With great new records by the likes of the immaculately contemporary Feist sitting side by side with worthy new releases by such names as the Hollies, Paul McCartney and everyone's unanimous favorite, Styx, this may be the finest album release week since three weeks ago!
On the other hand, this may be the last glimmer of hope record buyers will ever have until their inevitable bankruptcy and homelessness makes music purchasing a sad, near-surrealistic memory!
And on the third hand, this could be a completely normal release week--nothing new, nothing special, same-old same-old--marred only by an unexpected meteor shower that destroys most of the northern hemisphere!
With all those options, then, there's only one winnable strategy! Stay at home, keep your curtains drawn, call up every person you've ever offended in your life, apologize to them, and then scrunch your eyelids up real tight and imagine you're onstage singing with the Foo Fighters!
That's always worked for me!
Feist: Metals (Cherrytree/Interscope) If today's pop landscape offers up any contemporary singer-songwriter who makes music in the tradition of the best and most innovative of her predecessors, who is not deliberately arty but nonetheless finds herself directly in that sphere, then it is Canadian artist Leslie Feist, who with Metals returns with a superb and challenging work that stands among this year's best works! From the album's very cover--which prominently features a big and bold "F"--but hey, that's not dirty, that's her initial!--to the music contained within, Ms. Feist has fashioned a follow-up to 2007's The Reminder that is tasteful, surprisingly emotive, and, much to its credit, melodic--and not filled with the sort of airy, percussive nothing-diddlings that most present-day artistes tragically aspire to! Best of all, as the album title implies, random versions of this CD are pressed on gold, silver, platinum, and bronze--and fans and collectors alike should therefore buy them all in order to become wealthy beyond their dreams! Canadians are hip like that!
Scott McCreery: Clear As Day (Mercury Nashville) There's only one thing that could be better than a country-flavored album released by the latest winner of the fabulous American Idol TV show! And that would be--in the same manner as the loaves and fishes tale that populates a celebrated portion of today's popular bible--a breakfast cereal bowl that offered a vitually limitless supply of Wheatena, that marvelous high-fiber breakfast treat that's nourishing, delectable, and, perhaps unexpectedly, a quite sensuous taste treat! Short of that, a new album by a guy who sounds like he spent too much time listening to 50-year old country records, likes apple pie, and probably just started shaving a few weeks ago is as good a place to start as any! I simply can't stop listening to this!
Paul McCartney: Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom (Hear Music) I'd like to step back for a minute and imagine a future in which it has been determined that I'm the finest blog writer of this century--and if I can be honest, that isn't much of a leap!--and that this very review itself is excerpted and offered for sale as Dave DiMartino Presents Dave DiMartino's Review of Paul McCartney's Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom, edited by Dave DiMartino with a foreword by Paul McCartney, composer of Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom! Then I'd like to imagine finding 20 bucks or so on the side of the road and stopping by a 7-11 to pick up a Slim Jim and a Dr. Pepper! Ideally, the cashier would then ask me what I thought of that orchestral ballet album Paul McCartney put out back in 2011--cashiers are funny that way--and I'd look him directly in the eye and say: "When exactly did you put those chicken tostadas on the grill?" Behind me, a fat lady holding a box of donuts would exhale impatiently and someone's horn would honk outside!
Jack's Mannequin: People And Things (Warner Bros.) One can't help but admire the zest of life and the melodic, pop-filled approach of young Andrew McMahon--the man behind Jack's Mannequin, and a skilled musician who's led a tumultuous life but never let its unpleasantness affect that upbeat, positive-sounding music he's consistently produced! The follow-up to 2005's Everything In Transit and 2008's The Glass Passenger, the new People And Things continues McMahon's keyboard-heavy pop explorations--think of an adolescent who spent a significant portion of his life listening to his older siblings' Billy Joel and Elton John records--but, perhaps quirkily, focuses on two people (Larry Hastings of Butte, Montana and Ellie Reynolds of Augusta, Georgia) and two things (a 7-Up bottle cap found on the side of a country road and a stop sign with the word "WAR" spray painted on it) unlikely to mean much to anyone in particular but absolutely certain to prevent him from being sued by consumers for false advertising! I suspect follow-up Places will really tell the tale!
Styx: Regeneration (Eagle Rock) I don't think people give enough credit to influential art-rockers Styx, whose pioneering work of the early '70s vastly influenced the works of later, more critically admired artists such as the Clash, Oasis, Guns N' Roses and current alt-rock sensations Bon Iver and the Arcade Fire! This great new collection--featuring Tommy Shaw, James "JY" Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips--incorporates spine-tingling remakes of such Styxian classics as "Come Sail Away," "Too Much Time On My Hands," "Crystal Ball," and "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)," and lacks only a cover of "Mr. Roboto"--to many, the song that would later giver rise to both Radiohead and Coldplay--to fairly be called the album of the century! As always: fantastic logo!
Big Troubles: Romantic Comedy (Slumberland) I get a tremendous kick these days out of the new albums I repeatedly come back to--listen to over and over--and how they bear absolutely no relation to what is selling or what anyone else is even talking about! And so it is that this new album--apparently the second by pop/rock inspired indie combo Big Troubles, led by Alex Craig and Ian Drennan--which is produced by Mitch Easter and boasts all the intricate, melodic, guitar-heavy hooks with which Easter himself has long been associated, sounds frickin' great and is absolutely worth your hearing! Young, tuneful, and the sort of musicians that on a low-key level are breathing life into rock 'n roll, keeping the faith, and in it purely for love and self-expression, Big Troubles are all that is good about pop music and you should be listening to them now!
Momus And John Henriksson: Thunderclown (American Patchwork) I gather this album has been out for a while now--let's just say its American distribution has been lacking--but it is not an unimportant one in the catalog of Nick Currie, aka as Momus, whose lengthy recording career now extends across more than 25 years and continues to be among the richest in contemporary music. His latest effort artfully combines his biting, witty lyrics with an adventurous musical context that brings to mind modern-day electronica, broadway showtunes circa 1930-1950, sexual organs and runaway elephants, which, you'll agree, is part-and-parcel of what today's best music needs to provide as a matter of course. The most simultaneously out there and commercially palatable album I've heard all year. Highly recommended.
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window DVD (Eagle Rock) Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, this fantastic DVD is the week's biggest draw: A lovingly assembled, surprisingly rich tribute to '60s Brit hitmakers the Hollies, whose career has been historically acknowledged, but when viewed via this perspective--with 22 complete performances of fantastic pop songs, most of which we're quite familiar--almost tragically under-appreciated. With a non-stop sequence of historically fascinating performances, a wealth of material that is completely and utterly top-notch, and a series of in-depth and revealing present-day artist interviews, this is one of the finest music DVDs I've ever seen and could not be more worthy of your purchase. The same company has already brought us similar works focusing on Gerry & The Pacemakers, Dusty Springfield, Herman's Hermits and the Small Faces and in short: They can do no wrong! Check this out.
Zola Jesus: Conatus (Sacred Bones) Being an ignorant guy who sits around LA drinking and smoking a lot, I don't spend too much time looking into the biographical details of artists I like, but imagine my surprise when I discovered that the cheerily named Zola Jesus--whose experimental/arty/electronic/industrial music I found quite listenable, and who I always thought must've come from the UK--they're weird that way over there--is in fact a former University Of Wisconsin student who's a Russian/American named Nika Roza Danilova! And according to Wikipedia--where I always go for the facts and nothing but--she's into Stockhausen and says things like "I was just reading this guy named Arthur Schopenhauer, who's dark as f**k. He's basically like: Kill yourself, it's not worth it. After you read his essays, you can't feel good about anything, so it's obviously going to affect my art and how I live." Knowing this, I now like her more than ever and couldn't imagine fantasizing about her, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger mud-wrestling for a worthwhile charitable cause! I think the album title is Latin for "pie crust"!
Mutemath: Odd Soul (Warner Bros.) "The idea of complete isolation was the only thing that appealed to us," explain the guys about their new album! "No camera guys, no producers, no engineers, no record label people, no management. No one would hear or comment on what we were doing until we were done." Sadly, however, rather than make an album, they'd accidentally walked into their kitchen and made a tasty bundt cake! And that's exactly what happened to Pearl Jam once!