REVIEW: Prince, Originals (Warner Bros.)

Prince’s estate has been a bit of a PR shambles since the star’s sudden death in April of 2016. The lack of any discernible will has led to a never-ending legal battle between Prince’s family and the banks appointed to care for the business dealings of the musician’s vast estate. Despite the financial squabbles, the estate has managed to eke out a few posthumous releases that one would assume even hardcore fans have to admire. Sadly, this is unlikely since Prince’s elite hardcore fans are an admittedly miserable and impossible lot to please, complaining endlessly about any and everything to do with the man. These releases speak more to spreading the legacy to potential fans as well as to those who already identify as “fams”- the term Prince applied to his followers as he found “fan” (short for a fanatic) to be derisive.

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REVIEW: Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic)

Fiona Apple’s re-emergence every half decade or so is a triumphant celebration for a niche community of devotees and rather an apathetic shrug for the rest of America, which assumes (wrongly) that she’s just a Lilith Fair throwback, trying to claw her way back into the limelight. I belong to the former group, as my parenthetical aside betrays. Apple is a brilliant songwriter. I know this to be true. I just feel guilty enjoying her music as much as I do. She’s clearly unwell, both in heart and mind (no matter what she says on the chat shows), and this has never been more apparent than on her latest opus, the steely-eyed and daringly entitled The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.

“Every Single Night” is a most bizarre album opener and even more confounding as a single. With its wild dynamic shifts from heart pounding chants to shaky whispers, Apple sounds not of sound mind. But it works on every level. The lyrics are obsessively reflective, of course, as Apple analyzes the tricks her brain plays on her night after night. She’s fixated on how the brain functions, and its impact on her many neuroses has infiltrated her perceptiveness as a songwriter. You simply can’t help but believe her when she whisper-sings, maniacally, “I just want to feel everything.” On “Daredevil” Apple concedes that she may indeed “need a chaperone” as she’s not to be left alone, but her melodies and vocal idiosyncrasies are so endearing that it’s easy to overlook the obvious pleas for help just to enjoy the song.

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REVIEW: Cotton Candy, Top Notch & First Rate, Teenbeat

When Unrest disbanded at what I considered to be the height of its powers in 1994, my college radio-infused world was devastated. Unrest was my favorite band at the time, simply because its wildly erratic yet highly collectible records mimicked what I thought made college radio so interesting and intriguing and vital. The abrupt mood shifts, random non-sequiturs, and brazen avant-silliness were all packaged in a DIY shell with a dark, sardonic undercurrent (and, of course, exquisite design). You couldn’t pin that band down. Granted, its final two albums veered sharply in a clean, clinical direction, but the sum of its years and dizzying musical styles were always at bay, especially in a live setting.

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REVIEW: SLED, S/T, Lunchbox

sledfinalfrontIt’s true that most bands rock less as they age. The few that go against the grain remain rare exceptions. Specifically, hardcore bands tend to blow up long before they can go limp. Such was the case with Assfactor 4. The legendary South Carolina quartet called it quits at the height of its powers in 1997, despite its second LP, Sports, not being released until 2000. That posthumous release has managed to keep the rumors alive that the band would get back together in some form for a decade.

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REVIEW: The Avett Brothers, The Gleam II, Ramseur

gleam What are a few country boys to do? Following their defining release, 2007’s Introducing: Emotionalism, Concord N.C.’s The Avett Brothers have enjoyed what most burgeoning bands would consider one hell of a year: National TV appearances, sold out shows in mid-sized venues across the U.S., a mention on Perez Hilton, and a move to the majors to record an album with Rick Rubin. With such widespread acclaim and a staggering tour schedule, the bucolic Avett boys, once considered a regional act at best, have precipitously found themselves perched on the cusp of national recognition.

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REVIEW: Anakrid, FeverDreamFever, Stereonucleosis

feverdreamfever Inarguably, Anakrid’s music is inherently uneasy on the ears, but that shouldn’t completely scare you away, if you’re ever even slightly intrigued by what’s behind the other, less welcoming door. Anakrid’s so-called “difficult” musical canvas is an acquired taste to be sure, but it’s worth adjusting the tuning in your musical ear to appreciate the premeditated aural deconstruction that awaits.

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REVIEW: Band of Horses, Cease to Begin, Sub Pop

41XswBEKz1L._AA240_ On paper Band of Horses seems like it would be a hideously boring mess: mid-tempo rock drenched in gratuitous reverb all with more than a hint of twang. But Ben Bridwell’s idiosyncratic execution of such a simple formula catapulted his band to the upper echelon of Sub Pop’s prestigious roster, alongside The Shins and mentors Iron & Wine with its unassuming debut, Everything All the Time. Bridwell and former bandmate Mat Brooke took an earnest approach to indie rock, relying on unpretentious themes, laid-back performance, and sincere lyrics. The results surpassed any and all expectations, as the band found itself in extremely high demand from frat boys to unapproachable elitists thanks to its defining anthemic single, “The Funeral.”

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