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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Saturday, 04 February 2012 02:18|
The Black Keys - El Camino
The Black Keys have proven with their sixth album, El Camino, that they can use a a proven formula (their fusion of blues, classic rock and even a bit of R&B), change it enough to make it sound fresh. The result is a release that actually surpasses their break-through album, Brothers.
El Camino is one of those albums that's going to sound really great no matter where you listen; whether it's on an iPod, in your car or if you're fortunate enough to hear them perform live, this album will provide you with a new experience depending on how you listen to the material. Songs like "Dead and Gone" and lead single "Lonely Boy" will find themselves fan favorites in live shows, and a song like "Gold On the Ceiling" is so infectious that you'll have it on repeat; or at least I have since I first got the album.
At this point, The Black Keys don't have anything really left to prove to the music industry. They've had a hit album, a stellar tour and a follow-up album that will meet or exceed critical expectations. The Black Keys aren't going to be the next big thing; they are already there.
Recommended Tracks: "Gold on the Ceiling", "Lonely Boy", & "Stop Stop"
The Fight - New Young Electric
This Alberta quartet have self-published their debut album, a tight thirteen track album of indie-pop, a genre that really has become a cornerstone of Canadian music in the last few years. They aren't introspective like Stars, not quite avant-garde like Broken Social Scene, but more like soulmates of fellow tour buddies, Library Voices. New Young Electric is a fresh sounding album, with a lot of great tunes and tons of potential.
New Young Electric was originally released in mid-2011, so I'm a little behind in reviewing this, but it's still an album that should be heard. With so many great Canadian acts out there, sometimes really great ones like The Fight can get lost in the shuffle. New Young Electric comes in various formats and can be purchased directly from the the band's website
Recommended Tracks: "Electric Avenue", "House" & "Mary"
Lana Del Rey - "Born to Die"
I don't understand the attention that Lana Del Rey has been getting. She's garnered two minor hits, and has been quoted by some as being a new incarnation of Nancy Sinatra, yet Del Rey lacks...well, wide mainstream appeal and a really catchy song. "Video Games" wasn't a particularly groundbreaking song and neither is this, her second single, "Born to Die".
"Born to Die" is very reminiscent to Nancy Sinatra, and in a way this song evokes the same sort of feel that "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" did for our parents' generation decades ago; but female pop music has been splintered into two groups in the last few years: you're either really artsy like Adele, Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, or you're more dance-pop such as Lady Gaga and (I loathe to say it), Ke$ha. However, both groups require a really great song to make it all happen. Sadly this mid-tempo husky ballad isn't quite it, but it comes close. I'll keep an eye on Lana Del Rey, but at the moment, based on "Born to Die" and "Video Games", I can't say that I'm convinced.
Kathleen Edwards - "Change the Sheets"
I often forget about some of our local grown talent, even after they've managed to crack into mainstream success. Kathleen Edwards has been on the music scene for quite some time, and by the time this review comes out, her fourth album Voyageur will have been released. "Change the Sheets", the lead single from this album is a reminder that Kathleen Edwards is a damn good singer, a fantastic songwriter and is able to attract some of the best in the business (Bon Iver is producing the album, and Norah Jones has been tied to this project as a session musician).
The song is supposedly about an individual (Edwards perhaps?), who has come to accept that their lover has gone back home (long distance relationship, after a break-up), and that she not only needs to change her physical world (the sheets), but change herself as well. It's a fantastic track, extremely radio friendly, and is hopefully part of an album that will garner her a wider audience.
Of Monsters and Men - "Little Talks"
For a band that is being touted as the next Arcade Fire, and the new Mumford & Sons (have Mumford & Sons really been around long enough to be considered old yet?), Of Monsters and Men have had quite a bit of hype, and now have a lot to deliver on with their upcoming debut album. This band from Iceland that is supposedly the next best thing manages to pull off this feat with the release of their first single, "Little Talks".
If comparisons to others bands are going to occur (and they will), allow me to break down "Little Talks" in the following ways: lyrically, this band is very similar in style and tone to Mumford and Sons. While I'm not the biggest Mumford & Sons fan, I can appreciate that Marcus Mumford is a brilliant lyricist, and so are the writers in this band. Musically, they are very much like Arcade Fire, and it's instantly apparent from the first few bars of the song. Vocally, it's very much an Arcade Fire model, with a male and female lead vocalist, and both compliment each other very well.
Comparisons aside, "Little Talks" is an excellent song, and one that I imagine is just catchy enough to make it a fan favorite during live shows. They have a lot of work to do to get out from under the shadows of other great bands, but Of Men and Monsters are proving that they have just as much to say musically, and are just as talented as all the other great bands out there.
John K. Samson - "When I Write My Master's Thesis"
You may not recognize the same, but you'll recognize that voice if you're a fan of Winnipeg folk-punk band, The Weakerthans. Samson has finally gotten around to releasing a solo disc, and if this first single is any indication, I think I'm really going to enjoy the album.
"When I Write My Master's Thesis" is a catchy tune, great guitar hook, and a whimsical look at being a graduate student (if anyone you know is working on a Master's degree, they need to hear this song). Now, as good as the song is, it really could have been released by The Weakerthans and gained wider attention, but as it stands, this a great track, and one I think is going to be getting a lot of play on my iPod as spring approaches.
Snow Patrol - "New York"
After the band released "Called Out in the Dark" last year, I got hopeful that the song might signal a new direction for the band. Instead, "New York" goes back to being the same-old material that Snow Patrol has put out before, and the content about separated lovers (one being, guess where? New York), also has a feeling of "been there, done that". Die hard fans of the band will sing the praises of this song, but honestly, as a follow-up to what could have been something fresh and new, instead just leaves me completely disinterested in what they'll put out next.
Tags: john k sampson, kathleen edwards, lana del rey, music, my bad on posting this article so late, of monsters and men, repression, rocking the mike, snow patrol, the black keys, the fight, the weakerthans