Steve Earle is the punk poet laureate of alt-country music.
Like the Merles and Johnnys of the past, he’s been blessed with a dark wit and chip-on-the-shoulder muse -- his pen, vocal cords, guitar strokes, all vehicles of war. He wants his audience to feel changed after listening to his music. And sometimes, that involves a swift smack upside the head.
It is hard to imagine anyone still on the fence regarding the Thermals. Over the past decade -- and now six LPs -- the Portland trio has maintained such consistency in voice and quality that it should take only one listen to any song in their catalog for someone to make up their mind about the group's self-described "post-pop-punk."
With 'Desperate Ground,' those in the Thermals' corner have another treat: a compact dose of catchy, thought-provoking burners that pack conviction where there might be lack of imagination.
Musicians need not be ingénues to create vital music, something the Meat Puppets personify. Sure, the band doesn't bother changing its sound or image to match the ever-rotating flavor of the month, but really, why should they? When, over the course of your 30-year career, your followers have ranged from Nirvana to R.E.M., there's little reason you shouldn't do what you know.
The last time we heard from Sam Beam, the mastermind behind ‘00s indie-folk pioneers Iron and Wine, he was making his big pop move. Relatively speaking. He was on a major label and fleshed out his spare, acoustic songs with fuller production and arrangements that recalled ‘70s soft rock spiked with hits of occasional freakout noise. ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ lived up to its labors, debuting at No. 2.
The space between the Flaming Lips’ 2009 album ‘Embryonic’ and the new ‘The Terror’ was filled with a reverent remake of Pink Floyd’s headphone-tripping classic ‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ a collaboration record with some “heady fwends,” a six-hour song, a 24-hour song and a pair of giant gummies (one shaped like a skull, the other like a fetus) that housed new music. So it should come as little surprise that ‘The Terror’ is a weird, wacked-out journey to the center of frontman Wayne Coyne’s weird, wacked-out mind.
One thing for sure about Yeah Yeah Yeahs: They rarely sound like they’re on autopilot, even when they are. Their fourth album, ‘Mosquito,’ doesn’t come off a whole lot different than their other three. The trio – singer Karen O, guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase -- has gotten tighter as a band, and they’re taking a few more musical risks these days, but aside from a few surface details, ‘Mosquito’ doesn’t try too hard to shake things up.
"We're not doing a lot of stuff from the new record, but if you want to hear it, you can buy it here," offered frontman Chris Martin a few songs into Kinski's headlining set a the Cake Shop in New York City on Thursday night (April 11), a gig that kicked off the Seattle quartet's brief 2013 spring tour of the Northeast. And they didn't play much from the excellent 'Cosy Moments,' which dropped just last week, opting instead for a set that dug into their deep catalog and even featured a couple covers.
Last year was a banner year for Tim Presley, the man behind White Fence. Operating under that moniker, he joined the three-records-in-a-year club, releasing 'Hair,' a sub-30-minute bark of weirdo garage-psych recorded with the like-minded Ty Segall (who also managed three LPs last year), as well as two volumes of 4-track-recorded guitar-pop with the title 'Family Perfume' slapped on the front. The latter two discs totaled an impressive 29 tracks, whittled down from a reported 80. On top of all that, Presley is a member of Strange Boys and Darker My Love. Like fellow modern-day California garage-rock journeymen Segall and Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer, this dude keeps insanely busy, recording music like he's trying to ward off disease.
Aside from contributing the occasional la-la-la and overdubbed instrument, Marty Crandall was a background player in the James Mercer-led Shins. There is no argument regarding who is in control of that band's songwriting and direction. Crandall, along with longtime drummer Jesse Sandoval, found this out the hard way when they were let go several years ago.
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