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Eraserland by Strand Of Oaks - Album Review

A new album from Tim Showalter which, barring a final misstep, hits all the Americana, (and more), marks. This album is heartfelt, sleazy, uplifting, classic and referential all at the same time whilst still pointing forwards.

The beginning is inauspicious. "Weird Ways" starts out like a standard Ryan Adams ballad, but takes off halfway through in a way that reveals the pedigree of the other musicians on the album. After hearing this track I thought it sounded like the aforementioned Mr Adams playing with My Morning Jacket(MMJ). The reverb drenched sound kept rearing its head and a little research revealed that, minus main man Jim James, they were the backing musicians on the album . No wonder I kept hearing them! As a band who has produced much that I like this was a good thing. 

After "Weird Ways" heads for the stars we stay there with "Hyperspace Blues" which is one for fans of Jason Pierce's Spiritualized, and sounds just as a song with that title s…
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New Music Review: "Future Shade" by Black Mountain

A new discovery for me, Canadian rockers Black Mountain and their new single from upcoming album "Destroyer".

I stumbled across this on a new music playlist, and it immediately stood out for the unique sound the band were creating. The riffs and rhythms said 1980s metal, but the tone sound and vocal style said alternative rock. Equal parts Dinosaur Jr. and NWOBHM, I love this combination, something I've not heard done effectively as here. 

From the way the sound opens up into the chorus, to the keyboard lead lines, to the full Iron Maiden style dual lead around the 3 minute mark this instantly shot onto my list of the best new music I'd heard in a while. Looking forward to the new album after this. 

"Drown in the future shade, ain't no-one going to save you tonight..."

R.E.M. At The BBC Review

I received this 9 disc package at the end of 2018, but due to its voluminous content I needed sufficient time to digest it properly to avoid critical indigestion!

In addition to being stacked with content, this box set is a fascinating document, (pardon the pun), of the evolution of one of the greatest bands in rock music. Focusing on the live recordings as opposed to the BBC sessions, things start with in 1984 with the then still very much underground R.E.M. and an urgent performance at Rock City in Nottingham. The jangle and mumble of the early band is very much present. A band who know how to play and what they want to project but without the big hits that would take them skyward in later years. A certain hesitancy and sense of testing the water is evident here.

I have to confess to not being in the 'cool' crowd and preferring the Warner to IRS years. As a result the jump forward 9 years to a huge open air gig at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1995 is much more to my taste. Whilst…

Distance Over Time by Dream Theater

The fourteenth studio album from the world's premier purveyors of progressive metal, (for those unfamiliar with the genre imagine equal parts Yes and Metallica), arrives 3 years after their double concept album "The Astonishing". 

This time the band went back to basics, setting up, playing and writing as a band in a room. If this is the result, more please. Tight and focused, with a return to punch-the-air riffs like "Outcry" from 2011's "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" or "The Looking Glass" from their eponymous 2013 album.

Things kick off on a high with lead single "Untethered Angel", a brief moody intro before it erupts with a riff that says buckle in for the ride.
Given that these are some of the finest practitioners  in the world on their respective instruments what you get is the standard, for Dream Theater, impeccable musicianship with jaw-dropping feats of virtuosity. Gone is the bloat of "The Astonishing",  and in it…

Best Of A Bad Bunch- "This Note's For You"

It is pretty rare for an artist to have a sustained career without at least one barren period with a lack of commercial success, critical or fan acclaim. Some may only have one golden moment, and then struggle to hit the heights ever again. That doesn't mean that all they produce in those "lost" years is without merit. I'm going to look at some of my favourite songs from these lesser known or ill regarded periods, starting with a man who has had more than one period of both acclaimed and berated music, Neil Young.

I'm not considering his "Ditch Trilogy" as a barren period as "Time Fades Away", "On The Beach" and "Tonight's The Night" rank amongst his finest work even if they fell a long way from the commercial heights of "Harvest". 

More thoughts on "On The Beach" here.

More on "Tonight's The Night" here.

Instead I'm turning to Neil lost decade, the Geffen wilderness that was the 1980s.

Best of 2018 Redux - Lake Street Dive

A short series of posts looking at the albums that either arrived too late, or I discovered through other peoples 'best of' lists, that I feel warrant discussion in the 'Best Of 2018'.

Next up,

Free Yourself Up by Lake Street Dive

I have to thank Jeff Fielder from the excellent "Great Albums Podcast" for bringing this gem to my attention in his best of 2018 rundown.

On the show in which this is discussed they played the track "Shame, Shame, Shame" and described it as being what Fleetwood Mac might have sounded like if Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham hadn't joined in late 1974. I can see where they're coming from in relation to the aforementioned track, but there is so much more to this band.

A veritable smorgasbord of styles between which the band adeptly switch from song to song, sometimes even within the song. From the soulful, funky rock of opener "Baby Don't Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts" through the vocal showcase of &quo…

Best Of 2018 - Redux Springsteen On Broadway Review

A short series of posts looking at the albums that either arrived too late, or I discovered through other peoples 'best of' lists, that I feel warrant discussion in the 'Best Of 2018'.

Next up,

Springsteen On Broadway

This double CD came along in December as the complete soundtrack to the Netflix recording of the Broadway show. 

I had managed to avoid any spoilers about the show, other than picking up the general vibe that it was good. It was therefore a surprise that it was unlike any other Springsteen album, indeed a show and not a concert. More monologue than songs it is nonetheless a fascinating document and a must listen/watch for any music fan.

Using some of the material from his autobiography to take us on a journey through his life in word and song with sincerity and good humour, this is an enjoyable ride. Are any of the versions of songs here the definitive versions? Not really, but that is not the point. The unique format is the selling point. If you want classic …

Best Of 2018- Redux featuring Bonny Doon

A short series of posts looking at the albums that either arrived too late, or I discovered through other peoples 'best of' lists, that I feel warrant discussion in the 'Best Of 2018'.

First up,
"Long Wave" by Bonny Doon
I have to thank Jimmy Lonetti from Minneapolis for highlighting this gem as his album of 2018  on the Rockin' The Suburbs podcast. Co-host Patrick Foster described them as tending toward Teenage Fanclub, which obviously got my full attention.

Indeed there are some tracks here that have the feel of something that could have been on "Thirteen" by Bellshill's finest, "Try To Be" and "Take Me Away" in particular.  

This album is far more than that though. It is a veritable smorgasbord of indie rock influences thrown together in a pastoral mix of gently twisting guitar riffs and harmonised vocals.

From the "A Lotta Things" which feels like it could have come straight from the 1997 alternative rock masterpi…

In Defence Of....."Outlaw Pete"

On a recent episode of the Set Lusting Bruce podcast, host Jesse Jackson along with guests Chris Bloom and Tim Arnold ranked their five top opening tracks from Bruce Springsteen albums. Whilst the show was as enjoyable as ever I couldn't help but note the universal disdain for the epic opener from 2009's "Working On A Dream", "Outlaw Pete". A response was required, so here we go....

Let's deal with the elephant in the room first, KISS. As a Brit KISS were never the big deal here that they were in the US. In fact before doing some research for this post, the only KISS song I'd ever heard was "Crazy, Crazy Nights". The similarity of the melody line from "Outlaw Pete" and "I Was Made For Loving You" was therefore not something that had ever bothered me as I'd not heard the KISS track until about 10 minutes ago! 

I'm not going to try a claim there is no similarity, or to pass judgement on whether it was intentional or …

Top Ten Albums Of 2018 - Number 1

A note before I start. This is not the definite list of the best albums of 2018, but my personal top ten.I have only included albums that I own, and there will be notable and popular records not in this top ten simply because I have neither the time or inclination to listen to them all. It's okay to disagree!

With that said here's my choice for number 1, and coincidentally the subject of my very first blog post back in 

Back Roads And Abandoned Motels by The Jayhawks

Arriving just over two years after 2016’s “Paging Mr Proust”, the new album from Minnesota’s finest is a departure, in that most but not all of the songs were co-written with other artists. Two Gary Louris originals round out the set. Whilst “Paging Mr Proust” was a return to form after the, in my mind, lacklustre and inconsistent “Mockingbird Time”, this is a step back up to the 1992-2003 heyday.

From the moment the drums and bass guitar strike up an instantly recognisable Jayhawks groove on “Come Cryin’ To Me”, unti…