In any conversation about new music that I am listening to, I am often asked “Is it any good?” So having expanded my horizons on this blog, I’ve decided to answer that question by reviewing four new albums released every month that interest or intrigue me, by listening to them from start to finish at least twice. Then I will write-up a short paragraph or two about the album and artist. A quick music review will be exactly that, I don’t have the patience to write a long format informed impression. My hope is to at least give you an inkling as to whether or not you might like to explore it further yourself. Enjoy.
Beautiful Trauma (RCA Records)
Prior to the release of I’m Not Dead (2006) I didn’t care much for Pink musically. I was certainly aware of her growing popularity of the back of her worldwide #1 single Get The Party Started in 2001. By 2006, Pink had released her fourth album I’m Not Dead, reaching Top 10 charts around the world, and in the process establishing a truly loyal following here in Australia. Australia would come to love Pink, and Pink’s affection for Australia was reciprocated. It’s fair to say the combination of rock, pop and R&B with the heavy emphasis of guitars and thumping drums on I’m Not Dead, convinced me that Pennsylvanian Alecia Beth Moore was a force to be reckoned with. In short, the tantalising shift away from synths and hip-hop certainly pleased me and would set the benchmark for the amazing run of hits and albums that followed.
The similar style and fun replicated on Funhouse (2008) and The Truth About Love (2012) has not been lost by Pink in her hiatus over the last five years. In August this year, she released What About Love, the first single from her seventh album Beautiful Trauma, a rousing and empowering ballad showcasing her powerful vocals and presence.
Beautiful Trauma is a solid return for Pink and it continues to play on almost all her strengths as a trend-setting artist. Her voice soars on this album and the assortment of acoustic arrangements and ballads are epic and pleasing to hear. The return of electric guitars and the piano also gives fans a baseline of familiarity that we have come to expect and associate with albums such as The Truth About Love. But just when you think, one is unable to endure more of the same, she effortlessly crosses over genres with a song like Revenge (a collaboration with Eminem). It is cheeky in delivery, something that I really like about Pink, especially her willingness to poke fun at situations and herself.
My favourite album tracks are Beautiful Trauma, Whatever You Want, But We Lost It and Where We Go.
Alex The Astronaut
See You Soon (Minkowski Records)
In case you haven’t noticed, Alex Lynn, aka, Alex The Astronaut, is one of an array of exciting young female Australian artists, making her way with her infectious folk-pop sounds. It has been quite a busy year for this 22 year-old songwriter, with the release of Whom It May Concern, and now her October release See You Soon EP.
Music is, and maybe always will be, a reflection of Lynn and her experiences, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to hear Lynn’s guitar strumming, coming-of-age lead single Not Worth Hiding, grounded in lyrics and folk-pop sounds, that are truly relatable and honest, especially for someone as young as Lynn. She is without a doubt, mature beyond her years of experience as a singer songwriter, which is evident particularly on one of my favourite tracks from the EP, called What Sydney Looks Like in June, an homage in style perhaps to her songwriting hero Paul Kelly. So while I look forward to eventually hearing her debut album in the near future, See You Soon will do for now. It is sweet and to the point, and a reliable showcase of her talents.
Carry Fire (Nonesuch Records, Inc.)
Can u believe it has been fifty years since Led Zeppelin’s first album was released! Since then its remaining members have become rock gods to millions of fans. That said, and if you’re a fan of Led Zeppelin, but are prepared to concede that Robert Plant, will never again scale the heights of his heyday, Carry Fire offers up a bluesy, folk-rock feel, with a tinge of Eastern influences that is quite enjoyable.
This is surprisingly Plants 11th solo album and one that is familiar to what we have come to expect from him. It is solid without being too adventurous and to be honest I can’t help but hear a slight acknowledgement to songs like Zeppelin’s Going To California and Kashmir. For me, that just might be a hang-up of listening to far too much Led Zeppelin! (Is that even possible?) To Plants credit, he also makes room for listeners to enjoy the more traditional rock n roll elements and sounds of chugging and stabbing of guitars (which I quite like) on songs like New World and Bone of Saints.
Standouts include, the opening track The May Queen, A Way With Words and Dance With You Tonight.
Masseduction (Loma Vista Recordings)
Annie Clark late last year hinted that this album was going to be her “deepest, boldest work yet.” In fact, it’s hard to disagree, after listening to her latest release all week, repeatedly at home, in the car and at work. You may get the impression I am a big fan of her art rock. Unashamedly I am, and it is one of the reasons for the delay of this quick music review because I couldn’t get St. Vincent out of my head to concentrate enough on the three other album reviews above. Suffice to say I have deliberately left all my listening devices at home to nut out this late review!
St. Vincent is without a doubt a shrewd operator and in some sense a great manipulator of the media. She has positioned herself sweetly in the spotlight yet again with her new album, which many are already calling her greatest triumph. Interestingly, she said recently in a press release, “Every record I make has an archetype, ‘Strange Mercy’ was Housewives on Pills. ‘St. Vincent’ was Near-Future Cult Leader. ‘MASSEDUCTION’ is different, it’s pretty first person. You can’t fact-check it, but if you want to know about my life, listen to this record.” And so, maybe almost predictably, we all beelined to grab our copy, or fix of the aptly titled Masseducation her fifth album in ten years.
Masseduction is intimate and raw and cuts straight to the point about much of her state of mind lately. Like any good saga or personal crusade, Clark bares her soul on this album, especially on New York where she languishes for “the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me.” Her directness or vulnerability here is refreshing, as is also her take on themes of sex, drugs and power.
Annie Clark’s robust guitar work doesn’t go unnoticed here on Masseduction. It is arguably what attracts me most to her music, ever since I first discovered Strange Mercy (2011). But while her fuzzy distorted guitar is her trademark, this album is ultimately more synth pop than ever. It is daring and sweeping in scope, from the mini opus that is Pills (an indirect swipe at drug companies) to the electronic drums and synth-based sounds of Los Ageless ( a more direct swipe at the ugly side of LA and what women must do to be beautiful at all cost. Clark’s clever protest in the chorus of Los Ageless “How can anybody have you and lose you and not lose your mind, too?” pretty much sums it up!) In a nutshell, and yet while not even a month old, Masseducation just may be one of the finest examples of what a great electropop album should sound like.
Photo Credit: The header image is a collage of all four albums that I have reviewed above. They are courtesy of RCA Records, Minkowski Records, Nonesuch Records, and Loma Vista Recordings. I make use of them under the rationale of fair use because no free equivalent seems to exist and they serve as the primary means of visual identification at the top of my article dedicated to the reviews in question. I am not the uploader of the You Tube clip embedded here.