New Music 6/7/19

It’s week 22 of ’19 and as we hit the summer months, we’re hitting prime time for new releases. I’m downloading records on Tidal based on name recognition or album covers that intrigue me, only. Some artists I have a history with and some I’ve never heard of. This is how I discover as I trek through the new music landscape.

Song of the Week – Yeasayer, “24-Hour Hateful Live!”
  • Album: Prince – Originals
  • Previous knowledge: My favorite artist of all time!
  • Review: Pig in shit, pig in shit…. yes, that’s me right now. I have been looking forward to this day for months now once I heard this was coming out. Prince didn’t screw around with demos, he recorded them close to like they were finished products, so hearing unreleased Prince demos from the vault is very much like a full blown album of new material here, hopefully to continue in the future.

So this album is 15 “originals” – which are his original versions of songs that he gave to other artists, like The Time, Sheila E., Jill Jones, Apollonia and even Kenny Rogers. And it’s friggin’ brilliant. Yes, Prince is my favorite artist of all time so it’s not hard to get a “brilliant” label from me but I think most people would say the same thing.

Fourteen of these tracks are unreleased with “Nothing Compares 2 U” being the only original that we’ve heard before in this form. While everything on here is pretty great, what stands out the most is how natural all these songs came out for Prince, yet he gave them all up. “Sex Shooter” was given to Apollonia 6 and it’s interesting to hear the song song by a man rather than a woman for the first time. “The Glamorous Life” which was of course a hit for Sheila E., has a different horn arrangement in it which was combined with keyboards in the single and hearing how he recorded “Manic Monday” (eventually one of the Bangles biggest hits) should be a treat for all fans.

The biggest excitement for me, comes from a few other tracks though – the blistering electro-funk tune “Make-Up” which Vanity ended up recording, the gorgeous “Baby, You’re A Trip” taken by Jill Jones, which has those Prince screaming falsetto’s that made his 80’s material so damn fun to listen to and “Love…thy Will Be Done” which he gave to Martika for her second record. It’s a beautiful love song and shows how interesting Prince was as a song writer. There’s a drum beat and bass line throughout the entire song that never changes, not for the bridge, the chorus or any other part of the song, no matter what else he does. And for something so incredibly simple like that, he makes it such an engaging tune.

For someone like me, that has been clamoring for the estate to start releasing vault tracks, this album only makes me want more. It takes you back to his 80s and early 90s sound and just confirms the notion that much of the stuff Prince shelved was as good if not better than the stuff he released. Brilliant. Simply brilliant. (This is currently a Tidal exclusive, meaning there’s no video for me to link, unfortunately)

  • Rating: 10/10
Sheila E., “The Glamorous Life”
  • Album: Santana – Africa Speaks
  • Previous knowledge: The hits
  • Review: A new Santana record could mean anything these days. One thing that’s constant though, it Latin rhythms. How he uses them is a different story though. Carlos Santana’s first album came out in 1969 but unfortunately all that sticks in my head and likely many other’s is f’in Rob Thomas and “Smooth.” Granted, that’s the only reason I’m likely reviewing a new Santana record at this point though. So, this album is what the title alludes to; African Music. Sort of. Produced by Rick Rubin, this is a well polished disc featuring only two guest singers and many African rhythms mixed with Latin rock and jazz. It’s a sound that’s definitely unique, even though the individual pieces themselves appear to be very familiar. Tunes that start off with congos, turn into jazz tunes and then break into rock before the track is over mix easily with a wild African-Latin combo. I don’t normally listen to any of the styles on this record but this really got my booty shaking.
  • Rating: 9/10
Santana, “Yo Me Lo Merezco”
  • Album: Neil Young & the Stray Gators – Tuscaloosa (Live)
  • Previous knowledge: Almost everything from Neil
  • Review: The Stray Gators were Neil’s short lived backing band on Harvest and the live album Time Fades Away back in 1971-1973 and then most of them for the ’92 album, Harvest Moon. They were Ben Keith, Jack Nitzsche, Tim Drummond and Kenny Buttrey – originally session members that Neil then took out on the road and made them his backing band. Tuscaloosa is part of that same Time Fades Away tour back in ’73 but unlike that album which were songs from various concerts, this is almost the entire concert in Alabama minus a couple songs that for one reason or another, weren’t actually recorded. The album cover would have you believe this was some rockin’ show as Neil was jumping from the amps but this is just like most of concerts in the 70s (at least the ones that have been released) in that it’s very mellow. Neil starts out on his own before bringing the Gators out before the third track, Harvest track, “Out on the Weekend.” He then proceeds to run through the standard tunes of that time with of course “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold” being the most well known of them. Overall, this is a good concert, not great. There’s an energy missing that is present on some of the better live albums in his archive series but I’m sure this would have been a fantastic show in person.
  • Rating: 7/10
Neil Young & the Stray Gators, “Heart of Gold”
  • Album: Eagles of Death Metal – Eagles Of Death Metal Presents Boots Electric Performing The Best Songs We Never Wrote
  • Previous knowledge: Only their first album
  • Review: Don’t count me in as a fan of Jesse Hughes, John Homme or any of their work. But I do have an affinity for cover songs, so when I saw that Hughes, under his alter ego, Boots Electric was releasing a cover record, I at least had to listen. The first thing you will note is what it does have going for it – a unique track list. “It’s So Easy” (Guns ‘n’ Roses), “So Alive” (Love and Rockets), “Abracadabra” (Steve Miller Band), “Family Affair” (Mary J. Blige) and more. It intrigues me even more when a group goes after songs that aren’t the usual fare (I’m looking at you Weezer!). This is typical EODM garage rock with electro touches throughout. The highlights here start off with the fact that Axl Rose either greenlighted the cover of “It’s So Easy” or simply haven’t sued Hughes yet and definitely the new upbeat rock version of “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. Also interesting is the cover of “Family Affair” which people are raving about. Speaking of Weezer, they get ripped when they do one of these hip-hop/R&B covers (like “No Scrubs” off the Teal Album) and EODM’s cover here isn’t much different in feel from that except that it’s slightly more authentic rather than ironic. Overall, a very solid, unique cover experience.
  • Rating: 8/10
Eagles of Death Metal, “Careless Whisper”
  • Album: Silversun Pickups – Widow’s Weeds
  • Previous knowledge: First two albums and “Panic Switch”
  • Review: When Silversun Pickups started out back in 2005, they definitely had a bit of a Smashing Pumpkins vibe to them. Heavy, layered guitars mixed with delicate shoegaze-y tunes. By the time the third album rolled around, they were adding more keyboard into their sound and going into a more traditional alt-rock sound. With Widow’s Weeds, you have an alt-rock record with a slight bit of electronics but not overly heavy and a sort of sad vibe to the overall record. The most noticeable aspect of the entire record is that no matter the pace of the song the rhythms are really catchy. Ironically, the best song on the record (the title track) has that Smashing Pumpkins feel again but that’s neither here nor there at this point.
  • Rating: 9/10
Silversun Pickups, “Widow’s Weeds”
  • Album: Future – Save Me
  • Previous knowledge: Last three records
  • Review: For every Kendrick Lamar, there’s two Lil Nas X. For every Nicki Manaj, there’s a Bhad Bhabie and for every Jay-Z, there’s about six hundred Futures. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record when mentioning how bad trap is right now but I wish someone would make a record that changes my mind. This isn’t it. It’s a seven song EP just five months after his last full length. You know why? Because it’s easy to rap over the same three beats and talk about the same shit over and over again. And trap artists barely have to create songs. Trap songs tend to hover around that three minute mark or less, which is barely time to get two verses in. All Save Me is, is fragments of tunes polished to make it look like finished products. That’s how a mess of trap albums are and yet we eat this up like candy. And I download it hoping and praying for something new but I guess I’m not smart enough to know that it’s not going to happen unless enough Lil Nas X’s come along and destroy the sound completely.
  • Rating: 2/10
Future, “XanaX Damage”
  • Album: Perry Farrell – Kind Heaven
  • Previous knowledge: Most of his work
  • Review: Well, we all knew that Perry Farrell was a bit of an odd bird, right? That’s very evident on his first solo record since 2001, as he goes for over-the-top bombast throughout the many different styles of music on Kind Heaven. The disc starts with a garage rock meets Beach Boys sunny tune called “(red, white and blue) Cheerfulness” which is then followed immediately by “Pirate Punk Politician” which sounds very much like a Rage Against the Machine outtake. Farrell then follows it up with an orchestral rock song (“Snakes Have Many Hips”) that wouldn’t be out of place in a circus setting. That’s just the first three tracks. The album closes out with “Let’s All Pray for This World” which is surely supposed to be an anthem for the time but comes up a bit short. Somewhere in between there’s some high powered guest stars like Tommy Lee, Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Elliot Easton (Cars) and others that are pretty versatile players but none of them can bring this overly ambitious album back down to an easily consumable level.
  • Rating: 6/10
Perry Farrell, “Pirate Punk Politician”
  • Album: Jonas Brothers – Happiness Begins
  • Previous knowledge: Tidal catalog #205
  • Review: Back together again, ten years after their last record and in between, some really good albums from DNCE (Joe) and solo records from Nick with Kevin being a dad. The whole is not stronger than the pieces. Well, Kevin might argue with that since this is better music than the nothing he’s created since the brothers went their separate ways a decade ago but for the other two – sigh. I’m sure these guys are selling a ton of records and will sell out arenas everywhere but this album is d-u-double-l dull. I’m not a big fan of their latest single, “Cool” but their first one, “Sucker” sounds like it could be a DNCE song, so I was excited based off that. But the majority of the album lacks the necessary hooks to carry me through 14 tracks of mediocrity. Fan girls & boys will eat this up but there’s significantly better pop albums out there.
  • Rating: 5.5/10
Jonas Brothers, “Sucker”
  • Album: Yeasayer – Erotic Returns
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: My goodness, it seems like I picked the right time to start listening to Yeasayer. I had never heard of them before but the cover art seemed cool, so I wanted to give this a shot. Having read up on them before I listened, I saw “experimental rock” and “psychedelic rock” as the two main tags – ones that don’t often interest me too much. But what I didn’t read was how this record is neither of those. This is a simply wonderful pop record, maybe ever-so-slightly experimental, but not much. Instead, the band made a disc of tight, hook filled three-minute pop tunes. Supposedly there’s a lot of political commentary on this disc but the songs are so upbeat and fun that I missed all of that in here. I was simply too busy shimmying and tappin’ my foot to the beat.
  • Rating: 10/10
Yeasayer, “Fluttering in the Floodlights”
  • Album: Dinosaur Pile-Up – Celebrity Mansions
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Whew, what a shot of energy this gave me. The cover art is a drunk/high dude eating pizza – I mean, I expected a raucous record but this went beyond that. Dinosaur Pile-Up get billed as post-grunge and I suppose I get that as there’s a heavy Foo Fighters vibe on the really heavy songs. But it’s a combo of “White Limo” and the debut album on quite a few songs. The rest of the album is mid to late 90s alt-rock, in fact I’d put this album right next a Local H record and would only think these guys had a really good producer. So think Foos mixed with Local H (and a little rapping).
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Dinosaur Pile-Up, “Thrash Metal Cassette”
  • Album: Brett Myers – Baptized in Gasoline
  • Previous knowledge: Won a World Series ring in 2008 with my Philadelphia Phillies
  • Review: The only reason I reviewed this record is because Brett Myers has a world series ring from my Philadelphia Phillies world champions in 2008. Myers was a good, but somewhat erratic pitcher for the Phillies. He was a starter, then a closer in 2007, then back to a starter in 2008, which turned into struggles and a demotion to the minors, only to see him be clutch down the stretch and in the playoffs. But even more so than his pitching, no Phillies fan will ever forget that in the playoffs he worked a two-out walk against C.C. Sabathia, which led to Shane Victorino’s grand slam – a great moment in Philly sports history. This however has nothing to do with the music of course, but it’s just so much more interesting than this record. This is bro country-rock to the extreme and Brett just isn’t a great singer, so not only have you heard this 100 times but 99 of those are better than this. I will always love Brett Myers for what he brought to the Phillies but I don’t really need to hear another record of his, unless of course the Flyin’ Hawaiian, The Big Piece or Brad Lidge tells me to.
  • Rating: 2/10
Brett Myers, “Baptized in Gasoline”

Albums ranked 10/10 so far in 2019 (ranked only by release date at this point)

  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
  9. Mavis Staples – We Get By
  10. Prince – Originals
  11. Yeasayer – Erotic Returns