Apologies to the Biff Bam Pop! readership for being M.I.A. for the last few weeks but I haven’t been in front of a computer or keyboard long enough to write my name, let alone a full column. That said, I have been listening to some great (and some not so great) new music so here’s a quick look at hits and misses from April’s new releases.
Add It To The Collection:
Over the past month, there have been two albums that stood out to my ears. Both are raw, rootsy records that call upon the blues rock and R&B sounds of the late 60’s.
First is the debut release by Alabama Shakes entitled Boys & Girls. I first heard the lead-off single “Hold On” on the radio and thought I was hearing some old unreleased Janis Joplin track. The guitars, drums and bass sound as basic as can be and then you hear the voice of lead singer Brittany Howard and are instantly transported to 1967. The band sways when it needs to sway and rocks when it needs to rock – very reminiscent of Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Boys & Girls is more R&B/Motown at times than rock which makes it feel like a modern-day STAX recording. This is a buzz band worthy of the buzz. Must have track: There isn’t a bad track on this one, but the gospel-inspired “Hold On” has the ability to be this years’ “Rolling In The Deep” or “Howlin For You”.
Check out more favourites after the jump!
The other album that I keep coming back to is the debut solo offering by Jack White, Blunderbuss. The one time White Stripe, sometimes Raconteur and The Dead Weather member is a bit of an enigma to me. At times I wonder whether the entire Jack White persona is a scam or if he’s just developed a caricature of what he thinks a rock star should be. Even during the great “It Might Get Loud” documentary some of the footage of Jack talking about his early days seemed less than authentic to me. That said, there’s no denying that he’s made outstanding contributions to rock music since breaking on to the scene in 1997 with the White Stripes and throughout his career as a member of a number of other bands and as a producer. The logical next step for White was to go it alone, and he does just that on Blunderbuss. I’m not really sure what makes this record different from a White Stripes record, other than Meg has been replaced by another female drummer and there’s a band playing the parts White once handled himself. The huge riffs, loud guitars and machine gun vocals we’ve become accustomed to from White are still front and centre as is his Adam Sandler-on-speed vocal style (does anyone else hear Sandler in White’s vocals?). Still, Blunderbuss rocks in a way most modern records don’t. There doesn’t appear to be any auto-tune, no studio trickery beyond multi-layered guitars and there’s an authenticity to the music, even if there isn’t to the man himself.
It’s been 23 years since Bonnie Raitt had her first #1 album (1989’s Nick of Time), an album which came 18 years into an already successful career. Raitt recently self-released her 16th studio album, Slipstream, which might be just as good as her late ‘80’s output. Slipstream perfectly highlights what makes Raitt a great artist by putting her excellent slide guitar playing and sultry bluesy voice on full display. The album is full of loose jams and melodic grooves that many artists half her age (Raitt is 63) wish they had the chops to pull off. Must have track: Raitt delivers an outstanding version of Bob Dylan’s “Standing In The Doorway” that demonstrates her ability to interpret a lyric and make it sound like her own.
California 37 is the 7th studio album by San Francisco sunny rockers Train. Hot on the heels of the radio-friendly saccharin of “Hey Soul Sister” and “Marry Me” from their 2009 album, Save Me, San Francisco, the band returned to the studio with one of my favourite producers/artists, Butch Walker. Unfortunately, the results aren’t great. The songs sound good and there’s a great energy to the record, but Train is one of those bands that just doesn’t evolve. You could say the train never really leaves the station. From their debut album right through to their latest effort, the formula is the same. Catchy pop tunes perfect for the 30-40-somethings to sing in their mini-vans on the way to soccer practice. And if you wondered what the hell they were singing about on the smash hit ‘Drops Of Jupiter’, some of the lyrics on California 37 will have you singing along and scratching your head once again.