This Month's Picks

Hemispheres [40th Anniversary Edition] (CD)

Has a band of nerds ever been more successful than Rush? Rock ‘n roll heroes to some, a four letter word to others, Rush remain a remarkably contentious point of discussion for a band that has sold over 40 million albums. As a pillar of Rush’s patented prog rock sound, 1978’s Hemispheres is a key piece of their legacy and has been reissued in a deluxe edition CD (including live cuts from the era) to commemorate the album’s 40th anniversary.   Though the band’s true mainstream breakout would happen a few years later with Permanent Waves (which ingeniously melded new wave to their power-trio’d prog), Rush built up a rabid following in the mid to late ‘70s due to albums such as Hemispheres , despite being largely panned by critics and ignored by radio. By this point the band had perfected their concept-heavy formula: a handful of short, well-crafted rock tunes to complement one big epic to either open or close the record. Just like 2112 , arguably the band’s most well-known release, Hemispheres puts the big ‘ol prog epic right in front. However, unlike the aforementioned 2112 , there isn’t a moment of filler to be had here. Though it’s all of FOUR songs long, Hemispheres features two classic hard rockers from the band, “Circumstances” and “The Trees,” which might be the most enjoyable Neil Peart preach-along of their entire catalog. There’s also one of Rush’s best instrumentals, the Raymond Scott-quoting “La Villa Strangiato.” And then, of course, is the requisite 18 minute “Cygnus," the centerpiece of the album. Though it may not have quite the catchy peaks of other Rush sagas like “2112” or “Xanadu,” it is undoubtedly their least meandering, most musically taut prog creation up until this point, truly sounding like one complete song rather than a bunch of disparate parts glued together. All of Rush’s calling cards are present in its extended running time: dexterous lead bass, guitar playing that deftly switches from finesse to bombast, stop-on-a-dime tempo changes, and plenty of big ass drum fills.   It’s hard to describe any album with 4 songs that equal nearly 40 minutes as lean or stripped down, but Hemispheres is absolutely the best elements of '70s Rush condensed into one. Only the most self-consciously cool will deny the electricity in these grooves. Everyone else, feel free to geek out all over again. More
Genre: Rock

Caution (CD)

Mariah Carey
Pop divas don’t get much larger-than-life than Mariah Carey. That’s a rarified stratum in pop culture that is accessed only through a combination of world class talent, coupled with peak MTV-era overexposure (as well as the resulting hangover), and having your very own immortal Christmas standard to boot. Caution is her fifteenth album overall, which is certainly indicative of a workaholic career, yet more importantly it’s only her second collection of all original material released this decade. No longer beholden to the insatiable pace of a meat grinder industry, Mariah Carey has time to create and release the albums she wants to make. As a result, there is an unmistakable quality to her recent works that had been missing in her mid-to-late '00s marathon. Caution is no different, however, unlike the statement-making length of The Elusive Chanteuse , it runs a brisk 38 minutes and is largely composed of Mariah embracing her role as the R&B slow jam queen. Songs such as “GTFO” and “With You” sound like a sultry, smoky update on her many '90s ballads, with only the production hinting that it's 2018. But when she does liven up the pace it just goes to show the depths of her pop acumen: Mariah can still crank out bangers with the best of ‘em. On what is undoubtedly the album’s highlight, “The Distance” manages to deftly combine a deep, deep groove with diva-sized vocal acrobatics. Skrillex, who produced the track, does his best impression of retro-futurist funk lords Benedek, Sasac, and Dam Funk, mixing '90s R&B synth flourishes with a comically fat bassline. It’s as groovy a production as you’ll hear all year, hell; it would even sound great as an instrumental. Add Mariah Carey (along with a well-timed Ty Dolla $ign verse) to the mix? You’re gonna need to cool off after this one. More
Genre: Soul

Upside Down Flowers (CD)

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
With a musical resume influenced by his time in uber-successful bands Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin, Andrew McMahon has been creating solo magic since 2013. Upside Down Flowers is the latest from his Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness project and it’s an intimate, well-crafted collection of songs, filled with the bravado of youth (“Teenage Rockstars”) and the hopefulness of rock ’n’ roll dreamers (“Ohio”). The songs are eclectic and eminently listenable. The melodies are introspective but bordering on anthemic with lyrics that are smart and sensitive. A must-have for fans that’s sure to win over listeners who appreciate thoughtful indie pop. More
Genre: Rock

Rick & Morty [OST] (CD)

Rick & Morty
For Rick & Morty fans, the music in the show is an important part of the whole experience. With improvised and ridiculous lyrics, over the top score moments, the soundtrack on its own serves as a comedy album that parodies genres right and left. One such highlight is the Bowie-esque “Goodbye Moonmen” performed by Jemaine Clement from Flight of The Concords. Also included are the actual songs used in now web-famous moments of the show, such as Blonde Redhead's “For The Damaged Coda” from the episode, “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind.” More
Genre: Soundtracks

Christmas (Take A Ride) (CD)

Mitch Ryder
Good Golly Miss Claus! Mitch Ryder may be without his Detroit Wheels, but at 73 years old the blue-eyed soul legend is still going strong. It’s not that we haven’t heard enough Christmas albums in our life, but being a living legend without one to his name, the man has earned it, dammit! These days his voice is a bit more subdued; more soulful rasp than wild shriek, but he knows how to play to his strengths: Christmas (Take A Ride)  features covers of Christmas standards new and old all done in an energetic ‘60s R&B fashion, which means plenty of bright horns, brittle guitars, and a stomping backbeat. Hell, the lead single is a cover of raucous garage rock legends The Sonics’ very own “Santa Claus,” cavernous reverb and fuzz guitars intact. He even manages to make “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” somehow sound a little less stupid. In fact, his take on the most annoying of novelty songs is downright listenable, which is a feat unto itself. The only knock on Christmas (Take A Ride) is the lack of a song titled “Devil With A Red Dress,” which seems like an egregious missed opportunity, though Ryder has left the door open to the possibility of a Christmas sequel. Don’t leave us hanging, Mitch. More
Genre: Rock, Holiday, Oldies

9 (CD)

Saves The Day
Throughout their 20+ year history, Saves The Day’s lone constant has been Chris Conley. As leader of one of the few turn-of-the-millennium bands to help transition the niche alt rock subgenre of emo into a mainstream phenomenon, Conley has written an album-long paean to those halcyon days. 9 is filled with catchy self-mythologizing, whether it’s the '90s tour diary of “Kerouac & Cassady,” the rags to rock ‘n roll riches tale of “Rendezvous” or the self-explanatory title of “Saves The Day.” It might not be the most humble concept album of all time, but 9 is captivating as an earnest thank you to everything and everyone that led to this current moment. The audial equivalent of flipping through an old photobook, nostalgic and invigorating. Suggested title: “To Saves The Day, cheers!” More
Genre: Rock

Merrie Land (CD)

The Good, the Bad & the Queen
Using Britain's referendum on exiting from the European Union as the reformative spark, supergroup The Good, The Bad & The Queen have returned over a decade later with their second release, Merrie Land . Damon Albarn, Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen are back to muse on the state of being British in 2018, this time with legendary Tony Visconti in the producer's chair. Fans of Albarn's particular brand of electro-melancholia will find more to enjoy here. More
Genre: Rock

Chris Cornell (CD)

Chris Cornell
With the music world still processing the untimely loss of former Soundgarden/Audioslave leader Chris Cornell, the beloved rocker is given his first official career retrospective. Put together by Cornell's widow Vicky "for his fans," the set covers all periods of his career and includes previously unreleased tracks taken from the archives. Available as a single CD, two LP, four CD deluxe and CD/LP/DVD super deluxe box sets, Chris Cornell serves as a fitting tribute to a performer whose "voice was his vision, and his words were his peace." More
Genre: Rock

Double Negative (CD)

Low takes bleak melancholy into a whole 'nother direction with their innovative latest, Double Negative . Fractured, startling, and experimental, the band known for creating the "slowcore" movement still imbues their work here with the desperate beauty synonymous with their name -- but this isn't the Low you've heard before. What's remarkable about these songs is how spacey the atmospherics get while Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's lyrics are so firmly here and now. Imagine seeing that one ex (you know the one) out doing everyday stuff...and the way it makes you spin out into cosmic, existential thought patterns. Somehow that's exactly what Low are conveying through the experience of listening to "Dancing and Fire," to name just one excellent example from this thoroughly moving LP. It's impressive to see a steadfastly killer band like this evolve into a new mode of being; this album's already getting "best new" nods from a number of publications and seems likely to be pretty high up on the year-end "best of lists." More
Genre: Rock

God's Favorite Customer (CD)

Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer finds Father John Misty digging deep into his bag of ‘70s-inspired country-rock tricks. “Mr. Tillman” is a self-deprecating picaresque, a catalog of hotel room misadventures with a melody as enjoyable as the lyrics are entertaining. “Please Don’t Die” is raw and vulnerable, with Father John laying bare the experience of living with depression. As tough as it seems to be Mr. Tillman, his witty, enchantingly dark world is one fans will want to enter. More
Genre: Rock