Posted in Album Reviews

Robyn – Honey (2018)

518cre-ga9l._aa327_ql65_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.

8/10

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Posted in Album Reviews

Suede – Suede 25th Anniversary Box (2018)

41UGF-IRwgL._AA327_QL65_In early 2018, Suede released the 25th Silver Anniversary edition of their classic debut s/t album.  Here it appears remastered with three additional discs of music + a DVD.  At the time Suede released their debut album in early 1993, it was the fastest selling debut in UK music history.  Famously appearing on the cover of Melody Maker magazine before releasing their first single, the build-up/hype through 1992 was palpable through the UK press.  There are many examples through history of the music press building the hype of a mediocre band just to tear them down again. This was not the case here.  A clutch of brilliant singles and a near flawless album saw Suede release great music through the mid-90s.

Led by songwriting duo Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler, Suede mixed the glamour of Bowie, the melancholy of every day life of The Smiths, and a punk-like energy.  Second single “Animal Nitrate” bristles with sexual violence with Anderson shouting “what does it take to turn you on?” as the track reaches its emotional apex before the handclaps appear to add a spark.  “Metal Mickey” reached #17 on the charts and was the band’s introduction to many teenagers.  The glam stomp lays the groundwork from where Anderson whoops and hollers through the verses and chorus.  “So Young” is a strong opening track mixing the anthemic with melancholy, featuring a piano interlude much to Butler’s chagrin but one that really adds to the track.

The melodrama is ratcheted up on “Sleeping Pills” inspired by housewives abusing valium with Anderson pleading, “don’t take those sleeping pills, it’s only time they kill”.  “Pantomime Horse” and “The Next Life” both feature Anderson’s dramatic vocal phrasing.  “Moving” and first single “The Drowners” spare no energy with the latter featuring a slowed down chorus.  Where the debut falters is on lesser tracks “Breakdown” and “Animal Lover”.  Those tracks aside, this is one of the best UK indie rock debuts ever and helped usher in the Britpop movement that would dominate British music over the next few years. (9/10)

Disc two features B-sides released during this time period.  “My Insatiable One” is one of the best tracks the band has ever done.  A classic pop rock melody makes it one of the most enduring songs in the Suede cannon. “To The Birds” is close to classic status as well.  Butler’s guitar with Simon Gilbert’s drumming cranks up the tension before Anderson sings of a possible suicide.  These two tracks should have appeared on the debut.  “Where the Pigs Fly”, “He’s Dead” and the lovely “High Rising” are all fine tracks before the excellent cover of The Pretenders’ “Brass In Pocket” appears to close out the disc. (8/10)

Enjoyment of disc three will depend on your love of “The Drowners” which appears three different times through the twenty tracks.   Featuring demos, monitor mixes and a BBC appearance; disc three is a bit of a mixed bag.  The songs are excellent but the versions are mostly similar versions to what appeared on official releases but with cheaper recording equipment.  The Mark Goodier BBC 1 sessions featured on this set catch the young band performing several tracks that would appear on the debut a year later. (7/10)

Disc four is a 1992 live concert from Sheffield’s historic venue, The Leadmill.  The audio is mostly terrible but energetic and amusingly captures snippets of the audience chatting.  Unless you were there, not much reason to listen to this more than once.  (5/10)  Along with TV appearances, the DVD features an hour-long interview with Anderson/Butler that offers insight into the recording of the tracks including B-sides.  Much contradictions of Anderson appears as Butler seems to have the better memory but great moments abound and it’s terrific seeing the two together, looking healthy and happy after hard living through the 90s. (7/10)

After reading about this boxset, I originally put my money down on the 2CD + 1DVD set that was released in 2011.  Unfortunately, that set arrived with a cracked case so had to be shipped back.  The music therein was amazing so I instead ordered this version when my refund appeared.  The 2011 version should be fine for most, especially at half the price, but if you have the money and are a fan of this era of Suede, this set is worth the extra expense.

Box Set – 8/10

Posted in Album Reviews

boygenius – boygenius EP

41ooXj9pHML._AA327_QL65_The much talked about EP from super group boygenius is the work of Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. Each singer brought one song to the project along with one additional idea. The result is a six song EP that takes in folk, country, and indie rock.  It is no surprise that the strong female group has covered the Dixie Chicks in concert.

Highlights include the EP rock opener “Bite The Hand” that features all three singers on the powerful “I can’t love you how you want me to” refrain.  “Me and My Dog” has a super pop country chorus and “Salt in the Wound” has some of the best harmonies on the EP’s 22 minutes.  The acoustic closer “Ketchum, ID” doesn’t quite work but that is a minor quibble on a good collection of songs.

7/10

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Snail Mail – Lush (2018)

41FNMJG9mAL._AA327_QL65_Just as summer was starting, 19 year old Lindsey Jordan’s debut album as Snail Mail was released by Matador Records. Matador is a fitting label for Lush as it recalls early 90s “slacker” bands like Pavement and Jale.  Growing up in Maryland, Jordan was a big hockey fan and player, the sport features prominently in the video for second single “Heatwave” whose upbeat chorus and crunching guitars are one of the finest moments on the album.

Jordan’s deadpan delivery doesn’t change much over the course of the melancholy ten tracks.  On first single, “Pristine” it is used to great effect as she delivers the lines “it just feels like the same party every weekend…and if you do find someone better/I’ll still see you in everything”.  The drum fills and tambourine on “Let’s Find An Out” add a subtle dimension to the song.  “Speaking Terms” features a nice guitar line with drums punched up in the mix.  Elsewhere, Lush is an album where the singles are certainly a step above the other tracks. With four very good songs, Snail Mail has a lot to grow on.

6/10

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Cat Power – Wanderer (2018)

51Yu4i3coML._AA327_QL65_The latest album for Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, is not without controversy.  The Wanderer is her first album since 1996 not released on Matador Records who rejected the new album when presented.  This lead to a delay of over a year but resulted in a positive when first single “Woman” with Lana Del Rey was added. The defiant track features Cat Power and Del Rey duetting on verses and blending their voices during the chorus.

This is a spare, blues and folk record.  Often times Cat Power is just accompanied by a guitar, piano and other light instrumentation.  The title track is almost hymn like, solemn and reflective.  “Horizon” is a letter to the family and features an uplifting guitar line that feels like it’s building but never quite gets there. Second single “Stay” is a cover of a Rhianna track that Marshall heard while travelling in a cab.  Self-produced, The Wanderer is the record that Marshall wanted to make.  Quiet and personal, it is one that as it unfolds over the nearly 40 minutes is unfortunately hard to not have the mind start to wander as well.

7/10