New Releases: Not-so-ordinaryBy MIK DAVIS,
The Prince of Darkness is anything but an "Ordinary Man." Struggling with Parkinson's, Osbourne gives Rock his final act on this showy, celebratory victory lap. "Ordinary Man" is less of a solo album for Ozzy, and more of a dream come true for the lengthy list of collaborators who range from pros (Chad Smith of RHCP) to the expected (Slash, Tom Morello) and the unexpected (Post Malone.) Surprisingly, Ozzy works best with the people you would least expect it from namely Post Malone ("It's a Raid") and the majestic title cut with special guest star Elton John.
Map of the Soul: 7
[CD] (Big Hit Entertainment)
In light of this brand new record being under extreme security and scrutiny (we have now received two official e-mails regarding where and when we can begin selling it,), we're talking 4 million preorders worldwide on this 20-song CD which comes in four random versions. Here's what we know. The album was announced January 7th. The trailer hit YouTube two days later where it has racked up 56 million views. Their performance of its first single "Black Swan" on James Corden has brought in some 35 million views over two weeks. The CD package of "Map of the Soul" is massive with a photo book, lyric book, mini book along with photocard, postcard, and poster.
Canadian singer/songwriter/synthesist Grimes is back with a wildly orchestrated album purposefully designed to set her apart from everyone else. Opening with the massive groove-meets-New Age vocals of "So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth," Grimes looks to disintegrate any genre-specific labeling from song-to-song. "Delete Forever" is the Pop song as banjos flutter around the stealthy synth lines. "Darksei'd" is thunderously loud while "IDORU" is a quiet ballad. "Miss Anthrop0cene" displays a new urgency for Grimes. These are songs reaching out to be Pop hits, these are songs that grab you and make you take them (and Grimes) seriously.
For the first time in five years, Bethany Cosentino has returned with her mix of sharp vocals and hazy punky Pop. Newly sober and never sounding better, Cosentino and longtime collaborator Bobb Bruno tackle modern life and love with an unadulterated love of Eighties Pop. "Different Light" shares a title with the Bangles but sounds like an updated Go-Go's. While, "Everything Has Changed" crunches, the drifting Pop of "For The First Time" says more about Cosentino than she has ever said before. Best Coast in 2020 remains just one hit away from acceptance.
Archy Marshall says a lot without his pensive lyrics. On 2017's "The Ooz" his druggy grooves spelled out more about the songs in the contrails they left behind. Where "The Ooz" bubbled with teenage angst, "Man Alive!" is a searing tract on adulthood. His tracks capture chilling isolation and its warm analog ("Don't Let The Dragon Draaag On") as well as frightening lows in self-esteem. The instrumentation is even more spartan than before as Marshall goes it alone over drum machines and twisted guitar chords. "Alone, Omen 3" reached a new depth where he does not just point to depression as normal but a strange gift ("Nothing wrong with sinking low/In the omen of paradise, You're the ghost they put aside.") Much like Alex G.'s frightening "House of Sugar" from last year, "Man Alive!" is a trip into darkness hoping for a faint glimmer of light.
The Sixties saw a union of pristine Pop and the melodicism and instrumentation of the Far East. Now fifty years later, that pairing tends to go hand-in-hand. Elephant Stone make Sixties Pop but with a bright 90's twist. They tumble into grooves that you do not want to end. They layer their harmonies and allow instruments to drift in and out of the mix like clouds passing overhead. "Hollow" is far from Psychedelic though, it is more like BritPop viewed through a more colorful prism of light. "We Cry For Harmonia" peaks masterfully at its conclusion, while "Darker Time, Darker Space" needs only a minute to cast its spell. "Hollow" is full of drama (The Lennon-esque "The Court and Jury") but at its best when it dives headfirst into heavenly Pop.
[CS] (Bangs and Burns)
Hailing from New Jersey, Miranda Taylor leads these former Post Punkers into a full-throttle RAWK debut with a Power Pop twist. "Life" is a smoking single with Taylor's devil-may-care vocals set against the main riff. As she warbles "tonight" again and again, you do not want this one to end. The more in-your-face "Moldy" flips the formula for a bass-heavy Nineties indie rock thrust where she gets to howl during the choruses. In the days of bands needing immediate classification to earn your time, Exmaid spreads its promise around for all to hear.
– REISSUES –
Despite not being drafted into the Rock N'Roll Hall of Fame this year, the Irish boys of Thin Lizzy continue to gain stature in Rock circles. These two albums catch the band at their best. Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham on twin leads and Phil Lynott growing into the proverbial rockstar frontman. Over the years as they grew, Thin Lizzy released no shortage of tough Irish pub songs, but the separation between the funky "Mama Nature Said" and "The Rocker" ended with blazing cuts like "Suicide" and the galloping "Wild One."
Thin Lizzy was so great at wielding their new Pop/AOR ready guitar thump, they even lifted "Rosalie" from Bob Seger.
However, "Fighting" only set up their masterstroke "Jailbreak." The cohesion in the songs of "Fighting" became its own narrative on "Jailbreak" where they created a seamless album that dealt with Rock as if it existed on a mythic plane.
Their tough songs ("Jailbreak") were naturally hits. Lynott's Springsteenian storytelling made "The Boys Are Back In Town" their breakthrough, and songs like "Romeo and The Lonely Girl" and "Angel From The Coast" sail along at a similar clip.
However, Thin Lizzy saved their best for last with the celebratory "Cowboy Song" and the toughest ending of all in the Irish folk tale "Emerald." "Jailbreak" was Lizzy's peak, but it opened the door for Lynott's most expressive writing.
What follows is equally important but far more "real world" than this fantastic world they brought to life in 1976.
Davis, an avid music listener and historian, is the record store manager at TBONES Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.