Since 2015, the release schedule for the band Beach House has been many. Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars appeared within a few weeks of each in 2015 and this was followed up with a B-side and rarities collection last year. 7 is the Baltimore band’s latest release. For this listener, having those two 2015 releases come out so quickly muddied the waters and it was hard to commit to either.
In March, the band released their best song in years, “Dive”. Atmospheric at first before giving way to a driving guitar that blows all the clouds away, this is one of the singles of the year thus far. “Pay No Mind” is BH at their most straightforward but also most effecting. The vocals are more upfront so you can hear the sweet chorus more easily. First single “Lemon Glow” is darker with an insistent hi-hat that gives a slight witch house feel throughout. The electronic influenced “Black Car” recalls Ladytron without the icy vocals whereas acoustic guitar nicely warms up the otherwise melancholy “Lose Your Smile”.
Throughout 7, the duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally move from strength to strength. The varied styles all flow together and make it an easy album to listen to on repeat. Time to go back and give a re-listen to those albums from 2015 that didn’t immediately hit the first time around. This also marks the first ever streamed album review for this website. Our 40 year old listening habits are evolving along with the Beach House sound.
On October 2nd, 2017 the world was saddened to learn that American rocker Tom Petty had passed away due to an accidental overdose of prescription pain medication. The surprising news came as Petty and the Heartbreakers had just wrapped up tour of the US that ended a week before his death. In recent years there have been two remastered vinyl box sets released of the band’s music but none of this on CD. With the first set hovering in the $300 range, to tide us over before investigating the early Petty records to add to our meagre Petty collection, we instead opted for the more economical Greatest Hits set.
Comprised of 18 tracks, the Greatest Hits runs in chronological order and covers all the major singles from 1976 to 1993. First half highlights include “American Girl”, “Refugee”, and “Don’t Do Me Like That” with “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Into the Great Wide Open” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” appearing in the second half. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” sung with Stevie Nicks is a welcome addition to the original track listing and appears as the last track. The set also features lesser hits like “Here Comes My Girl” with it’s cascading piano in the chorus, the synth driven “You Got Lucky” and “The Waiting” whose chorus has been lodged in this writer’s head for days.
This remastered version was released in 2008 and while I’m not an audiophile by any stretch, the sound can be a bit tinny with not much in the way of bottom end. Musically, if there is any knock on it, the album at times suffers from over familiarity. Listen to any rock station in North America, a lot of these songs will appear within a few hours. It’s the sound most of us have heard throughout our lives and has been the soundtrack to high school proms, long car rides, days at the beach and drinking beers on patios. As noted many times at his death, Tom Petty was beloved by all. Leaving a lot to still discover in his back catalogue as well as latter day tracks not represented here, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits is a brilliant introduction to many of the band’s best tracks.
One of the first must check out albums that came out in 2018 was from the Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg in First Aid Kit. After their debut in 2010, the sisters continued to grow with their last two albums. 2014’s The Lion’s Roar had several great singles and 2016’s Stay Gold capitalized on that success by making their sound a bit slicker but not quite crossing over to pure pop.
After a relationship break-up, Klara met up with her sister to begin work on Ruins before eventually moving North to Portland in order to work with producer Tucker Martine. Unlike Stray Gold, Ruins dials things back with more a minimal sound. First track “Rebel Heart” brings FAK’s distinctive harmonies to the forefront right away. First single “It’s A Shame” is a standout before the cliché named but pretty early 60s styled ballad “Fireworks” slows things down.
“To Live A Life” is spare with just an acoustic guitar moving most of the track. From there it’s a mix of old style country and folk tunes with the last third of Ruins never particularly breaking any new ground. A good but not great album from First Aid Kit.
British music icons, Pet Shop Boys, have been recording music for more than 30 years together. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe released their first album Please way back in 1986. Preceded by the single “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” the year before that withered on the charts before disappearing, the duo returned with the classic techno pop single “West End Girls” that went to #1 in both the UK and coveted US market. A grey sky video shows the pair walking around parts of London which captured the eye and ears of this young writer (I was 11 at the time) and may very well have influenced my eventual move to the UK for a couple of years after university.
“West End Girls” is one of the most memorable singles of the 80s and appeared as song one on the band’s first greatest hits compilation, Discography. Three other tracks from Please also made the cut on that album including “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” whose re-released version made it into the top 10 in the US, the sort of ballad “Love Comes Quickly”, and “Suburbia” (presented here without the single’s memorable barking dogs). Superb album track “Tonight Is Forever” appears after this run of singles. It would be hard to keep up the momentum and that is what happens with last four fine but non-essential tracks.
The 2018 Further Listening version comes with an extra disc of remixes, 7”/12” edits, and B-sides. Two versions of “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” are included with the 12” version being the preferred. “West End Girls” appears in a dance mix that ups the percussion ratio to floor filling effect. B-sides include the “Blue Monday” sounding “In The Night”, upbeat “Was That What It Was” that could easily pass as a single and the dance track “Paninaro” presented here in it’s Italian Mix. The Further Listening disc of non-album tracks shows that there was very little drop off in quality from the excellent debut, Please.
Please – 8.5/10
Further Listening – 8.5/10
Back in 2013 we called New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo one of the greatest American guitar bands ever. The trio returns with their fifteenth studio album and first set of all originals since that year’s Fade album. While learning how to use Pro Tools, bassist James Mcnew started recording the band’s practice sessions and soundscapes which lead to working on songs for this release.
First single “For You Too” is lo-fi guitars teamed with heartbreaking lyrics – “but if it’s not too late, if I could protect you… maybe I could be that guy”. Ira Kaplan also takes on the vocals with mumbly goodness in “She May, She Might”. Georgia Hubley’s lead on “Shades of Blue” is surely one of the finest songs ever written about picking out paint colours. Instrumentals “You Are Here” and “Here You Are” do a fine job in bookending the disc.
In between, the album is broken up by three, five minute instrumentals including the atmospheric “Shortwave” and the jazzy “Above The Sound”. Having all three in a row slows the momentum down as the rest of the album is a mix of more instrumentals, song sketches, and subdued material. Only “Esporte Casual” lightens the mood and sounds like the kind of musical interlude that blur used to do so well. Several great Yo La Tengo tracks abound in the first half but the second half of There’s a Riot Going On is not nearly as memorable.