Power-pop wunderkind Mikal Cronin’s new album is a significant leap forward for the singer/songwriter. While just as hooky as its preceding albums, MCIII is more heartfelt and intricate, boasting a six-song suite that has some of the album’s best melodies. “Turn Around” starts the album out with a somber tune nestled amid a flurry of electric guitars, violins and pianos. “Made Up My Mind” blasts off with a rocketship riff, while Cronin’s voice breaks under the weight of a breakup. Flourishes like horns, strings and acoustic guitars help give the album a sense of unified orchestration, while dynamics in songs like “Say,” full of cool, bass-driven breakdowns, make each song stand out. But the suite that makes up the last half of the album is its masterstroke. It moves from the spare and aching “i) Alone” to the heavy guitars of “ii) Gold,” through its outro played on the Greek stringed tzouras and into punk and singer/songwriter territory. Each song moves into the next beautifully and makes MCIII feel like Cronin’s Abbey Road. We’ve known Cronin has chops since playing bass with Ty Segall and could entertain freely on his first two albums, but MCIII is his first that feels like his own classic. Watch the just-released "Turn Around" video below, starring comedians Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal.
The Telegraph reports he died of natural causes on Thursday. King hadn’t be publicly reported to be battling illness and was playing shows as recently as last year.
King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in 1938 in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem. He originally sang for The Drifters, scoring numerous Top 10 hits such as “This Magic Moment” but left that band in 1960 over a contract dispute, changed his name to the more marketable Ben E. King and went on to have more than 20 hits chart on the Billboard Top 100 as a solo artist, including “Spanish Harlem,” co-written by Phil Spector, and “Stand By Me,” which King co-composed and was been named one of the RIAA’s top 25 songs of the century.
King is survived by his wife, Betty, three children and six grandchildren. Below is a selection of King’s hits:
Chelsea Wolfe – “Iron Moon”
Chelsea Wolfe has talked of the influence of black metal on her music, but until now, that was more in spirit than in sound. “Iron Moon,” the first single from her new album, Abyss (due Aug. 7 on Sargent House), lives up to its metallic name with crushing chourses of heavy detuned guitar, while the song’s verses are sparely orchestrated and ethereal. As to those extreme dynamics, Wolfe told Rolling Stone the record is supposed to evoke “the feeling of when you're dreaming, and you briefly wake up, but then fall back asleep into the same dream, diving quickly into your own subconscious.” You can see live Amoeba videos with Wolfe here and read an interview I did with her here.
De Lux – “Someday Now”
Twelve years after their last album, it’s easy for Blur to pick up right where they left off—the Britpop band never made two albums that sounded the same. “Lonesome Street” starts the album with a loopy, mid-tempo jangle, and it’s tough not to cheer upon hearing the reunion of frontman Damon Albarn’s lonely, sleepless croon with guitarist Graham Coxon’s vigorous strums, especially when he kicks up the distortion on the chugging “Go Out.” The band’s songwriting more than ever calls to mind late-era Beatles on songs like “Ice Cream Man,” a somber tune buffeted by squirrely synth noise. Magic Whip gets more experimental (and better) as it goes, as though throwing bones to longtime fans is out of the way. “Thought I Was a Spaceman” is a beautiful, searching ballad with a bossa nova feel and soft digital-tribal bounce. “I Broadcast” has the spirit of early-’90s Blur with the kind of noisemaking capabilities they now have in their arsenal, throwing in vocal samples and filling the space with extra guitar and synth sounds. Blur recorded The Magic Whip in a stopover in Hong Kong and finished it up separately over time, but miraculously, it doesn’t sound disjointed, keeping the hazy, layover feel of the original session, while the band’s experimentations are mostly folded into the music and don’t distract from the songs themselves. Though occasionally you wish for the frenetic energy of early Blur on more tracks, in their place is a laid-back tunefulness on songs like the loungey “Ghost Ship” and eerie “Pyongyang,” kind of like Roxy Music settling into their Avalon era. The Magic Whip is what you want from a reunion album: it’s the sound of a band progressing, with nods to the past that don’t hold them back in the slightest. Long may they run.
Thee Oh Sees – “Withered Hand”
This is exactly what we needed this week—some brain pummeling riffs from John Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees. It’s the second track (after “Web”) that they’ve premiered from Mutilator Defeated at Last (out May 18 on Castle Face) and it’s just one of the most exciting songs they’ve ever put out, an all-guns-firing guitar assault with a gorgeous solo. Listen via Pitchfork. Just in case you thought he ever slept, Dwyer also is releasing another electro-rock solo album under the Damaged Bug moniker called Cold Hot Plumbs, due June 1 on Castle Face.
HEALTH – “New Coke” video
Remember when coke was the devil, and every time someone took it on TV or in movies they died or something awful happened to them? Glad we’ve progressed beyond that—aside from the whole slow-motion projectile vomiting thing in this new HEALTH video. Right, there is a lot of post-party barfing in the video below, so beware. The booming electro-noise-pop track comes from the L.A. band’s just-announced new album, DEATH MAGIC, due Aug. 7 on Loma Vista.