Your May playlist

Four Spring releases to sink your teeth into

By L. Kent Wolgamott

Photo: The War on Drugs //  Lost in the Dream // Secretly Canadian Records

 
The War on Drugs //  Lost in the Dream // Secretly Canadian Records
The War on Drugs delivers enveloping ambient Heartland rock on its third superb album, Lost in the Dream. Recording largely by himself, Adam Granduciel doesn’t hide his influences, with a touch of Bruce Springsteen’s synthesized ’80s sound here, Bruce Hornsby there, some Dire Straits guitar and lots of Neil Young and Bob Dylan. The latter gets a near tribute on “Eyes to the Wind” via Graduciel’s phrasing, literary storytelling and its cascading country ramble. Wrapped in fuzzy synths and guitars, the songs are rousing and anthemic (“Red Eyes”), quietly drifting (the Young-ish “Suffering” and the title cut) and spacey (“Burning” which shifts from out there to Springsteen-ish) and stretch to nearly nine minutes (the illuminating opener “Under the Pressure”). Like his former bandmate Kurt Vile, Granduciel negotiates the backbeat-anchored haze by delivering the emotions of this set of songs that are personal, problematic and yet optimistic. That makes Lost in the Dream one of the best records of 2014 so far.
File next to: Beck, Foals

Rodney Crowell // Tarpaper Sky // New West Records
Rodney Crowell began recording the songs that became Tarpaper Sky in 2010, bringing in many of the musicians who played on his 1988 breakthrough Diamonds & Dirt to join him live in the studio. The album was worth the wait, capturing Crowell at his best. It kicks off with laid back anthem “The Long Journey Home,” follows with the gentle rocking Louisiana-rooted song of love and lust “Fever on the Bayou” then pulls out the rollicking rock ‘n’ roll to plead “Frankie Please” “don’t give me the deep freeze” – a 1, 2, 3 punch that telegraphs the fine music to come. Most of the songs are about women: from the ballad “God I’m Missing You” and its follow-up, a shimmering younger woman/older man romance “Famous Last Words of a Fool” to the shuffling, detail-filled tale of “Grandma Loved That Old Man,” a “crapshooting crazy, hung over lazy wrestling match man … who smoked Prince Albert in a can.” “Jesus Talk To Mama” is a bluesy swinging of celebration and rehabilitation, which the narrator believes will please his mother, while “The Flyboy & The Kid” is a nod to Crowell’s relationship with Guy Clark, the great songwriter who’s one of his mentors, but it also touches right in the Texas folk tradition of Townes Van Zandt, another Crowell crony. Beautifully produced with guest vocals from the likes of Vince Gill and Shannon McNally and instrumental contributions from Jerry Douglas, Will Kimbrough and Steve Fishell, Tarpaper Sky is singer/songwriter country at its finest and Crowell’s best album since 2001’s The Houston Kid.
File next to: Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett

 

The Hold Steady // Teeth Dreams // Washington Square Records
Singer Craig Finn is one of the best lyricists going. He continues to tell his stories of the lost and the lonely, careening around and living in clubs on Teeth Dreams, the sixth studio album and first record in four years from The Hold Steady. Finn’s top two gems are “On With The Business,” an edgy rocker about “waking up with that American sadness” that’s a critique of consumerism and the quiet story of a tenuous relationship, and “Almost Everything,” which centers on the phrase “there are nights I get terrified/I’m sure you get terrified, too.” The words perfectly fit the music, largely composed by guitarist Tad Kubler, who takes full advantage of the talents of fellow guitarist Steve Selvidge. That two-guitar assault makes Teeth Dreams a big rock album with surging, driving songs like “Spinners” and “Wait A While” settling in next to ballads like “The Ambassador.”
File next to: Art Brut, The Replacements

Black Lips // Underneath The Rainbow // Vice

There’s nothing wildly new on Underneath The Rainbow, just 10 tracks that are, well, Black Lips garage rock flower punk songs. There will be some claims the Atlanta outfit has grown up or matured or something like that. But singer Cole Alexander dispels that notion on lyrics of “Funny” – they’re still boys out looking for a good time (“Boys in the Woods” is a bluesy, horn punched song of a party in deep in the trees) or at least getting a laugh. What the Lips have done is employ The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney to produce and top-end mixers to clean up the sound, so the buzz of “Dorner Party” is more than just a ball of fuzz, “Justice For All” comes off as a crisp country-ish hop, “Do The Vibrate” has a spooky howl and “Waiting” goes swinging back to school, Pledge of Allegiance and all.
File next to: Ty Segall, Dwarves

Reach DCP freelance writer L. Kent Wolgamott at LKentWolgamott@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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