Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (5/14/21)

Do not adjust your ears, this week is the best release week of the year by a far stretch, Paul Weller, The Black Keys, The Steel Woods, Even the ever-prolific Phoebe Bridgers is out with some new stuff. Folks we haven’t heard from a while in Travis Tritt and Alan Jacking are popping up. This abundance of musical riches is pretty much criminal.

The Vaccines are starting to drip some new music out ahead of an upcoming record with their latest earworm of a single, “Headphones Baby”.

And sure, we here at Rock is the New Roll are huge fans of Blackberry Smoke, but our fandom is reaching new heights with this collaboration with Warren Haynes, “All Rise Again.”

The Struts, one of the bands that prove that Rock is not dead, have just released an epic version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Paul Weller – Fat Pop Vol. 1

The Modfather is back, and it’s like he never left. Despite releasing about a record per year, Weller never fails to bring the musical goods. A bright cheerful record even amid these gloomy times, the entire album seems fresh and original with no sense of languishing in the textures of his prior output.

Never sticking to a specific genre, the song “True” has an ’80’s Bowie vibe to it while “Glad Times” veers a bit into Nick Cave territory and the opener “Cosmic Fringes” seems to carry a bit of Devo in it’s DNA.

Don’t sleep on the Steve Winwood splendor of “Shades of Blue” as it is to our ears the best song on the album. Further reflection will be needed, of course, but after finishing up this record with the last two slowed down and exquisitely produced ballads, “In Better Times” and “Still Goes The Stream,” the votes are in. This one is likely to go down as one of the Modfather’s best.

Nancy Wilson – You and Me

With her first proper album since 2009, Nancy Wilson walks that road between tender Heart ballads and solid Pop-laden rockers quite nicely albeit carefully. Sort of a spur-of-the-moment decision to put out a record, her sparkling voice shines through much more than her guitar. Two of the covers she chooses here are interesting with her version of “The Rising” definitely hitting the mark while her mostly tepid take on the Boxer with Sammy Hagar in tow, lacking in passion and intensity, missing quite badly. 

Interestingly enough, “4 Edward” an instrumental tribute to Eddie Van Halen, would have worked much better as an introduction to a full song rather than as the set closer on this one. The sole real rocker here, “Party at the Angel Ballroom” with Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins lending an assist along with Duff McKagan should be played once, then permission is granted to pretty much ignore it. 

If there is a highlight here, The Cranberries “Dreams” would fit the bill, but overall Nancy Wilson still hasn’t released that ‘good rockin’ tonight’ guitar-based scorcher we know she has in her. 

Matt Berry – The Blue Elephant

By some stretch, the grooviest album of the year, Matt Berry takes a break from his gig as a vampire in What They Do in the Shadows to release another set of interestingly throw-back inspired songs that could have easily been the soundtrack of Austin Power’s bachelor party.

With the perfect blend of vocal tones and go-go style instrumentations, Berry rides the hipster wave to perfection going over the top when necessary and dialing things back at just the right moments. The psychedelic guitar employed here is right out of Haight Ashbury, case in point the hippy-dippy “Now Disappear.”

With a Burt Bacharach production palate, the arrangements are near perfect placing the organ solos, hipster horns, and spooky vocals in just the right places at just the right time. 

The instrumental “Safer Passage” is Rundgren’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” inspired, and “Like Stone” could have been a Small Faces classic. Matt Berry has never made a bad record, but this one is ears and shoulders above anything else he has released to date.

The Black Keys – Delta Kream

Let’s take care of the elephant in the room right from the jump. We here in the offices of Rock is the New Roll are huge fan-people of Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys, and any product, CeeLo’s record a notable exception, that Dan’s studio Easy Eye Sound releases. Now that that is out of the way Delta Kream, the latest from The Keys, is a down and dirty, greasy love-fest to the Mississippi delta blues. Named after an iconic William Eggleston photo that adorns the cover of the album, drummer Carney along with Auerbach apply their Garage-Stomp Rock onto songs by Mississippi blues legends Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Kimbrough, and Mississippi Fred McDowell among others.

Recorded in one single ten-hour session, the Key’s laid-back delta swagger is perfect for this set of roadhouse-worthy tunes. From the lead-off song “Crawling Kingsnake” to the slinky Kimbrough song “Walk With Me” and on to the Tony Joe worthy take on Burnside’s “Poor Boy A Long Way From Home” this is about as close as you can get without actually being there live at Kimmy “Duck” Holmes’ Mississippi Juke joint.

Babe Rainbow – Changing Colours

Just engulf yourself in the bassline on the song “Ready For Tomorrow,” from the latest Babe Rainbow album Changing Colours, and, like us, you will be all in, chips to the center of the table. Fun, bouncy, and vibrant is the order of the day from this group of Aussies with “Rainbow Rock” and “California” already reserving themselves steady rotation on your summer playlist that you have yet to create.

“Curl Free” would have been a perfect fit on The Beach Boys Holland  L.P. and there is a hint of Burrito Brothers Americana wafting in the air on “New Zealand Spinach.” Start with the opener “Zeitgeist” and your ear-time will be rewarded with one of the best listens of the year.