Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
It might be strange to find that I’m a fan of this band, given my indie proclivities – but it’s only a matter of time before you find your range can reach out to metal bands. You get from Franz Ferdinand to Muse to Queens of the Stone Age to Mastodon. The branch isn’t that ridiculous to be out on, and it’s great when you get a solid album from a band you respect. Mastodon had their best output with 2009’s Crack the Skye, a melodic rush of guitar solos and boisterous drums, touching on everything from astral planing to Rasputin. They followed that up with The Hunter, an homage to guitarist Brent Hinds’ brother Brad, who died in 2010 of a heart attack while out hunting. After a disappointingly slow run for two albums, they’ve returned with some of the most effervescent instrumentals I’ve heard in a while. Take “Show Yourself”, whose introspective look is premeditated on the age-old theme of being true to oneself. The album unfolds generally hopeful, but there’s always that undercurrent of unsettled debts – the urging for something yet to be earned. Here I think Mastodon proves they’ve earned plenty already and love looking back on all they’ve accomplished.
Key Tracks: Show Yourself, Clandestiny, Word to the Wise
Nelly Furtado – The Ride
One week before Michelle Branch makes her much anticipated return to the limelight, another chanteuse that made her fame in the early 2000s came out with another album. Nelly Furtado first hit in big in 2000 with single “I’m Like a Bird” and “Turn Out the Light”, and she won a Grammy for the former. She managed to stay relevant through the next few years, with singles “Promiscuous” and “Maneater”. Lucky for us, she didn’t end up with the terrible producers that kept Branch out of the studio, and we had a handful of albums to enjoy from Furtado over the years. This release, while more demure than past efforts, is definitely worth it – and its maturity is only matched by Furtado’s ebullience, which belies her experience. The lyrics combine an impression of poppy indifference and sophisticated been-there done-that attitude. If you need a sample of what this involves, look no further than “Carnival Games” a rendezvous back to a simpler time that Furtado looks back on without bitterness, but with wistful reverence. Nelly has apparently called this her “hangover album” and it seems a perfect moniker, as it’s like the time you wake up the next morning and remember with horror or happiness the good times you manifested for yourself. Sometimes it can be a wild ride.
Key Tracks: Magic, Sticks and Stones, Live
Bob Dylan – Triplicate
Maybe Bob should stick to winning Nobel prizes. His original stuff always tends to be much better, and I’ve always been a fan of his actual poetic composing. Here, though, I knew he was going to attempt to cover some of his favorites from the past – like Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cy Coleman. It may seem strange, but Dylan obviously had inspirations before becoming the crown prince of MacDougal Street, where his scratchy drawl enchanted millions. Here’s the thing – those vocals were bolstered by some of the best lyrics of the second half of the 20th century. So as he ages, and that voice loses its charm, he may want to stick to what he did even better – write us some magic. Sure, there are moments of clarity, like the aforementioned Carmichael’s hit “Stardust” which is posted above. For the most part, though, Dylan will fade into the sunset as a marvelous performer (see his shows, they’re better live now than anything recorded) and more importantly, a genius lyricist.
The Kooks – “Be Who You Are”
Join us next week as we finally hear the hotly anticipated new release from Michelle Branch, as well as the latest from Cold War Kids, Father John Misty and The New Pornographers!