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This article was published 26/7/2018 (1101 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
POP / ROCK
All That Reckoning (Latent Recordings)
A new Cowboy Junkies record is like a visit from an old friend you haven’t seen in years. Prior to meeting, you worry you’ll no longer have anything in common. A few minutes in, though, your misgivings disappear and it’s like you’ve never been apart.
So it is with the Junkies first studio album of their own songs in six years, an 11-song collection of ruminations on life’s journey and the state of the world. Still comprised of three Timmins siblings — singer Margo, guitarist/songwriter Michael and drummer Peter — with bassist Alan Anton, the moody quartet is here to remind listeners that spare guitars and breathy vocals were haunting audiences long before Lera Lynn captivated viewers in the second season of True Detective.
All That Reckoning is also a broad representation of all the Junkies can do. (Nothing here is quite as spare and heavenly as The Trinity Session — but that was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.) With Anton and Michael producing, the band is a taut, laconic roots-rock (some would say "death country") quartet working through a set of brooding songs whose moods perfectly match the tones of the stories they tell.
The Things We Do to Each Other slowly builds to a swirling crescendo, as Margo sings Michael’s warning about how easy it is for fear to become hate, while other arrangements (Sing Me a Song and All That Reckoning, Pt. 2) allow Michael to channel Neil Young on his electric guitar. On the feral, threatening Nose Before Ear, an electric guitar keens ominously in the background as Peter’s cymbals shimmer, Anton’s bass lopes along and Margo sings of a "landlocked sailor that cried himself to sea." There’s simple beauty, too, in The Possessed, a deceptively breezy ukulele and tambourine tune that closes the album.
★★★★ out of five
Stream these: The Things We Do to Each Other, Wooden Stairs, Nose Before Ear
— John Kendle
POP / ROCK
The Music of Grand Theft Auto V, Vol. 1: Original Music (Rockstar Games)
Grand Theft Auto V, which was released in the fall of 2013, demolished all expectations of playing in such a highly immersive video game. Gameplay, the design of the city of Los Santos and the story behind the game were not only innovative, they would set the standard for game and sound design that is still being refined by Rockstar Games through expansion packs for online play and missions for mobile devices.
Obviously, gamers enjoyed exploring and interacting with the vast city, but the game’s soundtrack was equally important in setting the mood of the city while also letting visitors tune in to a variety of radio stations while cruising in the latest vehicle they stole. These genre-focused radio shows elevated gameplay with unreleased tracks from artists like Twin Shadow; Tyler, The Creator; and Flying Lotus that reflected the mood of the City of Angels.
Hometown old-school hardcore punk supergroup Off! makes a rare appearance with the high-octane blast, What’s Next? Texas’s Neon Indian deliver the synthy electro-pop gem Change of Coast that’s just as you would expect to hear cruising around a sunny Los Angeles. Age of Consent keeps up that vibe with an arpeggiated ’80s-sounding tune called Colours.
In a time when playlists dictate how most consumers listen to music, this seems like a shrewd move by Rockstar. Not only can they represent the full album as a complete vibe, but individual singles will be picked up on playlists and generate more exposure for the exclusive music on the albums.
Stream these: Old Love/New Love, Nine is God, What’s Next?
— Anthony Augustine
ROOTS / COUNTRY
Play It All Day (Independent)
Every now and then it is refreshing to hear an album by an artist who isn’t trying super hard to make an overconfident statement. Canuck musician/producer Terry Blersh is ostensibly a blues artist and a singer-songwriter, but his second album, the completely great Play It All Day, proves that he has a firm grasp on a wide range of styles.
It’s All Right has a cool New Orleans groove that is led by Gene Hardy’s expert honking sax. A loping reggae beat underpins The Girl Outside My Window and (Maybe) It Ain’t Too Late is driven along nicely by some hot Hammond organ work.
We always like to see a cover song or two on an album, as it gives you an improved sense of where an artist draws their inspiration. Blersh and crew do a wonderful job of slowing down the Elvis Presley-linked, film soundtrack song King Creole and delivering a super silky, authentic Tex-Mex re-imagining of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain.
Blersh also hands over some vocal duties to a few of his talented co-conspirators on a few tracks. It’s All Right, the late night jazz gem Play It All Day and The Girl Outside My Window are all better by a few degrees by the guitarist again sharing the spotlight. Jammin’ II is an instrumental that will please those needing some guitar fire and opening track Treat Me Right is a feel-good shuffle that features Blersh’s unfussy tone and substantial note-bending skills.
At just over half an hour running time, Play It All Day is an album that lives up to it’s title.
★★★1/2 out of five
Stream these: The Girl Outside My Window, Treat Me Right
— Jeff Monk
Émile Parisien Quintet
Sfumato Live In Marciac (ACT)
French saxophonist Émile Parisien is in the top echelon of European jazz musicians. He was also the artist-in-residence in 2017 at the prestigious annual Marciac Jazz Festival. (Marciac is a commune in southwestern France.)
His band is called Sfumato, which, I learned, is an artistic technique of allowing tones and colours to shade gradually into one another to soften outlines. The quintet has mainly European members, but a somewhat surprising guest on several tracks is trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who vacations in Marciac.
As a young man, Marsalis was reported as skeptical about the authenticity of international jazz influences, and Parisien’s jazz is grounded in French styles and sounds. It has been described as "very French." Whatever the case, Parisien and Marsalis work wonderfully together on the tracks they share, including Transmitting and a funny and cheeky version of Temptation Rag.
Parisien’s compositions are complex and inventive, and his playing is exceptional. The quintet has been together for a long time, and the addition of several guests, including Vincent Pierani on accordion, adds a further French tone. Guitarist Manu Codjia and pianist Joachim Kuhn have amazing solos.
While adventurous, this album is both exciting and accessible. There is always a sense of the unusual in Parisien’s music (a three-part tune is called Le clown tueur de la fête foraine, which translates as "The Killer Clown Of The Funfair"). This is an outstanding release by a great musician.
★★★★1/2 out of five
Stream these: Balladibiza, Temptation Rag
— Keith Black
Tableau Tempest & Tango (Navona Records)
This new release features a handful of solo works performed by prize-winning American pianist Clipper Erickson following his 2015 album, My Cup Runneth Over.
One of the most riveting selections is Russian-American composer David Finko’s Fantasia on a Medieval Russian Theme, inspired by a poem about the oppression of the Russian people. Erickson fearlessly tackles its knotty polyphonic textures while imbuing his interpretation with world-weary resignation. Three more Finko works are offered: Sonata No. 1 infused with Yiddish/Slavic folkloric roots, Sonata No. 2 and a single-movement Sonata No. 3 that offers greater lyricism.
Another highlight is Richard Brodhead’s Una Carta de Buenos Aires that evokes mysterious shards of a dark tango, with Erickson resisting any temptation to rush through its transparent textures rife with pregnant pauses.
The album’s cornerstone — and its oldest piece — is 19th-century composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, originally composed for piano before famously being orchestrated by Maurice Ravel. It’s fascinating to hear this famous work alongside the more contemporary offerings. Erickson’s rich palette of tonal colours bring each of the 16 imagistic sections to life, ending on a triumphant note with The Great Gate at Kiev that always quickens the pulse and stirs the soul.
★★★★ out of five
— Holly Harris
BEASTMODE 2 (self-release)
Since they slipped by while I was listening to the mushmouth rapper, a quick lyric scan reveals that drugs are indeed still referenced in seven out of nine cuts, and no one on the charts does so more luridly or grimly.
"Codeine, it sit on my kidney and dissolve," is the opening line of Some More.
Yet the grotesquerie quotient for this guy is overall pretty down on the most-streamed mixtape of all time, and the, er, emo levels are up. So, there’s less "molly, molly, percocet" than plaintive melodies warbling reflections such as "Got more guns than a terrorist when I think about it," and "Damn, I hate the real me."
Latter is from the same closer where Future’s mom expresses disappointment and he gets a rousing chorus out of "I’m trying to get high as I can." Someone tell the streamers it’s anything but a drug anthem.
★★★ out of five
Stream this: Some More
— Dan Weiss, Philadelphia Inquirer