Oh how the releases this week have me in a grin something fierce. I admit that at first glance, I was not overly excited about a couple of these releases. Not that they do not have merit or talent, it's just bands that have been hit and miss with me (sorry Paradise Lost/Armored Saint...I still love you guys). But after going through the release sites I regularly follow, I was pretty ecstatic to see Barenaked Ladies, Art of Anarchy, The Darkness, and the Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard duo. Not a bad set of releases if you ask me (now obviously haha).
Florence + The Machine will be the guilty pleasure to dive into this week. As someone who did not initially appreciate the music, I have started to come around the to songwriting brilliance that is F+M. The Sumerian Ceremonials album [I think] helped me towards that conclusion. Maybe listening to the songs in a different light was the eye opener for moi. So this new release will have my full attention, and hopefully yours.
(Artwork by AFGM. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
So the usual folks. Show some love for those artists you've supported over the years and purchase from a local record store, online retailer, or trusted digital source. Cheers and enjoy discovering new music!
(Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful)
How Big How Blue How Beautiful’s subtlety is only relative, when compared to its juggernaut of an elder sibling. Gigantic hooks aren’t on the endangered species list here. The album’s shifting dynamics offer a respite to the proceedings. But they also underscore all instances of over-the-top theatricality, which arrive with breathless regularity. “Delilah”, “Queen of Peace”, “What Kind of Man”, and “Ship to Wreck” are battering rams. Their target? The chest, by way of the eardrum. And yet, a battering ram is a tool unsuited for Florence and the Machine’s world-flattening ambitions. Every song on How Big How Blue How Beautiful instead strives to be a thermonuclear warhead. And Welch’s struggle, with heartbreak and sobriety, is their emotional payload. When encased so thick in flourish, they can, at first, seem like duds. Detonation comes over time, and with repeated listens. -Pretty Much Amazing
(Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard - Django and Jimmie)
This is country-blues made by expert hands. It is not going to change the world, or win over armies of new fans, but it will delight old ones with a sound steeped in American musical heritage. It is beautifully executed, further proof that musicians can grow old gracefully. Their ageing, impassioned and world weary voices are a constant treat to listen to. The way they work together is like a well oiled machine, constant and reliable.
Exploring the influence that Reinhardt and Rodgers had on their own careers, Nelson and Haggard pull together and intriguing mix of songs, from the opening title track through a handful of covers – including Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ and reworkings of some of their own best work, like Haggard’s brilliant ‘Swinging Doors’. A happiness permeates the mood of the songs – these two old-timers are having fun and want us to share in it. The standard never dips, and listening to music of this quality proves they are not yet done adding to their impressive legacies. -For Folks Sake
(Simply Red - Big Love)
But finding himself back in the studio 30 years after the release of Simply Red’s debut album, Hucknall appears to have got some of his mojo back, with added sincerity. Big Love sees the former Lothario expressing appreciation for the merits of enduring, family love. The title track is a slow-twirl for wedding anniversaries – complete with harp – on which Hucknall finds himself “falling in love again” with “the very same girl I have known for year after year”. -Telegraph
(Barenaked Ladies - Silverball)
Silverball is anything but labored and sad. Cuts like the ebullient "Passcode" and sparkling "Piece of Cake" are uplifting and melodic, bringing to mind the '70s AM pop of bands like ELO and the Beach Boys. Similarly, the laid-back "Hold My Hand" and the harmony-laden "Say What You Want" are classic, heartfelt BNL songs that stick in your ears long after they've ended. Whether it's the loss of a bandmate, or the return of a disease, Robertson and BNL often utilize the back-and-forth imagery of pinball to illuminate their deeper lyrical messages. Additionally, on the leadoff "Get Back Up," Robertson turns to boxing in his characteristic tongue-in-cheek way to explore the notion of resilience in the face of defeat. He sings, "Not the second coming of Muhammad Ali, but can I get a 'whoop!' for the boxing imagery?" Ultimately, after a justified period of rethinking the band's approach to pop, Barenaked Ladies have once again found their musical footing with Silverball, and they deserve every "whoop!" they can get. -All Music
(The Darkness - Last of Our Kind)
For the most part, Last of Our Kind is stripped back – well, as stripped back as a band that once rode a giant, airborne pair of tits can get – and trimmed of a lot of the fat and fluff that have all too often made them an easy target for detractors. This time around, there probably won't be Brit Awards. Chances of multi-night arena runs are slimmer. Attempts at Eurovision won't happen, God willing. But this is the sound of a band fired-up and focused, and the result is a Darkness album to be proud of. Thumbs up. -Drowned In Sound
(Art of Anarchy - Art of Anarchy)
Overall the album is a mixed bag. Some of it is surprisingly good, other parts are facepalm worthy god awful. It seems like an album where if Scott Weiland had actually immersed himself in the band rather than just cashing the check, and put more into the lyrics and pulled the instrumentalists back from some of their more cheesy metal leanings, it actually could have been something really good.
The production and mix is fantastic, especially Weiland’s vocals and Bumblefoot’s guitar. The drumming though sounds really corny at times. It’s the best Weiland has sounded on an album vocally/production wise since Velvet Revolver’s Contraband over a decade ago. -Alternative Nation
(Armored Saint - Win Hands Down)
After biting this one hard for several times, I could honestly understand that I have been waiting for a golden goose and was able to snatch it. As a fan of “Symbol Of Salvation”, which I believe both the world, and myself, consider it to be the band’s top album, I found the classic ARMORED SAINT, with a small token of modern shading, within “Win Hands Down”. Certainly, it would be hard to just leave it alone after a single round as it heads down the street for a kind of the true reality that Metal have always made it its mission to preach about. The saints march again in full colors. -Metal Temple
(Helloween - My God-Given Right)
That said, and bearing in mind the awful quality of the mp3 files that were offered for promo purposes, I have to say that ‘My God-Given Right’ is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable album that Helloween have released for quite some time. The good far outweighs the not so good and when all is said and done, when Helloween get it right on this album, they get it very, very right indeed. You want melody, fun and a care-free classic metal listening experience? Then I suggest you unpack your air guitar, warm up the vocal chords and get your ears around ‘My God-Given Right’. -Man of Much Metal
(Paradise Lost - The Plague Within)
Just because Paradise Lost is “metal” again, doesn’t mean they’re Paradise Lost again. They are increasingly favoring heaviness at the expense of good songwriting, and The Plague Within continues that trend. It feels like the band is trying way too hard to be something they aren’t anymore, throwing ideas against a wall and pursuing them whether they stick or not. I suppose fans of the band’s very early days will enjoy the record, and there’s probably some new-school death/doom crossover appeal. But deep in my ice-cold heart, I know Paradise Lost is capable of better, and I anxiously await music that meets those standards. -Angry Metal Guy