Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blunderbuss: Jack White drifts in and out of classic rock revival

Jack White: artist or revivalist?
Jack White, the pale, floppy-haired guitar master behind the White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather, released a solo record a few weeks back called Blunderbuss. Like its name sake, the record sounds really cool but is still an expensive museum piece.

Often, White is really at his best here. He writes very good songs, has a cool and strange voice and,finally, he has a backing band that can play. There's a lot to like.

There are some really neat songs on Blunderbuss. "Freedom at 21," "Missing Pieces" and "Sixteen Saltines" at the album's starting point are all White Stripes-style blues rockers with more effort put into arrangement. The sound is a lot bigger, which I think is a good thing.

Monday, April 30, 2012

White was impressive on Colbert

I wrote a while back that I thought Jack White's best production was behind him.

Then, last week, I saw him on the Colbert Report -- with a pretty badass backing band -- for a performance of "Freedom at 21" off his new record, Blunderbuss. The tune had the usual White signature retro-blues-garage sound, but the song was pretty far left of center.

And the band is really good. The drummer here (check the video for yourself) is light years better than any other I've heard with White. For the first time with White, it didn't sound like I was listening to a gimmick. This is music.

 I have to say. after seeing the performance, I'm interested in giving the new record a shot. If the performances measure up to what he did on the Colbert Report, it may be his best record yet.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spiritualized: Big British rock to tug the heart strings

Spiriualized's Jason Pierce
There's a whiff of brit rock revival in the air. Blur isn't getting back together after all*, but the band announced a massive retrospective (box set ) of its 21-year history. Jarvis Cocker is out touring with Pulp again. (check them out on Jimme Fallon last week.)

And this month saw the release of Spiritualized's 7th record, Sweet Heart Sweet Light.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Shins polish up their pop for Port of Morrow

James Mercer is back with a new, heavyweight The Shins record.
Twelve years ago, at the dawn of the aughts, The Shins achieved a bunch of buzz on the back end of the "garage rock" craze -- a lo-fi sound that covered a whole slew of "the" bands from  The Von Bondies to The Libertines -- and an assist from the indie sweetheart film, Garden State. Natalie Portman and Zach Braff meet over a Shins song.

Now, Shins frontman and songwriter, James Mercer, is back with a new The Shins record, Port of Morrow, and a new The Shins band -- the original members departed after Mercer broke them up in 2009 or so. The result is a pretty enjoyable record with very strong pop sensibilities. It is at once far removed from the garage sound of the band's  Sub Pop debut, Oh, Inverted World, yet not far at all from band leader James Mercer's upbeat songwriting and trademark vocals.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grooveshark: Painless way to try out tunes before you, er, buy 'em

I recently wrote positive things about Spotify. And I meant them.

But things change. I'm no longer using a Mac as a daily driver and Spotify's desktop app is not the most stable thing in the world on Ubuntu, the Linux OS I'm now using every day. So I'm not using Spotify anymore, either.

So naturally, I've been looking for alternative services to preview records. It's a pretty helpful thing to do when you're trying to keep up with a music blog. No need to do any more than dial up a record and listen to it a few times, free of charge.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Craig Finn goes for gravitas over guitars

Craig Finn is looking as clean cut as his new solo record.
Craig Finn, the bespectacled front man of The Hold Steady, has a solo debut out called Clear Heart Full Eyes. It's a nice, but mostly predictable sort of record -- the kind that you'd expect from a straight-forward rock and roll prose stylist like Finn.

For anybody well-versed in The Hold Steady, Finn's word-rich lyrical style is still there. As a solo artist, though, he steers clear of the wall-of-guitar sound that propels the best Hold Steady tunes. Here, guitars mostly provide the ambiance for a set of songs that swing from slow blues jams to alt country-ish whiskey drinkers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fishbone: The Movie

I was a huge fan of Fishbone. In high school, as a kid learning to play bass, Fishbone's amazing Norwood Fisher was an inspiration. As a lot of other strange West Coast band's -- from Jane's Addiction to Primus -- became popular, Fishbone faltered, even though they were far more interesting, creative and just plain musical.

1991's The Reality of My Surroundings was about as big as the band ever got. The album is a masterpiece, a mix of metal, funk and soul, the likes of which have not been heard since.