So, this week is really incredible. On top of long anticipated releases from Lorde, Royal Blood, Fleet Foxes and Portugal. the Man; we also had new singles from some unsuspecting parties. The four I’ve chosen to feature were Queens of the Stone Age, The Killers, Shania Twain and George Ezra.
Melodrama is perhaps as close to a perfect pop record as we will get in 2017. It should win awards. Lorde is 20-years-old. Let that sink in… 20. Hasn’t she been around for like… 5 years? Yeah. She has. Moving past that, Jack Antonoff of Fun./Bleachers/Steel Train guided this record lyrically and musically, and Lorde couldn’t have picked a better partner. “The Louvre” is silly, light and perfectly sums up the feel of the album. “But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre. Down the back, but who cares—still the Louvre.” The album also has it’s more dramatic moments, like any good house party. “Liability” is a still-teenager coming to grips with her stardom. “The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy, ’til all of the tricks don’t work anymore and then they are bored of me.”
How Did We Get So Dark? is the second album from British rock revivalists Royal Blood. They’ve opened for the Foo Fighters, sold out tours in support of their first album, and will open for Queens of the Stone Age in America throughout the Fall. Given their short but excellent track record it’s no surprise that they’ve delivered another banger of an album. It does have a few shortcomings in that some of the tracks feel somewhat generic. “Hook, Line & Sinker” is the band at their heaviest, but also catchiest. Every riff sounds like it comes straight from the same desert as the band they’ll open for in the Fall.
Crack-Up – The first time I witnessed Fleet Foxes was opening for Death Cab for Cutie in 2008, just a few short months after the release of their first album. Bandleader Robin Pecknold looked fresh and awed by the beautiful venue surrounding him, The Fox Theatre in St. Louis (it is stunning). Fleet Foxes have always been a dense listen that takes a long time to grasp, and that’s how I feel about this album as well. It sounds like Fleet Foxes, it’s beautiful and Pecknold still has a feel for folk, but this album feels less Americana and more global, worldly. I hope he is still as fascinated by the world around him as he was in 2008. It sounds like he is.
Lastly, Woodstock by Portugal. the Man. The first words you hear after the album starts is, “No fake presidents.” It might be the first alternative rock album of the resistance to President Donald Trump. Their first single, “Feel It Still” got the band attacked by Alex Jones, which is pretty much like receiving a liberal gold-medal. It has also been at the top of the charts longer than any other song this year. Oddly, they are already mid-way through a year-long tour in support (or anticipation) of the album, with more dates coming in the Fall. “Noise Pollution” might be the song that takes the band furthest from their comfort zone, but works well to end the album. It features frequent contributor, Zoe Manville, as well as Mary Elizabeth Winstead of Scott Pilgrim fame, and more recently the latest season of Fargo, speaking French… so that’s cool, which this band seems to exude.
Now, for the song I’m most excited about this week, “The Way You Used to Do” by Queens of the Stone Age. If this is an indication of their new album, Villains, we are in for a change in direction like the band has never seen. Mark Ronson produced the new album and it shines though. Speaking with Zane Lowe of Apple Beats 1 Radio, Josh Homme shared this on the decision to work with Ronson, ““I think one of the reasons was to act like a talisman as a reminder of listening to ‘Uptown Funk’. It’s very tight and vacuous. It sounds fucking great.”
Shania Twain returns! “Life’s About to Get Good” is a great summer song. Twain certainly hasn’t removed herself from paying attention to today’s music scene. The album is more pop than country, but it does features instrumentation you’d normally hear in country music. There is some sort of… mandolin (perhaps) incorporated in an electronic way. Anyways, you’ll be hearing this one if you listen to pretty much any station that doesn’t purely handle rock.
“The Man” sounds like it could have come off the Killers 2008 album, Day & Age. It has the potential or perhaps a bit stronger than “Human” or “Spaceman” off that album. It features a swagger similar to Aloe Blacc’s song of the same title. This song could very well push the band back into pop culture in a way that they haven’t seen in some time.
George Ezra hasn’t found the same fame as others that came out around the same time as his first album. The first time I heard “Blame it on Me” and “Budapest” I thought Ezra would easily be as popular as Hozier. That didn’t pan out as Hozier topped music festival lineups by the end of his album cycle while Ezra still remains mid to low on posters. I still feel Ezra has that potential, and this new single, “Don’t Matter Now” feels like a good start. The horns separate this from his previous work and compliment it well.