25th Jun2013

Reviews :: Recent Releases

by Ryan

Lots of new music out over the course of the last few days/weeks. Here’s a wrap up of a bunch of items I’ve been spinning.

Singles

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Jars of Clay – “Inland”

Holy cow this is good. The fact that Rolling Stone was giving this away as their download of the day last week should lend it at least a little bit of credibility. I’m not sure what’s happened to (lead singer) Dan Haseltine’s blog wherein he alluded to a new direction the band was taking on this record (his site currently offline). That post from at least a year ago got me very excited – especially coming off of the less-than-satisfying The Shelter (2010).

If this track is any indication of what the remainder of the album will sound like, then the wait will be rewarded. This band is constantly refining itself and taking the time necessary to breathe between projects. It has seemed over the years that they’ve felt the need to release an artistically sound album followed by a radio-appealing album (never faltering in their craft, but sometimes trying too hard to please). I’m hoping that this record marks the end of the placating and a new era of artist-to-audience communication. Get it from Rolling Stone.

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Trent Monk – “Rise”

My old friend Trent returns to the scene this week with a new single produced by long-time Bebo Norman collaborator Ed Cash. Certainly Cash has worked with many over the course of his career, but I reference Bebo because I hear a lot of that same sound in the production and even in Trent’s vocal approach. I really like what Trent has done here in getting back to the type of sound that I came to love in him from his (also Cash-produced) Monk and Neagle self-titled-era. There are hints of Mumford around the edges and a clear-cut audience of church-goers. If you long for the old days before everyone tried too hard to get on the radio, I think you’ll be pleased with this one. Buy it on Amazon.

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John Mayer – “Paper Doll”

On first pass, I wasn’t really interested in this track. I appreciate the personal journey that John Mayer is on, but I think that it’s caused some of his work to suffer. After I learned that most everyone perceives this as a diss-track directed at Taylor Swift, my interest was renewed. As such, it is intriguing, but not enough to lift the song out of mediocrity. When the marketing of a song/record outweighs the source material’s value, then something is gone awry. Buy it on Amazon.

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Derek Webb – “I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You”

The title track from Webb’s forthcoming release opens with a “Where the Streets Have No Name”-esque guitar riff that lets you know you’re listening to yet another new sound from a seasoned veteran. And if you’re unfamiliar with that “seasoning”, he spends the first verse reliving his 20 years in the music business. The effect it has on a listener such as myself who has followed him for 16 of those 20 years is astounding. It’s like the “No Easy Way Outflashback montage from Rocky IV.

To me, this makes the titular apology seem directed at the listening audience, though Webb states that it has multiple meanings. Definitely looking forward to this record and learning how deep that apology stretches – or if it just another one of the artist’s many misdirections. I do have to fault him, though, for his failure to use the preferred Oxford comma. You can listen to the track at Relevant.



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EPs

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Rising Fawn – Everlasting Songs

You may remember that the Chauntelle Dupree-fronted “Millstone” was my favorite track from the new Eisley record. Who knew she was actually working on an EP as well? They had this at the show I attended, but due to being an idiot I decided not to buy it.

Working with her husband, Todd, Chauntelle brings us the most Eisley-sounding side project of any of her bandmate-sisters (Stacy – “Sucre”, Sherri – “Perma”). While I love the overall sound and I like the calming influence of Chauntelle’s voice, I feel that she doesn’t communicate with the same level of passion as her sisters. Perhaps this is due to a timidity that has kept her from even taking a lead role in vocal duties for the band for so many years. Perhaps it is due to being an eldest child surrounded by dramatic/passionate younger siblings. Either way, this recording succeeds in bringing out those tones that we love so much from Eisley, but the fact remains that the sisters excel when working in tandem. Buy it on Amazon.

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Albums

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Mac Miller – Watching Movies with the Sound Off

Never has a more accurate title been given to a record. I’m aware of Miller due to the ubiquitous appearances of his t-shirt in Froggy Fresh videos. This was enough to make me want to hear the guy. I was expecting the worst of the worst in strung-out, slacker obscenity. Surprisingly, it was fairly mellow in both content and delivery. That’s not to say that this is any sort of family-friendly fare. The content is labeled explicit for a reason, but you’re not going to be subjected to Eminem-level aggression or Kanye-esque self-aggrandizement.  If it’s 2 in the morning, though, and you’re faded, and Fast and Furious is on TBS, you may want to listen to this record. Buy it on Amazon.

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Frank Lenz – Water Tiger

This is an interesting find to me. A few weeks back, someone re-tweeted something mentioning Frank Lenz. (inner monologue: “Frank Lenz? Why is that familiar? Oh yeah!…) Many years ago there was an incredible Filipino-American alterna-techno quasi-CCM band called Fold Zandura – I caught them on tour with Plankeye and Seven Day Jesus back in ’99. Lenz was their drummer. Turns out he did a few stints in several indie bands of the same ilk over the course of several years.

For the last decade he’s been making music of his own that is really unlike most things I listen to. In general, there are shades of Jack Johnson and Bright Eyes throughout his catalog. On his latest LP, Lenz offers an almost entirely instrumental collection on which he plays all instruments. The music reminds me a lot of Derek Webb‘s Feedback project. It is perfectly suited for a film soundtrack (an idea that is not entirely new to Lenz having previously written the soundtrack for the indie film, Holy Rollers.) It surpasses my own nostalgia, but it’s hard for me to say too much given it’s wordless nature. Buy it on Amazon.

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7 Responses to “Reviews :: Recent Releases”

  • I am sorry, but the Chauntelle record, right now, is BETTER than Eisley’s newest record. I think it’s the strings and the piano influence that carries me over. I do agree, however, that her passion punch doesn’t hit as hard as her “mainstay” band’s does.

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