New Music 5/10/19

This is week 18 of the year, where I’m reviewing new music through the Tidal streaming service. Up until week 15, I had been reviewing just five albums per week but moving forward, I’m going to review as many as I find interesting. What I’m still going to do is download albums from artists I recognize by name and also records with album covers that catch my eye. The fun part of this for me is that for many of these records, I’m going in blindly – and I love discovering new music (or at least music that’s new to me).

Song of the Week: Howard Jones, “Take Us Higher”
  • Album: Howard Jones, “Transform”
  • Previous knowledge: All albums
  • Review: “No One Is To Blame” is still my favorite song of all time and Howard Jones is one of my favorite artists of all time, so yes, this is an exciting day for me. Especially exciting because there are zero punches thrown on this record. From the opening note, you hear exactly what made him a synth-pop legend. Hooks for days and rhythms dripping in synth delights. Jeez, “Take Us Higher” is so immediately catchy with its subtle sampling of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and “Tin Man Song” sounds like a perfect track to mix with today’s pop/EDM landscape. He’s also working a bit with electronic artist BT for three tracks, so he’s still keeping his finger on the pulse of electronic music in 2019. This is a brilliantly crafted work of art and I’m not saying that (just) because he’s one of my favorites. I can be subjective, I swear.
  • Rating: 10/10
Howard Jones, “Tin Man Song”
  • Album: Whitesnake, Flesh & Blood
  • Previous knowledge: All their albums
  • Review: All other current hair metal bands can shut it down for the rest of 2019 now. We have our king of the circuit right here. David Coverdale is 67 years old and despite “Here I Go Again” being burned in my mind forever, there’s no way I could tell you this was him or Whitesnake for that matter, if you blindfolded me and didn’t tell me the artist. Frontiers records is like a vast wasteland for hair metal and you never really know what you’re going to get on that label but Whitesnake still rocks out, hard. Like seriously, harder than their doctors probably allow them to at their senior citizen status. It’s got all the trademark moments here – including my most loved rhyme of “Fire” and “Desire” and shit like “lightning strikes me when I feel your touch” and “your love burns me to the bone,” (in, “Hey You (You Make Me Rock)”) I really feel like there’s some kind of hair metal template that all bands of that ilk use and they have a pact to get a certain number of cliched phrases in. And as I’ve said before, this is one of the few genres where that’s expected and works so damn well. Cheese factor high. Rating (and horns) higher, my mulleted friend.
  • Rating: 9/10
Whitesnake, “Always & Forever”
  • Album: Shaggy, Wah Gwaan?!
  • Previous knowledge: His hits
  • Review: I had to look this album title up – it’s Jamaican for “What’s Up!” So now that we got that out of the way… This is Shaggy’s first solo dancehall record in six years though his collaboration with Sting from last year (2018) earned him a Grammy for best reggae record. And why not? I mean, who doesn’t love Shag Nasty? I’m allowed to call him that, right? Like, we’re buddies or something. But I feel like without Shaggy hitting the mainstream with “It Wasn’t Me” back in 2000, I would have never had any dancehall hit my ears. Even if Shaggy was on the pop end of the spectrum for a lot of his hits, between him and Akon, this is the sound in my head from days in Jamaica and St. Lucia, drunk on boats, dancing. I’m on a boat, man! Wah Gwaan?!, takes me right back to the shores of Jamaica, dirty banana in hand, chickadees in bikinis, sun turning my pale white body into burning hot red molten lava and the pain from a shirt collar even brushing against my blood red neck – wait, these memories are getting negative. Fuck it, dance people. Dance.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Shaggy, “Money Up”
  • Album: Logic – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
  • Previous knowledge: All his albums
  • Review: Logic can be maddening. Just a month ago he realized an alt-rock record to go along with his first novel, Supermarket. It stunk. At points, he’s been great. At points he’s been terrible and weirdly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. Logic can rap with the best of them. His message of activism and positivity is needed in hip hop but his experiments are often misguided. Fortunately, there’s no overextending himself on this record and thus it ends up being one of his most consistent records yet.
  • Rating: 8.5/10
Logic, “Homicide”
  • Album: Sammy Hagar & the Circle – Space Between
  • Previous knowledge: C’mon, it’s Sammy!
  • Review: The Circle came together in 2015 as Sammy’s band and released a live album which featured hits from all his different projects. Space Between is the first album of studio material from this supergroup. Vic Johnson (the Busboys), joins Michael Anthony and Jason Bonham in creating a supremely dull slog through ten tracks of blues rock with zero pulse. Even on the random song that does rock a bit, it still contains the same lyrics that Sammy has written for the last two decades now. Ironically there’s a song called “Can’t Hang” about hanging it up when you really you are no longer cutting it. Hopefully this is a one off mistake that Sammy and his boys have made or they should be living that song very shortly.
  • Rating: 3/10
Sammy Hagar & the Circle, “Can’t Hang”
  • Album: Aly & AJ – Don’t Go Changing
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Having never heard of these two before, I chose this album because there were two naked woman on the cover. Turns out Aly & AJ are sisters so there’s that that and they create vaguely Christian music, so the cover art doesn’t quite fit here but…. the music is interesting. This is a self-released EP of synthpop/electropop with positive messages about love and life. Super catchy, very much in the vein of DNCE or Carly Rae Jepsen, so I could certainly see this EP blowing up soon. It also took me way too long to realize that AJ is Lainey Lewis on the Goldbergs.
  • Rating: 8.5/10
Aly & AJ, “Not Ready to Wake Up”

Albums rated 10/10 so far in 2019 (order by release date only)

  1. Terror Jr. – Unfortunately, Terror Jr
  2. Emily King – Scenery
  3. Good Fuck – Good Fuck
  4. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality
  5. UB40 – For the Many
  6. Griz – Ride Waves
  7. Pup – Morbid Stuff
  8. Howard Jones – Transform