Pink adds heavy hitters to latest hits
Pink continues her run as the underdog singer in pop music. While all the others dominate press in the weeks before and after their releases, Pink quietly puts another shimmering modern pop/EDM dance record together with a phalanx of hitmaking producers including Beck, Sia, Max Martin, and even Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons. Her duets this time out include a pair of new heavy hitters Khalid and Chris Stapleton.
Josh Ritter has taken us through a whirl of emotional states. However, his 2017 album "Gathering" set a new course with its mixture of soul and Americana. Following those roots, Ritter entered the studio with Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit for what on its surface feels like a Rock record.
"Ground Don't Want Me" should be a stomper, but with Ritter leading, it sounds earthy but never heavy. The harrowing "The Torch Committee" is a career highlight as Ritter unveil a kind of angry Folk that needs little other accompaniment to cut through.
RodRigo Y Gabriela
As a pair of fantastic guitars, the duo have had ample time to prove their worth without a band and too many overdubs. While their whole essence is to interweave their six-string action to sound huge, they rarely hit on a melody or song that is memorable. Then, they lay down 18 minutes of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" at a variety of tempos. As original as they twirl the Floydian progression around and around, I am left feeling like this is what too many people want from their "World Music."
I Need a New War
The one-time Hold Steady singer really knows how to lift lyrics from the page into effective storytelling. As the last of his trilogy, "New War" nails down his narrative structures quickly. Finn eschews Americana-esque instrumentation to give these cuts an 80's Springsteen-ish lift. His choruses are short and the whole album holds together like one lengthy tale about how city life crushes you before rebuilding you into a stronger human being. "Blankets" covers the dichotomy of those on their way up and down very effectively. "Magic Marker" finds a beautiful way to express ongoing love. However, it is the lush, sad tale of confused redemption on "A Bathtub In The Kitchen" that gives Finn a voice that he has never used before.
GUIDED BY VOICES
Warp and Woof
When we last heard from Bob Pollard and his band, they just dropped the mighty double whammy of "Zeppelin Over China" in February. Apparently, Pollard was so jazzed over the results of that album - he went on yet another writing jag. A boombox session magically gave formation to six songs. A one-time EP grew into 24 songs that include recordings squeezed in during soundchecks and even as the GbV van was flying down the freeway.
Art Ensemble of Chicago
We Are On The Edge
50 years ago, this group of skilled Jazz musicians took off in the other direction from their years of performance and training. Ruggedly Afro-Futuristic, AEC worked feverishly to find a method of communicating their musical ideas in a new language.
"We Are On The Edge" celebrates their contribution with these edited highlights from studio sessions and a live show where the original members returned to their music. The Pan-African span of instruments (djembe, Congo bells, kanjira) really lights this one up and gives the classic AEC room to expand their numerous personalities for even neophytes.
In League with Dragons
John Darnielle is always at his best when he is ambitious. For his latest (the 17th album under this moniker,) he combines his love of role-playing games and rock opera with showy, unique lyrics. "Sicilian Crest" and its blocky chords feel both like an overture and an overture to the Eighties (also, there's a wailing sax solo in "Younger".) After albums that discuss the Bible, vampires and even wrestling, "In League With Dragons" feels like a side of Darnielle we have never heard.