Author: Matthew Barlow

Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood — With Animals

Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood With Animals Heavenly/Ipecac This is the second collaboration between Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood.  Lanegan cut his teeth as the front man of the most under-rated of the great Seattle bands, The Screaming Trees, and since their dissolution in the late 90s, has emerged as force to be reckoned with as a solo artist, as well as collaborating with everyone from Greg Dulli (most notably with The Gutter Twins, but also with Dulli’s Twilight Singers), The Queens of the Stone Age, Tinariwen, Isobel Campbell, Soulsavers, UNKLE, Moby, Slash, and more.  Garwood, meanwhile, is not only one of Lanegan’s favourite artists, is a seasoned guitarist, based in the blues, if I had to classify him, but he kind of defies that.  He has also collaborated widely, including with The Orb, Savages, and Shezad Darwood, amongst others.  He is also a well-established solo artist, his last album, Garden of Ashes, was masterful. On many levels, their collaboration is a natural one, both men favour dark, brooding, and vaguely threatening soundscapes, and whilst Garwood’s voice is light and tremulous, Lanegan’s voice, as he gets older, is becoming even more of a growl.  In many ways, he’s becoming Leonard Cohenesque, minus the poetry, though the topics are the same: God, love, death, and sex.  Lanegan handles the vocals on these albums. The album comes out of the Mark...

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Strand of Oaks — Eraserland

Strand of Oaks Eraserland Dead Oceans Strand of Oaks is the project of Philadelphia’s Timothy Showalter, and Eraserland is his 6th album.  Showalter makes what we in the critic business call ‘heartland rock.’  But, when I think of that term, I think of John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger, and it’s 1985 and it’s impossible to escape the long shadow of these giants.  I’m still running against the wind, I guess.  You could also call this ‘Americana,’ but that usually means more countrified stuff like Jason Isbell.  But, then again, a couple of weeks was on Colbert playing a track off this album, ‘Ruby,’ with Isbell and his wife and partner, Amanda Shires amongst his backing band.  Whatever, Strand of Oaks play rock’n’roll.  But there is this 70s AOR feel to some of this. Funnily enough, I hear all kinds of other things in his music, including Courtney Barnett and Sharon van Etten, especially in the way Showalter delivers his lyrics.  As for those lyrics, Eraserland is about adulting.  Adulting means insecurities and doing difficult things and not getting a fucking gold star for your efforts [Note to editor: Where’s my fucking gold star?].  But if you come for the lyrics and their delivery, stay for the music. As my wife would say, this is Matthew Music™.  It’s laid back, it feels like California. There are gentle rhythms, the bass...

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Mdou Moctar — Illana (The Creator)

Mdou Moctar Ilana (The Creator) Sahel Sounds We seem to be living through a crest of the tidal wave of Desert Blues these days, what with bands like Tinariwen, Tamikrest, Imarhan and the likes finding global fame.  Mdou Moctar, a Toureg guitarist from Niger, deserves to join this pantheon.  Moctar’s music is based in the same swirling Desert Blues as the others, but his guitar playing sets him apart.  In essence, he introduces the psychedelic to the genre, shredding in the wake of Jimi Hendrix. Ilana (The Creator) is his fifth album, and whilst his earlier work features his unique guitar stylings, it is on this album that he incorporates a more rock-oriented sound, which adds incredible depth to his fret work. When the Stone Roses released their second album, Second Coming, in 1994, it was widely panned because it wasn’t their début album all over again and John Squires’ guitar had taken over the sound.  I always argued that if any other band had released that album, with Squires’ swaggering, swirling guitars, it would’ve been hailed as genius.  What does this have to do with Mdou Moctar?  Well, Ilana (The Creator) reminds me of that ill-fated album.  But this is even better. Moctar has claimed to not really know what rock music is, though that seems to be a bit of a sleight of hand as the bass and drums provide...

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Red Mass — Kilrush Drive

Red Mass Kilrush Drive No Coast/Label Etiquette Red Mass is Montréal indie hero, Roy Vucino, and his wife and collaborator, Hannah Lewis.  Vucino is kid of a legend around town, having played with Duchess Says in side project, PyPy, as well as with Birds of Paradise (wth Lewis as well), CPC Gangbangs, Les Sexareenos, amongst others.  Kilrush Drive is their latest, released last Friday.  It is a smorgasbord of sound, to say the least.  Produced by Mingo L’Indien from Montréal experimental noise outfit, Les Georges Leningrad (RIP), with some help Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes, and the legendary Martin Bisi, who has worked with everyone from Sonic Youth to Helmet to Swans to Herbie Hancock, this is an astonishing album. Vucino has said that he doesn’t like the sound of his voice on his earlier recordings, telling people to take them to second hand stores.  But here, he is a commanding and powerful presence vocally, sounding like a combination of Andrew Eldritch (Sisters of Mercy), Joe Strummer, and Billy Bragg.  His voice veers from a growl to a deep-throated yell.  He commands attention here.  Across Klrush Drive‘s 11 tracks, we get a steady dose of post-punk, with angular guitars, whilst Lewis brings the atmosphere, reflecting that post-punk aesthetic, via her bass and keyboards, and her voice, which stands in contrast to Vucino’s growl.  The lyrics tend to be reflective...

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The Comet is Coming — Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

The Comet is Coming Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery Impulse The Comet is Coming play a weird and trippy blend of jazz and electronica, with even some rock in there.  And by electronica, I mean like electronic music of the quieter end of the 1990s, less Chemical Brothers and The Crystal Method and more Ninja Tune’s roster.  All three members go by stage names, Denaogue, Betamax, and King Shabaka.  Shabaka is a towering presence, and plays one mean saxophone.  If he played a guitar instead, The Comet is Coming would be stoner rock. Shabaka is actually Shabaka Hutchings, one of the leading lights of jazz music, and has lended his talents to everyone form Makaya McCraven to Sun Ra.  We’re talking one heavy dude, and a brilliant musician.  Denagogue and Betamax, then, provide the earthly soundtrack to Hutchings’ wanderings. Dan Leavers is the keyboardist, Denagogue, and Max ‘Betamax’ Hallet rounds out the trio on drums. Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery is not just good advice for living, it’s their sophomore album, after releasing Channel the Spirits back in 2016.  It was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, losing out to Skepta’s brilliant Konichawa. Trust… starts off with a nearly five-minute prelude, ‘Because the End is Really the Beginning,’ which is an earthy and eery collection of electronic noises and rolling drums, to the point where it...

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