For those of us who were SO OVER the releases from February 15th, there could be no remedy to our suffering other than the glorious arrival of Friday the 22nd: NEW RELEASE DAY! Like the delivery of a pristine stack of mystery vinyl to your own front door, it was another wondrous day of crate digging through Spotify’s nigh-on-endless New Releases bin, but things would be different this time… Upon leaving the Spotify anti-store on that auspicious Friday, rather than a paltry album or two barely altering the shape of my streaming-music tote bag, I would find myself walking out with a granny cart full of un-purchased goods.
Such a magnificent bounty did this most recent release day offer, it simply HAD to be honored with its very own review.
The day started ominously enough. First record on the docket was a new drop from a band I’ve been skeptically checking in on every couple of years since 1999: Dream Theater, with their new (and, as suspected, fairly color-by-numbers) album Distance Over Time. Call it teenage-era nostalgia, but I remember the olden days when these guys could shred and make you feel things at the same time. This album is a step toward redemption, but it’s been twenty years since they’ve made anything of significance. Maybe time to shake up the formula? Add in a sitar player or everybody trade instruments? Something?
Not an unexpected musical air ball, but a whiff nonetheless.
That’s when HISTORY gallivanted forth and declared, “NO! This is MY day, and you shall have naught but treasures within its sacred hours!” And History did shake the clouds of Spotify and thus, like a rain of e’ry jeweled color, fell the hits.
First, the absolute monarch of the day: Gary Clark Jr. with his triumphant This Land. Clocking in at an hour and twelve minutes, the album immediately threw my forty-minutes-or-less-loving-self into a state of absolute terror. Could I take over sixty minutes of blues, even if it’s from a Grade A guitar wizard? No need for concern! Gary doesn’t demand that from me, thanks be!
From the hip hop-slanted righteous rage of the first track to the “Hey, Gary, did you hear that Prince died?” funky knockout of track two to “Feelin’ Like A Million” with its reggae inflections and insanely plausible crossover-to-the-mass-market appeal and aaaaaaaaaall the way to “Gotta Get Into Something,” which could’ve been a lost early Ramones single, this album obliterates the stodgy old ways of traditional blues and delivers the Number One barn-burner collection of the day. Wicked licks and plenty of falsetto grooves.
Second, a crushing duo of albums from young up-and-comers with modern indie vets at the boards: Adia Victoria and her Silences (featuring a production assist from The National’s Aaron Dessner) and Yola’s Walk Through Fire (with production via The Once Ever-So-Long-Ago Black Key, Dan Auerbach).
Adia Victoria knocked it out of the park with her first blood-soaked album Beyond The Bloodhounds from 2016, which had a swampy doom-and-gloom bluesiness to it, which her high and abrupt rasp fit perfectly like Spanish moss on a cypress tree. Silences immediately announces itself as Something New as it opens with suspenseful strings, but Victoria’s voice drops in like a sudden mist and the setting is immediately familiar. More Southern Gothic Blues, but a little cleaned up and orchestrated. Still absolutely enchanting.
Yola, on the other hand, is new to this scene (Look up her Bristol-to-Nashville story, if you’re interested), but Walk Through Fire is her riding a tidal wave through the flames. Ole Time Country-tinged songs filled by her soul-powered voice that sometimes invokes Mavis Staples (albeit with a greater range) and occasionally séances in the irreplaceable vibes of Sam Cooke, this collection shows a vocalist that’s going places. Sunday Morning Vinyl necessity? Quite possibly so. Ignore the odd “Keep Me Here,” which sounds like it should’ve been on my mom’s Light Hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s station as a Luther Vandross duet, had the Lord spared him and given him the studio time. Otherwise, this dropped a groove into my ear that can’t be repaired.
Is It The End Of The Day Yet?
Three intoxicating albums would be more than enough for my Friday. I would’ve thanked the gods for their digital largess and gone off in a blissful daze. My journey, however, was not at all complete…
I’d been worried for the artist known as Du Blonde, who teetered on the precipice of self-destruction but eventually landed on the cushion of self-discovery. Her brand new horrendously disgustingly titled album, Lung Bread for Daddy, is everything I could ask for. Just enough gritty rock, just enough luxuriating low-end vocals smoking around odd lyrics about “peach meat” and such-like things. It serves up a grungy spoonful of rot and reflections, and we all must rejoice for Du Blonde’s continued existence on our lowly mortal plain. May the world be kind and inspiring forevermore.
Can I even *breathe* anymore, let alone continue to aurally ingest what’s becoming a glutton’s banquet of musical talent?!
Then drifted in the aptly named Crushing from Australia’s Julia Jacklin, which indeed crushes. We don’t have all the time in the world to wait for Angel Olsen to put out new material, so Jacklin obliges with a similar ghostly, wistful vocal performance that soars and dives over a jangle of lovely tunes. It’s being reported as a break-up album; however, that doesn’t capture the zeitgeisty quality of the music itself, fitting perfectly into the better end of Pitchfork’s taste register. Catchy songs that can be lulling or vivacious, but are anything but a drag.
After that, I had to put something completely random on. Nothing in particular led me to dive into this next record, except for the discovery that they are not, in fact, The Feelies.
FEELS released Post Earth, a title that appeals to me in both an apocalyptic and a sci-fi vein. It’s a challenging album. They seem to have two modes: a cool n’ easy psych shuffle and a full-on Priests-style Riot Grrl melee. It can really throw your ears for a loop when track three hits like a pair of defib paddles. But that’s WHAT I NEEDED. “Deconstructed” drum-rolls in, and a cacophony of furious voices shout at me about needing cigarettes against a background of piano-wire-guitars and sludging basslines. Yes, punk me out of my comfortability! Beyond that point, the album continues to provide quality material, like the chilled-to-raging title track with its twisting vocal and End Times airs.
A Cherry On Top:
I needed to end the day with a known entity who’s had a habit of letting me down. The morning began with a shrug, and the symmetry of ending with a shrug was just too perfect for me to resist. Unfortunately, these shoulders have yet to un-tense…
Murray A. Lightburn, the vocalist-in-chief of The Dears, has been having rough times for a while now. Relationship stuff? Yeah, probably, but it’s led to the kind of music that’s not going to win back any hearts and minds. Given that his new solo set is called Hear Me Out, I figured I’d give him the benefit of his wish. Thanks for asking, Murray! This new setting really suits his crooning voice. We’re still on a bit of a downer kick, but the music is like low-key Motown with Lightburn serving as a sort of Sad Nat King Cole, taking center stage spotlight throughout the ceremonies. Although the lyrics may be as depressed as ever, the music swings, the back-up vocals coo, and there’s life in there. “To The Top” even bursts out with a chorus about how “you won’t be disappointed” — And he’s right! If this is a Second Act to the Lightburn career, it’s a crowd-pleaser.
And with that, it was over. Did I go through every release on the magickal date of February the 22nd? Absolutely not. Are there more gems out there? Quite possibly. After all, Master of the Niche, Daniel Falatko, described Lil Pump’s Feb. 22nd release as “Lots of fun, this one.” But my work here was done. Sifting through the sands of this Release Day, I found enough gold dust to keep me away from the ol’ prospecting for quite some time.
Now, I could finally settle on yonder hilltop, raise some goats and rest, living the remainder of my days in harmonious peace.
New Album Release Day 2/22/19: 7 Megahits out of 8.
-David C. Casey