The Most Critical Hour (Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour review)

Did you know that the golden hour is the first hour after a traumatic injury, and the reason why it’s called this, is that it’s often the most critical for successful treatment in emergency situations.

Now, I don’t think that’s what Kacey Musgraves intended with her album title, but it still holds significance given that this album is worth a critical listen, whether you are a music critic or not. It’s almost like a first look at the world after a life-changing event.

 

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

released Mar 30, 2018
******** 8/10

Kacey Lee Musgraves, better known by her stage name, Kacey Musgraves, is an American country music singer and songwriter. Like many popular country artists today, Kacey is a seasoned professional who has been performing for the better part of twelve years – Golden Hour is her third studio album, following three years after Pageant Material, and her first with MCA Nashville.

She has been met with generally positive reviews on all three of her albums, but Golden Hour is the first album that has ranked at over 90% on review aggregator Metacritic. The consensus seems to be that it’s a great record because her vocal range is quite high and very appealing, and not to mention the fact that while many of the songs are very saccharine, but most importantly there is a sincerity in the dream world she is constructing, and it deviates from typical country fare..

I think it’s great that the Butterflies and Space Cowboy are the first singles. They represent all of the high notes this album wants to hit, and then the rest of the album goes on to prove it over and over again. If you listen to Mother and/or Rainbow you might just be moved to tears. Both of them are positive songs, one about the heritage of motherhood and the other speaking out to minority groups (read: LGBTQ youth).

This is not the type of content you see in mainstream country, it’s atmospheric, and generally just lovely to listen to, but because it’s not ham-fisted with it’s content, it feels better to sing along to a song about a woman giving her lover the space to be independant, for the right or the wrong.

Pros: Space Cowboy, High Horse, Slow Burn and Wonder Woman all almost instantly appealed to me purely as melodies, and upon subsequent listens their lyrics have grown on me to the point that I’m reciting them back to myself. Her vocalist work is just so good.

Cons: While the content is interesting for a pop country album, it does soften the country sound purely to appeal to non-country fans. And it was even mentioned in all of the marketing of the album. And in the process… well, it doesn’t blend in other genres so much as it dials back on the country tones. And the expected sassiness isn’t really there, which might be difficult to accept for existing Kacey Musgrave fans.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of InterestAs I already mentioned, this album has widespread universal acclaim from most critics, having debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200. It’s primarily about the “golden hour” of Musgraves life as she comes out of the glow of just recently getting married, with many things in her life coming together.

This is a nice album. I know that sounds like a safe statement to make, but not every major event in life needs to leave us scarred and broken. Introspection can be a positive experience too. Which is why the uplifting music with an appreciation for the real world, is what we are given, and why I gladly accept it. It’s true that we might not have expected this from Musgraves, but I think the reason why I enjoyed it so much is that she clearly doesn’t care.

theories Summarized

Whether you believe the hype or not, this is a really entertaining and heartwarming album. If it can stand the test of time and enter the ranks of the timeless is yet to be seen, but I’m happy to say for today that Golden Hour has lots of power.

On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, Brendon and I decided to do a video review on the chiptune original, Crystal Castles, by none other than Crystal Castles. Using a circuit bent Atari 5200, this music can be jostling, calming, exciting and generate a host of other feelings, but it manages to do this without much help from lyrics.

In fact, Alice Glass often feels like part of the instrumentation, and not a leading vocalist.

There you have it creative cuties. Two great albums, with two very different emotional cores, but I think you’ll find that each have valuable tracks and are worth a spot on the shelf. And please give them repeated listens, because I have a theory that you’ll feel the same as I did initially. That said, hit us up in the comments, like and share the video if you found it valuable, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts.

Tim!

Not Experimental Enough? Hold My Whiskey (Jack White, Boarding House Reach review)

What rock and roll artist worked with A Tribe Called Quest and Beyonce, and is completely frantic? The guy who used to wear red, white and black.

Now known as the guy who wears blue, white and black.

 

Jack White – Boarding House Reach

released March 23, 2018
******* 9/10

John Anthony White, better known by his stage name, Jack White, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor. He is also the lead singer and guitarist of The White Stripes, and performs with other bands (The Raconteurs) and artists (Beyonce, Alicia Keys) often. His debut solo album, Blunderbuss, was released in 2012 and followed up a mere two years later by Lazaretto. And to be honest, Lazaretto was the stronger album in my personal opinion.

Both of his solo albums have had considerable commercial success and critical acclaim, so it is not surprising that he eventually followed up with album no. 3, Boarding House Reach; though the time gap was a little wider this time.

Boarding House Reach is an atypical blues rock album and has been released on White’s own label Third Man records as well as Columbia and XL. In an odd move, Connected by Love and Respect Commander were released simultaneously as the album’s lead single back in January, and Over and Over and Over was released as the second single in March. Corporation and Ice Station Zebra were also released as singles, and consequently, the album was able to reach no. 1 on  the Billboard 200.

This is an album which has a lot of layers, and absolutely needs several listens in order to be properly appreciated. Because it probably won’t sound as good as it is the first couple of times, I suggest sitting with it in the background as you drive, while you work away the day, and even as you burst through your evening work out. It’s a rock album that is challenging rock and roll in a time when rock is basically struggling for air.

Thankfully for us, he is a veteran of blues rock, having fronted The White Stripes for years, and it makes sense for him to explore funk, jazz, and even gospel music, but man when he decided to inject hip-hop and spoken word poetry into the mix… that’s when I knew I was onto something special. Plus, it’s a polarizing album, with lots of people locked in, but a healthy amount of skepticism from seasoned reviewers too.

The singles make perfect sense now inside the context of the record, but they are not the highlight of the album, no. They are an introduction into a more fun and carefree Jack White. Yes that might seem off, but listen to Hypermisophoniac, Everything You’ve Ever Learned and What’s Done is Done, and tell me this isn’t a new Mr. White.

Pros: His vocal performances are way out there, and it’s refreshing to see how he is stepping away from blues rock and yet he is still darkly edgy in his lyrical choices. Why Walk a Dog is a great little absurdist track about the idea of owning pets and whether dogs really do have a good life.

Cons: There are a lot of collages of different ideas floating around here, from spoken-word, rapping, progressive rock, funk music, to a cover of Al Capone’s own song (Humoresque). And sometimes they fight with Jack White’s natural sound, whatever that means to you.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of Interest: White chose to write like Michael Jackson would, by thinking of the songs as a whole rather then parts. He did everything in the silence of one room, for several hours at a time each day. This is White’s third no. 1 solo album.

This is not an album rooted in the past, like his previous solo albums and his work with The White Stripes. No this is something out of time, and I’m thankful to have found it.

theories Summarized

I’ll admit that when I listened to this the first couple of times, I thought, yeah it’s technically good, but definitely not a knockout album. This is normal, and a good thing, dear readers. So settle in as instructed, and you’ll come out the other side singing the praises of the future of rock and roll.

And fortunately for us, this week’s Sound Culture video review is perfectly lined up as a weird album of it’s own. If you’ve never heard The Mars Volta before, their debut album is a great place to start, and well worth a listen or 50. Brendon and I break down the technical reasons why this progressive rock album might not be for everyone, but it can definitely be acquired with a little effort.

Yeah, it’s a weird album. Ha! But I love it all the same. I hope you get to feel the same, but either way hit us up in the comments, like and share the video if you found it valuable, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts.

Tim!

Post-it Notes (Jeff Rosenstock, POST- review)

Making music isn’t something for everyone, but everyone needs music in their life. When economic anxiety has become the new buzz term to describe the state of western nations, then I think it only makes sense for an artist to come on the scene and shake things up.

 

Jeff Rosenstock – POST-

released March 23, 2018
********* 9/10

Jeff Rosenstock is an American musician and songwriter hailing from Long Island, New York. He’s been involved in a ska band (The Arrogant Sons of Bitches), an indie rock group (Kudrow), and a musical collective (Bomb the Music Industry!). It was only six years ago that Bomb the Music Industry! split up and Rosenstock had to decide what to do with himself. After a bit of deliberation he launched his solo career in 2012.

In those six years he has released three studio albums, We Cool?, Worry, and POST-. POST- was released digitally on January 1, 2018 to the surprise of so many people. It has since been issued through Polyvinyl and to generally favourable reviews – Most of the songs were created shortly after the 2016 presidential election and reflect Rosenstock’s disenfranchisement with national pride, non-confidence in people, and disbelief in himself.

it’s equal places angry and fun, something we could all do with in 2018. While that sounds incredibly daunting–and like a really tiring listen–the album’s most impressive trait is that it makes all that vital work feel joyous and communal

USA tells a story about the never-ending civil war of America, having never ended but instead become even more charged over time. It’s a strong opener and features lines like “we’re tired and bored” and “et tu USA” which smartly sounds like F U USA. Then we have Yr Throat and Powerlessness, which have a subtle taste of hope about bridging communication, but ultimately raise doubt whether America is worth the trouble.

Continuing this trend are All This Useless Energy and Beating My Head Against A Wall. Both tracks are strong indicators of what happens in the face of futile odds. Most surprising to me though is Let Them Win. A song about the importance of working together to combat evil behaviour and focus on we instead of you and I.

TV Stars reminds you of a Billy Joel song, and even has a reference to piano-playing, but most importantly there is a theme about loneliness and the fear of it, throughout the track. This also shows up on the next song, Melba, which it is probably the most happy song of the lot, and hilarious if you pay attention to the lyrics. Oddly enough it also reminds me of another song – I’ll have to get back to you on what that is exactly.

Pros: The energy of each song is amazing, and how Rosenstock manages to inject fun into such sweeping epics of ideas is something I haven’t seen in a while. Tackling difficult topics comes naturally to him.

Cons: Rosenstock is a victim of his own success. It mimics Me Too! but unfortunately isn’t quite as interesting as that initial outing.

Runtime: 40 minutes

Points of InterestIt was written and recorded mere weeks before it’s January 1 release date. Most of it  was recorded live onto tape, giving it a very lo-fi and earnest sound.

Now all that shared, POST- might not be Jeff Rosenstock’s best work to date, but it is far and above more entertaining/meaningful then so much other music that’s been released this year. This is a spiritual successor to other punk concept albums like American Idiot and The Monitor. It’s heartfelt, DIY, modern punk music, and I think it’s pretty damn accessible too.

theories Summarized

It’s cathartic and painful, bright and worrisome –  an anthem of economic anxiety as it were. POST- was given away for free on New Years Day, but I’d happily pay for it a second time if I were given the choice. It’s that good.

And speaking of albums I would happily buy a second time if it ever came up, Brendon and I have a great video review on the 2005 debut album Silent Alarm. This is essential Bloc Party listening and it features so many danceable tracks on it. Definitely worth a sit down. Or twenty.

I can’t believe that album is over a decade old already, but it was easily in my top five records for that year, and has been on heavy rotation ever since!

And remember, if you liked what you saw, and/or enjoyed what you read, please click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel and my mailing list! I’ll be back tomorrow with a film review on The Shape of Water. A divisive film, yes, but I have an interesting theory on why it actually deserved to win so many Academy Awards.

Tim!

Better Be Starting Something (Our Lady Peace, Somethingness review)

Fifteen years ago, I had an opportunity to see Our Lady Peace live at a festival and while I took it upon myself to watch them, I never really appreciated it. They were alternative rockers in an open sea of rock and roll, and their music was good, but not great, in my limited opinion.

mp3s hadn’t completely overtaken the musical landscape just yet, but it was becoming more common for smaller musicians to get attention, and more and more Canadian musicians were cropping up. 

Now, after twenty-six years of activity, are they still relevant?

 

Our Lady Peace – Somethingness

released February 23, 2018
****** 6/10

Our Lady Peace, sometimes known as OLP, are a Canadian rock group that have their roots firmly planted in Toronto. Headed by founding member Raine Maida (vocals, guitar), and longstanding members Steve Mazur (guitar) and Duncan Coutts (vocals, bass), Somethingness is their ninth studio album, and the first since the departure of twenty year drummer Jeremy Taggart, and new comer Jason Pierce.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve seen this group live before, but I have not been much of a fan in their lifetime. This might have stemmed from defiance on my part, refusing to vote with my money simply because a rock group was Canadian, but as I look back on their catalogue, it occurs to me, that these guys really have contributed to the current rock landscape. Maybe not as influencers, necessarily, but by association with with major acts – Foo Fighters, Goo Goo Dolls, Stone Temple Pilots, and Big Wreck all come to mind.

It’s not a particularly innovative album, but as Maida states on opening track Head Down, “I’ll find my place in the sun,” which a mid-tempo song, and a good indicator of the pace to expect for the majority of the record.

Embracing their skill with guitars and penchant for coded lyrics, songs like Ball Of A Poet and Hiding Place for Hearts demonstrate that sound well, and are welcome additions to the album. What I found most surprising of all was how great of a job Drop Me In The Water does of demonstrating the groups strengths, and showing a new generation why their sound was beloved in the 1990s and as a great alternative to the dance-rock and indie folk of the day. Nice To Meet You‘s lyrics are uplifting and topical.

When we get to the last two songs, Let Me Live Again and Last Train, it takes a bit of effort to become reinvested, but Last Train is the most experimental of any of the songs on the record, and a strong point to end on.

 

Pros: As stated already, singles Nice To Meet You and Drop Me in the Water are excellent, as they raise the emotional bar enough to resonate with a broader audience, and they are technically sound too. But best of all is

Cons: Towards the back half of the record, we listen to some even more subdued tracks – Missing Pieces and Falling into Place. These songs feel at odds with the emotional tone set up in the first half of the record.

Runtime: 33 minutes

Points of Interest: OLP initially decided to split the album up into two volumes, releasing the first EP back in August 2017, but after some consideration a full-length album dropped February 23, 2018 which is the subject of this review.

I wish Last Train would have been an opening track, and influenced more of the record. To be considered as a final thought, is frustrating, to be perfectly honest. I would’ve probably written this album off with out it, Drop Me In The Water, and Nice To Meet You in the mix. I hope this is the start of something, rather then a middling effort at the end of a career.

theories Summarized

At the end of the day, I’m not sure I can fully endorse this album for the average music fan. It’s great if you already know about Our Lady Peace, but if you are looking to try them out, I would direct you to Naveed or one of the other first four albums in a heartbeat upon personal reflection.

That said, I do have a Canadian album that I can easily and happily support. The sophomore effort from k-os, an artist who should be considered a national treasure at this point. And if you don’t believe me, I brought Brendon along to show you the finer points of the record.

What a gem he is. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I’m referring to my co-host or the artist in question! For now, I’ll listen to The Love Song on repeat. 

And remember, if you liked what you saw, and/or enjoyed what you read, please click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel and my mailing list! I’ll be back tomorrow with a film review on Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. A film which deserved more then it got at the Academy Awards. I have a few theories on what happened…

Tim!

Phasers Set To Stun (Dear Rouge, PHASES review)

I will totally agree that there is an ebb and flow to life. We all experience highs and lows, and whatever exists in-between, but on the surface, it’s never quite so obvious that the flow is much more internal then could ever be demonstrated. To put it another way, transitions happen constantly within our thought processes.

 

Dear Rouge – PHASES

released March 9, 2018
******** 8/10

Dear Rouge is an award-winning Canadian alternative and dance rock duo, comprised of husband and wife, Drew and Danielle McTaggart. They’ve been active since 2012, and initially met while touring under different bands. It wasn’t until after they had been married that they began the Dear Rouge brand. In case you were wondering (and I very much was!), the band name is a play on words – Danielle’s home town is Red Deer, Alberta.

PHASES is their sophomore album, released just three years after the critically successful Black to Gold. Returning this time with a more refined sound, and influenced by the places it was recorded at (Toronto, Montreal, Nashville, Vancouver and New York), the McTaggarts set out to produce an album which doesn’t actually innovate much on what came before, but instead feels more intentional with it’s themes and tonal choices.

It’s all very cheery and hopeful, except for when it’s not, and even when Dear Rouge has committed one way or the other, the other side comes through to create a feeling of warmth. This is created to great effect within the first two tracks. Wicked Thing is very much a bright song with a hopeful resonance, and yet, there is a tone underneath that loving affection can easily turn into obsession. And then that theme of obsession is more prominently stated on Live Through The Night, but that song is overtly dark and mysterious. The dance between darkness and pop continues on Stolen Days, an aching callback to youth, not knowing any better, growing up and maturing, and is very much a tribute to Drew’s late cousin.

The singles Boys & Blondes, and Modern Shakedown make up the core of the album’s hype machine, and deservedly so. They are both essential dance-rock with catchy lyrics, heavy on the synth and bass and explosive chorus’. Boys & Blondes has feminist themes and Modern Shakedown is super dark.

It’s a living breathing album, which was desrcribed by it’s creators as full of grit and gloss, and I think that’s a pretty apt description.

Pros: Each song is really and truly exciting to listen to and gives us an opportunity to pick up a torch and fight for the cause of indie pop-rock. If you really want to get a taste for this album listen to Live Through The Night, Little By Little, and The Clearing. Darker nights of pop there have been not.

Cons: Though the tone and quality of production is consistent throughout, there is very little variation from song to song, which makes it difficult to know where you are at any given point, and having to give pause takes you out of the mood.

Runtime: 37 minutes

Points of Interest: Dear Rouge spent the better part of 2016 and 2017 touring while they were writing and recording their follow-up album. Tawgs Salter, Sterling Fox, and Hot Hot Heat frontman, Steve Bays, all helped produce the record.

If you really want to compare it to other acts of today, PHASES can easily knock down the doors of other dance-rock and dance-punk progenitors. I’m looking at you The Killers, DFA, and LCD Soundsystem. Heck, even synth-pop and indie darlings like Metric, Tove Lo, and La Roux should be concerned. Dear Rouge are trendsetters and clearly cutting up the Spotify charts.

theories Summarized

Should you listen to this album? Yeah, I think it’s worth a listen or five. Don’t get me wrong, I love some Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, but Canadian music content always feels a little bit more authentic and inventive with it’s presentation. And tastemakers are always so fashionable to boot. My theory, of course.

And speaking of tastemakers, I’ve got this really cool review lined up with Brendon Greene on the classic hip hop album from the now retired Beastie Boys. That’s right! Licensed To Ill is going to get some love this week, whether you’re hearing it for the first time, or it’s been on your brain since the 1980s, this is seriously fun music, and influential too.

I greatly appreciate that you took the time to read this review, and I hope it helps you to decide to listen to it. And if you’ve already heard it before, I trust my thoughts affirmed how you felt, one way or another! And what did you think of Brendon and my Sound Culture video review? Licensed to Ill is an instrumental hip hop record, and well worth a listen! And remember, if you liked what you saw, and/ior enjoyed what you read, please click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel and my mailing list! I’ll be back tomorrow with a film review on The Disaster Artist. There’ll be more theories!

Tim!