The Riff Report: The Gaslight Anthem, Prawn and more new music
If you loved Gaslight Anthem’s previous albums, chances are you’ll like “Get Hurt.” It’s a good record, just one unlikely to ignite the true “love” its predecessors did. There are some real firecrackers here, but there’s a surprising smattering of sleepwalkers, too. Here the “experimentation” translates as a smoothing of the edges, a dimming of the Gaslight. For comparison, rewind to 2012’s “Handwritten.” The opener “45,” a valentine to the elixir called rock ’n roll. Ten seconds in Fallon unleashes one of the most infectiously inspirational, ecstatic caterwauls in recent memory, “WAAAAAH!” Pure, unadulterated abandon. The sound at the top of the rollercoaster. “Get Hurt” needed more of that “WAAAAAH” spirit. It’s smart to move forward just be careful what you leave behind. — Matt James
Prawn — “Kingfisher”
Prawn is a fairly low-key indie emo group and “Kingfisher,” the band’s sophomore release, is amazing. This LP is carefully constructed and pushes all the right emotional buttons to great effect, balancing its angst-ridden lyrics with a sound that’s as clear as glass. “Kingfisher” is absolutely fabulous and a thrilling discovery, regardless if you accidentally stumble across this or not. Every dorm room should come equipped with this album, along with the standard food and lodging, such a revelatory and emotional disc this is. Tapping into the anguish of the young, this album reels you in seductively, and it’s hard to find any fault with it. — Zachary Houle
Dilated Peoples — “Directors of Photography”
In the eight years between this and Dilated Peoples’ last proper full length, the hip-hop landscape has shifted. To illustrate just how far the scales have tilted in favor of disposable pop rap with or without an associated dance move, one only needs to look towards Nas and Nick Cannon’s subtle-as-a-hammer-to-the-knee screed against corporate rap, “Eat dat watermelon.” “Directors of Photography” helps to tilt the balance back towards thoughtful, well-crafted hip-hop, and while it doesn’t quite scale the heights of Dilated Peoples’ early 2000s heyday, it proves a welcome return for the group. — Kevin Catchpole
Other notable releases this week:
FKA Twigs — “LP1”
Sinead O’Connor — “I’m Not Bossy I’m the Boss”
Walter Salas-Humara — “Curve and Shake”
Brian Setzer — “Rockabilly Riot! All Original”
Tank — “Stronger”
Twista — “Dark Horse”
NOW HEAR THIS
Grace Askew — “Scaredy Cat” (album stream)
Though she didn’t ultimately take the championship, Grace Askew nonetheless captured audiences all across the globe with her run on the massively popular competition show “The Voice.” Working with country star Blake Shelton, she turned out some fierce performances, including a fierce take on the classic “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.” In a recent interview, “Rolling Stone” dubbed her the “number one most robbed” contestant of that season of “The Voice,” but Askew isn’t letting her experience on that program cloud her music. Instead, she’s progressing forward, and in some particularly gutsy ways. Her latest LP, “Scaredy Cat,” which you can stream below, was recorded in one four-hour session at Memphis’ reputed Sun Studios. Music clearly comes naturally to this talented singer and songwriter.
James Linck — “Get This Money” (video)
Wistful nostalgia, of the vein innate to many millennials, is the mood pervading “Get This Money,” from Detroit’s resident alt-R&B crooner James Linck. The tune is newly manifested in a music video, half performance and half narrative, but wholly captivating. “It’s about realizing a future everybody told you was gonna be there isn’t gonna be there,” Linck said of the song and its theme of disillusionment. “Get This Money” hails from Linck’s debut solo EP, “Fortress of Solitude,” released last Friday.
Ruane Maurice — “Farne” (audio)
Ruane Maurice hail from Birmingham, UK. As this up-and-coming trio attests, there’s more to the music scene there than appears on the surface. Ruane Maurice’s self-titled debut is set for release in early September; “Farne,” which you can stream below, is one of the first tracks to come forth from the album. The song is a prime cut of the trio’s dark, brooding take on hip-hop. The band tells us about the hedonistic nostalgia that inspired the song: “Like a lot of the tracks on the album, ‘Farne’ is deeply rooted in our love for analogue instrumentation (analogue drum machines and synths) and found sounds for use in layering. It was all about crappy sound systems, smokey rooms, cheap alcohol. We all miss that. ‘Farne’ is our requiem to a time we aren’t going to get back.”
Future Islands — “Doves (Vince Clarke Remix)” (audio)
Future Islands have had an amazing 2014. Following the Baltimore band’s performance on David Letterman earlier this year — which went viral due in large part to Samuel T. Herring’s eccentric dance moves — its new LP, “Singles,” has become Future Islands’ breakthrough. One of the popular cuts off of “Singles,” “Doves,” has now been given a bass drum-heavy remix by Vince Clarke (of Erasure fame).
Immigrant Union — “Alison” (video)
Immigrant Union has been appropriately described as “Spiritualized being baptized in a river of Creedence Clearwater Revival.” The Australian group comprises Brent DeBoer from the Dandy Warhols, Bob Harrow from the Lazy Sons, and four other well-known players in the Melbourne country music scene. The band’s latest studio venture, “Anyway” is coming out in the next few months, and leading up to the release date, a video was filmed for the album’s second single, “Alison,” a song written by Harrow about the end of a relationship. DeBoer says, “this is one of the best songs Bob has ever written. The lyrics, the bass line, the opening drum fill, the Mark Knopfler guitar hooks, Peter’s piano work and Courtney Barnett’s beautiful guitar solo. I always play this song as loud as my stereo will go.”
Haley Pharo — “Prisoner” (video)
Singer and songwriter Haley Pharo crafts pop music that’s clearly inspired by the Dr. Luke school of production, as the latest video from her recently self-titled album attests. The kinetic visuals and rapid-fire instrumentation of “Prisoner” make for a thrilling musical ride, one grounded in a strong performance by Pharo. Pharo says, “‘Prisoner’ was a song I wrote on a plane. In writing it I realized it was a cry for help to myself. I was allowing my heart to harden, acting as my own worst enemy in a sense. I had begun building walls so tall that I wasn’t letting anyone truly know me and as a result left me feeling very lonely. I believe we’re relational beings and not meant to shut other out regardless of past experience. The concept here was merely that.”
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