Welcome everyone to a new column! It's been a long time coming but hopefully this will be the last of the delays for the foreseeable future. During the downtime I have been looking at retooling this column to make it more in sync with the boys' podcast. Going forward I will be bringing you two recommended albums of the week. I figure if they can talk about a new game and a new album with each episode, the least I can do is bring two albums to the table. Let me know what you think of the new format! Without further delay, let's jump in to our two new offerings.
Mastodon Emperor of Sand : Mastodon have been a band that I have struggled with the past few years. I began listening to them at about the time of their Leviathan record and fell in love with the precision and ferocity of their music. Each subsequent release seemed to just get that much more technical and progressive until they released Crack The Skye, which seemed to have them reach the peak of their powers. Then came The Hunter released in 2011. A very divisive album, it seemed as if they were abandoning their prog roots for something much simpler, something much more accessible. Too smooth, I thought. (Live though, some of those songs were able to take on a new life). This was followed up by Once More Round the Sun, which also seemed a bit too polished, although less than it's predecessor.
Which brings us to Emperor of Sand. I first heard "Show Yourself" and my immediate thought was that they were staying on this watered down, simple (for them) approach. Then I heard the rest of the album. This album seems to combine their knack for writing riffs with their more melodic side. And it works. Sure, this album is not going to get the old school hardcore Remission fan to change their mind on them "going soft." But it is a rewarding listen. Every time it gets too polished, it veers off into some of the more heavier elements of their sound. I read the review on the Pitchfork website and they made a comparison that has stuck with me since I read it. This is their Moving Pictures. When Rush put out Moving Pictures, there was division among their fans as well. Gone were the multi-part epic songs of Hemispheres. No more 2112 epics. Concise, well written songs that still showed their technical proficiency. Songs you could sing along to. All of which is in abundance on Emperor. Taken as a whole, the album is a good listen and the songs flow well from one to another. Give it a chance and you will not be disappointed. My favorite songs: "Sultan's Curse", "Roots Remain", and "Clandestiny".
Boss Hog Brood X : If you don't know this band, you should. Formed as a side project of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion by Jon Spencer, his wife Christina Martinez, and Hollis Queens, the band has been around since 1989. A much more groove oriented band than the Blues Explosion, they reveled in New York City trashy excess. Their last album was 2000's Whiteout. Christina took time off while she raised their child and Jon Spencer continued his music career with the Blues Explosion and Heavy Trash. This has been a long time coming, and all indications that I have seen so far is that this will be their last record. If it is, this is a great way to say goodbye.
Brood X is as much a celebration of NYC that the last Blues Explosion record was. Whereas Freedom Tower concentrated on the punkier, grittier aspects of the city, Boss Hog has it's bluesy roots firmly entrenched in the city's old No Wave scene. Splashes of keyboard combine with Spencer's guitar and Hollis' drums to propel these tunes forward. This is music that aims to move you on the dance floor but also rock you when it can. Christina Martinez has not lost her voice in the years off, and it is a welcome return to these ears. This is a record that will definitely stick with you after you have listened to it. My favorite songs: "Elevator", "Rodeo Chica", "Ground Control", "Black Eyes"
Other Current Listening: The Mavericks Brand New Day; Margo Price Midwest Farmer's Daughter; Jesus and Mary Chain Damage & Joy