Among all the bands that delve deeply into dark, erotic Rock, Swans stands alone. Under the perpetual and gravely brilliant leadership of Michael Gira, Swans has set a singular course that pays no attention to musical or cultural trends to make its point.
The solo album has always been a tricky
proposition. Even members of hugely popular bands have found middling
sales and less than glowing reviews down the solo path. What then to make of 'Flamingo,' the new solo effort from Killers frontman Brandon Flowers? Well, rules don't seem to apply to The Killers at any level.
Jukebox the Ghost is under the sway of so many influences, they probably shouldn't be allowed to drive. And what's with the Philadelphia trio absolutely jacking its sophomore album, 'Everything Under the Sun,' all the way out of the ballpark?
In 1996, Andy McLuskey, who at that point was the sole member of OMD, had an unfortunate epiphany. He was in a record shop in Liverpool and came across an Erasure CD. "Do I really need another Erasure CD?" he thought. Then it hit him. "I wonder if people are saying that about OMD?"
For his newest release, Richard Thompson chose the oft-attempted device of recording brand new songs in a live setting as a way to adrenalize himself and his band. Not surprisingly, it works like a voodoo charm.
JJ Grey might not be old enough to remember the days of James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone and Otis Redding from firsthand experience, but when he writes and records he sounds like he could have been a grizzled old veteran sideman on any Soul session in the '60s.
Any band's sophomore album is a natural evolutionary talking point and generally regarded as proof of the old musical adage that a band takes its whole life to make its first album and nine months to make the second one. In the case of Ra Ra Riot, the evolution is more complex and tragically steered.
Wall of Voodoo might well have been little more than a blip on the New Wave radar of the late '70s and early '80s if it hadn't been for the hypnotic menace of frontman Stan Ridgway. His subsequent solo work has run the gamut from dark Pop songs with a filmic quality to weirdly ambient soundscapes to actual film scores.
The success of 'No Better Than This' lies in John Mellencamp's passionate recreation of the genres he's honoring and his confidence in the plainspoked lyrical message. It's not hard to spot his influence; the lack of complexity here leaves little room for him to disguise his music or his intentions.
The music industry works in mysterious ways, which is the nice way of saying that it must be hard for it to walk around with its head shoved up its ass. The latest example is the "new" Toadies album, 'Feeler,' which should have come out in 1998 as originally intended.
On their debut album for Shout! Factory, the gifted L.A. quintet (David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin) does best what they've always done well: combine the members' Mexican Folk/Cumbia heritage with an unflinching love of Blues, Rock, Country and R&B and make a brilliant hybrid sound that's unmistakably Los Lobos.
You could take the cynical view and surmise that Adam Young's label is
trying to squeeze every last dime out of the cash-cow that's become
Owl City (of which he is the sole member). Sky Sailing pre-dates Owl City, and 'An Airplane Carried Me to Bed' is a worthy effort and a must for those who seek to complete their Adam Young catalog.
Tom Jones has long claimed Mahalia Jackson as an early influence, and he proves it conclusively on 'Praise & Blame,' a collection of traditional and contemporary songs concerning the search for salvation. Jones, who turned 70 in June, can easily count this album as among his best work.
Neil Finn has always counterpointed his deepest sorrows and anxieties with the most gorgeous melodies. Paul McCartney's effervescent light and John Lennon's brooding dark exist side by side within him, and there are moments on 'Intriguer' that Finn sounds like he's in the throes of his 'Sgt. Pepper' and 'White Album' phases simultaneously.
After giving away a total of a quarter million copies of their 2007 album 'All the Love You Need,' a ploy that actually drove up attendance numbers on their subsequent tour, the Monsters return to the concept of retail with their eighth studio album, 'Rocksteady.' The sad reality is there's only about half an album here to sell.