250 word album review: Melanie Brulée – Fires, Floods & Things We Leave Behind

Melanie Brulee - Fires, Floods & Things We Left Behind

Stars4.5

Country music is stronger than it has been in decades. Tons of young artists are pushing through with really strong country and western records and that wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. Now a new wave of the genre is gaining momentum and artists like Canada’s Melanie Brulée are a big reason why.

On “Fires, Floods & Things We Leave Behind” Brulée dishes out a full spectrum of country from classic Patsy Cline style country to pop country. On the opening “I Will” you’ll find Brulée’s band finding some mariachi chords while she dips into some relationship whoas on the strong album opener. On “I’ll Get Over You” she delves into pure guilt pop with a great melody and plenty of hooks. The song is the strongest here and shows she can use the pop music machine to push her songs to the next level when needed. On a much more stripped down note you’ll get the singer/songwriter version of Brulée on “You Can’t Rely On Rain” and the steel guitar adorned “Tennessee Years.” She breaks into early 90s radio power country on the relaxing song “Whiskey and Wine” that would make Reba McEntire blush. The song is as ready for the charts as Brulée will ever be. On the more raunchy “Bust It Up and Fix It” she lands a great bluesy number showing how well rounded she is.

Melanie Brulée’s music is far less known than she should be, this album proves she is among the best and most versatile of the genre.

Key Tracks: “I’ll Get Over You” “Whiskey and Wine” “Bust It Up and Fix It”

 

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250 word album review: Grindstone Creek – Low Down, Dirty and Mean

Grindstone Creek - Low Down, Dirty and Mean

Stars4

Grindstone Creek isn’t your father’s country, but they are also a hell of a lot closer to your father’s country than current country. The twang is unmistakably there but there’s also guitar licks that would be more at home in a metal club than a bar with a mechanical bull.

“Who I Am” leads off the album as a disclaimer, it immediately shows that this band has far more snarl an attitude than you’d expect. The album’s music is thick and tough and the lyrics match. Singer Kari Crow pushes a rigid point of view touching on broken trust, lies and lots of hard liquor. On the very pointed “Suck City” a direct message is delivered to an audience of one and on “Villians” you see the crew in relax mode looking for the bottom of the bottle. The St. Joseph based band also powers through an appropriate love/hate relationship song about their home base on “Joe Town.” On the more straight forward country “Right In Front of Me” Crow tries on her more gentle vocal approach helping the band cash in on likely their most radio friendly track. The sentimentality doesn’t last long though, songs like “At The Bar” and “Barfight Rodeo” are much more common here and better define the band and album.

This brand of scuzz country is refreshing, Grindstone shows that you can bump up the twang and not lose your edge. It’s a breath of fresh air for music fans who don’t like country or are tired of country.

Key Tracks: “Villians” “Right In Front of Me” “Who I Am”

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Album at a glance: Waxahatchee – Great Thunder

Waxahatchee - Great Thunder

Stars4

Waxahatchee follows the breathrough album “Out In The Storm” with this nearly solo piano laden record of older songs from her former band. Waxahatchee is essentially Katie Crutchfield and on this 6 song EP she shows it.

These songs are dusted off from her previous band Great Thunder (hence the clever name of the album) and are rerecorded to fit the Waxahatchee mold and they work well. It is a stark departure from most of the harder indie rock you’ll find on “Out In The Storm” but is very similar to other songs on that record like “Sparks Fly.” On this EP the star is the song “Chapel of Pines” without a doubt. Crutchfield’s personal accounts are her selling point in her music and this is no different, it seems even more intimate with the lonely keyboard notes. On “You Left Me With An Ocean” you can feel the heartbreak through the somber music and on “Takes So Much” you’ll be reminded why she is such an indie darling. While she howls “Take it out on me baby” on that final track it is difficult not to feel the connection to the songwriter.

This EP is a great diversion from the last record and these songs work very well together. These song would be hard to work into an album with blasting songs like “Sliver” (assuming that is still in Waxahatchee’s future direction) but as a group here will clearly be an essential part of the band’s catalog.

Key Tracks: “Chapel Of Pines” “Takes So Much” “Singer’s No Star”

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250 word album review: Ben Pirani – How Do I Talk To My Brother

Ben Pirani - How Do I Talk To My Brother

Stars3.5

It’s hard to imagine Ben Pirani nailing the old soul sound any more than he does on “How Do I Talk To My Brother.” The fact that so many artists are striving for this “new retro” is very refreshing.

On the opening “Try Love” you get some Temptations style soul groove as the old school up-beat mentality shines through. The horns blast with some call and answer vocals on “Not One More Tear” as the songs faster tempo really pulls the album’s socks up to some 70s style danceable music. It’s hard to not get a little bogged down by “Art School Girl” as it’s so early teens sounding, the song would have not been out of place in the 50s when prom dance songs were all the rage but now it falls a little flat. The super slowed down song sounds a bit on on the nose. The band immediately gets its momentum back on “Can’t Get Your Own Way” though. The great psychedelic guitar lick to start the song would make The Box Tops blush. The song meshes some British Invasion with southern soul which is a very intriguing mix. There is some great organ work on “You Brought The Rain” and there are plenty of slow soul jams like “Dreamin’s For Free” and “It’s Understanding.”

The new retro soul album is very well done, clean production and a vintage sound. The songs fit the bill too, the album won’t blow you away but it’s just a solid listen through and through.

Key Tracks: “Can’t Get Your Own Way” “Not One More Tear”

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Album at a glance: Emmaline Twist -Dissimulation

EmmalineTwist

Stars4

Emmaline Twist is straight to the point on “Dissimulation.” They take an Interpol style drone and put together a short but compact shoegaze album that will survive repeated listens.

The band’s strong rhythm section locks in on each song and creates a landscape for the lyrics to breathe on. On the opening “Desperate Measures” you get a microcosm of the album right away. Meredith McGrade’s always controlled vocals light the songs up where they could probably stand alone as atmospheric instrumentals. There isn’t a ton of variance among the 8 songs here but “Almost Blue” has a little bounce to it and as per the rest of the record, the band follows bass player Kristin Conkright’s lead as the bass adds as much texture to the songs as the guitar does. It’s easy to lose track lyrically on the album but “Catch Like Fire” sticks out as a premium track with some clever metaphors. The album is really about solid shoegaze and a band really holding strong to a rhythm and jamming off of that.

Key Track: “Deperate Measures”

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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”

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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”

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