Music to Your Ears: Elle King, mø and Disturbed

Disturbed – Evolution

I really don’t know what I expected with this. The current princes of nu-metal exploded on the scene while we got ‘Down With The Sickness’ back in 1999, and I also enjoyed ‘Stupify’ from that album (The Sickness), I never really gave them much thought since. I’m not really a metal fan per se, so that’s most of it. Like my favorite genre, British garage rock, they rode out the wave of pop sensationalism and came out surviving with concert money and multiple even-keeled albums. Their recent resurgence was brought about by a decidedly proper version of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’ which was 2015’s earworm ala Weezer/Africa. This is a surprisingly subdued follow-up, I’m guessing in part because of that cover’s success – in fact, the cover resides later in the record. When Chicago native David Draiman lays his steady voice down over a somber acoustic guitar chord or two from longtime member Dan Donegan, it chills the harsher flow of their music. The opener “Are You Ready” implies a rougher hewn landscape for the album, but they solidify their new standing in the musical world with this somber “A Reason to Fight.” As the work proceeds, it’s clear this isn’t your older brother’s Disturbed. Welcome to a brighter future for metal fans?

Key Tracks: The Best Ones Lie / Saviour of Nothing / No More

mø – Forever Neverland

I’m into mø’s sound – the dysphonic pop medley soaring past her searing vocals. She reminds me of several other contemporaries such as fellow Scandinavian Ida Maria or collaborator Charli XCX, although her own spin on pop sticks out thanks to the higher register vocals. “Nostalgia” is the high point in the album, with its discordant instrumentals and mø’s ability to navigate that detritus by waxing poetic on subject matter such as puppy love and youthful rebellion. Her songs often sound cheerier but belie a rougher hewn storyline, something I love in music these days. When there’s layers to a song you have to peel back over multiple listens, there’s a chance at a good album. Throw in some electronic background and you have a danceable therapy session.

Key Tracks: Red Wine / Nostalgia / If It’s Over

Elle King – Shake the Spirit

What a delightful surprise that Elle King has such a sparkling sophomore serenade for us after the overplayed “Exs and Ohs” dominated the airwaves back in 2015. The jamming starts and never lets up over the course of this session alongside the breakout star, who ably proves she wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. The first single, “Shame,” isn’t even the best song on the album, but it separates itself from that massive success just enough. The soul infused into her voice proves King knows her way around a melody, and her voice is distinctive enough that she isn’t just another jukebox starlet. Even when the pace slows down a bit, as on “Naturally Pretty Girls”, you still find yourself tapping along. There she also let’s the instruments do the heavy lifting, with the percussion line being the most memorable portion. There’s even a country sound beating at the heart of some of the soulful rounds, such as later track “Good Thing Gone”. I’m thrilled that this may end up in my end of the year list, as I was suspecting this to be more of a disappointment, but she sticks around in your brain longer than I ever would have expected.

Key Tracks: Baby Outlaw / Little Bit of Lovin’ / Ram Jam

Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army

After the infamous Pitchfork review this week that eviscerated them went viral, I had to give this Led Zeppelin influenced band a listen. The foursome from Frankenmuth, Michigan are not too terrible – honestly, the author of that article is more upset that a band like this, finding their way onto shelves in Targets everywhere can be so obviously manufactured to sound like a baby boomer’s wet dream. There’s a line in my favorite song of the year so far, “Give Yourself a Try” by the 1975, where singer Matthew Healy laments being a shut-in, though his father’s generation would prefer it. I think our generation doesn’t love it when we pander to the sounds of our yesteryear, but maybe this group just adores that music as well and wants to ape a sound that itself was already cribbed from earlier African-American rock groups? It’s inoffensive, and that may be some sort of lower common denominator, but I’m not going to say it’s the end of quality as we know it. Jet got this argument back during their debut in 2003, when they were easily compared to bands like Zeppelin as well as their country compatriots AC/DC. I don’t think this album is particularly riveting, but they’re not a waste of time. Maybe form your own opinion by giving it a listen.

Key Tracks: The New Day / When the Curtain Falls / The Cold Wind

Next week sees the return of Robyn after an eight-year hiatus, new hits from The Struts, and yup, you asked for it, the first album for Christmas – this, from John Legend. Pop in next week for some more pop goodness!


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