Reviews: !!! punctuate their success with 5th release 'Thr!!!er'
It took a few albums for me to warm to the quirky indie rock of !!! (pronounced chk chk chk), who first burst onto the scene in 2001. Their self-titled debut earned praise in most circles, but I just wasn't feeling it. After hearing 2004's sublime “Louden Up Now,” however, I was a fan and subsequent releases “Myth Takes” (2007) and “Strange Weather, Isn't It? (2010) were almost as good. So my expectations were high when fifth full-length “Thr!!!er” came across my desk and the guys don't disappoint on the nine-track release.
With its catchy choruses and poppier song structures, “Thr!!!er” is !!!'s most accessible record to date. Songs like “Even When the Water's Cold,” “Get That Rhythm Right” and “One Girl/One Boy” are fantastic, and the band scores with “Slyd,” “Californiayeah” and “Station (Meet Me at the).” Only the sprawling “Careful” even remotely qualifies as a misstep. Otherwise, “Thr!!!er” is darn near flawless.
‘Ready to Die'
Iggy & the Stooges (Fat Possum)
Though I respect his place in musical history, I can't say that I've been Iggy Pop's biggest fan over the years. Sure, there are a handful of killer songs on his résumé — but all in all, I find his music average at best. Maybe there's something about albums by Iggy & the Stooges. Their first, 1973's “Raw Power,” is a proto-punk masterpiece that's every bit as powerful 40 years later. Believe it or not, “Ready to Die” is only the second studio effort from Iggy & the Stooges. And while it can't compare to “Raw Power” (not many can), it's a surprisingly effective gathering of 10 high-octane tunes. Blistering opening tandem “Burn” and “Sex and Money” could peel paint off your walls, and the band scorches on “Gun,” the title track, “Dirty Deal” and “The Departed.” And even though the 66-year-old Pop sounds like a dirty old man on the mammary ode “DD's,” there's no denying that it's a fun song. Rock on.
Swedish indie rockers Junip scored a minor hit with their 2010 debut album “Fields” and seem poised for bigger and better things with the release of this dynamite self-titled sophomore slab. Frontman Jose Gonzalez remains the driving creative force behind Junip and the multi-layered sounds on the 10-track release allow for you to hear something new the first four or five times you spin the album. Opener “Line of Fire” is my favorite track, but Junip also soar on “So Clear,” “Villain,” “Walking Lightly” and “Beginnings.” Good stuff.
‘Kings and Queens'
John Brown's Body (Easy Star)
The members of reggae outfit John Brown's Body hail from Boston and upstate New York, but they've managed to capture the spirit of the Caribbean over the course of almost two decades together. Eighth full-length “Kings and Queens” doesn't rank alongside awesome predecessors “Among Them” and “Re-Amplify,” but it's a worthy addition to the JBB discography. With a dozen tracks clocking in at more than 62 minutes, “Kings and Queens” is too long by about a third — but the fellas manage to hit the right notes on “Invitation,” “Empty Hands,” “Fall on Deep” and “Old John Brown.” Keep groovin,' mon.
Super Lonely (Ernest Jenning)
What are the odds of two artists covering the 1987 George Harrison hit “Got My Mind Set on You” within a couple weeks of each other, some 26 years after the original song dropped? And what are the chances that both outfits could reimagine the tune into a compelling track that exceeds the source material? Well, that's exactly what Super Lonely and Luke Winslow-King have done this spring. Super Lonely is the solo project for Albertans frontman Joel Bravo, and debut effort “Attachments” is a quiet gem. Bravo's plaintive tenor dominates an 11-track release that starts a little slow with “Obenchain” before settling into a fantastically mellow groove. Along the way are a series of standouts that include “What Now,” “Pleasure,” “Fir,” “Super Lonely” and “I'm Nervous.” Sit back and let Bravo's music wash over you.
‘The Old School'
Peter Rowan (Compass)
Bluegrass icon Peter Rowan is still going strong at age 70 with more than two dozen albums dating back to his 1978 self-titled debut. Latest effort “The Old School” ranks among his more entertaining offerings and features a host of guest appearances from the likes of Del McCoury, Bobby Osborne, Bryan Sutton and the Traveling McCourys. The collaborative spirit is alive and well throughout, and bluegrass fans are sure to get a kick out of the 11-track release. Among the many keepers are “That's All She Wrote,” “True Love to Last,” “Doc Watson Morning,” “Letter From Beyond” and “O Freedom.” Enjoy, y'all.
Wall (Big Picnic)
British electro-folk singer/songwriter Wall looks to captivate American audiences with the release of her five-track “Shoestring” EP. Wall utilizes a minimalist approach on the album, yet manages to create a lush soundscape over the course of 19 (mostly) enjoyable minutes. The set-opening title track is the best song of the bunch, and she also scores with “Place to Low,” “Let to Wonder” and “All Alone.” Remaining tune “Valentine” isn't bad, per se, but it doesn't pack as much of an emotional wallop as the others. Keep an eye on this talented performer.
‘Battle Scars & Broken Hearts'
Darling Parade (Page 2 Music)
If you think country performers are Nashville's only musical export, think again. Rocking four-piece Darling Parade, led by the emotion-fueled vocals of Kristin Kearns, have crafted a rollicking debut in “Battle Scars & Broken Hearts.” The band has had their songs featured in multiple television programs (“The Lying Game,” “Stargate Universe,” “Shameless”) and strut their way through this energetic 11-track release. First single “Ghost” is the cream of the crop, though Darling Parade serve up additional standouts in “Just Another,” “Change,” “Bells Are Ringing” and “Summer.” The future seems bright for this young band.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.