTS WITH ONE, barring the compilations SONGS 2003-2013, a greatest hits collection, and RARITIES which featured b-sides and interesting covers from an impressive selection of musicians including Depeche Mode, Leonard Cohen, Björk, Cyndi Lauper, and Beyoncé to name a few. RARITIES was satisfying in its own way, but I was craving something completely fresh and original. Brun has lupus and this has affected her health and career, especially when she was set to tour with Peter Gabriel in 2012 as a part of his Back to Front tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his monumental SO album. She discusses the disease here, explaining how it informed and shaped her new material. Just got this one and I’ve been enjoying it. Watch/listen:
Duran Duran‘s PAPER GODS came out little over a week ago. And it’s awesome. A long 5 years since their last record, ALL YOU NEED IS NOW, but the band sounds better than ever. I love a finely crafted pop album from some veterans who have written a remarkable amount of catchy tunes with immaculate production. I’m a huge fan of the opening track from the album, which also happens to be the title track. The song is slightly more experimental and (slightly) less danceable than the rest of the songs, but it’s a sharp and solid opening to an album that you still can’t help but move to. See what I mean:
This past Friday, Glen Hansard‘s DIDN’T HE RAMBLE, his second solo album was released. When we had seen Damien Rice perform in Brooklyn, Glen Hansard played one of the forthcoming tracks, “Winning Streak.” I enjoyed his first solo release, Rhythm and Repose, particularly the track “Maybe Not Tonight,” but this album feels much stronger and I can’t wait to hear it. The video for “Lowly Deserter” helped increase my excitement. The video opens to some children praying to a drawing of David Bowie, reciting lyrics to “Ashes to Ashes” at its start. A very cool and unique tune. Saw a few more videos and I’m definitely going to be hooked to this one:
Lana Del Rey‘s HONEYMOON also landed last Friday. I really enjoyed last year’s ULTRAVIOLENCE. I think the guitar-oriented tracks (thanks to producer Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys‘ guitarist) on the ULTRAVIOLENCE album helped break open the sound of Del Rey a little bit wider and give it some much needed space and originality (to my ears her songs tend to blend). The few tracks I’ve heard from HONEYMOON haven’t quite won me over yet, the whole thing is starting to feel rehashed and everything sounds the same, but I haven’t heard everything yet and I’m sure a few tracks will stand out. This one’s notable just for the video alone:
One more album that I also want came out last Friday. Chris Cornell, most famously known in his other successful bands, Soundgarden and Audioslave, released his 3rd solo record, HIGHER TRUTH. Cornell’s solo work is always just okay to me. It pales in comparison to any of his material with the aforementioned bands, but there are some bright spots. I prefer his first album, EUPHORIA MORNING (or EUPHORIA MOURNING, as it has recently been renamed marking its re-release), but even that record doesn’t necessarily blow me away at any one moment though there are some interesting tracks throughout. EUPHORIA MORNING easily has his most beautiful songs, short of “Sunshower” and “Seasons,” both on soundtrack releases, but it’s not that the hushed and acoustic approach don’t excite me, the basics are all there. I think it’s a quality that gets added in the collaborative process of playing in a band that truly elevates Cornell’s writing. Can’t blame Cornell for that one, when you play the musicians in those other bands they are obviously going to improve any song you walk in with. I’ve heard the lead single from HIGHER TRUTH, “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” and my response was consistent with hearing others in saying to myself, “It’s a decent Chris Cornell song.” Maybe something more intriguing will show up on the album. I hope so. This is at least more interesting than the single:
Another artist I love, also a victim of a long break between albums is Don Henley. Henley’s CASS COUNTY is coming out in a few weeks on September 25th. I love all his solo stuff (and his EAGLES contributions as well), but his last album, 2000’s INSIDE JOB will be tough to beat. INSIDE JOB was this interesting dichotomy of celebrating life and love blended with songs that confront American culture’s greed and corruption head-on, especially the title track and “Workin’ It.” It’s no surprise to me that the lead single, “Praying for Rain,” from the forthcoming album subtly suggests effects of global warming and climate change issues. Henley is a staunch environmentalist, most visible in his commitment to the Walden Woods project. This album is supposed to have a country flair and it definitely twangs, but I’m more concerned with what social message Henley intends to expound in the rest of the tracks. Henley never has a problem saying what’s on his mind, as evidenced by this recent performance where he calls out Donald Trump, a fellow guest on Colbert’s show that week:
I can’t help but feel as though I’m forgetting something here. I probably am, but this is a quick rundown of what new music I’ve been enjoying and some things I hope to hear very soon.