Spring Record Review Round-Up & Honeyblood

reviewroundup

Jim and Greg give their take on several of the biggest new records, from Spoon to Mastodon, in this Review Roundup. Plus, a conversation with Scottish duo Honeyblood.

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Rosie Hamlin

Rosie Hamlin

Jim pays tribute this week to Rosie Hamlin, lead singer of Rosie & the Originals, who died on March 30 at age 71. A Mexican-American girl growing up in southern California, Rosie was only fourteen years old when she wrote the classic 1961 single Angel Baby and recorded it with some fellow high schoolers. After self-distributing it, the song was picked up by Highland Records and became a nationwide hit. Label disputes stalled her career and the song was her only musical success, but it made a big impact and was covered or referenced by artists as diverse as John Lennon, Lou Reed, Led Zeppelin, Linda Ronstadt, and System of a Down.

Hot Thoughts Spoon

Hot Thoughts

Austin, Texas-based indie rockers Spoon have teamed again with producer Dave Fridmann for their ninth studio album, Hot Thoughts. The result, according to Greg, is a subterranean disco record where everything becomes a percussion instrument, from the guitar riffs to Britt Daniel’s rhythmic vocals. Alternating between minimalist electro-grooves and avant-garde tracks, it’s a great Spoon album that the band has been building toward its entire career. Jim concurs, highlighting the inventive drumming of Jim Eno that propels the band. He marvels that Spoon can continously reshuffle the same minimalist ingredients yet always come up with bold new statements. Hot Thoughts gets a double- Buy It.

Whiteout Conditions The New Pornographers

Whiteout Conditions

The New Pornographers formed in the ‘90s as a collective of Vancouver songwriters, including A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and Dan Bejar of Destroyer. Bejar was not available for their ninth album, Whiteout Conditions, leaving Newman as the driving force. Although he was never a fan of Bejar’s work, Jim guiltily admits he’s grown bored with the band. Kathryn Calder’s vocals are great as ever, and the record is full of perfectly fine catchy ditties, but it lacks any standout tracks. Jim feels Newman is running on fumes, and gives the album a Trash It. Greg feels that’s too harsh, but says it lacks the variety of the band’s previous records. Every song uses synthesizers to drive the rhythm and he feels the album suffers from not including Bejar’s songs. Greg gives Whiteout Conditions a Try It.

Emperor of Sand Mastodon

Emperor of Sand

The Atlanta metal band Mastodon has just released its seventh album, Emperor of Sand. Like previous Mastodon albums, the album follows a thematic concept. This time it follows the tale of a man sentenced to wander the empty, desolate desert. Greg thinks the thematic elements work well, along with a slightly pop-ish approach with a turn towards melodic vocals. In addition to the smooth vocals, Greg believes their integration of different instruments is extremely strong (tubular bells!). He gives it a Buy It. Jim likens Mastodon’s sound to mid-period Rush, especially when it comes to their progressive rock sound and detailed lyricism. He thinks it’s as good as Mastodon gets and gives Emperor of Sand an enthusiastic Buy It.

Mental Illness Aimee Mann

Mental Illness

Aimee Mann began her career as the lead singer of the Boston synth pop band ‘Til Tuesday in the 1980s. Since then, she’s had a successful solo career, most notably with her 2000 album Bachelor No. 2. She’s just released her first solo record in five years, Mental Illness. Jim thinks that this is one of Mann’s best efforts. He loves her minimal use of instrumentation and thoughtful lyrics. While he’s not a fan of the singer-songwriter genre, he digs Aimee Mann and gives Mental Illness a Buy It. Greg is also a longtime Aimee Mann fan, and thinks this record is one of her all-time best. Her intelligent lyrics and melancholy vocals make Mental Illness a superb album. He gives it a Buy It.

Honeyblood

Stina Tweeddale and Cat Meyers are Scottish duo Honeyblood. Stina and Cat create music in a vein that, according to Jim, combines the crunch and melody of what was most inspiring about the 90s alternative movement... taking it somewhere new.

Their album Babes Never Die was one of Jim’s favorites of 2016. He adds that Honeyblood’s music features haunting melodies that invoke creepy imagery.

The group joined us in our studio to play live and talk about their music.

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