250 word album review: Say Hi – Caterpillar Centipede

Say Hi - Caterpillar Centipede

Stars4.5

Say Hi completes a big comeback with their latest album “Caterpillar Centipede.” They have picked up where they left off with the great run of “The Wishes & The Glitch” “Oohs & Aahs” and “Um, Uh Oh” from 2008 to 2011. Since those great albums Eric Elbogen experimented heavily in electronic music, crescendoing with “Werewolf Diskdrive” last year.

The difference is really in the presence of guitar based rock. At his/their (Elbogen is Say Hi) best they are really a great power pop band. Keyboards have always been a part of the band but they really took over for a few years while Elbogen explored some new areas. When you hear the guitar punch on “Every Gauge Is On Empty” it is easy to reference those Say Hi records from now almost a decade ago. The sweet wordplay and weird analogies that make the band’s songs so clever and great are still around too, just take a listen to the off-kilter sentiment in “Sweaters.” On “I Just Wanna Go Home” there is simply some straight forward guitar rock and that is no way a bad thing. The song is probably as close to the Ramones as you can get for an indie darling like Say Hi. The best song of the record however is the reflective “Green With Envy” with the repeated chorus of “I shoulda been a better better better lover to you” driving the sad topic home without ever bringing the mood down.

It’s great to see Say Hi back to blasting guitars behind their well crafted songs and “Caterpillar Centipede” is among their best albums to date.

Key Tracks: “Green With Envy” “Every Gauge Is On Empty” “Sweaters”

Advertisements
Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250 word album review: William Elliott Whitmore – Kilonova

William Elliott Whitmore - Kilonova

Stars3

William Elliott Whitmore curiously busts out of the gate in his Bloodshot Records career with a covers album. The 10 songs here are largely familiar to Whitmore and some have been clamored for by fans for years.

Whitmore’s legendary live shows often have featured a few of these tracks thrown in and a couple other songs have appeared on obscure compilations or 7″ singles. Whitmore’s version of Bad Religion’s “Don’t Pray On Me” is a longtime standard at shows and a song that his fans know well. His (obviously) slowed down version hones in on the lyrics and gives the song even more credibility. On “Ain’t No Sunshine” you’ll hear a lonely bellow behind a full band, the best part coming in the succession of “I know”s where you can hear Whitmore turn away from the mic while singing like it was impossible not to do. “Fear of Trains” is a great slow telling that matches the style of the rest of his catalog as well. There are a few loose covers here that make this album feel like more of a B-sides than a more focused effort, like on “One Glass At A Time” and the acapella “Country Blues.” There’s some very experimental music on “Bat Chain Puller” the likes of which fans haven’t heard from the Iowa native.

This is a necessary piece of Whitmore’s catalog because of a few key songs but it’s hard not to yearn for an album of self-penned material instead. Much of “Kilonova” is fun and interesting and is worth seeking out for those tunes alone.

Key Tracks: “Don’t Pray On Me” “Fear of Trains” “Ain’t No Sunshine”

Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250 word album review: Marc Ribot – Songs of Resistance 1942-2018

Marc Ribot - Songs of Resistance 1942 - 2018

Stars4

Marc Ribot’s album “Songs of Resistance 1972 – 2018” is a compilation. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s look at one of the most powerful protest albums in recent memory.

Ribot enlists many of his big name acquaintances for this record, we are talking the clout of Steve Earle and Tom Waits. Ribot has an impressively vast range of abilities ranging from rock to folk to avant-garde guitar work and he unfurls it all here. There are guests on nearly every song from rap to folk and while the musical concentration is constantly shifting the focus of the record does not. The Tom Waits bellow on “Bella Ciao” is expectedly entrancing but the Steve Earle sung “Srinivas” outdoes it as the extremely political Earle powers his way through the first of his two appearances on this record. “The Militant Ecologist” is a slow burning song with tempered rage but the best song here is a moment when Ribot hogs the spotlight for himself. On “The Big Fool” the music builds and creates tension as Ribot howls over it like the ghost of Joe Strummer. It’s just the best of many good songs here and serves as an undeniable highlight.

“Songs of Resistance” is a surprisingly focused record in content considering the amount of musical shifts. The famous sideman Ribot really pulled a lot of influences together to make a powerful political album in an era that is shocking sparse of them.

Key Tracks: “The Big Fool” “Srinivas” “Bella Ciao”

Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250 word album review: Murder By Death – The Other Shore

Murder By Death - The Other Shore

Stars4

Murder By Death takes an ambitious step on their latest record “The Other Shore.” They attack a concept album with apocalyptic consequences and rocky results.

You get the typically thunderous combination of Adam Turla’s baritone vocals with his aggressive vocal delivery and┬áSarah Balliet’s prominent cello that has been the backbone of the band for nearly two decades now. You also get a band refusing to get stale and taking on the lyrical challenge of keeping a story together while making the music interesting. The storyline isn’t crystal clear here but the pieces are there, the bookends of “Alas” and “Last Night On Earth” being among the most telling. Those same two songs also serve as highlights among the 11 songs. “Alas” is a great opener and sets the drama the band is about to unfold while the epic closer “Last Night On Earth” ends the album on a gloomy note proving that not all endings are happy ones. “True Dark” really drives the album narrative home bringing up several recurring themes. On “Stone” you’ll find the most amorphous song of the group with the downtrodden narrator trying to rise to superhero status but always feeling like he is coming up short.

Concept albums are always fun but don’t always hold together, the musical mood here is the same Murder By Death we all know but also serves as the perfect gateway to the ambivalent storyline and serves as the glue. The darkness draws you in on “The Other Shore” and you won’t regret it, happiness is for ammeters anyway.

Key Tracks: “Stone” “Last Night On Earth” “Alas”

Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album at a glance: Ian Fisher – Idle Hands

IanFisherIdleHands

Stars3

Ian Fisher builds his new album “Idle Hands” on a foundation of piano balladry. He strays from this structure occasionally but Fisher crooning with the black and white keys is the backbone here.

On “Tables Turned” he shows his strong ear for pop music reminiscent of Harry Nilsson as he builds multiple hooks into a single song. His distinct voice helps keep the songs from fading into monotony which can occasionally happen with piano ballads. On “Road To Jordan” things get a little more interesting as it sounds like “The Man In Me” from Bob Dylan and on “Bed Downtown” Fisher sounds like John Lennon’s solo career if he would’ve dabbled with steel guitar. There’s a lot of unique stuff here but overall if you’re into 70s rock that doesn’t sound dated this album may be right up your ally.

Key Track: “Road To Jordan”

Posted in Album at a glance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250 word album review: Tyler Childers – Live on Red Barn Radio I & II

Tyler Childers - Live on Red Barn Radio I & II

Stars4

Album reviews are usually just vaulted comparisons and the really good ones avoid that trap. There are good reasons for saying “sounds like…” in a review and no tricks will be pulled here because the best way to represent what this album sounds like is to bring up former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell.

While Isbell’s post-trucker fame exceeds his time with the band, this record is reminiscent of early Isbell back when he drank, had that distinct heavy drawl and told stories of The South. Tyler Childers is a great songwriter in his own right but definitely follows this template. This collection of a couple live, in-studio radio performances possesses all those things and is all the better for it. When he blasts his way into “Deadman’s Curve” with the lyric “You can go to hell my dear…” you know he isn’t pulling punches. His vivid imagery and bullseye metaphors serve him well. The driving “Whitehouse Road” is an obvious favorite here with the great description of “rock gut whiskey” and his spirited delivery. He also hits his target on softer songs too like on “Rock Salt and Nails” that will make you think of Jason Isbell’s great opus “T.V.A.” with it’s meandering storytelling. Childers has a way to spin lyrics off his tongue that makes them memorable and just sound right.

Tyler Childers set the tone for his career when his album “Purgatory” broke through in 2017 but this album (recorded before “Purgatory”) may tell more about who he is. As long as he has a mic and and an acoustic guitar you can tell Childers will always be worth listening to.

Key tracks: “Deadman’s Curve” “White House Road” “Rock Salt and Nails”

Posted in 250 word album reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250 word album review: Under The Big Oak Tree – The Ark

Under The Big Oak Tree - The Ark

Stars4.5

Under The Big Oak Tree is already well established as one of the finer bluegrass outfits in the Midwest and with their third album release they show they are still growing as a group. Literally and figuratively that is, they added ace guitarist Jason Riley for “The Ark” and he is a big part of why this album sets itself apart from their other releases.

As the band has done in the past they show a range of emotions. There are several sincere songs here, from the deeply personal “Dear Brother” and “Daytime Moon” both penned by primary singer Kristin Hamilton to the Simon Fink composition “Love Me Like You Loved Me Back Then” that perfectly tensions the heart-strings. Even stand-up bass player Doug Ward gets in on the fun with the playful “For The Love,” making for one of the albums more colorful moments. The perky “O Marry Me Not” is clearly among the shining moments on the album with its sincerity buried under some lively playfulness. Some of the best songs here are dark in nature though, on “Eleanor” the grave mood the band often shows shines through with ominous music to match. On the title track “The Ark” you’ll get a perfect microcosm of the record as dark and light are held side by side, each with annotations and like the album, not one side is valued higher than the other.

The band continues to expand their sound here, eager to show their many talents and utilizing each band member’s skills, including new member Jason Riley’s heavily textured guitar. This is the group’s most interesting album to date and it begs for repeated listens.

Key Tracks: “O Marry Me Not” “Eleanor” “The Ark”

Posted in 250 word album reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment