As we barrel toward the end of the year and begin putting together our lists of the best albums of the year, the new releases seem to be regressing to the mean a bit in anticipation of the pre-holiday surge coming up in October.
Rock is the New Roll favorite Valerie June is out with a first-rate video for “Why The Bright Stars Glow” from her recent L.P., The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers.
The ever-prolific Daniel Romano is back delivering his distinct brand of ode to joy with his single “Motions.”
And, the venerable Rolling Stones have released a new song taken from the Tatoo You sessions that present the band at their snarly best.
And if that is not enough, here are five new albums that are tickling our earbuds this week.
Shannon & The Clams – Year of the Spider
Twelve records in, the punk, garage, surf-noir ’60s vibe for Shannon and her clams seems as freshly restored as a ’65 Mustang convertible. And, just as fun. With Dan Auerbach and his band of knob twirlers at Easy Eye Sound once again at the helm on this one, the arrangements seem more robust, and the songwriting is the band’s best to date. The entire package seems to be another step forward in establishing the band as more than a vintage novelty act.
“Mary Don’t Go” shimmers with a surf by way of a girl group vibe, “Leaves Fall Again” has the DNA of a Morricone Western theme, and when Cody Blanchard takes the microphone on “Flowers Will Return,” the results are no less impressive. Multiple listens of this one will yield other-worldly results.
All in, this is a terrific listen with plenty of texture and surprises around every corner to keep things interesting and exotic.
James McMurtry – The Horses and the Hounds
In what might be his best to date, Larry McMurtry, with his latest record, The Horses and the Hounds, shows that the ability to craft a memorable story with believable characters doesn’t fall far from the artistic tree. Every tune on this one is a short story in a song. Whether he is singing about reclaiming a 30-year long-lost love as he does on the opener “Canola Fields” or when he is pondering a friend’s death on “Vaquero,” the passion and intricate feelings of each protagonist is palpable.
There is not a bad song within this set. If you like your short stories with an Americana bent and more than a touch of Rock and Roll, this is your jam.
Lorde – Solar Power
With a calmer and gentler Lorde, less is more for the New Zealand star on her new album, Solar Power. From the title track, a song that would go down perfectly lying in a hammock, the vibe is more like Jack Johnson than Lady Gaga. The exquisitely monikered “Stoned at the Nail Salon” is first-class songwriting, and “Oceanic Feeling” is an escapist lover’s dream.
With a few more albums like this under her belt, Lorde will be exposing herself to an entirely new audience following in Taylor Swift’s footsteps.
Martha Wainwright – Love Will Be Reborn
Here in the offices of Rock is the New Roll, we will stand on Donny and Marie’s coffee table and declare that Rufus and Martha Wainwright are the most talented sibling duo in the singer-songwriter game today. With this, her fifth proper full-length record, Martha lays herself bare with a song cycle coming from a year dealing with loneliness, despair, and a global pandemic.
There is hope around every turn, however, most notably on “Middle of the Lake,” and “Report Card,” and “Body and Soul.” The production is lush and atmospheric, sufficiently moody where it needs to be and elegiac throughout.
Chrissie Hynde – Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan
Technically released on digital platforms in May, Chrissie Hynde’s tribute to Bod Dylan hit the shelves in physical form this week. Charting the deeper waters of the Dylan Canon, the Pretenders frontwoman wraps herself completely around “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” floats like a butterfly in the petals of the story song “Blind Willie McTell,” and begins the parade with a Pretenders worthy version of “In the Summertime” from the somewhat obscure Dylan album, Shot of Love.
With a prolific display of Dylan tribute records of late, this one stands apart given how deep into the well this one goes and the fact that when you close your eyes and listen to her voice on “You’re A Big Girl Now” in particular, you’d swear you were listening to Bob’s sister.