Capsule Reviews: Records Released on June 7 & 14, 2019


June 19, 2019 | by No Recess! Staff

Holy shitballs, there's a lotta great releases from the last two weeks.

June 7th Releases

Dinosaur Pile-Up

Celebrity Mansions

(Parlophone)

Grade: D-

Too clean, too bright, too precise, and containing all the worst elements from '90s alt-rock bands: big riffs, catchy choruses, and overly clever lyrics. The fourth record by this Leeds trio is disingenuous at best, a straight-up insult at its worst. I don’t know who will buy this, but it’ll probably do well since that '90s sound is big again. But look, just because you’re screaming the lyrics doesn’t mean you’re doing it right. Fug it. – Andrew K. Lau

Watch the video for "Back Foot" below, and buy Celebrity Mansions here

Jon Mueller

Canto

(SIGE)

Grade: A

For those who’ve always wanted to fall into the heart of a 40" gong, now is your chance — Jon Mueller’s latest release, Canto, is an incredible journey into drones. Each of the three tracks approach the same idea from different angles, utilizing vocals and percussion into a hypnotic wet-wrap of sound. The louder you play Canto, the more results you get with dissonance. Is that the slow tug of your own heartbeat in your ears or is that the record? It doesn’t matter, just keep falling. – Andrew K. Lau

Watch a Jon Mueller video below and buy Canto here

Pelican

Nighttime Stories

(Southern Lord)

Grade: A

If you’re angry and you know it... listen to this album. Six years of piecemealing Nighttime Stories together resulted in Pelican doubling down on an unrelenting, colder instrumental metal than some past efforts, though still utilizing those '90s hardcore leanings. Rare are the days now when I encounter a new metal album (of any variety) that doesn’t sound forged or phony. Pelican are so in command of whatever they make of "post metal" that last statement rings all the more true. Warmly received, a welcomed return — to put it short: This album rules. – Jocelyn Hoppa

Stream the entirety of Nighttime Stories below and buy the album here

Silversun Pickups

Widow’s Weeds

(New Machine)

Grade: D

Silversun Pickups are kind of known for tension-and-release exorcisms otherwise couched in shoegaze-y melodrama. Pop enough to reach radio listeners but with just the right amount of angst and indie rock credibility. What could go wrong? Widow's Weeds (with producer Butch Vig), the band’s first record in five years, is overproduced and underwhelming, the beloved edge absent — they sound like an altogether different (see: worse) band. This is what always goes wrong. Keep playing “Kissing Families” on repeat, and skip this record entirely. – Jocelyn Hoppa

Watch the video for "It Doesn't Matter Why" below and buy Widow's Weeds here

Grateful Dead

Aoxomoxoa (50th Anniversary Edition)

(Rhino)

Grade: A

Another year, another Dead anniversary reissue. [yawn] One could be far more cynical about 'em if these weren’t so lovingly crafted. Two amazingly different mixes (from '69 and '71) each bringing out different elements to this humidity-soaked, burlap-wrapped batch of LSD hymns. The vinyl version of this reissue is on picture disc, a format notorious for its shitty sound, an ironic twist for a corporation known for their love of fidelity. The CD version has an extra disc of era-specific live tracks, which means no studio outtakes. Which means their most devastatingly bizarre an f’ed-up track, the nitrous oxide-fueled "Barbed Wire Whipping Party," remains too weird for even the Dead to officially acknowledge. Maybe next time. – Andrew K. Lau

Listen to Aoxomoxo below and buy the 50th anniversary release here.

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June 14th Releases

Bill Callahan

Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest

(Drag City)

Grade: A+

Basically I threw off my headphones at one point, because sometimes I can't fucking stand how great Bill Callahan is. – Jocelyn Hoppa

Listen to "Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest" below and buy the album here

Baroness

Gold & Grey

(Abraxan Hymns)

Grade: A+

"Epic," "Go Beyond," and "Legacy-Defining" masterpiece is how some are describing the new Baroness record. Sweeping praise often puts skepticism right into the palm of any music critic. Fully prepared to throw shade if necessary, around track three the hair on my arms shot straight up. "Seasons" is 100% epic, goes beyond, and feels legacy-defining as they wring everything they can out of a heightened feeling. So is the following "Tourniquet," "I'd Do Anything," it just keeps going, keeps getting better. Propulsive, contemplative, literate... Gold & Grey masterfully sustains these elements over the album's 17 tracks and shows the band is at peak creativity and technicality. – Jocelyn Hoppa

Watch the video for "Tourniquet" below and buy Gold & Grey here

Bruce Springsteen

Western Stars

(Columbia)

Grade: A

It's always a fine time for Bruce Springsteen to deliver new solo music, his first record in 14 years without the E Street Band, and the lush folk/pop of Western Stars doesn’t disappoint — his songwriting here evokes the cinematic grace and grandeur of the Southwest, John Ford country. Though his wide vista, story-songs may recall familiar Springsteen character types (like the fading but defiant Western B-movie actor from California who once was "shot by John Wayne" in the ravishing title track, or the wrecked stuntman driver in Drive Fast), these rich arrangements delve into strikingly fresh sonic turf for Springsteen, as they echo vintage late '60s/early '70s pop like Glen Campbell and Harry Nilsson with their orchestral swells, pedal steel, and muted strings. "Hello Sunshine," the sublime first single, soothes with its gentle, cascading melody, wistful words, and acoustic elegance. Western Stars’ tone gleams with golden melancholy, and the autumnal ache in Bruce’s voice has rarely sounded so resonant. – Greg Gaston

Watch the video for "Western Stars" below and buy the album here

Iron & Wine + Calexico

Years to Burn

(Sub Pop)

Grade: A

On their second inspired collaboration, Years to Burn, Iron & Wine and Calexico blend their eclectic strengths to create yet another indie roots treasure. Recorded in Nashville, this record overflows with naturalistic charms and cohesive rapport. With a few exceptions, Sam Beam takes the lead in both singing and songwriting. His hushed vocals and lyric impressionism are sustained here by Calexico’s more expansive song textures, which endow Beam’s folkie, lo-fi vision with a greater sense of dynamics and depth. The Tucson-based Calexico horns and conjunto style spike the eight-minute brew, "The Bitter Suite," and dissonant instrumental, "Outside El Paso," with delicious brio. The two bands’ simpatico harmony spills over the record’s final hymn, “In Your Own Time," as Beam and Calexico’s Joey Burns trade ghostly lines of revelation. – Greg Gaston

Watch the video for "Midnight Sun" below and buy the album here

Madonna

Madame X

(Interscope)

Grade: C

Solo record by the former singer/guitarist of Emmy & The Emmys. Computerized music, plenty of dreaded auto-tune, and unnecessary help from others on vocals while the thick, claustrophobic production seals the music up in an expensive sarcophagus. All in all: a cliché. Apparently, there’ll be a promotional tour for this record, which seems like a pointless endeavor, but what do I know. Times sure have changed since The Emmy’s last played Max’s and these current times ain’t fun, nor is Madame X. I sure wish she’d get the old band back together. – Andrew K. Lau

Listen to Madame X below and buy the album here

Ramonda Hammer

I Never Wanted Company

(New Professor)

Grade: B+

Back in 2017, for once we were kind of on top of an emerging band, and that was Ramonda Hammer, with their album Destroyer, who were nice enough to do an interview with us. Lead singer Devin Davis has such a powerful, soaring rock vocal, it's just a very satisfying thing to hear. I Never Wanted Company sets off sorta slow, but ultimately picks up to form a really solid record that's further honed their "grunge pop." Two stand out songs for me: "Future Discounted" specifically for its wonderfully understated screeching guitar for an added agitated edge, and "Who's the Narcissist?" what with it immediately becoming a theme song to my life and all. Well done. – Jocelyn Hoppa

Watch the video for "Who's the Narcissist?" below and buy I Never Wanted Company here

Shellac of North America

The End of Radio

(Touch & Go)

Gradel: B

First live record by Evanston, Illinois' finest. Two Peel Sessions, a quick, scorching, and brilliant set from ’94 and a second, longer and tamer, set from ’04. Not their best release by any stretch (why do we have to sit through two versions of "Canada"?), but any Shellac is better than no Shellac. – Andrew K. Lau

Watch the video for "The End of Radio" below and buy the new release here

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