Anyone that says this isn’t a good year for music hasn’t been paying attention. There is a huge catalog of artists continually putting out good work at such a volume I miss them in the deluge. Here is a short list of some of my most recently enjoyed new albums. Check these out:
Chet Faker, Built on Glass
Chet Faker, moniker of Australia native, Nick Murphy, released an album not long ago. Who’s Chet Faker? Who’s Nick Murphy? I didn’t know either until a few weeks ago. (Murphy took the name of a favorite jazz musician, Chet Baker, and adapted it in homage). What’s going on down in Australia? That country has been putting out some exceptionally good, fresh music (see: Kimbra, Gotye, Flume). Maybe it has something to do with the crazy wildlife, perhaps its Aborigine magic. It could be related to the status as both country and continent – or maybe it has something to do with being descended from an ancestry of people that were exiled from Britain, hence a proclivity for soul music and blues. Whatever they are doing down there, I hope they keep producing good tunes.
This record is somewhere between R&B and casual electronic downtempo. It possesses elements of both, particularly in the vocal work and the types of sounds used on the synthesizer. Chet Faker’s new album, “Built on Glass,” has an excellent overall sound, the lyrics are heartfelt. This album nails it. To warn some, it’s really mellow, not something you want to work out to. If you have a long lazy drive up the coast, a warm afternoon with cold beer and shade (and a lady), this is perfect mood music. Although, if you’re drunk and alone, some of these songs could lead to moping and late night phone calls. Listeners beware. Must Hear Songs: “Gold,” “To Me,” “Talk is Cheap,” and “Cigarettes and Loneliness.”
Chromeo, White Women
Chromeo is the soundtrack to my love-life. Don’t get it twisted. These are not serenades. These are new-wave pop songs about truth in romantic relationships, told in a humorous way, almost in the style of Hall and Oates. Interestingly, Darryl Hall has performed with Chromeo on many occasions.
My fascination with Chromeo started five or six years ago when I heard “Bonified Lovin’” on my friends computer while we were working on a website. I feel like the guys behind Chromeo, who are named Dave One and Pee Thug, if you were wondering, must be geeks of some kind. Maybe it was D&D, maybe comics, or maybe they’re just Canadian. I feel like this is smart sounding love music for male geeks – or maybe I’m projecting on to them and all of my readers.
My enthusiasm aside, there are some great songs on this record. “Jealous (I Ain’t With It),” “Over Your Shoulder,” & “Sexy Socialite” are my stand-outs for this album. “White Women” starts off real strong with four upbeat, super-catchy songs back-to-back and closes out with a good jam called “Fall Back 2U.” The middle portion is simply good filler songs. There are some really decent saxophone solos and good instrumental jam portions in them, but in the end it’s not fresh enough or uniquely separate enough from their previous two albums to warrant me calling this an amazing album. It is rather fun, however, and totally worth your attention, especially if you aren’t acquainted with Chromeo. They’re fucking awesome.
Beck, Morning Phase
My first thought when I saw that Beck had done something new was, “Who gives a shit?” I was tired of that “In the time of chimpanzees, I was a monkey,” song fifteen years ago, mainly because people only seemed to know two lines of lyrics to the song.
I don’t dislike Beck, I never have. I got burned out on it because of music television. See, back in the day, we had these channels on our televisions. On these channels, they played videos with music. We called them “Music Videos.” This form was popularized primarily by the channel known as MTV. The desire to watch musical acts perform their work to a stylized video lasted until just around the turn of the new millennium. Carson Daly killed the music video. Him, and that stupid black fingernail.
“Morning Phase” is nothing like I expected it to be. After “Odelay,” I couldn’t have cared less about his music. Since I’m an adult now, however, I put my childish reservations back in their hate-box, and gave “Morning Phase” a shot. It is difficult to describe why I find it to be so good. Simply put, Beck’s new record is so much better than I expected that it has become a frequent play of mine in the car and in the house.
Beck has certainly grown into a mature, talented artist. I wonder how die-hard Beck fans reacted to this record. Upon reviewing his catalog a bit more, I found that much of his work sounds to be of the same vein as this one, although this is certainly unique enough to stand proudly on its own. However his long-term fans feel about it, Beck has certainly made me reconsider my opinion of his music. I may even make an effort to see a live show.
Stand out songs from Morning Phase are: “Morning,” “Blackbird Chain,” & “Turn Away.” The latter is my current favorite from the album. I love the vocal harmony.
John Butler Trio, Flesh & Blood
One more Aussie musical genius, John Butler is another Bonnaroo discovery. I casually listened to them before that lovely weekend in 2010. Afterwards, “Grand National,” was a permanent addition to any party playlist I made. Songs like, “Daniella,” “Used to Get High,” and “Devil Running,” simply blew my mind.
John Butler Trio’s new album, Flesh and Blood, is a killer record. Typically, his albums are riddled with demonstrations of his excellent guitar skills; this album changes nothing. “Living in the City,” has a killer breakdown fueled by jamming blues guitar.
I could go on and on about each song, but they are all really, really damn good. I feel like most of their songs either tell a story or sing about life with joy a sense of sadness. I feel like good music is supposed to stir things in your soul. Maybe you don’t want to think about them, but healing takes attention, as well as time. Good music only helps. I feel like this is the kind of album that people will relate to and enjoy for years.
Stand out songs: “Spring to Come,” is an excellent intro track and happened to play at an emotional moment and touched a special cord. “Living in the City,” had me from about 0:10, as soon as the guitar started. Everything else is just solid, good music.
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