On his first album in five years, the mercurial Sufjan Stevens returns to a sonically pleasing, yet thought-provoking mixture of his recent Electronic experimentation and Indie R&B. “The Ascension,” released through Asthmatic Kitty, is, as promised, a step up for Stevens. Inside of its robot funk skeleton, the lyrics feel intimate and increasingly human. Finally, while it is glued together like a Pop album, it is not. If anything, you are dancing to a new brand of teenage symphonies to God.
The Ascension [LP/CD/CS]
Good Luck With Whatever [LP/CD](Rounder)
Entering the studio with Dave Cobb, Dawes makes a valiant attempt at sounding as they do live. Their melodies remain extremely catchy, and Taylor Goldsmith revives his sense of humor about life. A decade of making music has left Goldsmith tangled up in adulthood. As Goldsmith balances band life with home life (he is married to Mandy Moore), Dawes finds the best way possible to gel around the songs and let their interplay speak as well as Goldsmith’s words.
After the triumphant return of Slipknot last year with the serious “We Are Not Your Kind,” Corey Taylor takes a bit of holiday venturing into a gritty Rock album with hints and allegations of Hip-Hop thrown in. Taylor takes some chances (“Black Eyes Blue” sounds anthemic like Foo Fighters), but it is not certain how longtime fans will respond to this shift.
THE NUDE PARTY
Midnight Manor [LP/CD]
After one of the most promising debuts of 2018, the Garage Rock of the sextet The Nude Party grows up on album two. The band steps out of their comfort zone and slows down for exotic Seventies Pop (“Shine Your Light”).
The result is a tighter band effort and more focused adding and subtracting of their instruments in the mix. So, when they revisit the Garage, it crackles like the Velvets (“Lonely Heather”) and swaggers like the Stones.
Keep Em On They Toes
If I had it my way, Cobb would be in that list of first-mentioned new “Outlaw” singers and songwriters (also, if I had my way, we would not call it that out of respect to those who truly earned that title in the Seventies as outcasts from Nashville). Cobb is a smart yet homegrown writer who knows how to simply lay down the tales of modern life. “Shut Up and Sing” is a quaint bit of politics, but he is so understated and only lets it swell around a literal phalanx of fiddles. The title cut is one of those songs that Nashville loves, but Cobb works his words so smartly and the implications so well, they will not touch it in favor of more overt, obvious and purposefully written material.
Then again, if I had my way, you would hear Cobb on the radio next to Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Eric Church, Tyler Childers, Margo Price and Colter Wall.
That’s just me.
I, too, am no Outlaw.
Asbestos Mouth [LP/CD]
Terms is another in the growing mass of small but fierce duos. Christopher Trull and Danny Piechocki make a tornado of wild noises on this album of brief yet wild visions of maximized music. “He Hid His Lies Under The Bags Under His Eyes” is swirling blend of neck-breaking metal played without distortion and jazzy and Math Rock-ish stops/starts. While “Your Cutting Strokes Are Starting To Heave” is a bit like the Minutemen playing the music of Raymond Scott, it escalates quickly into its cartoon-ish zenith before Trull's giant chords make it thrilling. Get ready to read a lot about Piechocki, who is restlessly inventive throughout with cascading rolls and dynamite time shifts.
[LP/CD](Howlin’ Banana AUS)
Australia’s Tapeworms pull more Pop out of Dream Pop and turn their Shoegaze ideas into a rolling blend of guitars, synths and ethereal vocals. “Safety Crash” is a wild ride with drum machine breaks, noise interjections and a steady, shifting melody. However, its luminescent Lush-like chorus make it amazing even after several listens. “Funtastic” neatly mixes a world of buzzy lo-fi fun sounds with the streamlined pre-Shoegaze sound of the early Nineties with great success.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Café in Hattiesburg.