At first as I noticed what was up for this week, I thought I was going to take a two week break – the list of new releases was quite scant. I’m not sure why, but nothing really caught my eye, but by mid-day Saturday I’d found three things that I could definitively expound upon:
Betty Who – The Valley
The titular song that starts this album is so dull that I was ready to dismiss this album and call it one of the most disappointing points of the year so far. Luckily, “Some Kinda Wonderful” lifts you out of the doldrums and by the time you get to the first single “Mama Say” you will realize that this Australian chanteuse’s sophomore effort is a sparkling delight baked inside pop confections so sweet you’ll know that she’s due for stardom. Like a Katy Perry-lite, you’ll find yourself swaying in your seat, hoping to head out on the dance floor as soon as hunaly possible. While it isn’t a perfect album – that first track, and some slower moments bring down the excitement – you’ll hopefully indulge in things like her collaboration with Warren G and of course, her megahit cover of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever” – which closes the album.
Key Tracks: “Beautiful”, “Human Touch”, “Free to Fly”, “You Can Cry Tomorrow”
Gorillaz – “We Got the Power”
I begrudgingly accept that Gorillaz will never be the same. Much like the rollercoaster you can hear in Ben Gibbard’s voice and songwriting through his years as frontman of Death Cab for Cutie, outside events have affected mastermind Damon Albarn’s creative juices. In my opinion, renewed friendships aren’t always perfect. While it worked wonders for Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor for the sequel to Trainspotting, Albarn’s reunion with Jamie Hewlett is proving rather boring. I’m not sure if it’s just that there’s no verve behind the music, or that the collaborations are overshadowing what could have been something special, but I’m just rather annoyed at what they’ve put out so far. First, “Ascenion” appeared back in January and underwhelmed mightily. Now we have a power ballad that sounds like Noodle is attempting to branch out on her own as a hippie wishing free love upon her old bandmates. Here Savages singer Jehnny Beth and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher cameo, hoping to inject life into the lyrics that limp along over braindead instrumentals. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, as frequent podcast guest Jimmy thinks it’s some funky good stuff, but I have a high bar that Gorillaz has typically vaunted over effortlessly. I don’t want Albarn diminishing past art with mush like this.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
I have a sort of a soft spot for The Jesus and Mary Chain as my college film featured one of their songs, “The Hardest Walk” over the end credits. So after believing Betty Who and Gorillaz had let me down, I turned to this Scottish alt-rock group hoping for some nice surprises. Turns out that was a great choice, as the smooth folk sounds were just what I needed for a calm and quiet Friday evening. If you’re looking for something chill, this is just what the doctor ordered, especially to start. Of course, knowing how the rest of the weekend had gone, it might come as no surprise that towards the back end things get repetitive – which is only a minor letdown. Luckily this will sooth your ears, to be paired with an oaken whiskey.
Key Tracks: “Song for a Secret”, “The Two of Us”, “All Things Pass”
I also decided to create a “Best of Winter” playlist for the first three months of 2017 – back in the summer last year I attempted a halfway mark article to designate the best tracks and albums so far, but it turned out to diminish my interest in a best of the year article towards the end of 2016. So I still have interest in that this year, I’m going to do a best of quarterly and hope that updating it periodically will only keep my interest (we also have to hope there are some quality options in October and November, as that sort of killed anything for last year’s second half). Anyway, here’s what I have on near constant repeat so far this year:
See you next week for that long-awaited Bob Dylan album and one more go around with my favorite metal band, Mastodon!