After collaborating with Sparks in 2015, the newly reconfigured Franz Ferdinand line-up return with Always Ascending. Lots has changed in the Franz world – heartthrob guitarist Nick McCarthy is sitting this one out with keyboard player Julian Corrie and ex 1990s guitarist Dino Bardot entering the picture. The build-up that opens the title track is exciting and sounds like the background music to an action movie trailer. On the other hand I could do without the less than inspiring refrain of “I’m a lazy boy” chant in “Lazy Boy”.
The 80s keyboards are a nice touch in “Lois Lane”. “Huck and Jim” sounds like two mediocre song stuck together. Maybe I’m a sucker for slower FF tracks (see: “Eleonor Put Your Boots Back On“) but the much maligned “The Academy Award” is the song that sticks the most when the disc has stopped spinning. I don’t think it’s a great song but the stylized up-tempo numbers mostly blend together and unlike past releases, very little here particularly stands out.
Released in October 2017 on Matador, the shaggy hairs Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile released an album that they had worked off/on for two years. Matador Records is a fitting company to have released this on as it has much in common with early 90s indie rock. It is a mixture of Pavement, Yo La Tengo’s Fakebook album, the bluesy grunge sound of Seattle, and a cover of Belly’s “Untogether” tacked on at the end for good measure.
First track and single, “Over Everything” sees Kurt and Courtney tripping over each other to trade verses about songwriting which is a topic revisited in “Fear Is Like a Forest”. Trading songs to cover, Kurt tackles “Outta the Woodwork” and plays it slow and dirge like while similar to the original, Courtney takes on Kurt’s “Peepin’ Tom” with just her guitar. Album highlight “Continental Breakfast” is funny and clever, “Blue Cheese” is slacker tunefulness. The album could use some editing in spots but overall this is a welcome diversion for fans of both artists.