Best Week of New Music This Year

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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.

 

 

 

 

Roger Waters | 5.30.2017

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Three dates into the newly unveiled Us + Them World Tour, Roger Waters brought the epic political spectacle to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. The tour has received widespread publicity for its intense scrutiny of President Donald Trump.

Kansas City’s date featured several people reportedly walking out with middle fingers raised during Animals song “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” There was only one noticeable walkout in St. Louis, as an attendee raised a Trump yard sign as he was peacefully escorted out.  Waters noted towards the show’s end that, “Some morons suggested we might not receive a very warm welcome here in St. Louis, but we have received a very warm welcome. It means a great deal to us.”

For the first time in my adult life, Waters is not touring behind a classic Pink Floyd album, but rather had put together a set that blends expertly with a few songs off of his rock release since 1992 album, Amused to Death, titled Is This the Life We Really Want? The new songs blend seamlessly, which is great news for fans of Pink Floyd. “Smell the Roses” and “The Last Refugee” particularly stood out.

The stage is intense and perfect. The screen is as large as the famous wall from his last tour when assembled. There were some staging issues that arose before the St. Louis show. The large screen that stretched over the middle portion of the crowd during “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones) apparently malfunctioned during rehearsals, so a decision was made to take it down to avoid any potential crowd danger issues.

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The stage was stunningly executed, the sound was PERFECT, and the crowd returned the love sent to it. As the iconic pyramid was formed from lasers during “Comfortably Numb” it finally hit me how surreal of a moment I was actually in. As two giant hands on the screen finally connected and an explosions of confetti with the word, “Resist” printed on them rained from the sky, a sense of connectivity washed over the crowd. Political messaging aside, this was a night that brought together Waters collective discography and (almost) everyone in the room.

Video:

Finale

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“Another Brick in the Wall”

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The Glorious Return of Gorillaz

Just in time for the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump (I feel nauseous just typing that) comes a track for the times via Damon Albarn and his band of cartoon co-conspirators known as Gorillaz. English artist/poet Benjamin Clementine comes along for a scary ride into the true religion of America, the almighty Dollar. Hopefully more details of a new album aren’t far off. Enjoy!