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Ray LaMontagne – Album Review – Ouroboros

An odd thing happened Across The Pond this week.
While I pondered, weak and weary, over Ray LaMontagne’s quaint and curious new volume Ouroboros, Mrs ATP chirped: “That’s good, who’s that?”

Mrs ATP, whose favourite film is Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves because Bryan Adams bizarrely emerges from Sherwood Forest at the end with a Stratocaster (10th Century vintage, presumably), may finally be coming round to some decent music.

Ouroboros, released on March 4, recalls the classic late ’60s and early ’70s rock records that would never come within a terabyte of Mrs ATP’s iPod. 

It’s named after the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail, symbolising the cyclical nature of the universe and a fitting name for an album of largely seamless tracks which winds its way through the rock of ages.

Even the track listing recalls the vinyl records which are still treasured by music purists, with Part One and Part Two standing in for Side A and Side B.

Opening track Homecoming recalls Syd Barrett era Floyd, Simon and Garfunkel, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks or more recently Beck’s Morning Phase with meadows, sunsets, springtime, feathers and comforting sounds when the lights are down.

Then it shifts into something approaching Cream with Hey No Pressure, with a repeating Clapton-esque riff breaking down into a closing prog-rock keyboard freakout.

The classic rock vibe continues with The Changing Man/While It Still Beats, an eight minute long double header which channels Led Zeppelin, with Page style riffs and echo laden solos, Bonham-esque drum breakout and multi-tracked vocals a la Robert Plant.

Part Two resumes the chillout vibe, progressing into the world weariness of Dark Side-era Floyd with In My Own Way, Another Day and A Murmeration of Starlings.

The guitars are straight out of the David Gilmour songbook, and the titles should tell you all you need to know about their psychedelic folk lyrics.

The album segues straight into Wouldn’t Make a Lovely Photograph, completing Part Two’s four song cycle which defies the artificial breaks of the iPod age, and ending with the prediction: “You’re never going to hear this song on the radio.”
Which brings me back to the odd goings on Across The Pond, and Mrs ATP’s new found musical taste.

Mrs ATP, who listens to commercial radio precisely because it plays Adele on a half-hourly cycle, may be on the verge of becoming a classic rock fan.

We might finally get to see a decent gig together.

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David Gilmour – Rattle That Lock – Album Review

The BBC is currently screening an intimate documentary on the life of David Gilmour to accompany the ex-Pink Floyd guitarist’s new solo album Rattle That Lock and his first tour in nine years.

It reveals a portrait of a man both ruthless and reticent, shy but expressive, and provides a fascinating insight into the process of turning decades’ worth of half-arsed ideas and demos into a solidly produced album and expansive stage show.

The bedroom bands that he continues to inspire will marvel at how a guitar sample he impulsively recorded on his iPhone made it on to the album, because he couldn’t recreate its improvised rawness in his state-of-the-art studio boat. (more…)

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Album Review – New Order – Music Complete

Electro Indie legends New Order have returned with a new album Music Complete – and it hasn’t been off my iPod since its release on Friday.

It’s hard to put a finger on what make this album so damn infectious. It’s not immediately engaging, bits of it are downright weird, some of its lyrics are pretty naff, and there’s a few of those lazy indie tracks that presaged their 10 year hiatus, but as a whole it’s pretty solid New Order album – probably the most solid they’ve made since the early 90s. (more…)

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Album Review-Sufjan Stevens-‘Carrie and Lowell’

I don’t know where to begin” Sufjan begins on opener “Death with Dignity“. These are my sentiments exactly, as I ponder this article.  So I will start by saying this album is one of the most thought provoking, deeply personal, and astounding pieces of music we have heard in some time.  

Here is what we know of the premise of his late mother and existing stepfather, Carrie and Lowell.  Carrie left Sufjan and his brother on and off when they were young. She battled schizophrenia and substance abuse, before passing from stomach cancer in 2012. Lowell is Sufjans stepfather (married for 5 years to Carrie when Sufjan was young) and current manager of his label. Obviously he maintains an important role in Sufjan’s life–past, present and future.  However we most feel for Sufjan, when he articulates the many different emotions of existing, particularly the affection and regret for his mother.  Lyrically what follows is a collage of life and death, suicidal thoughts and confusion, faith and guilt–all of which ultimately lead to love and forgiveness. (more…)

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Album Review–The Districts–“A Flourish And A Spoil”

For some time now we have been hearing about how The Districts are an impressive young band. Positively we hear “can’t believe these guys are under 21” or “they are up and coming”. Conversely we tend to hear, “There is nothing new here”. These notions are all true. However, what we don’t hear is the fact that the Philly outfit is not far off from becoming a powerhouse. A Flourish and a Spoil emphasizes that. (more…)

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Album Review – Weezer – Everything Will Be All Right In The End

Full disclosure…Weezer is one of my favorite bands of all time. I’ve
stuck by them through many mediocre albums for the past years, finding
a song or two on each album to make me feel like they were still a
great band. The fact of the matter is that the past few albums have
been really disappointing. The previous Hurley, Red Album, Death to
False Metal, and even Ratitude have all been subpar efforts. Those
albums really made you question if Weezer still had a good album left
in them. Everything Will Be Alright In The End, gets Weezer back on
the right track and answers that with an emphatic YES! Weezer have
always been the nerds of the rock world and just like a John Hughes
film, you should never count out the nerds.

In the past few months Weezer and critics alike have been hyping this
new album as the baby of the Blue and Pinkerton albums. To be 100%
objective and not a Pom Pom waving Weezer fan, this description
actually is pretty spot on. If you took all their albums regardless
of release date, this album would probably fall in line as their 3rd
album, not 9th! The overall sound and lyrical composition within
EWBAITE fits that time better than even The Green album.

Rivers Cuomo has been quoted as saying they dug deep and made a very
personal, raw album. Hearing quotes like that can scare a fan….see
U2’s latest effort. EWBAITE returns Weezer to Emo lyrics, crisp guitar
solos, power chords, mix in some great harmonies and you have the
epitome of what made/makes Weezer a great band. Their sound is unique
and instantly recognizable as a Weezer tune from the first chord.
This is truly the mark of a great band.

Weezer reunited with Ric Ocasek from Blue and Green album fame to make
EWBAITE. It is hard to find many throw away tracks . If anything this
album works better as a straight through listen rather then shuffling
or picking singles. The narrative begins with a woman telling a
scared child “Go back to sleep, everything will be alright in the
end.”. This is followed by a news feed of “Rock is Dead”
pronouncements. As the first track builds, guitars churning and drums
pounding (sounding a lot like Hash Pipe) Ain’t Got Nobody explodes in
that typical Weezer fashion. Right away I knew this album would be
different. Weezer were returning to form. The question many might have
is, “Will former fans notice or care?” Did Weezer alienate their fans
or casual fans with their past albums? Will they not search out or
take a listen to this new album? My hope is that people still want to
“Rock out like its ’94”, as sang in the 2nd track “Back to the Shack”.
Maybe a new wave of fans are ready to gravitate to Cuomo’s message of
being overlooked by girls, loneliness, daddy issues, kooky lyrics, and
rocking with your friends. They are without question the godfathers
of the now dead Emo movement.

Back to the Shack, is a good tune and it made sense to be a single. It
is a fun nostalgic look back and encourages Weezer to return to their
roots. The band even pokes fun at its self and it’s journey. To fans
it’s an acknowledgement of their missteps that is greatly appreciated.
Many of us stuck with them through their “exploration” or “fun albums”
they were making. Weezer rewarded our loyalty with this album.

While the whole album is a great listen, and to reiterate, a much
better listen from start to finish, here are some of the standouts on
the album.

“Lonely Girl” literally sounds like an outtake from the Pinkerton
album. It is vintage Weezer. The guitars grinding/rocking, driving
drums and bass, throw in a little reverb for the guitar solo and
lyrics about a Lonely Girl, just perfect. It feels straight out of
’96, nothing wrong with that.

Another standout is “I’ve Had It Up To Here”. This song brings you a
little further back and sounds like a 1994 Blue Album tune. The lyrics
are awesome. Seems like a bit of an F-you to fans wanting Weezer to
be a certain way throughout the years, but what do I know. (Editors
Note: I’m not big in to telling people what artists are saying in
their lyrics but rather leave it to the listener to interpret for
themselves. I’ve never been a fan of journo’s telling me “that
underneath everything this song is about the artists dead dog.” after
just using it for my first dance at a wedding. Regardless of what an
artist is intending, as fans we have the right to interpret the song
as we see fit to make it our own. Hold me closer Tony Danza indeed.)
The last chorus with the backup vocals is everything Weezer is meant
to be. Great, great tune.

“DaVinci” is my favorite track so far, (only 5 listens so far). It
has that “Across the Sea” feel if you know what I mean. The initial
whistle to kick of the song has a playful touch that Weezer has always
had throughout the years. The chorus is great and you’ll be hard
pressed not to be singing along by the end. “I’m at a loss for
words!!” Where have these songs been Rivers??

The only song or songs I wasn’t crazy about or felt the need to listen
to again was the Ending trilogy of songs. Coupled with the entire
album, it just seemed out of place. It’s not terrible but maybe a
softer touch or just an epic power chord anthem would have been a
better bookend to this great album.

In the end Weezer have reclaimed my belief that bands I once followed
can still produce relevant music that is new but still tips its cap to
their great past. Weezer will be touring to support this album. I
will undoubtedly be hitting a couple of shows, looking forward to
actually hearing new songs! For once a band I have been following
since my youth will have new songs that aren’t designated for a
bathroom break, what a relief.

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Album Review–The Rural Alberta Advantage–“Mended With Gold”

Review of RAA’s ‘Mended With Gold’
-By Max Landgraf (guest contributor)

It’s been 3 years since we have heard from Rural Alberta Advantage. They burst onto the stage in 2008 with the release of their album ‘Hometowns’. It was there that we fell in love with their fast paced and hard charging songs like ‘Drain the Blood’, ‘Four Night Rider’, ‘Luciana’, and they showed us their depth with the change of pace ‘Don’t haunt this Place’. And I am not even mentioning my favorite song ‘Dethbridge in Lethbridge’.
RAA showed their depth and versatility in this original release. Nils Edenlof, lead vocalist, sang with such fervor and ebullience; making a statement that they were here to stay. Amy Cole plays a number of different instruments, including adding beautiful background vocals in songs like ‘Don’t Haunt this Place’. And last, but certainly not least, their drummer Paul Banwatt is simply in a class all by himself. It is difficult for a percussionist to stand out these days, but the way Banwatt sets the pace and rhythm that is so important to RAA’s success is impossible to ignore.

True to form, each album has been released 3 years apart from one another. ‘Mended with Gold’ brings a few subtle changes to the band’s style. I love the stripped down beginning of ‘Vulcan, AB’. Edenlof’s gentle approach in the beginning has us loaded with anticipation and salivating with what kind of ride they are going to take us on with the remainder of it. When he declares ‘But I’m gonna wake you up, break you out’ and Banwatt starts kicking in the subtle background beats that pick up steam as the song gains momentum it doesn’t get much better. That song is followed by 45/33, where we hear a lot of the same electric guitar riffs that we came to know from RAA in the past in songs like ‘Dethbridge’. Edenlof is on top of his game and in his wheelbox here with his high pitched cries of ‘can our love be too much’ throughout the song. ‘On the Rocks’ again captivates with its stripped down approach, as banwatt sets the tone early and often and remains the trigger man who can take the band from 1st to 5th gear in a nanosecond.

‘To be Scared’ is a good example of Nils going in a different stylistic direction. We have not heard a song in any of the 3 albums prior sound quite like this slower moving acoustic track. Again, the theme, is simple is better. And it works here. It may take a while for it to sink in, but when you look beneath the surface you will find a depiction of a terrified man alone singing ‘tonight I got you running in the night… lord, my god, you are running out of time’. The song was inspired by a rural trip that Nils took to a cabin by himself, looking for inspiration and quiet so he could write, that ended up leading to frightening encounters with the wilderness.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough moments like we get in ‘Vulcan’ or ‘45/33’ to quench our thirst. I can appreciate that RAA is evolving as all artists do with different releases. And we certainly see flashes of the past that remind us what we love about these guys. But here is too hoping that that RAA rediscovers some of their ‘Hometowns’ hard driving form and combine it with some of their stylistic changes mentioned above to create an album that wows from front to back in 2017!

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Album Review – U2 – Songs of Innocence

So the wait is finally over. After months of rumors surrounding the release of this album, it just happened. And for free!! (granted you must have an iTunes account). At Apple’s launch of new products yesterday they also announced U2’s new album would be available for free on iTunes to over 500 million customers. It’s a change we have seen recently where large acts release their album for “free” behind some sponsor. As a fan that owns ever U2 album and some bootlegs this was a welcome gesture.

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As far as the album goes, on first listen it doesn’t seem to have that “signature” track. Unfortunately U2 is drifting towards an act you go to see the hits. Their last “great” album in my opinion is now 14 years ago, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, was very good but not great, too many uninspiring songs made that effort just short of putting that album with U2’s best work. That album is also 10 years ago believe it or not.

Back to Songs of Innocence. The stand out track seems to be Every Breaking Wave. Lyrically it differs from the rest of the album, not as nostalgic in tone. It is a great tune that should be wildly popular during their next tour. City of Blinding lights comes to mind as a song that was completely different live then on the album. I can definitely see U2 perfecting this as a live number.

Song for Someone is a nice song. It has that signature U2 build from a ballad but doesn’t fully go to that next level that makes so many U2 songs epic. The chorus seems restrained but overall it’s a very good tune.

The rest of the album is just ordinary and at times flat out bad. If this is the best effort U2 has left in them, it really is a shame.

The Miracle – decent song, but definitely not U2 single worthy. Sounds like it could be a standout track but falls flat. The Edge has some ripping chords but the song misses as a U2 anthem.
Iris – Hard to rip a song about Bono’s mother but it’s another track that gets close to being a great song but just doesn’t get there.
California – Just okay. Nothing grabbing you to hit the repeat button.
Volcano – Eh
Raised by Wolves – Not good
Cedarwood Road – Okay
Sleep Like A Baby Tonight – Bono’s falsetto is painful to listen to. Should have quit smoking years ago.
This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now – Described as their Clash tribute song. It’s a bad song. At best it will be a good upbeat song to run up steps at an arena to go to the bathroom.
The Troubles – Boring

And there you go. Of the 11 new tracks 1 Really good U2 worthy song
2 Decent tunes
8 Songs that missed the mark

Too be honest I really wanted to like this album more. I’ve listened all day hoping it would be a grower. Unfortunately that has not occurred. I hope there is one more special album in U2 but maybe that is wishful thinking at this point. I will most definitely be at every NY show I can get tickets to. At the end of the day the catalogue of tunes is still so great and the music live is transformative. I’ve always found a live U2 show an almost spiritual experience , it really is in a league of its own.

One of U2’s finest moments was a few nights at MSG shortly after 9/11. It was October and one of the 1st times people could let go and it was okay to have a good time. I remember at the end of the show they dropped a banner behind them and scrolled the names of everyone that had perished on that fateful day. Everyone understood that life would have to go on, we could have fun again but we would not forget those that were not with us. Most of the crowd walked out with misty eyes and an appreciation for U2’s respect of our city and the joy/healing they could provide through song. From that moment I would always be a loyal U2 fan. Even if this album is not my favorite I will always check them out and give them an extra listen. Walk on baby, and I look forward to seeing the boys from Dublin in NYC to give us a night everyone will be talking about.