We’re back, back in the saddle again. After a couple of weeks off as the artists and their respective record labels come back from a bit of a holiday break to release a few records. Many don’t like to show their works too early since once the best of the year lists start to be written too much time has gone by. All of that being said this is the best first real release week we have seen, and indeed heard, in some years.
Marcus King – El Dorado
Much too young to sound so good, Marcus King jumps out from his band, The Marcus King Band, for his first solo record. Relocating to Nashville seems to have done this wunderkind a lot of good. The record is a sonic blend of Classic Rock, Blues, Southern R&B and Country-Soul. His subtle pedal steel shines right there alongside his scorching guitar licks. Think a countrified Joe Bonamassa.
Bombay Bicycle Club – Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
The band’s first new record since 2014’s So Long, See You Tomorrow, Bombay Bicycle Club is back and better than ever. Lots of rhythm and melody pretty much everywhere, the entire record really sparkles. from the hushed anthem qualities of “Good Day” to the slow burn of the title track the band literally and figuratively has found its second wind.
Little Big Town – Nightfall
There already was a general predisposition not to like this album for all of the too commercial or mainstream reasons and there were a lot of debates going on in the halls of Rock is the New Roll HQ over whether even to feature the brand new record from Little Big Town. But Damn, if Bernie Sparrow wasn’t right once again. Every song here is pretty much a winner, grown-up songwriting for grown-up people. The title track is something special highlighting the expansive tight as the skin on an apple production that shows itself throughout the entire shebang.
The formula is the same as what you would expect from these guys, different vocal turns from each band member and wonderful harmonizing with a familiarity saved for special groups of people that have been applying their trade as long as this the band has. You might be familiar with their tribute to daughters with their song “Daughters,” but that might be only the fourth or fifth best song on this wonderful record. “Suger Coat,” a song covering the sensitive topic of spousal abuse is downright beautiful, and even when they go back to the barrooms like they do on “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” a song that takes on a unique mariachi feel, they put their own unique spin on a tried and true tradition. 20 years in, the Country version of The Mamas and Papas is still going strong.
Left Arm Tan – Left Arm Tan
Full disclosure, this is one of those high anticipation albums here at Rock is the New Roll. An in your face Rock and Roll band their self-titled album is perfect music for that road trip from The Texas Hill Country to the Rust Belt and beyond. Just listen to the one-two punch of “Mexicali Run” and “La Mirage”, the first two songs, and tell us we’re wrong.
Shades of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, The Eagles, and The Outlaws, these guys check off all of the Country Rock boxes and then some. “Pawn Shop Heart” could have been an America song, “Headlights” is a nostalgic slow-burner, “Alpha Bravo” is a poignant and painful tribute to soldiers returning from the battlefield and “Stars and City Lights” is running on empty era Jackson Browne.
So, stick your left arm out of the window, throw this one on the stereo and roll on down the highway.
Whyte Horses – Hard Times
We can tell already, Hard Times, from the Pop collective known as Whyte Horses, is destined to be one of the more eclectic and interesting records of the year. Essentially a covers album, for this one, the band has selected some of their favorite deep track songs and enlisted a few select friends to join them in the fun. “Mr. Natural” with an assist from Elly Jackson of La Roux is a nuanced and soulful performance of this obscure Bee Gee’s single, the title track, “Hard Times”, a song written by Curtis Mayfield and made famous by Baby Huey, enjoys a hip makeover with John Grant pitching in and “Ca Plane Pour Moi” is Northern Soul meets new Wave. Slide on by Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love”, but stay for the divine Todd Rundgren cover, “I Saw The Light” that is handled expertly by Novelle Vague’s Melanie Pain.
This is a covers album for people that don’t like cover songs.