PRIESTS- NOTHING FEELS NATURAL
Debut album by D.C. based, mostly-female, political punk rockers is a perfect antidote to Trump-era nonsense. It was released back at the top of this year but I finally got around to listening to it in August. Like 70’s punk & post-punk bands like the Raincoats and the Slits, Priests are far more interesting than straight-ahead, paint by numbers punk, adding elements of funk, jazz, reggae and indie-rock. First single “JJ” is the catchiest track, but closing cut “Suck” is the most musically interesting. “Nothing Feels Natural” is a barely thirty minute album with not a second wasted.
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CALVIN HARRIS- FUNK WAV BOUNCES VOLUME 1
“Funk Wav Bounces” is a lightweight, but perfect summer party album with a slew of top-notch famous guest stars including Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Future & Migos. While not every track is a winner , the album contains at least a handful of great singles, including song of the year candidate “Slide” (featuring Frank Ocean & Quavo), along with second single “Feels” & “Rollin”. The lack of heft from the album’s deep cuts does little to detract from its overall playability- it’s the perfect soundtrack to a summer BBQ.
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IRON & WINE- BEAST EPIC
Iron & Wine’s sixth album shows Sam Beam and company returning to the sparer, more stripped down sound of their earliest records, after more recent more band-oriented efforts. At this point, it is same to call Iron & Wine one of the most consistently good bands in indie-rock as they’ve yet to have a misstep. While “Beast Epic” may lack immediacy, there are no bad moments and it’s a gorgeous listen from start to finish. The majority of this album is just Beam’s beautiful voice, his acoustic guitar and some strings and the occasional bass to back him up. I’ve really enjoyed the group’s busier sounding records as well but this return to roots is nonetheless refreshing.
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QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE- VILLAINS
Mark Ronson-produced seventh album shows this hard-rock institution at its most ass-shakin’ and experimental. Queens have always been a groove-oriented group but I’ve never heard them actually this close to danceable. Lead single “The Way You Used To Do” seems prime to take over radio but most tracks run into the five to six minute mark. This does not make them inaccessible. Any long-time fan of Queens will not be disappointed.
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THE WAR ON DRUGS- A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
Fourth album find Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs really settling into a groove after 2014’s incredibly well received “Lost In The Dream”. With a sound and production deeply indebted to mid eighties Boomer-rock (think “Avalon”-era Roxy Music, mid eighties-Dire Straits, late-eighties Springsteen with less nasally Dylan-esque vocals) TWOD is able to remind listeners of that throwback era, while maintaining its own singular, recognizable sound. Led by frontman/songwriter and guitarist Adam Granduciel, the group’s big, busy sound is machine-line in its precision offering a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. Though tracks like “Pain”, “Holding On” and the 11 minute plus “Thinking Of A Place” do stand out, “A Deeper Understanding” is best listened to as a whole- it’s a album that allows you to get lost inside of it.
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