ith only a few weeks until the Vernal Equinox that marks the beginning of Spring, it stands to reason that much of the country is being hit by yet another snow storm. Global climate change may eventually lead to the total extinction of human life on this planet, but I, for one, would like to see it hurry the hell up. Yeah, snow is beautiful the way it blankets the Earth with a soft downy coat that makes everything look freshly-born, but to hell with it. I want to walk outside without six layers on. Is that too much to ask? It is? Fine. I’ll just write about the stupid new releases then.
Atoms For Peace / AMOK
THEY SAY: First long-player from “super group” featuring Thom Yorke( Radiohead), Nigel Godrich (Radiohead’s producer), Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, Joey Waronker (Beck), and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers).
WE SAY: Some of the worst music of all time has been made by so-called supergroups (think Asia, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, UK, The Firm, etc.), so expectations for Thom Yorke’s latest side project were never very high. And that’s a good thing, because AMOK isn’t terrible, but it isn’t really any good either. It’s half Radiohead Lite, half electronica for beginners; either way you slice it, it’s a dull, passionless affair.
Autechre / Exai
THEY SAY: Latest album from influential electronic duo Autechre.
WE SAY: Nothing about Autechre has ever been easy. From their name (even the band members say it can be pronounced however one wishes) to their song titles (“Rettic AC,” “Goz Quarter,” “C/Pach”), to their choppy, often noise-laded compositions, Autechre have remained steadfastly obscure. The British duo pioneered a style of non-beat-driven electornic music that started the genre and several new and interesting directions, but Exai is not the band’s finest hour. It doesn’t help that it’s two hours long, either.
Wayne Hancock / Ride
THEY SAY: Eleventh album from roots country singer-songwriter Wayne Hancock.
WE SAY: Country music has, for the most part, been swallowed up by the pop mainstream in recent decades. You might not even remember that Taylor Swift started out as a country star, and you can be forgiven for that, because there’s very little country in her music. But back in the days of Buck Ownes and Hank Williams, country had a rawness and an energy to rival that of rock and roll (which, of course, wouldn’t exist without country). Wayne “The Train” Hancock taps into those roots and damn near revives the mouldering corpse of Hank Williams, delivering songs that have a deceptive simplicity and a disarming honesty that would do the old country masters proud.
Johnny Marr / The Messenger
THEY SAY: First solo album from former Smiths guitarist, one half of the songwriting team of Morrissey/Marr.
WE SAY: Listening to The Messenger, it’s hard to believe it’s been over a quarter century since the demise of The Smiths. But it’s easy to imagine this as the lost fifth Smiths album, albeit without the plaintive wail of Morrissey recounting tales of adolescent angst. Despite the time that’s passed, and the numerous other non-Smiths-sounding projects Marr has been involved in (Electronica, The The, 7 Worlds Collide), Marr hasn’t lost his ability to craft ingenious pop hooks. The Messenger suffers from muddy production—much of what’s good is buried in the mix—but it remains a treat for fans of top-notch British pop.