A country-rock exploration of Oberst's recent one-man album.
Last year Oberst released Ruminations, a stark one-man album that reflected its gestation in a snowbound house in Omaha. This companion piece serves up those songs with a full band and adds seven new tracks, with appearances by alt-country/rock royalty including Gillian Welch, Jim James, M. Ward and the Felice Brothers. There's a woodsy sound that's equal parts Dylan, the Band and Neil Young, with Oberst's quivering vocals and poetic storytelling to the fore and fiddles and harmonica in the mix. If Ruminations was his Nebraska, this is his Basement Tapes. Of the newer material, "Overdue" stands out for its hazy feel and tale of beautiful losers.
Topics: Conor Oberst
The Southern rock icon's farewell album is vividly steeped in his own history.
The final album by Gregg Allman, who died in May, is a moving farewell statement à la twilight masterworks by Leonard Cohen and David Bowie. "I know I'm not a young man, and it's time to settle down," Allman sings on the roadhouse blues "Love Like Kerosene", his full-moon growl strikingly undiminished.
Yet while Southern Blood is rich with intimations of mortality, it's easygoing too, with a laid-back generosity that recalls Allman's kindest Seventies work – see his warm take on Lowell George's Southern-rock salvo "Willin'". Allman steeped the album in his own history, recording with producer Don Was in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where Allman and his brother Duane recorded in the late Sixties. And while the LP is almost entirely covers, they spool by as one vivid benediction, from Allman's gorgeously soulful reading of Bob Dylan's "Going, Going, Gone", to his gently swaying version of the Grateful Dead's meditation on aging "Black Muddy River", to tender folk reckonings by his friends Tim Buckley and Jackson Browne. Allman opens with an original, the searching blues "My Only True Friend", sung as a conversation with Duane. "It feels like home is just around the bend," he sings, the elegiac sound of gracefully moving on.
Brisbane indie-pop kids come of age with sophomore release.
Rhythmically strong and filled with gorgeous synth production and guitar, Bats is the perfect successor to 2016's This is Our Vice. Tim Nelson's songwriting has become a dynamic leading force – over 13 tracks, he wears his heart on his sleeve more than ever before. Aching gospel influences ("O Lord") turn to delicate moments of sweetness ("Give It To Me"), while fully embracing technicolour vibrancy fusing synth-pop and house ("Look After Me"). An album inspecting self-worth, self-discovery, love and longing, Bats is an accomplished effort; demonstrative of the band's musical maturation and their confident steps into a beautifully complicated pop arena.
The thrift-shopping, deep-thinking MC has a good time.
Macklemore's first post-fame LP minus longtime partner Ryan Lewis finds the Seattle MC unburdened by stardom or the social concern that turns his woke anthems into online firestorms – "I'm a motherfuckin' icon/Boots made of python," he raps on "Willy Wonka", a creeping track with Offset of Migos. Partying tunes like the funky "Firebreather" sometimes feel like not much more than a rich white guy bragging. But Macklemore's trademark awkward humanity comes through on "Good Old Days", a reflection on ageing (with Kesha), and "Church", a thank-you letter to making it that's warm, vivid, earnest and earned.
Melbourne rock stalwarts get imaginative on sixth album.
There's an adventurous complexity to British India's latest that's an exploration of their creative nature, helped by enlisting Holy Holy's Oscar Dawson on production. It means unconventionally memorable rock & roll whirlwinds adorned with keys, effects and plenty of feels, as frontman Declan Melia spits lines about false gods in "Midnight Homie (My Best Friends)" and heady dissatisfaction in "Precious". It's the breathing-room ruminations ("My Love"), however, that balance the frenzied rock maelstrom, breathing life into a rich lyrical world detailing our crushing quests for meaning and relevance in an uncaring world.
Indie-dance luminaries return with a more mindful trip.
Cut Copy's fourth LP was called Free Your Mind, but some argued the band had lost theirs with the unashamed Summer Of Love throwback that offered little new. Haiku From Zero reverts to the broader palette of 2011's Zonoscope; from cowbell-helmed highlight "Standing In the Middle of the Field" to "Airborne", a mildly annoying jam until it lives up to its name around the four-minute mark. Characteristically pat lyrics are hitched to music sophisticated enough to impart profundity, from the E-rush of "Stars Last Me a Lifetime" to the polymorphic, David Byrne-indebted "Memories We Share". It's not vintage Cut Copy, but it's a return to form.
Melbourne grinders unleash pure insanity on third album.
Ugly by name, ugly by nature, King Parrot have truly upped their game in all levels of extremity while simultaneously lowering the bar in depravity. Album number three is a sordid, nasty grindfest of crazed riffing, inhuman time-keeping and ridiculous yob anthems about binge drinking, low standards and being a straight-up dickhead, delivered with a schizophrenic vocal roar/shriek that teeters on the brink of insanity. Smashing blazing hardcore into furious thrash metal with the impact of a high-speed collision, Ugly Produce is a visceral ball of fury wrapped in sarcasm and grime that's both terrifying and hilarious at the same time.
The Vampire Weekend auteur channels his worldly vision into an excellent debut LP.
After putting in work on Frank Ocean's Blonde ("Seigfried," "Ivy"), Solange Knowles' A Seat at the Table ("F.U.B.U.") and various collaborative projects, ex-Vampire Weekend MVP Rostam Batmanglij has finally gotten around to releasing a proper solo LP of his own. And, admirably, he's refused to choose between his former group's Ivy League-aesthete indie rock and modern vernacular electro-pop, opting instead to cherry-pick the best of both worlds.
The resulting 15 tracks are, fittingly, all over the place. "Bike Dream" is sexy voice-boxed art pop; "Thatch Snow" is chamber music with a multitracked choir; "Wood" is a widescreen Bollywood daydream, complete with layered hand drums and orchestral strings; "Hold You" is a hungry robo-soul slow-jam with ex-Dirty Projectors vocalist-bassist Angel Deradoorian as an earthy diva.
Batmanglij has a boyish, intimate tenor, charming when not overdoing the breathy, verge-of-a-giggle delivery. Ultimately, though, it's the gorgeously inventive tracks that steal the show. Maybe the most telling is "Don't Let It Get to You", built around a machine-gunning sample of the samba-drum battery from Paul Simon's curveball 1990 banger "The Obvious Child" – a modern equivalent to Patti Smith repurposing Velvet Underground tunes. Here's to the bright future of another New York whiz kid.
You watched it being recorded, now listen to the results.
Workshopped in front of an online audience every Friday for a month, recorded in a night (also streamed live over the net) and released a week later, Out of Silence has a back story worth noting, but not worth lingering over. More usefully, it's a solo album – Finn's first since 2014's Dizzy Heights – full of group sounds, from a full band and strings to massed backing vocals, and a duet with brother Tim. Which makes it even starker how lyrically and tonally it's an album of isolation, with characters lost on the edges of relationships even as they're cushioned by harmonies, and wondering if love can ever be known while carried on another typically attractive Finn melody.
Prog rockers get deep on expansive look at art.
The latest album from these Brisbane progressive prodigies is a sprawling, labyrinthine opus exploring the very nature of artistic endeavour. Using the thematic device of four unrelated but conceptually similar stories, the band veer from sweeping epics like "Graves" to spoken word rants, melodic rock, wistful acoustics and driving metal tracks with stunning alacrity, displaying a dynamic range and genuine emotion that other prog rock bands can lose in their quest for virtuosity. Following 2015's excellent Bloom might have seemed tough, but In Contact is a further example of the group's growing creative power, deep, multi-layered and idiosyncratically cerebral.
A spirited release from London based Mercury Prize nominee.
Nick Mulvey's sophomore release positions the songwriter at potentially his most comfortable; the lyrical use of metaphor highlights Mulvey's developed writing ability ("Myela"), while the sprawling nature of the soundscapes encapsulates the strength of the musicians Mulvey surrounded himself with. Mulvey's lyrical scope takes a look at the world currently turning off its axis; in a time of uncertainty, music can serve as an emotional anchor, an anchor Mulvey aims to deliver. His writing is evocative without preaching. Balancing rhythmic eccentricities with irrepressible groove and electronic production throughout, Wake Up Now serves its title well.
Sydney producer brings fun retro club vibes on party-ready debut.
Visions' gaudy neon cover art – featuring Michael 'Touch Sensitive' Di Francesco in a turtleneck, gold chain and manicured mo' – is the perfect distillation of his debut LP. "First Slice – Intro" (which samples his 2013 hit "Pizza Guy") sets the Eighties-cocaine-dealer-pulling-up-to-the-nightclub-in-a-Ferrarai vibe, kicking off an album of ebullient house ("Lay Down"), Nineties R'n'B ("Veronica") and Italo disco-influenced club bangers. Arriving in the spring, Visions plays like the perfect warm weather party soundtrack, whether you're drinking champagne spritzers on a yacht or hitting the local discotheque in your finest pair of slacks.
English band lacks vision on fifth album.
"Are we hologram? Are we vision?" sings Faris Badwan over roiling synths and an electro-clash beat. Perhaps he should be asking "Are we Gary Numan tribute act?", because that's what it sounds like. The Horrors have tried on a number of outfits over five albums, arriving as goth-clad garage rockers and transitioning through psych-rock and dream-pop before going for arena anthems with 2011's Skying. V finds them stranded somewhere between melodramatic Eighties synth-pop and contemporary Coldplay-esque stadium-fillers. In either mode they offer po-faced lyrics and a lack of adventure. To sum up, then: the answer to "Are we vision?" is no.
Las Vegas rockers hit targets with affecting, arena-built anthems.
Brandon Flowers has grown up a little. He's now big enough to poke fun at himself in "The Man", the fruitiest Killers track ever made, and willing to let his guard down lyrically and make some pretty vulnerable songs about his wife's childhood abandonment ("Wonderful Wonderful"); depression ("Rut"); and affairs of the heart ("Some Kind of Love"). Pairing with longterm producer Stuart Price and Jacknife Lee (U2, Taylor Swift) has paid dividends – soaring anthems like "Run for Cover" and "Tyson vs Douglas" are shamelessly emotive, yet undeniable. While they haven't eclipsed their earliest work, the Killers are ageing gracefully.
Seattle's golden boy of indie-folk delivers third studio LP.
With White Noise, Noah Gundersen continues his journey away from the rather anaemic acoustic balladry of old. This is a step up in songwriting, production and emotional heft that, with its touches of synth and Gundersen's occasional swooning falsetto, warrants favourable comparison with Perfume Genius's excellent recent albums. "After All" and especially "Sweet Talker" best exhibit this new ambition, though less successful are some banal attempts at sparse Josh Ritter-ish folk that sit awkwardly on an album that, thanks to Gundersen's sonic imagination and maturing sense of songcraft, otherwise succeeds.