Following up last year’s ecstatically received Sgt Pepper remix, The Beatles camp released their s/t 1968 double White Album also in remix form from Giles Martin. In mid-November the Celebration Rock podcast debated what tracks they would include if they cut The White Album down to just a single disc and neither host was happy with their choices. The sprawling double album has many hits, several misses and a few redundant tracks but without them all, somehow it doesn’t hang together as well.
On the new remix, tracks that in the past were easier to skip (to these ears) now have a new groove. “Glass Onion” has always been one of my least favourite later day Beatles tracks but here the background atmospherics are brought out to the forefront to add to the madness. “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” greatly benefits from a more exhilarating chorus. “Wild Honey Pie” on the other hand is still completely unlistenable.
On the second side, “Yer Blues” has John Lennon really going for it in the vocal but “Cry Baby Cry” all the way on side four is the better of the two. The latter appears before the cut and paste “Revolution 9” that could have been cut out altogether. Ignoring the hits spread across the album (“Back In the USSR”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”), the underlining memory of The White Album is that it’s challenging but going back and hearing it, many of the tracks are just terrific. Paul McCartney’s “I Will” is a pleasant pop song before Lennon’s “Julia” that is utterly beautiful.
Two of Lennon’s best album tracks appear here with “Dear Prudence” and the drowsy “I’m So Tired”. Non-singles “Birthday” is familiar to anyone who’s ever heard FM radio in their lives and vocal shredder “Helter Skelter” is a big part of late 60s dark crime wave. Everyone will have their random favourites with this writer’s being the jaunty Ringo Starr lead “Don’t Pass Me By” and the “Good Night” album closer that saw The Smashing Pumpkins Melon Collie years in the future.
On the three disc edition, the third disc is devoted to the famous Esher demos recorded at George Harrison’s home. A generous 27 tracks in acoustic form. The version of “Back In the USSR” with the double tracked vocals is superb, great musicians just banging around. “Mother Nature’s Son” sounds great and “Honey Pie” finds a new home as a campfire singalong. A few Harrison tracks appear such as the organ accompanied “Circles”, the angry “Not Guilty”, and “Sour Milk Sea”. Two Abby Road tracks also pop up in demo form – “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam”. Not really a disc to listen to all in one sitting but fascinating to jump around and discover different tracks. The six disc super deluxe edition offers a deeper dive into the valley of the White Album.
The White Album – 10/10
Esher Demos – 8/10
Honey marks the full length recording return of Robyn, the first since 2010’s compilation Body Talk. Title song “Honey” appeared in the final season of HBO’s Girls. Like first official single, “Missing U”, this is perfect futuristic pop music. Robyn has said that she spent more time on “Missing U” than any other tracks she’s ever recorded and it shows. The lyrics are heartfelt and the music sparkles with electricity
“Baby Forgive Me” begs for forgiveness while riding a slinky bass groove while “Because It’s In the Music” sounds like a lost Daft Punk track. Album closer “Ever Again” is mid-tempo 80s R+B before it turns into a synth rave. The best tracks are front loaded, towards the end “Beack2K20” is more of a interlude than song but continues for long five minutes and the house-y “Between the Lines” is less than essential. At nine tracks Honey is more often than not very good and at its best is peerless.
5. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour: Arguably the biggest country crossover into the indie rock world of 2018. Musgraves’ fourth major album release was as slick as they come but hard not to appreciate the quality of the songs. “Lonely Weekend”, “Space Cowboy” and album standout “High Horse” are the touchstones. But those are accompanied by opener “Slow Burn” and “Velvet Elvis”. While many of these songs could easily be featured in almost every commercial on TV, it doesn’t take away from the fact that virtually every one is a winner.
4. Mitski – Be The Cowboy : The first vocal on Mitski’s fifth album claims “you’re my number 1” which is fitting as this is topping album polls across the world. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes with most songs around the two-minute mark, it is easy to leave this one on repeat for a few hours. First single “Nobody” provides the longing that is at the heart of this album. The hard rocking “Remember My Name” is followed by the defiant “Me and My Husband”. There is a reason people keep talking about this album, the quick snapshots of music cut across numerous styles but most of all, it does them expertly.
3. Tracyanne & Danny – Tracyanne & Danny : Quietly one of the most welcome returns to music was from Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell. Her voice is like a warm fire on a cold winter night. Here she appears with Danny Coughlan and together they create one of the best runs of music in 2018 from first track “Home & Dry” to infectious single “Alabama”. Second half highlight belongs to Coughlan with his 50s style “Anybody Else”. Overshadowed by bigger releases, this Merge Records release is an easy album to fall in love with.
2. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel: In the disposable world of streaming and downloads, it’s rare that an album is a grower but Tell Me How You Really Feel did just that. Hard to get into at first, it feels disjointed and a bit of a downer album about touring but repeated listens prove that is not true. “City Looks Pretty” and “Nameless, Faceless” are dynamite indie rock songs. “Need A Little Time” features a pretty melody in the chorus and it’s all closed down with the melancholic uplift of “Sunday Roast”. Barnett tore the Winnipeg Folk Fest down on the Friday night this past summer. Too hard rocking for a lot of the crowd but was a glorious racket for the rest of us.
1. Beach House – 7: When reviewing the latest Beach House on the Celebration Rock Podcast, critic Steve Hyden talked about how 7 does exactly what he wants from a BH album. This is pretty much bang on. “Pay No Mind”, “Lemon Glow and “Dive” standout and the rest of the album does a very good job of being atmospheric and ethereal. “Lose Yourself” is beautiful as is “Woo” but with an 80s synth feel. 7 glides along on its rails and is happy to take the listener to the next station for its duration.