All Hell by Daughn Gibson
Daughn Gibson’s first album is all about the little things. Stitched together by old country music, All Hell is a hodgepodge of those sounds that catch our ear for a short time. Decorated in neon lights and damaged bar signs, All Hell is worlds apart from the things it borrows from. Built on Gibson’s own experiences as a truck driver, All Hell explores alienation, religion, and occasionally happiness. For most of the album Gibson seems to like to tread in the bleak. Songs like Rain on a Highway and A Young Girl’s World are lonely songs filled with dull moments and clouded judgment. Gibson does lighten the mood every once in a while which is a welcome change instead of a tone breaker. In the end it is evident that All Hell is a strong first album but it doesn’t feel like one. The sounds and the vocals sound like they should be coming from a polished and experienced artist and not an ex-truck driver. Songs like Tiffany Lou and Lookin’ Back on ‘99 are excellent tracks that should overwhelm a first effort but Gibson places soulful and intelligent tracks alongside them. They add to the flow of the album and compliment other superior tracks. What you get is an album that enjoys its time upfront and its time in the background. It is a complete album and an impressive start. All Hell is the work of a madman, drunk on his own reality.
Signature Track: Tiffany Lou
It has been over a year since Beach House released their game changer. Teen Dream was a transition for Beach House from a sketch to a fully realized and developed piece of art. Teen Dream was a masterpiece and that would undeniably mean that the expectations would be high for their next album, Bloom. What is most impressive about Bloom is that it continues along the same path as Teen Dream. Filled with “Dream Pop” and beautiful vocals, Bloom plays off of Beach House’s newly polished self. The album is also a very deep and memorizing portrait of youth and the painful realization of when it’s gone. It is a very strong lyrical album as it matches up well with Teen Dream. The only thing about Bloom is that, for me at least, it feels like a very subjective album. The melodies and the flows of the album can be fresh at one moment and then it can become sort of dull the next. I guess it just depends on the ear that is listening to it. I can see Bloom and Teen Dream becoming the two albums that Beach House fans will argue about the most. Which one is better and which one contains their best songs. Even with that said, I cannot understate what an enjoyable ride these past two albums have been. From the opening tracks of Myth to the rousing ending that is Irene, Bloom is the continuation of one of the best bands around and a smooth ride to both the familiar and the unknown.
Signature Track: Irene
It’s good to have the John back. His new album is another strong example of what a great artist he is. His voice is calmer and as good as it has ever been in this more low key release. Born and Raised starts off with the groovy and catchy Queen of California and continues to a satisfying finale that goes back to the singers roots of pop/rock (A Face to Call Home). Mayer doesn’t really reach for new heights here but he does let his signature sound explore some somewhat new territories. There is very little radio music as Mayer weaves a collection of songs that dabble in blues and jazz. He sounds like a more mainstream Neil Young and his music is never to far removed from the past. The real delight in Born in Raised is that Mayer has never disappointed us loyal fans. Those who don’t dig his sound never cared in the first place but for those who do, Mayer has given us another great collection of songs. From self-loathing to new beginnings, Mayer songs give the listener a bridge to the mind of this young man. Things maybe very similar to what we are used to but Mayer is one of the few artists that I don’t mind more of the same. Like I said before, it is good to have some more John Mayer.
Signature Track: Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
Bird is a very mixed bag as a musician. Sometimes he is off caught up in his own blissful existence and then he sometimes prefers a hard edge sort of soft rock. His last album, Noble Beast, was like a nice walk through some sort of cartoon park and I sort of expected him to follow that same environment. Break it Yourself isn’t very far off from his previous works but it somehow feels more raw, like it has more stake in the soil of the earth than our dreams. Sometimes folk (Danse Carribe and Orpheo Looks Back) and sometimes rock (Eyeoneye), the album’s tone switches from song to song. The thing that draws it all together is the restrictions it self imposes on itself. Very few songs sound internal (Hole in the Ocean Floor), as most feel like old photos, painfully real and yet strangely beautiful. It is a wonderful addition to his previous works and even though it never may reach it’s own potential, it is nice to see Bird evolving his sound.
Signature Track: Desperation Breeds….
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends by The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips have always been a band of stages. Their sound always seems to transition from album sets to album sets. It is crazy to hear the difference in the sound of the pre Soft Bulletin and the post Soft Bulletin albums as the Lips almost sound like a different band. I didn’t really think about it when Embryonic was released last year but with that release and their new collaborative album, you could make a strong case that the Lips are transforming again, which isn’t such a great thing this time around. Even though Embryonic is a solid release and there are some gems (like I mean two songs maybe bordering on three) on Heady Fwends, the new hazy tone isn’t all that interesting. Take for instance their new collaborative record, which is rarely pleasant and can be obnoxious and annoying. Even when the gems and the duds pass by the rest of album is very forgettable. You are left with a handful of songs that don’t really warrant a second chance but merely a shrug. I probably haven’t given this album enough chances but I kinda don’t want too. It felt like work listening to all of these tracks together and none of the sounds ever really hit hard or even moderately for that matter. I know that the Lips are weird but that is not my qualm with this one, they are just trying to hard to be weird. Instead of making interesting music, the Lips have made an album full of noise: lifeless, uninteresting, and pretentious………….noise.
Signature Track: I Don’t Want You to Die (Featuring Chris Martin)
The first listen to Port of Morrow makes it clear that this isn’t the same Shins that we are used too. At first the album feels like a subdue version of what makes this band so unique but upon multiple listens, Port of Morrow weaves its own sounds. The Shins aren’t as colorful this time around but are instead more solid. Each song is a very wonderful piece of songwriting. Sometimes quiet and then sometimes loud, Port of Morrow is a welcome change for the moment being. Half of the album is perfect background music and the other half begs your attention. Those songs that hit harder than the others sort of grab a hold of you. Each one never fades as you listen to the album again and again. Port of Morrow may not get your attention at first but trust me, it will and when it does it is hard to shake.
Signature Track: The Rifle’s Spiral
I first listened to Fun. when my friend forced me (as he usually does) to listen to one of his favorite bands. Nothing really struck me at first but when Fun. started to get some more air play, I gave their newest album a listen. Some Nights sounds like a modern day Queen album. It is a very fun (no pun intended) album and even though the lows can be boring, the highs of the album are hard to ignore. Not only that, the lyrics are some the bravest I have heard in a long time. One Foot contains a very catching tone while also delving into some of the darkest and more honest lyrics about things we blindly follow. Fun. may not be for me but they have the potential to be more than just a one hit wonder. It is up to them to figure out how to capitalize on the promise that is Some Nights.
Signature Track: Some Nights
Kid Cudi is one of the best hip-hop artists around. His first two albums were comparable to the great Take Care by Drake, as they focused on some of the deepest darkest aspects of being yourself while also singing about some of the more attractive aspects of a young lifestyle. So I was happy when he decided to make a rock/hip hop group and album with Dot da Genius. WZRD was probably never meant to be great but it was still suppose to be Cudi and in those respects it succeeds. It can be very lazy at times and has some downright terrible lyrics but it never reaches that point of no return. WZRD (the album) may disappoint some and at first it disappointed me too, but it is a sort of exciting transition for Cudi. He is finally branching out to types of music that his previous albums only hinted at. He isn’t just your regular rapper, he wants to be more and this album is a testament to that. Some times Pink Floyd and hip-hop don’t mix well but when it does, WZRD sours. For all those that lost faith in Cudi after this release I don’t think you ever had faith in him in the first place. WZRD wasn’t what I wanted it to be but it is what Cudi always wanted it to be and as a Cudi fan, that is more than enough.
Signature Track: Brake
As many people know, I am a huge DMB fan. Not because I believe they are one of greatest bands around but because I love their music. DMB has always been a steady artist in my music lifetime and all of their songs seem to be mile markers for me. So I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from the warehouse (DMB fan site) with a link to download their new single, Gaucho, from their upcoming album. Gaucho doesn’t feel like anything special at first but the track grows on you. It is the first song I have heard in awhile that is reminiscent of that Big 3 sound. The riff, the horns, and the ending jam are all descendents of DMB’s glory days. It is also a very unique song. It takes chances (the kids at the end are awesome) and is complex. DMB had been making more “simple” songs in the past and I hope with Gaucho that the trend is starting to come to an end. So then what’s the problem with this track? Well like most of DMB’s faults, it all starts with Dave. The lyrics are what hold Gaucho back from being something more. They are simple unlike the music that encompasses it. It is about time that Dave starts to step up in his songwriting instead of conceding to the mundane. This politically charged song is rarely clever as the lyrics are ground level thoughts and ideas. Gaucho is a very strong and disappointing song at the same time. It’ll be interesting if Dave’s lyrics will be able to evolve like the band’s music but for right now it doesn’t look that way. Gaucho is a very promising start while also being a red flag. Unlike many DMB fans, I’m not getting my hopes up on this new album but for now I am enjoying some new DMB.