Posted in Album Reviews

The National – I Am Easy To Find (2019)

There is a lot to unpack when reviewing the new album from The National.  I Am Easy To Find is the follow-up to 2017’s Sleep Well Beast and it’s music is featured in short movie from director Mike Mills with several female singers appearing on the album such as Lisa Hannigan and Sharon Van Etten.  Mills is named as a co-producer on the album became a de-facto member of the group during the recording.

First single “You Had Your Soul With You” leads off the album with disorienting drums and electronics before the noise falls away with Gail Anne Dorsey singing, “you have no idea how hard I died when you left”.  “Quiet Light” is a more typical track from the band with just Matt Berninger singing and it’s added orchestration. “Oblivions” deals with the trials and tribulations of marriage with Mina Tindle offering a counterpoint to Berninger’s ruminations. Fourth single “Rylan” has been kicking around for a few years and  is another classic sounding track from the band that adds electronics and is (nearly) anthemic.

It is telling that the title track is one of the best songs but features a lyric Guided By Voices which is the part that sticks though Berninger’s low rumbling voice beneath Kate Stables’ singing “I’m still waiting for you every night with ticker tape” is great.  At 64 minutes, there are several moments that are professionally done yet just flat out dull.  It was recently noted on Steven Hyden’s twitter feed from fans that several of the new songs sound amazing live.  It is easy to imagine tracks like “Where Is Her Head” would light up a crowd.  At times the electronic bits and orchestration of Aaron and Bryce Dessner blunts the excitement and takes away from the excellent drumming of Bryan Devendorf.  While the music is mostly quite beautiful, too often it blends into the background.


Posted in Album Reviews

Huey Lewis and the News – Collected (2017)

When writing reviews for this website, we mostly try to be unbiased and just listen to the music but at times that can be hard to do.  In this case it may be darn near impossible. Huey Lewis and the News was the first band that I loved that was not influenced by my parents or brothers.  They were the first band that I considered mine as no one else in the family particularily cared.  Lots of others in North America cared as the band sold albums by the boatload throughout the 80s.  Universal in the Netherlands has been releasing these three disc collections for a few years.  The first two discs focus on the hits with the third being devoted to odds, sods and rarities. 

The first disc here covers the band’s self titled debut released in 1980 through 1986’s Fore!.  A whopping 8 tracks are taken from the band’s first two albums including their first top 10 hit, “Do You Believe In Love”.  Six tracks are taken from the band’s smash hit album, Sports, that sold 7 million copies in the US alone.  Rock music is celebrated on the “Heart of Rock n Roll”, a cover of “Heart and Soul” and “I Want a New Drug” where Lewis features his famous red suit in the video were all over pop rock radio in 1984 and form the core of this disc. “Power of Love” and “Back in Time” from the Back to the Future OST bridge to the tracks from Fore!.  Somehow Bruce Hornsby co-write “Jacob’s Ladder” was a #1 single in 1987 while “Hip To Be Square” is one of their liveliest numbers. (9/10)

Disc two continues with tracks from Fore! Before moving to 1988’s Small World.  Like a lot of bands the singles being released start to be on the slower side but “Perfect World” is one of the bands more memorable hits post Fore!. Social conscience starts to creep into the tracks on singles “Small World” and “Simple as That”. Blue collar tales of struggle take over lyrics about clubs and relationships from a few years earlier.  The blue eyed soul of “(She’s) Some Kind of Wonderful” and “But It’s Alright” add a shot of adrenaline to the mix with the latter being a particular highlight.  These tracks make a case for the band being the best bar band you’ll ever hear.  Lewis’ raspy yet soulful voice is pleasing and the band effortlessly move from rock to soul and back again. (7.5/10)

Part of the band started out as Clover back in the early 70s and backed Elvis Costello for his first album, My Aim Is True, before moving back to San Francisco and forming Huey Lewis and the American Express with members of Soundhole.  Songs from that era appear including oddball disco track “Excodisco”.  Elsewhere a cover of The Beatles’ “Oh Darling” is here before remixes of several hits from the golden age.  (7/10)  Dropping a few early tracks from disc 1 and adding the better tracks from disc 2 would more than satisfy most fans.  Those Huey fans wanting a deeper dive will be rewarded with several gems that appeared after the mid 80s heyday.   

Collected – 8/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride (2019)

One of my favourite things about any new Vampire Weekend release, is the savage critique that Jim DeRogatis from Sound Opinions levels at it.  While I generally don’t agree with much he says about the band, it is an amusing counterpoint to the near ecstatic reviews the band is used to.  On Father of the Bride, this is no different. With producer and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij no longer in the band but appearing here, it’s virtually an Ezra Koenig solo effort.  And what an effort.

Once again, the band chose to work with Modern Vampires of the City in demand producer, Ariel Rechtshaid.  Danielle Haim appears throughout the album most notably on the country sounding first track, “Hold You Now” and on what could be a lost Fleetwood Mac number from the 70s, “We Belong Together”. First single, “Harmony Hall” is the standout track from the first half of the album.  Alluding to hate speech appearing in universities, the mostly acoustic verses give way to nice piano bits in the chorus where Koenig makes the, “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die” lyric sound like an anthem.

Sharing the same name as a Charlie Puth track, “How Long”, has a slinky bassline that powers the music with a killer chorus that could easily be mistaken for the latest slick pop singer on hit radio.  One of the hardest songs here, “Sympathy”, with a vocal that sounds similar to Paul Simon, starts a run of music that is one of the best of the year.  “Stranger” also shares certain Paul Simon vocal influences but this time in a more upbeat, cheerful track.  Coming in at just over two minutes, “Sunflower” and its longer cousin “Flower Moon” both feature Steve Lacy from the band The Internet. “Sunflower” is the strongest of several shorter tracks that appear while the latter has a spoken vocal possibly influenced by Lou Reed.

Coming at eighteen tracks, there are a few slower moments like “Big Blue” that doesn’t leave much of a mark over it’s two minutes and “My Mistake” suffers the same fate. This is minor quibbles on an album that has several runs of great songs.  Coming into summer, this is definitely one to have on for long road trips and days at the beach.  Regardless of what either Sound Opinion guy says, this is one of the best releases thus far of 2019.


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The Cars – The Cars (1978)

Originating in Boston in the mid-70s, The Cars released their self-titled debut in the early summer of 1978.  Forever featured on compilations like Time Life Collections, the band was at the foreground of the new wave scene.  Adding synthesizers to classic, but minimalist songwriting proved to be a winner. Though none of the three official singles cracked the top 25, the album stayed on the charts for a mind boggling 139 weeks with most of the tracks being played endlessly on AOR radio stations.

In 2002, Elektra Records released The Cars compilation Complete Greatest Hits that pulled 6 of the 9 songs from the debut.  The three aforementioned singles; “Good Times Roll”, “My Best Friend’s Girl”, and “Just What I Needed”, are all classic American rock songs.  80s teenage movie goers will always remember “Moving In Stereo” being used to great effect in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Of the tracks not appearing on the greatest hits collection, only “I’m In Touch with your World” suffers from a bit too much artiness.  “Don’t Cha Stop” is a fun upbeat romp and “All Mixed Up” pushes the synthesizers to the foreground, adds some atmosphere with Queen like group singing and a fine sax solo at the end. 

The Cars debut features the songwriting of bandleader Ric Ocasek who wrote all the tracks with help from keyboardist Greg Hawkes on “Moving In Stereo”.  Bassist Benjamin Orr takes over lead vocals on several tracks including “Just What I Needed” and sounds very similar to Ocasek’s so blends in seamlessly.  Along with guitarist Elliot Easton and drummer David Robinson, The Cars was one of the best debut albums of the 1970s.


Posted in Album Reviews

Jenny Lewis – On The Line (2019)

On Jenny Lewis’ Wikipedia page, the reader is struck by how much she has accomplished in both TV/film and music.  Starting in acting at a young age, Lewis switched over to music with her old band, Rilo Kiley, formed with her then boyfriend Blake Sennett.  On The Line is her fourth solo album, including 2006’s release as the Watson Twins, and second since the break-up of Rilo Kiley in 2014. 

On The Line features an impressive list of collaborators including Beck and Ryan Adams (both producing), Ringo Starr, Don Was, Benmont Tench, etc. Common themes of drugs, drinking and broken relationships emerge throughout the eleven songs.  “Wasted Youth” is a peppy track that features the line, “I wasted my youth on a poppy, just for fun”.  First single “Red Bull & Hennessy” is a standout that is certainly more polished and somehow seems brighter than the other tracks here.  “Taffy” is slower and more dramatic as Lewis taps into her inner Lana Del Rey before the album ends on a sparkling, upbeat 60s influenced “Rabbit Hole” that namechecks both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The supporting cast never outshines the star, and it is clear that Jenny Lewis is the star here.  While failing relationships make up the bulk of the album, it rarely comes across as a downer. On The Line tells a lot of tales and is more than happy to bring the listener along for the ride.