Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (Columbia Records; 2014)
Bruce Springsteen’s 18th studio album, High Hopes, is a blend of the new and old. Adding to the album is Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello, whose talents are criminally underutilized. The Boss’ album is mainly an assortment of covers and rearrangements of his previous work and while a reimagining of original works can be controversial amongst fans, the possible blow to Springsteen’s legacy is avoided by the fact that none of his greatest hits are featured on the new album. All but the most knowledgeable of fans will struggle to identify more than a handful of these back-catalogue diamonds in the rough. Springsteen’s decision to give these works a second chance instead of rehashing hits is a bold yet interesting approach for this type of project. Musically varying from Celtic to disco-inspired rhythms and arranged with masterfully composed lyrics makes this one of the best albums that the Boss has put out in recent memory.
Trial Track: The Ghost of Tom Joad
James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical (Vagrant; 2014)
In the four years since the release of his debut album, Early In The Morning, the Irish singer-songwriter has transformed from a modest Bon Iver imitation into a bold, self-assured artist.
Shedding all but his distinct falsetto, McMorrow found inspiration in hip-hop for his sophomore album. He explains on his website: “I wanted to give this record the feel and movement of the hip-hop records that I love,” admitting that he “re-recorded every single part of the N.E.R.D album, apart from the vocals, just for the joy of it”.
The multilayered sound on Post Tropical reflects his love of R&B and pop, wrapped in a pulsing electronic atmosphere. Lyrically, the album draws on the theme of strength and nature, hinting at his folk beginnings.
Post Tropical is playful and confident, boasting a slick production, strong songwriting and fusion genre, and it’s sure to expand McMorrow’s audience.
Trial Track: “Gold”
– Paul Traunero
The Crystal Method- The Crystal Method (Tiny e ;2014)
The Crystal Method is the new self-titled release from the American electronic duo composed of Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan. Since their debut in the mid-90s, The Crystal Method have put out a slew of albums, making this eponymous release their fifth to date.
Initially the album was set to be released in 2013, but was pushed back to Jan. 14, because Kirkland needed to undergo brain surgery, according to Rolling Stone. Over a week prior to the official release, the album was set as a free stream on The Hype Machine website, allowing fans to get a full listen.
The album itself is truly a work of art: the complexity involved in electronic music is well mixed with organic instruments to give a unique final touch. What really stands out on The Crystal Method is how they tried to incorporate new-school synthetic sounds with organic instrumentation to give an almost rock-electro effect. It sounds like a futuristic band trying to bring something vintage to the table.
Trial Track: “Emulator”
Dog Day – Fade Out (Fundog; 2013)
Fade Out is the fourth studio release by Seth Smith and Nancy Urich, better known collectively as Dog Day. The Halifax husband-and-wife duo have combined garage-rock and classic rock, with underlying dream-pop tones to create some of their grittiest material to date.
Classic guitar riffs and drum hits are the backbone to Fade Out’s 13 tracks. But despite the overall energetic rock ‘n’ roll nature of the album, Dog Day manages to fuse their unfiltered underground sound with moments of hazy synth-pop. “Joyride” is casual and upbeat, while tracks like “Interview” have an overarching darkness felt through Urich’s calm but commanding vocals. While Urich’s vocals have a controlled assertiveness, Smith lays out his lyrics with artful ease. The duo’s pipes are blended with the heavy percussion and synth elements and come together to form an album that is both raw and compelling.
Trial Track: “Lurking Fear”