MARTY STUART & HIS FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES- WAY OUT WEST
A longtime country music new-traditionalist, Marty Stuart had been completely off my radar until this year. In addition to launching a solo career in the late eighties, Stuart had been a longtime touring sidemen for legends like Lester Flatt (of Flatt & Scruggs) & Johnny Cash. As per the album title “Way Out West” is much more a ‘Western’ album that anything resembling today’s country music. Stuart combines the sounds of sixties-style Bakersfield sound country music, bluegrass, psychedelia & surf music- a hodgepodge of sounds that he somehow is able to fit together to create an album that tells a story of the west and is a blast to listen from start to finish.
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FLEET FOXES- CRACK-UP
Fleet Foxes third album and first since 2011’s “Helplessness Blues” is their most musically complex & least song oriented album to date. “Crack-Up” needs to be listened as an album rather then piece by piece so that you can dive into its sheer beauty. Three of the tracks are over six minutes, including two song suites. It is safe to call “Crack-Up” progressive indie-folk. The Foxes’ signature gorgeous harmonies are in tact- there is not mistaking this band’s sound. It’s just so much denser and layered than ever before, but ultimately rewarding for the listener who sticks with it.
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Twenty year old, precociously talented Lorde follows up her wildly successful debut album (2013’s “Pure Heroine”) with “Melodrama”, which is five times better than her pretty great debut- an album which simultaneously shows major music growth, is a cohesive artistic statement and contains a collection of amazing songs and singles. It’s the best pure pop album of 2017 and one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Thematically “Melodrama” concerns the trials and tribulations of teenage life on the precipice of your adulthood. It’s a concept that’s been explored before for sure but Lorde’s expert writing makes the songs fee lived-in, authentic and autobiographical. The highlights are many- lead single “Green Light”, “The Louvre”, “Homemade Dynamite”, “Supercut” and album closer “Perfect Places”. It’s the type of album that could be generating hits for several years. Is Lorde the voice of her generation?
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JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT- THE NASHVILLE SOUND
After two solo albums (2013’s “Southeastern” and 2015’s “Something More Than Free”) which established Jason Isbell as one of the leading lights of alternative country, Isbell releases his first album with his band the 400 unit since 2011 and his third with the group overall. The Nashville Sound is less a singer-songwriter album and more of a southern rock album with gritty kick-ass songs like “Cumberland Gap” and “Last Of My Kind” which sound closer to the Drive-By Truckers than Isbell’s more recent solo output. Though “The Nashville Sound” has a few missteps great songs like the ones mentioned above, along with “If We Were Vampires” and “White Man’s World” make it another worthy listen for Isbell’s ever-growing fanbase.
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VINCE STAPLES- BIG FISH THEORY
“Big Fish Theory” is the second full-length (to go along with two standout EP’s) album for the Long Beach, California based rapper, further cementing Staples status as one of the young shining lights of modern hip hop. Like Kendrick Lamar, Staples is a great pure rapper who also has lots to say- he is a fearless voice in calling out societal hypocrisies and racial strife. On “Big Fish” he marries his intellectual raps to club music beats, which are specially indebted to late eighties/early nineties Chicago & Detroit House and Techno music. Early highlights include lead track “Crab In A Bucket” and Kendrick Lamar featuring “Yeah Right”, but I’m excited to dig into this album further.
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