Reviews of this week's CD releases
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/07/2017 (2033 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
POP / ROCK
Spitting Image (Universal Music Canada)
Irish mod revivalists The Strypes have been on a positively solid musical trajectory since their first release, Snapshot, in 2013. Now, with their third outing, the dynamic Spitting Image, they again make a case for being one of the best young bands on offer.
In fact, the quartet’s skill has reached the point that their song lyrics have expanded to the point that their life experiences are now confidently cast against their kinetically vigorous music.
There is more than a bit of world-weariness in the characters in Behind Closed Doors and the new wave-ish Consequence. The feverish (I Need a Break From) Holidays reeks of first world problems with the lyric “if you could get a tan from sitting in the pouring rain I’d do it in a second ‘cos I need a break from holidays.” The strummy vibe of Great Expectations plays out like something from the E Street Band’s early days with its tale of Johnny and Rosie and their on again off again routine romance and comes complete with great mid-song saxophone break. Mama Give Me Order hints at their still young age without sounding weak or confused.
And so it goes on SI. New guitar sounds have been incorporated and additional instrumentation (keyboards and horns) show excellent progress while remaining true to their pub/rock’n’roll roots. From pilled up young mods to elder statesmen in only three albums may not be a typical image but The Strypes continue to advance themselves in their own extraordinary way. ★★★★1/2
Stream: A Different Kind Of Tension, Black Shades Over Red Eyes
— Jeff Monk
ROOTS & COUNTRY
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
The Nashville Sound (Southeastern Records)
“Am I the last of my kind?” asks Jason Isbell on this record’s opening cut.
Isbell’s singing in the voice of a country boy who’s confounded by the modern world but listeners should be forgiven for wondering if he’s being self-referential. Guy Clark’s gone and Townes Van Zandt has long since passed. Rodney Crowell is 66 and Steve Earle is 62. The list of young singer/songwriters ready to pick up the mantle is brief but The Nashville Sound is evidence that Isbell is certainly capable of doing so.
In just 10 songs and 40 minutes, Isbell and the wrecking crew that is the 400 Unit bring to life the doubts and, hopes, fears and faith, obligations and yearnings that comprise life in the modern American south. Resonant with warmth, rife with exquisite performances, Isbell’s folk, country and rock songs explore the mythology of the south (Tupelo and Cumberland Gap, a resplendent electric rocker), the politics of race and identity (White Man’s World) and, as befits any singer/songwriter record worth its salt, the travails of love (If We Were Vampires, Something to Love).
The centrepiece and shining star of the record, though, is Anxiety, a breezy but damning confession-cum-condemnation (“A crowded room is a moving battlefield,” he sings) of a psychological affliction that affects far too many of us. Simply by singing about it so honestly, Isbell assures us that he is indeed one of a kind. ★★★★
Stream: Last of My Kind, Cumberland Gap, Anxiety
— John Kendle
If you aren’t a fan of the NBA — especially the Miami Heat — or not a heavy Snapchat user, you probably haven’t heard the name, DJ Khaled (Khaled Mohamed Khaled). Although you might have heard his Midas touch before.
One of the first Snapchat superstars who understood the platform and built a gigantic fanbase by giving people an inside look into his increasing extravagant lifestyle, he was also responsible for adding a bunch of phrases into pop culture and has flipped those catch phrases into a sprawling merchandise line. The man behind the curtain since 2006 (who loves the spotlight too), Khaled is able to pull together megastars like Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, JAY-Z, Rihanna, Drake, Alicia Keys, Future, Travis Scott, Rick Ross, Yung Thug and Migos to guest on his glitziest album yet.
From breezy songs for the summer like I’m the One with Justin Bieber, Quavo from Migos, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne to club-ready anthems like Shining featuring Beyoncé and JAY-Z to edgier cuts like It’s Secured, featuring Nas and Travis Scott, Khaled brings elements from all over hip hop culture.
But as stacked as Grateful is, it feels bloated, with unnecessary interludes and tracks like Unchanging Love and I‘m So Grateful weighing down the album.
Not that it will matter, DJ Khaled has created an album for our times, with tracks that can hit any number of playlists and likely dominate different formats on the radio. ★★★
Stream: It’s Secured; Shining ft. Beyoncé & JAY Z; Pull a Caper
— Anthony Augustine
Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski John Scofield (Motema Music)
If you ever wondered what would happen if you took four of the best long-established jazz guys and asked them for an album to prove they also really liked classic rock, wonder no more.
Under the name Hudson (referring to the general area where they all live in upper New York), the four are drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Larry Grenadier, pianist John Medeski and guitarist John Scofield. The Hudson Valley in north New York state was also home to the Woodstock Festival and Pete Seeger’s Clearwater movement.
While maintaining a solid jazz groove, the quartet mixes original tunes with covers like Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Woodstock, Lay Lady Lay, Wait Until Tomorrow and Up On Cripple Creek. As you might imagine, they have a great time creating someif terrific funky jazz. From the opening title track, the music straddles the genres with complete ease, blending electronic, rock-flavoured rhythms with very contemporary solo styles. Lay Lady Lay has a reggae beat and a wonderful solo by Scofield. Woodstock seems like an essential track for this album, and is a hymn to the whole concept.
If there is a sub-text of “get ourselves back to the garden,” the final track has hand drums and Native American chants – an unexpected finale to this excellent album. ★★★★1/2
Stream: Hudson, A Hard Rain’s A’Gonna Fall
— Keith Black
Schumann: Davidsbundlertanze/Humoreske/Blumenstuck (Hyperion)
This eagerly anticipated debut recording by Italian pianist Luca Buratto proves why he quite rightfully took top prize at the 2015 Honens Piano Competition, in addition to garnering third prize at the International Robert Schumann Competition three years prior. Each laureate of the prestigious competition held triennially in Calgary receives a recording contract with Hyperion, with this new release the first of those musical fruits.
The trio of Schumann works includes piano cycle Humoreske in B Flat major, Op. 20 composed in 1839, that Buratto approaches with an innate understanding of its poetic romanticism. He also heightens the dreamy Eusebius and more passionate Florestan contrasts of its seven sections performed attacca, displaying sublime lyrical phrasing and luminous tone throughout.
His elegant sensibility underscored by technical prowess is further showcased during the album’s second cornerstone Davidsbundlertanze, Op. 6, that ranges from its pensive second movement Innig, to more forceful thirteenth, Wild und Lustig. The pianist also brings out the good-natured twelfth, Mit Humor, and sixteenth section, Mit Gutem Humor, that always fit tastefully within the greater whole.
Buratto’s interpretation of the lone single-movement work Blumenstuck in D flat major, Op. 19recalls kinder, gentler times, despite its darker second theme hinting at coming storms for the mentally anguished composer. ★★★★1/2
— Holly Harris