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Music to Your Ears – Foo Fighters, Rostam and The Lone Bellow

Wasn’t sure if I’d pick this up this week, but beyond the new Foo Fighters album, I didn’t expect anything new. I was able to scrape together a few new albums and a single, though. Take a look:

Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

Woof. I was deeply enamored with Ariel Pink’s 2010 album Before Today, which featured the fantastic track “Round and Round”. He followed that up with a stellar album Mature Themes, in which the great song Kinski Assassin kicked off the action. Unfortunately for us, this newest album is dead on arrival. Screeching out of the gates, “Time to Meet Your God” is a grating request to turn down your speakers. “Feels Like Heaven” attempts to remedy the misfire by toning down the instrumentals, but the singer-songwriter doesn’t seem to care if this fades from memory before we even finish. The prevailing mood settles somewhere between ethereal and downright dull, but there’s at least one bright spot in all of this: “Bubblegum Dreams”. My ears perked up as it started, as it was more traditional Ariel. Perhaps that was the point, to try to branch out, but I think he just reached out in the wrong direction.

Key Tracks: Bubblegum Dreams

Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold

I’ve talked at length at the dearth of good rock music prevailing in radio these days. I was thinking today, however, that it’s just that pure rock has escaped to the fringes – the indie, the clubs, the nostalgic cover bands. There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing wrong with the change – as we evolve to a new form of rock, people that are thirty and older will have to discover something new to enjoy or grasp on to the last straws of rock, like two weeks ago when Queens of the Stone Age released a great new album, Villains, or now – a fantastic new album from classic nineties and aughts band Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl has been a mainstay on the scene for over three decades now, and it’s great to hear him admitting that sensitivity can funnel its way into his songwriting, like in my favorite track from the album, “Happily Ever After (Zero Hour)”. About two-thirds of the way through Concrete and Gold it feels like Grohl and the rest of the group just want us to relax, not worry about the end of the world, but take in their version of “It was all well worth it, I have no regrets”. Never fear though, true believers, there’s plenty of loud music to be had here: the one-two punch of first single “Run” and intimate rager “Make It Right” allow us back into the fray of Grohl’s world. After, second single “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” reminds us that latter-day Foo Fighters is anthemic but still full of pulp. The rest of the 11-song album is much of the same, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the collection.

Key Tracks: Make It Right / Happily Ever After (Zero Hour) / Sunday Rain

Rostam – Half-Light

I have to preface this by saying that I’m very happy Rostam Batmanglij has still found a way to get his voice out there, it’s definitely one of my favorites – and one half of the reason why I loved his old band Vampire Weekend in the first place. My fear, however, is that much like another favorite band – Panic at the Disco – he was the weakest link. Time will tell of course, like it has with Brendon Urie and his extensive discography, but my guess is that I will still love Ezra Koenig’s version of the group, and at least admire what Rostam does from here on out. It may be that the group’s fracture comes not like the one that did in the pop group Fun. but rather more that Rostam branches out all the time much like Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla eventually did a few years ago. As this record goes, it’s a fine solo debut, with much of the music intimately familiar with his previous work. As I listened through, I could call out which tracks sounded like old Vampire Weekend ones. That isn’t entirely a bad thing: “Wood” has an Indian instrumental base that immediately reminds of “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)” – a track from Vampire Weekend’s titular 2008 effort. “Bike Dream” is a dizzying revelation that has to be a play on massive hit “Diane Young”. “Never Going to Catch Me” has all the flair of “Everlasting Arms” sans the heart. All in all, it’s a fine thing that Rostam has done, and I hope he bucks the trend, ultimately working well alongside his reformed former band.

Key Tracks: Bike Dream / Don’t Let It Get to You / I Will See You Again / Gwan

The Lone Bellow – Walk Into a Storm

Speaking of the evolution of rock, a recent theme in popular music is the folk-rock movement. I hesitate to call it a bad thing, as many do – they cite weaker efforts from The Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men or Mumford and Sons. As I’ve been a long time fan of The Decemberists, I can see why this trend has picked up during the last decade. There was a need for more relatable tunes, and given the penchant for top-40 to feel edgy and alternative by picking up unknown bands, they latched onto the pseudo-country sound of these bands and ran with it. I don’t mind at all, as much of the music is full of emotions I want to hear about in music. The Lone Bellow, in particular, have a good grasp on what makes for a good album – as their newest starts out with a road-trip worthy song “Deeper in the Water” we ride along with them on a journey towards satisfaction. While the rest of the album doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of elation, I can imagine this being on Zach Braff’s short list for a new film, or playing in the back end of my next cross-country excursion. If nothing else, take a listen to “Come Break My Heart Again” an ode to those lovelorn lovers stuck in purgatory after a breakup.

Key Tracks: Deeper In The Water / Walk Into a Storm / Come Break My Heart Again

Next week is a big one – The Killers, Fergie, Chelsea Wolfe, Camila Cabello and Fergie! We’re going to do our best to get the facts to you as soon as they’re available!

Until next time…


Music to Your Ears – Bleachers, Halsey and Foo Fighters

Welcome back to this week’s version of Music to Your Ears, where we’ve got some tunes for your listeners. This week had a few surprise singles, as well as some inspired albums. Take a look:

Foo Fighters – “Run”

It’s been a while since the last Foo Fighters album, the Saint Cecilia EP that appeared briefly on our radars a little over a year and a half ago. For proper album music, we have to go back to 2014, so this is a welcome surprise in a week we’ve been hungry for escapism music. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the repetitive message – “Run” – that blared over a low-key chorus. It sounded to me like more of the same, and Foo Fighters might just be spinning their wheels. Then an aggressively metal sounded voice threatened to break through from the other side of the microphone, as Dave Grohl’s old self came along to let us know that the same guy can learn new tricks. The true chorus of the song is still a bit rock-2010s standard, but it’s still a welcome thought to have that Grohl and company are back, making the most of their talents.

Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”

Like most bands of the ‘aughts, Arcade Fire’s sound has evolved, particularly since their first album, the ethereal Funeral, which contained one of my favorite songs from that time period, “Neighborhood 2 (Laika)”. That track, one that contains the adolescent innocence of two neighbor kids discovering each other as well as the paranoia of a world waiting to crush them both down, is not exemplary of what Arcade Fire has become, although that probably tempers their emotions while playing live. “Everything Now” re-defines the message the band is going for, and like many groups playing into their thirties and beyond, accepts the fact that they didn’t die young and beautiful, but must figure out what that means for their longevity. An acceptance of that soul-crushing world is subtly creeping below lyrics like “Every inch of space in your head / is filled with the things that you’ve read”. They’ve just gotten better at masking the pain it details below danceable music, like a more prophetic Ra Ra Riot. Here’s hoping this title track is as good as the full album.

Halsey – hopless fountain kingdom

Okay, Halsey. You can start your album with the prologue to William Shakespeare’s most famous play, but I’m gonna think you’re really damn pretentious. Though, when one thinks about it, isn’t Romeo and Juliet one of the most effective narratives of artistic entertainment? Why not have it, when it’s clearly well known and there’s a reason the thing is popular? It will absolutely have an effect on the listening of your album, as it will color every track with a sentiment that you might have not only been inspired by the Bard’s classic, but that you yourself felt the same emotions that young Montague and Capulet shared in their brief time together. Shut your blinkers in “Eyes Closed” and you’ll wonder if Juliet was truly up for her romance. Listen between the late-90s inspired violins on “Walls Could Talk” and the lyrics remind you of Juliet’s nurse regretting what she’s done. While there’s a lot to read into, it’s obvious that Halsey has put out a well-defined production. All in all, the best part of this is that the album keeps going long before you’ve realised it, albeit in a slight 48 minutes. Even though this is her sophomore performance, Halsey is a welcome addition to those rebel chanteuses bursting on to the alternative electropop scene. This is a delightful precursor to Lorde’s upcoming album as well.

Key Tracks: Eyes Closed / Heaven in Hiding / Sorry

Bleachers – Gone Now

The Solomon Grundy lyrics that effuse themselves behind the opening track to Gone Now, “Dream of Mickey Mantle” tell its listeners that they’re in for something a bit different, albeit the obvious next step for Jack Antonoff in his storytelling since leaving band Fun behind. My friend Mike Duquette (founder of the stellar reissue blog and label The Second Disc) summed it up best after listening to the album this past weekend – “Imagine if Bruce Springsteen got way too into synthpop before Tunnel of Love“. In my opinon, the album as a whole reminds me of late-era Ben Folds after leaving behind his five. He almost talks to you like Folds did, and Antonoff includes several friends in semi-secret cameos, such as Lorde on the second verse of “Don’t Take the Money” or Carly Rae Jepsen joining in for the chorus of “Hate That You Know Me”. Those cameos elevate the songs, not that Antonoff needed it, for his vocals are indeed like Bruce in the prime of his career. If there’s any faults to find here, it’s that the back half of the albums slumps a bit, much like his first album Strange Desire. Also, while I’m satisfied with what I’ve heard, there’s a good and a bad take here. I like Strange Desire better as a whole, but Antonoff is at least attempting to branch out stylistically with each song. Most tracks from the former sound virtually the same, something I didn’t mind at the time, but I have a feeling Gone Now will resonate longer.

Key Tracks: Hate That You Know Me / I Miss Those Days / Don’t Take the Money

Dan Auerbach – Waiting on a Song

This is what we all needed this week, a chill folk guitar hammock album. When I worked in Best Buy from 2009-2012, I would listen to a handful of records on my Zune (dating myself of course) when I put new signage up before the store opened. One of those was Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and the Black Keys’ Brothers. Those two albums always felt intrinsically linked, and here Auerbach has somehow melded the feel both prior efforts captured for me. As he opens his thoughts to us, I can’t help but to think of Morrison’s humming a tune about how much his woman loves him. Auerbach has a way of stylising himself as a second coming of that era in American culture that we were looking for an outlet to both express ourselves against the man while also chilling out beneath the shade of an apple orchard. This album certainly encompasses that feeling, from the trumpets slipping between “Malibu Man” and lazily wandering around “Never in My Wildest Dreams” to the acoustic temperament of “King of a One Horse Town”. The only oddity here is the single “Cherrybomb” that definitively sounds more like a b-side from the Black Keys last album Turn Blue. It feels slightly out of place, despite it being a solid entry in Auerbach’s overall output.

Key Tracks: Livin’ in Sin / Stand by My Girl / King of a One Horse Town

Remember to come back next week to see new hits from Katy Perry, one final album from the impossibly timeless Glen Campbell, and maybe a few surprises?

I’ll also leave you with this brief (and better) review of Dan Auerbach, attached to that Bleachers comment from Mike Duquette: