Album Review: Iggy Pop Defies Simple Categorization on the Introspective Free

The Lowdown: “I am nothing but my name,” Iggy Pop said stoically through a leather croak on 2016’s Post Pop Depression. It was a line delivered with the fatigue that comes with having lived a life defined too long by rock and roll, and by that record’s end, it truly sounded like Iggy was done. But three years later, the Great Stooge is still here. The release of Free, the singer’s 18th studio record, is welcome news for fans that thought Iggy was retiring from music. He’s not, obviously, but his latest still finds him in a period of transition. When the deaths of drummer Scott Asheton and saxophonist Steve Mackay in 2014 and 2015, respectfully, officially put The Stooges to rest, it was up to Iggy to chart a new path. If Post Pop Depression nudged him out of his gnarly garage punk safe space, Free doubles down on its predecessor’s efforts. Unmoored to his past, Pop has delivered one of the most singular and interesting records of his long career. How much you like it, that all depends. [embedded content] The Good: To enjoy Free is to let go of expectations as aggressively as Pop has. Much of […]

Album Review: B Boys Search for Meaning in the Modern World on Dudu

The Lowdown: Not to be confused with the mid-’80s British band of the same name, New York City’s B Boys make a righteous racket in the name of modern-day survival. On 2016 EP No Worry No Mind and 2017 album Dada, Andrew Kerr (drums), Brendon Avalos (bass), and Britton Walker (guitar) mixed hard beats, spare melodies, and declamatory voices, echoing UK trailblazers Wire and Gang of Four. Now, with Dudu — will Dodo be next? — they’ve refined that strategy, creating something truly their own for the first time. (Buy: Tickets to Upcoming B Boys Shows) The Good: While Wire and GoF gradually mellowed, losing their edge, B Boys have gone in the opposite direction. The relentless Dudu makes the trio’s previous work seem almost frivolous, paring their music down to granite-hard basics. Melodies are minimal, with jagged guitar riffs hinting at traditional songcraft, powered by brutal rhythms. The clamoring voices could be mistaken for the outbursts of primitive beasts, yet nothing could be farther from the truth. [embedded content] For all the shouting, they do a brilliant job of evoking the toxic mixture of stress, boredom, and alienation that saturates so many lives today. The slashing “Pressure Inside” explores […]

Album Review: BTS Expand Their Horizons on BTS World: Original Soundtrack

The Lowdown: What’s a boy band to do once they’ve basically conquered the world? Invent and uncover even more world, of course. That’s exactly what K-pop powerhouse BTS has done with their new mobile game, literally titled BTS World, which treats players to an inside look at the band’s rise to fame via a fictionalized narrative set in 2012. Its release was accompanied by a full-length soundtrack album, featuring new songs, high-profile collaborations, and themes designed for each of the seven members. Being a game soundtrack credited to various artists (on both the production and performance ends), you can’t quite approach it the same way you would any standard BTS album, which places it in a somewhat unique position relative to their body of work. Its built-in structure makes it a bit of an unsteady venture for active listening, but for its purposes of advancing a greater and more general BTS story, it does what it sets out to do and even offers some surprises as it’s doing it. (Buy: Tickets to Upcoming BTS Shows) The Good: The very structure of the soundtrack album leads to some built-in division, but the band leans into it. The first track and the only […]

Album Review: Titus Andronicus Hold Nothing Back on the Relentless An Obelisk

The Lowdown: New Jersey punk outfit Titus Andronicus catapulted to greater heights in the indie circuit following the release of 2010’s The Monitor, an album that received unanimous praise and made the “End of Year” lists of publications such as this one. The success of this LP, however, was as much a curse as it was a blessing. Every subsequent full-length, from 2012’s Local Business to last year’s A Productive Cough, failed to meet the lofty expectations that have been set by what many consider the band’s crowning achievement. This is not for lack of merit. Titus Andronicus have maintained an impressive batting average with each release and, as evidenced by their 2015 rock opera, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, have been far from creatively stagnant. Still, their heartland rock-infused punk style has been one of their core-defining characteristics, and with the production chops of Hüsker Dü co-founder Bob Mould, they tread that familiar ground on their sixth studio effort, An Obelisk. (Buy: Tickets to Upcoming Titus Andronicus Shows) The Good: While Titus Andronicus have been able to achieve grandiosity without the bombastic self-importance that lesser artists would gravitate towards, An Obelisk is easily their most digestible and contained album yet. […]

Classic Album Review: Elmer Bernstein Caused an Explosion with Ghostbusters

Conan O’Brien often jests that people will still come up to him on the street and ask about The Simpsons, a gig he briefly held decades ago. By his own admission he can’t remember characters; he was busy being a late-night impresario for the last 25 years. But that’s something for which people still love him, apparently. Remember Chris Farley asking Paul McCartney about his work in the Beatles, and not the solo stuff, on Saturday Night Live? Same general idea. When you’re a part of something so seismic, it follows you around. Were Elmer Bernstein still alive and composing, one could surmise that people would bug him incessantly about his contributions to Ghostbusters. And you know what? He earned it. Sony Music has reissued Bernstein’s iconic score, and it’s like a gateway drug to the inspired sounds of a genius of the form. Bernstein’s rich horns have never sounded so muscular. His piano melodies, never so bouncy. And the eerie, electrical flourishes of the score’s famed ondes Martenot sound massive and otherworldly here. The new reissue also shares previously unheard takes from the film. (As did the 2006 Varèse Sarabande release, but like any greatest hits compilation, there’s always […]

Album Review: The Tallest Man on Earth Continues His Sonic Exploration on I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream.

The Lowdown: When Kristian Matsson, the Swedish singer-songwriter who performs under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth, laid an almost indiscernible banjo track over the guitar on the opener of 2010’s The Wild Hunt, it came as quite a shock given his solo folk purity. But since then, his production has steadily diversified — though always austerely — from the plugged-in sound of fan-favorite “The Dreamer” to (gasp!) a drum kit on his last full-length album in 2015, Dark Bird Is Home. His newest project, I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. finds Mattson continuing this sonic exploration, playing with horns and pianos to create vast swathes of lonely folk music. (Buy: Tickets to Upcoming The Tallest Man on Earth Shows) The Good: Counterintuitively, the songs on I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. are most successful when the glittery production is most reigned in. Take “Waiting for My Ghost”, where a gossamer harmonica warbles over reverberating acoustic guitar, or the title track, where Matsson utilizes space and silence to build toward an ascendant horn line that seems to lift you right out of the end of the album. But even when the production is most involved, it isn’t […]

Album Review: Stella Donnelly Takes the World to Task on Beware of the Dogs

The Lowdown: Stella Donnelly is a virtual newcomer to the musical scene, but Beware of the Dogs, a glimmering yet no-frills portrait of the political and personal realities and shortcomings of average life, makes one wonder where we ever were without her. She kicks off with an energetic push into the action with “Old Man”, before pulling back into the threads of something a little less pop, a little more indie, which guide the rest of the album. It’s a quick odyssey into a world Donnelly clearly knows well, from the delightfully acerbic family tensions in the lyrics of “Season’s Greetings” to the pinnacled mourning of “Boys Will Be Boys”. Haunting yet real and comprehensive but manageable, Beware of the Dogs is an indie folk wake-up call and a more than apt introduction to this young, fearless expert, who is quickly making herself impossible to overlook. [Buy: Tickets to Upcoming Stella Donnelly Shows] The Good: Beware of the Dogs shines in its concrete approaches to meaningful subject matter. Most markedly, Donnelly’s exasperation with the patriarchy bobs to the surface regularly across the album’s 13-track span; even in the moments when it’s not directly articulated, we feel the way that it informs […]