2017

Conor Oberst – Salutations

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It’s always hard for me to write about Conor Oberst albums because he’s my favorite songwriter (probably my personal GOAT). I’ve liked every single album (song, really) he’s ever released. So is it worth anybody’s time to read about his new album from my perspective, probably not, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Conor Oberst’s last album (Ruminations) was his most critically acclaimed album since I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. Ruminations is personal, heartbreaking and sparse. It’s a masterpiece of self reflection and a glimpse into the personal anguish Oberst suffered from health problems, false rape allegations, and insomnia. When I heard that these songs were being re-recorded with a full band along with 7 new songs, I was excited and also really confused. Why did these songs need to be re-recorded? Why release them again less than a year latter? But I’m conditioned to be excited over any new Conor Oberst release.

After listening to Salutations nearly nonstop since it’s release I’m less confused (but not entirely). The full band versions of the songs from Ruminations are well done. Musically, they sound better. Ruminations was haunting and Salutations makes the pill easier to swallow.

Maria Taylor’s angelic voice turns “Counting Sheep” into a lullaby instead of a suicide note. The lyrics are still heartbreaking, but the music and the backing vocals ease the pain of the song. Tachycardia comes to life with a full band. I always felt the last verse needed a full band to really drive home the idea the light bulb being lit for the first time at the World’s fair. The only song that loses just a little bit of it’s appeal is “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out”. It was a perfect ending to a great album and on Salutations it seems kind of lumped in without much thought.

The seven new songs belong on Salutations and probably wouldn’t’ have fit very well on Ruminations (The title track “Salutations” being the exception). “Napalm” is a rock country song that has Oberst sounding a lot like John Prine. My two favorite new songs are “Overdue” and “Anytime Soon”. Both sound like Mystic Valley Band B-sides.

Is Salutations a necessary album? Probably not. But it’s still a great album and an important addition to an already stellar discography. The enamored and admiring fan in me will probably place this album way too high on my end of the year list, but that’s fine with me. I’m a loyal fan and I don’t care who knows it.

Love,

Zach

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Ryan Adams – Prisoner

I’m not going to write a lengthy review of Ryan Adams’ fantastic new album Prisoner, I’m just going to share some quick thoughts.

  1. Ryan Adams isn’t quite the songwriter that he used to be. I think he reached his poetic pinnacle at Cold Roses. The lyrics aren’t terrible, but there’s some cheesiness and cliche that aren’t found on some of his earlier albums.
  2. Musically, however, he’s the best he’s ever been and I think that’s what carries this  album. The alt country days are far behind him. This album is more an ode to The Replacements and Tom Petty than to Willie and Waylon.
  3. Everyone see’s this as a comeback album, but common the last album was nearly as good.
  4. This is a solid record by a prolific musician.
  5. Listen to it.
  6. These got shorter as my list grew.
  7. Love, Zach

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Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart of Life (Album Review)


We’re only two months into 2017 and no album release (in my opinion) has been bigger than Japandroids third album, Near To The Wild Heart of Life. There had to be serious pressure on the Vancouver, Canada duo to follow up not only the best rock album of 2012, but arguably the best pure rock album of the decade. If Celebration Rock was their magnum opus then Near To The Wild Heart of Life is their Tunnel Of Love.

The album starts with “Near To The Wild Heart of Life”, the perfect rock anthem to kick off the album. I wrote about how great this song is a few weeks ago. You can read it HERE.

The rest of the album takes a more subdued tone than it’s predecessor.  Celebration was 35 minutes of pure adrenaline; it rocked so hard you barely had time to catch your breath. In contrast Near To The Wild Heart of Life mellows out just a little bit. It still rocks, but not as hard and that’s not a bad thing.

However, there is one exception, “Arc of Bar”. This song (simply stated) rocks. There is a lightning-like synth glitching through the background, and at nearly seven and half minutes I wish it would go seven and a half more.

This is an album every lover of rock and roll needs in their life. Is this as good as Celebration Rock, no. But it’s the follow up we deserve.  I wish I could sing “No Known Drug” to my wife every night before we go to sleep. Every song is that good, actually. Listen to it now. 

-Zach

 

 

 

Anticipation (By Carly Simon, but not really)

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I went on a run this morning. It’s what people do on New Years Day. Before my run I made playlist full of rock n roll music to pump me up because, lets just say it’s been a few months since I’ve exercised. The playlist was good, but as I reached mile two I hit a wall. My knees were weak, my legs were shaky, I was ready to quit. I was ready to walk. I was ready to throw in the towel.

But something inspiring happened. The most perfect rock n roll song I’ve ever heard traveled from my iPhone, through my headphones and into my ears, “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” by Japandroids. I felt like Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights) was giving me an inspirational speech as I finished up. I wanted to keep running, so I did. Japandroids rocked me though another half mile.

I’ve been planning for a while to write about how excited I am for their new album. Their last album, Celebration Rock, was hands down the best pure rock album of 2012 if not the best rock album in the last decade. Five years is a long time to wait, but if “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” is any indication of the whole album then the wait will have been worth it.

The album (Also titled Near To The Wild Heart Of Life) comes out on January 27.

Other Notable albums coming out in January:

The XX – I See You: Jan. 13

Foxygen – Hang: Jan. 20

Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound: Jan. 27