Album Reviews | November 2014 Releases

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.05.12 PMFor November, we’ve got 13 capsule reviews from Alex Wood.  A key track from each release is included in the embedded Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Neil Young- Storytone [11/4]

Recorded live with a full orchestra, Storytone is yet another odd project by the endlessly productive Neil Young. The orchestral backing is lush, adding depth to the set of songs, most of which are pretty straightforward by Young’s standards. The songwriting is sincere, ranging from love songs to songs about his car, Young performing on piano, guitar and ukulele. The deluxe edition is worth seeking out for the inclusion of solo versions of the songs, offering a stripped down view of an otherwise excessive record.

Bob Dylan- The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete [11/4]

Dylan notoriously recorded a massive amount of music during his time in Woodstock with what would become The Band. The release of every known take from these sessions is perhaps the biggest news Dylan fans will ever hear. With six full discs of music, The Basement Tapes Complete gives fans a better understanding of exactly what occurred during some of the most famous recording sessions in rock history, with plenty of hidden gems scattered throughout.

Deerhoof- La Isla Bonita [11/4]

Recorded live in a week in guitarist Ed Rodriguez’s basement, Deerhoof’s newest record maintains the band’s unique, strange sound with a cohesive set of songs inspired by punk, specifically The Ramones. Sharp, jagged interplay between guitars and the rhythm section feels disjointed at a first listen, but in truth compositions are precise, each note falling exactly where it needs to be. The record combines art-rock with alternative for a challenging but rewarding listen that sounds like no other release this year and no other band in the music scene today.

Pink Floyd- The Endless River [11/4]

Designed to be Pink Floyd’s last record, The Endless River uses outtakes and ideas from Division Bell’s sessions to create a set of songs that references the band’s entire output. Pieced together by Floyd members David Gilmour and Nick Mason with Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera, the album is a collection of reflective psychedelic pieces that last the duration of each record’s side. Though Roger Waters had no part in the sessions, late-keyboardist Rick Wright’s recordings were preserved and utilized. Though far from the band’s best work, the recording doesn’t tarnish their image, and serves well as a bookend to a tumultuous, wide-ranging career.

The New Basement Tapes- Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes [11/11]

The “New Basement Tapes” moniker is used for the collaboration of Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford. The five artists were given a set of unused Bob Dylan lyrics from the period when The Basement Tapes were recorded and, under the direction of producer T Bone Burnett, arranged and recorded the songs in their own respective styles. Though each artist spearheaded their respective recordings, the group helped one another with the songs’ presentation. The result is a set of songs heavily influenced by Dylan’s style while uniquely modern and tied to each respective songwriter. Regardless of your opinion of each songwriter’s work, their take on these could-be-classics is an essential listen.

Parkay Quarts- Content Nausea [11/11]

Parquet Courts recorded Content Nausea as Parkay Quarts in order to reference it as a separate endeavor from their primary works, which included the release of Sunbathing Animal, one of the year’s best albums, less than six months prior. Recorded on a four-track cassette machine, Content Nausea is both less produced and less thought-out than Sunbathing Animal, which almost fits the sloppy, punk-influenced music the band has all but perfected. Witty lyrics are met by energetic but straightforward musicianship, a fiddle and saxophone adding a new element to the music. The music sounds fresh and inspired, proving this band is still on the top of their game.

Damien Rice- My Favourite Faded Fantasy [11/11]

Eight years after his last studio album, Damien Rice’s My Favourite Faded Fantasy picks up where the songwriter left off. Though Lisa Hannigan no longer performs with Rice, the writer’s compositions and performances are as poignant and emotional as ever. Characterized by dynamic and dramatic string arrangements and Rice’s warm acoustic guitar, the songs slowly unfurl along with the lyrics. A record as beautiful as it is sad, there’s purity to the music that shines through its soft folk style.

Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways [11/11]

Recorded to coincide with their HBO series of the same name, Sonic Highways finds Foo Fighters exploring new territories through unique methods and guests. Each of the record’s eight songs was recorded in a different city and reflects the music history of said city, featuring a guest from the setting. Though the entire release still sounds unmistakably like modern Foo Fighters, the songs sound refreshingly energized, as though Grohl and his band especially enjoyed the writing and recording process.

Mark Kozelek- Sings Christmas Carols [11/11]

Mark Kozelek has been making rounds in the news for his ongoing feud with The War On Drugs. In truth, Kozelek should be in the news for how incredible Sun Kil Moon’s last record, Benji, was. The songwriter promised a Christmas album earlier this year and delivered it this month. The record consists of somber versions of classics such as “Away In The Manger” and “The First Noel.” It’s an interesting listen, to say the least, and may or may not be for you.

Wilco- Alpha Mike Foxtrot [11/18]

For their 20-year anniversary, Wilco released an extensive collection of rare studio and live recordings dating back to the band’s formation. Over the course of four discs, the record contains everything from stripped-down demos, b-sides, covers, unique live transformations of studio tracks and collaborations, making for a hugely varied but endlessly interesting listen for fans of the band. Even collectors of Wilco’s unreleased material will find surprises here.

TV On The Radio- Seeds [11/18]

In the three years that passed since their last studio album, TV On The Radio lost bassist Gerard Smith to lung cancer. Seeds is, unsurprisingly, an emotional record. Lyrically, the album constantly grapples with the ideas of losing someone and trying to place a value on life itself. In fact, much of the first half of the record seems to directly address the loss of their bandmate. Yet Seeds isn’t an overwhelmingly heavy or gloomy record, but one of sincere emotions transformed into art. It plays as though the recording of the record itself was necessary for the band’s acceptance of the situation, hard evidence of its members growing from loss. It’s a mature album, and one rewarded by repeated listening.

Ty Segall- $ingle$ 2 [11/18]

Ty Segall never stops releasing music. $ingle$ 2 is the second release of 2014, compiling b-sides surrounding Goodbye Bread, Twins and Sleeper while throwing in some covers. Much of the album is the dirty garage-rock one expects from Segall, some tracks almost unlistenable in their noisiness and lo-fi tendencies. But this is fine, as Manipulator, released earlier this year,showed a polar opposite side of the artist, boasting a higher production value and more thought-out compositions. Both rock, and the genius of Segall’s massive body of work shows in both.

Diarrhea Planet- Aliens In The Outfield [11/18]

Diarrhea Planet may be amongst the hardest rocking live acts out there today, using high volume and brute force to clear their own path through rock ‘n roll traditions. Their newest EP, Aliens In The Outfield, finds the band maturing slightly. Vocal melodies are catchier than ever, impossible to tie to a single genre, while the three-guitar musical backing cradles punk and classic rock close, but constantly shifts into new territories.


1. Neil Young- Say Hello To Chicago (Big Band)
2. The New Basement Tapes- Nothing To It
3. Wilco- A Magazine Called Sunset (not on spotify)
4. TV On The Radio- Lazerray
5. Diarrhea Planet- Bamboo Curtain
6. Foo Fighters- Something From Nothing
7. Ty Segall- Cherry Red (not on spotify)
8. Parquet Courts- Content Nausea
9. Deerhoof- Paradise Girls
10. The New Basement Tapes- Married To My Hack
11. Pink Floyd- Side 2, Pt. 4: Anisina
12. Damien Rice- I Don’t Want To Change You
13. Bob Dylan- Folsom Prison Blues (wanted to use Big River Take 2, but not on spotify)

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