Rock

Here Come The Runts (CD)

AWOLNATION are back with their unique, ambitious take on heartland rock. Melding bluesy textures with a radio-ready production not unlike contemporaries such as Cage The Elephant, AWOLNATION also utilize fuzzy, heavy guitars that bring to mind Queens Of The Stone Age at their '00s peak. The songs themselves tend to follow the winning pattern of soft hook followed by loud hook and louder hook, riding an ecstatic high of catchiness throughout. It’s not for lack of nuance, rather AWOLNATION aim to make every moment arena sized, turning haikus into high fives. Is it possible for an album to be comprised solely of lighter-in-the-air moments? Here Comes The Runts does a damn good job at finding out.

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I Like Fun (CD)

I Like Fun? After 30-some odd years together, is that the sentiment TMBG’s hyper-literate brain trust has boiled down to? Is it a goof or another children’s album? The two Johns are the consummate professionals - the songwriter’s songwriters, as much mischievous sonic and lyrical tinkerers as they are masters of the craft. It doesn’t take long for those irreverent tendencies to show up, approximately 3 seconds in fact, as John Flansburg compares the loudness of a drum to a big rock that crushes you on opening track “Let’s Get This Over With.” From there we get the daydreaming thoughts of a murdered spouse over tango piano, a power-pop rumination on the indescribable, and a track that postulates a race of lake monsters that come up for air to vote on Election Day. “That’s my fun,” to hear the title track tell it. Agreed.

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Wrong Creatures (CD)

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club might be the most aptly-named group of the past couple decades, since those four words kind of evoke their whole deal. Since their 2001 debut, BRMC’s formula has been largely un-freaked with, and it’s a sturdy, un-freakable one at that. Jesus & Mary Chain noise over a T-Rex stomp, featuring the Velvet Underground’s brittle tenderness in their softer moments and the ‘Stones particularly stoned version of the blues in their boogie. Wrong Creatures, the eighth album by the rock ‘n roll lifers, turns the volume down a bit on a slower, more meditative collection of narcotized ballads. Yet while the result is an album that leans more towards Chris Isaak than J. Spacemen, this remains a BRMC album through and through. So if you’re still wondering what to expect, just reread the band’s name again.

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Songs Of Experience (CD)

On Songs Of Experience, U2 channels the power of music to heal political divisions and find hope in the struggle. It’s a strong, cohesive album with Bono delivering his message with impassioned sincerity while stadium-ready riffs ring throughout the air. Basically, it’s classic U2 sounding more timely than ever. This earnest, adroit album will have listeners believing love, music, and compassion can change the world, too.

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Utopia (CD)

Bjork’s latest, Utopia, is the logical follow-up to her previous work on Vulnicura, another collaboration with producer Arca. This ethereal, abstract, intriguing album was written to (not surprisingly) explore the concept of utopias, but also to process the current political, environmental, and personal challenges the singer was facing. There’s an airiness to the album’s heady, otherworldly tracks, an interesting effect conjured up by the incorporation of a 12-piece Icelandic flute section into the melodies. Utopia is Bjork at her best: boundary-pushing, challenging, and emotionally connected.

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Native Invader (CD)

Tori Amos is in fine form on Native Invader, a cohesive, darkly dreamy vision of our current political and environmental turmoil. Passionate, lush, and alive, this collection of songs is both urgent and reassuring. Amos’ voice seems to whisper in the listener’s ear, “I know what you’re feeling. I understand.” The world may be a frightening place, Native Invader seems to say, but there’s beauty in the darkness, if you can find it, and hope, if you keep fighting.

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Lovely Creatures: The Best Of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1984-2014)  (LP)

Lovely Creatures does the seemingly impossible: distilling Nick Cave’s three-decades-long solo career into a representative, moving “best of” collection. Covering territory from the early ‘80s to 2013’s Push the Sky Away, the collection showcases Cave’s constant evolution as an artist and proves exactly why he is a legend. What’s great about Lovely Creatures is that it works for longtime die-hard fans as well as those who may be looking for an introduction to his oeuvre. Depending on which version you pick up, not only will you find the expected excellent songwriting, but also some very cool bonus material in the form of a hardcover book filled with essays and personal photos, plus a DVD with live performances, interviews, and rare footage. A fitting tribute to one of the most pioneering, distinctive artists of our time.

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Low In High School (CD)

A seemingly endless well of droll creativity and romantic melodies, Morrissey’s latest is another resounding success. Low in High School sees Moz experimenting with song structure and lyrical themes, but his velveteen voice and lively wit give the LP the sound of a future classic. Dreamy and sometimes melancholy, it’s albums like this that remind us why we keep coming back for more from this Salford lad. Each listen reveals another fascinating yarn, another relatable sentiment.

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Crack-Up (CD)

If you’d forgotten how masterful Fleet Foxes are at creating dreamy wall-of-sound Americana-infused indie rock in the six years since their last release, their latest, Crack-Up, will do a bang-up job of reminding you. The band sounds better than ever; their hazy, melancholy melodies envelop the listener, their haunting harmonies dig at the heart. The scope of Crack-Up, named after an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay, is grand and orchestral with sweeping soundscapes and incredible arrangements. When so much of what passes for indie folk today sounds like forgettable radio-friendly festival rock, it’s nice to hear Fleet Foxes staying true to their roots while expanding the boundaries of the genre.

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MASSEDUCTION (CD)

Masseduction is endlessly fascinating, a dark gem of an album with neon-streaked pop tendencies. The melodies are gorgeous and polished, while Annie Clark’s lyrics are bold and biting. Clark takes us on a journey through the glittering world of the coasts, trafficking in tales of high rollers and fame hounds, showcasing the moments of pleasure and the dark nights of the soul. An intelligent, sneakily upbeat collection of songs from an artist who proves herself once again to be one of our finest chroniclers of romance and despair.

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