Jack White – Boarding House Reach (Third Man Records)
Back in his heyday, Jack White almost single-handedly reinvented the rock wheel with his minimalistic approach to instrumentation and recording. To this day I still mourn and long to hear The Whites Strips’ Seven Nation Army and it’s infectious riff and chant. I don’t think it’s humanly possible for Jack White to release a bad album, right? But I think he has finally succeeded in creating his first dud, despite some great elements of free-play and inventiveness. At it’s best, beginning with Connected By Love, I think it’s a really brave album, but soon after it descends into a weird avant-garde road trip that is unfortunately a little too much even for me. Seriously, what’s with White’s cringeworthy attempt at rapping on Ice Station Zebra all about?
Liza Anne – Fine But Dying (Arts & Crafts Productions)
What I really like about Liza Anne is how quickly she has evolved as a musician. She has recorded three albums in four years, and according to Anne, she’s well ahead of schedule of where she thought her career would be right now. In that time, she’s taken her love of folk-inspired music and blended into an indie-pop sound with some of the most honest and poetic lyrics for someone so young. At 23, Georgia-based, Elizabeth Anne Odachowski, had for a long time kept in check her panic and anxiety issues. On her first two records she alluded to her own struggles, but here, on Fine But Dying, she outlines her world with thoughtful candor about love and dealing with mental illness. Standouts include a brave look at anxiety on Paranoia and on the aptly titled Panic Attack.
Kacey Musgrave – Golden Hour (MCA Nashville)
Golden Hour is my introduction to Kacey Musgraves and her country-pop inspired world. I’m told by a friend that while she still manages to plays around with the familiar country sound that brought her to the world’s attention in 2013, this album is the closest thing she has done that can be called a sweeping pop-inspired crossover. Surprisingly, I think everything on this album works. That said, Velvet Elvis with its synth beats stands as my favourite track at the moment, but I’m also taken by her attempt at crossing over to ‘70’s soft rock territory with the album’s self titled track Golden Hour. The disco spirit of High Horse is also irresistibly catchy, while her ode to LGBTQ rights with Rainbow, a testament to her unequivocal goal to continue to speak to and for the LGBTQ community, is admirably as the album’s last track.
Dorothy – 28 Days In The Valley (ROC Nation Records)
In 2014, Rolling Stone called Dorothy “a swamp-rock stomp electrified by the caterwaul of lead singer Dorothy Martin.” Whatever the case, you cannot deny frontwoman Dorothy Martin has one of the most incredible voices of the last decade. It’s a shame though that Dorothy (the band) doesn’t get the mainstream exposure they deserve, but then again I’m happy for them to circle around the mainstream as sort of a bluesy hard rock dirty little secret. Dorothy’s sophomore album 28 Days In The Valley just might be their best effort yet. It starts of strong with their lead single and album opener Flawless and builds with momentum on Who Do You Love and subsequently boils over on another half-dozen tracks across the album with Martin’s incredible wailing and what seems like a relentless never-ending attack of electric guitars. But Dorothy also shows that they can change gears on the album with their salute to blues rock on tracks like Pretty When You’re High, Mountain and Freedom. In short, this album will keep the hard rock faithful quite content.
Photo Credit: The header image is a collage of all four albums that I have reviewed above. They are courtesy of Third Man Records, Arts & Crafts Productions, MCA Nashville and ROC Nation Records. 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.