Friday, April 28, 2017


Released March 3, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: It has been three long years since I first fell in love with Temples and their specialized brand of 21st century psychedelia courtesy of their debut album "Sun Structures" (released February 5, 2014).

Where their first album conveyed a certain soundscape of being caught in the middle of some kind of dark London underground club circa 1968, Temples has evolved its sound into something more overtly modern yet without sacrificing the huge, melodic qualities that made their debut such a stunner. But, was it enough?

"Volcano," the band's second album, is a melodically rich and beautifully loud album filled with booming production and cavernous sound where an army of keyboards and synthesizers are the dominant instruments (save for Samuel Toms' drums) on display. Now this is not meant to foreshadow any negative commentary. I love the superb wash of the synthetic 88's but I do wish that the alteration in sound made for a collection of better songs overall.

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed tracks like "Certainty," the glorious album closer "Strange Or Be Forgotten" and the terrific "I Wanna Be Your Mirror" among others, but for much of the album, the songs tended to blend and bleed together and leaving not much of an impression, instead of making my ears pop in excitement, much like their debut. .

Now, never fear. "Volcano" does not represent a sophomore slump or creative stumble. Just an album that ushers in a bold new sound but is still a tad tentative to really make that great leap. Temples had that great album in them, I think...and I am happy to follow and wait for its full arrival.
Released March 17, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: Sometimes, the arrival of Spring is perfectly announced through the music of Real Estate as their specialized blend of gorgeously languid, dreamy interweaves of guitars, sighing vocals and tempos that conjure the mood of listening to new grass growing and the Earth itself gently warming after a bitter Winter.

While their fourth album "In Mind," features a personnel change as original member singer/guitarist Matt Mondanile departed the band to focus full time on his excellent Ducktails project, a move that now finds guitarist Julian Lynch joining the fold, Real Estate's signature musical palate, one that suggests a combination of The Byrds, The Feelies and The Smiths, has remained as blissfully steadfast as ever.

Now for some, the musical sameness may strike listeners as Real Estate being trapped within some sort of creative stagnation. But, I don't think that fans of the band are looking for them to re-invent themselves from album to album--at least, I'm not. With Real Estate, I may not get the album that re-invents the wheel, so to speak, but I do know what I will receive, making any new effort feel like receiving the warmest messages from a friend.

And when those guitars announce themselves upon the album's opening track "Darling," and continue onwards towards the lovely album closer "Saturday," I am simply happy.
Released March 11, 2008
Released May 21, 1996
Released March 6, 2006
Released March 31, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: The cat nearly did me in.

In the music video for "Goose Snow Cone," the debut single and opening track from Aimee Mann's undeniably moving 11th solo album, we are treated to a short story of a cat parent dealing with the illness of her treasured feline friend. Cutting to the chase, the video contains a happy ending but even so, (and especially as I am a cat parent to two beloved feline friends and endured the devastating loss of my first treasured feline companion many years ago), the images immediately brought tears to my eyes--tears that were truly earned through the images propelled by the honestly and overall compassion of the music itself, which contains Mann's most delicate, stripped down arrangements to date.

"Mental Illness," which Mann has described as containing her "slowest, saddest and most acoustic" music yet, is exactly as advertised. Working again with her longtime producer Paul Bryan (hmmmm...whatever happened to Jon Brion?), Mann has envisioned her latest collection of character studies, intimate portraits and interior monologues as explorations of specific mental states, all fueled by sounds of chamber pop merged with 1970's easy listening.

In fact, quite often, I found myself feeling that these songs, with their stunning harmony vocals (the background singing in the piano ballad "Good For Me" is especially killer, for instance) and other accouterments would not have sounded terribly out of place on an album by Burt Bacharach or better yet, The Carpenters, that is if Richard Carpenter's orchestrations were toned down (no disrespect to R.C.).

To my ears, what Aimee Mann has achieved, especially in this age of mega-excess--from singing to production, all signifying nothing) is truly masterful and I would urge aspiring songwriters to take heed of her qualities as there are quite few in her league. With this album, Mann demonstrates how less is so powerfully more as the instrumentation is essentially built around acoustic guitar, bass, minimal; drums and percussion, some piano, those aforementioned string arrangements and harmony vocals and of course, the heart and soul of the album itself, the lyrics and voice of Aimee Mann, which contains a rich sense of gravity and empathy for her new cast of characters.

From the cat inspired "Goose Snow Cone," to the adrenaline junkie ("Rollercoasters"), the romantically rejected ("You Never Loved Me"), the bipolar grifter ("Lies Of Summer"), the soon to be eaten alive hopeful young actor ("Patient Zero") plus six more tales of woe, Aimee Mann's "Mental Illness" is a emotionally affecting work filled with cryptic metaphors yet miraculously dives straight for your heart while never growing maudlin or overwrought--just brilliantly direct in its melancholic eloquence and elegance.
Released March 14, 2014
Released April 1, 2013
Released October 13, 2009
Released April 3, 2006

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