Album Reviews | October 2016 Releases

By: Alex Wood

Phish- Big Boat [10/7]

We’ve all heard it by now. And sure, studio Phish albums are never supposed to be amazing, right? But this one’s bad. Like, real bad. Let’s be honest. For a more thoughtful analysis of Big Boat’s release, read our article here.

Green Day- Revolution Radio [10/7]

Green Day’s newest record, Revolution Radio, is a return to form for the band, the trio sounding invigorated and inspired, especially compared to the trio of subpar albums released in 2012, their last studio work. Straddling the line between the simple energy of their early years and the infectious epics of American Idiot era, the songs seem to encapsulate everything that gave the band its following over the last 25 years. Melodic and stimulating, Revoultion Radio proves that Green Day still has a knack for writing pop-punk songs that few other bands could compete with.

Phantogram- Three [10/7]

Three is Phatogram’s most accessible record yet, leaving the subtleties of their indie upbringing in favor of overproduced mainstream techniques. The electronics are in line with modern trends, showing influences ranging from hip-hop to pop to dubstep, while the lyrics are fairly predictable, lacking the heartfelt emotional nature of their earlier material. Three is a pop record, yet its constantly shifting textures and production techniques keep the material interesting. It’s one of many similar records in an oversaturated scene, nothing new but still enjoyable.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 12/1 @ Aragon Ballroom

Hiss Golden Messenger- Heart Like A Levee [10/7]

North Carolina roots rockers Hiss Golden Messenger feel like a hidden gem in the music scene, their biggest strength being their ability to incorporate wide musical influences within the folk-rock genre, the songs always revolving around singer M.C. Taylor’s distinct songwriting. Heart Like A Levee may be the group’s best record yet, sounding mature and fully developed. The production is clean, the music is eclectic yet consistent, and Taylor’s voice shines, the lyrics fitting the folk-rock sound with small-town imagery and heartfelt sincerity. Heart Like A Levee is a tough one not to enjoy and a huge accomplishment for the band.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 11/6 @ Old Town School Of Folk Music

Shovels & Rope- Little Seeds [10/7]

With Little Seeds, Shovels & Rope break out of the simplicity of their earlier releases, instead embracing a full-band sound that allows the songs to grow to larger heights. Whether using skuzzy, distorted guitars or gentle acoustic arrangements, the music has an undying urgency, revolving always around the duo’s perfectly harmonized vocals. This energy makes the record their best release to date, reducing the risk of their sound going stale while allowing for serious growth. For old fans and new listeners alike, Little Seeds is a record that shouldn’t be ignored.

Todd Snider- Eastside Bulldog [10/7]

Over the years, Todd Snider has perfected a sound entirely his own, with his latest, Eastside Bulldog, only confirming such. The songs are witty, displaying the dry humor he’s known for, over a musical backing that harkens to the early days of rock ‘n roll. The record is good, clean fun, remaining upbeat throughout and never taking itself too seriously. Another quality addition to his ever-growing discography, Eastside Bulldog will certainly appease Snider’s longtime fans.

Norah Jones- Day Breaks [10/7]

The latest record from Norah Jones finds her immersed in the jazz styling of her earliest works. The record has a gentle grace, Jones’ piano and vocals remaining the anchor of each track. Collaborating with esteemed jazz artists like saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Brian Blade and organist Lonnie Smith, her songs have an undeniable maturity that could only come from a true appreciation of the genre. This is Jones’ best work in years, and genuinely a difficult album not to enjoy.

Seasick Steve- Keeping The Horse Between Me And The Ground [10/7]

Though Seasick Steve hasn’t changed his sound much over the years, he still continues to find new avenues for songwriting that keep fans listening. Keeping The Horse still embraces the simple, dirty blues sound he does best, chugging riffs and electric solos falling atop a crude rhythm section, his gruff vocals’ limited range made up for by an earnest, heartfelt delivery. It’s everything the blues are supposed to be, exploring the genre over a massive 20 songs.

Marcus King Band- Marcus King Band [10/7]

Few bands are capturing a truly soulful style like Marcus King Band. The young musicians’ second album is packed with stellar vocals and soaring guitar riffs and solos, all atop layers of horns and an energetic rhythm section. It’s a classic sound done to perfection, catchy and fun and sincere all in one. The songs relax when necessary, only accentuating the balls-to-the-wall rock that generally follows. Fans of soul and classic rock would be wise to get on board with these guys.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 12/14 @ Buddy Guy's Legends

Melissa Etheridge- Memphis Rock And Soul [10/7]

For her latest record, Melissa Etheridge recreates a number of blues standards using studio musicians that were around for the songs’ original recordings in the 60s. The concept is simple, and the recordings work well, organs, horns and funky grooves accompanying her soulful delivery. Though far from groundbreaking, it’s a fun listen and a successful experiment on the singer’s end.

Moby & The Void Pacific Choir- These Systems Are Failing [10/14]

Moby has always been an artist to embrace change, and his newest record marks yet another shift in his eclectic musical career. Billed as Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, These Systems Are Failing features a dense, heavy sound characterized by unfaltering intensity, sitting somewhere between electronic and industrial music. Packed with stacks of synthesizers, distorted guitar noise and a barrage of electric drumbeats, the vocals sit equally layered atop the music, and contribute greatly by way of infectious hooks. It’s a very strange sound, but finds Moby comfortably exploring new avenues in which to take his art.

Conor Oberst- Ruminations [10/14]

Ruminations is Conor Oberst’s most stripped down album to date, the Bright Eyes songwriter performing the songs alone with a piano or guitar and harmonica. The resulting music is especially Dylan-esque, the focus constantly on the lyrics. Lyrically, the songs are especially solemn, yet written with the clever imagery and intelligence his fans have come to love. It’s an intimate set of songs, gorgeous yet gloomy, and often works better than his full-band songs. It’s folk music as its meant to be, and worthy of repeat listens for the unfaltering beauty in the writing.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 11/26 & 11/27 @ Thalia Hall

Kings Of Leon- Walls [10/14]

With WALLS, King Of Leon continue their run of radio-ready alternative rock, moving ever further from their dirty, Southern garage beginnings in favor of choruses with hooks and simple, upbeat grooves. This sometimes works well, offering a Chili Peppers-esque accessibility, the catchiness making them hard to hate. At other times, it simply feels watered down, with little emotion backing the songs, the lyrics coming off as thoughtless pop. In truth, WALLS is exactly what everyone expected Kings Of Leon to make, and while fans of their recent work may not be disappointed, the rest will find little to embrace here.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 1/23 @ United Center

Two Door Cinema Club- Gameshow [10/14]

With each release, Two Door Cinema Club have grown increasingly accessible. Gameshow, the band’s newest, only continues this trend, potentially completing the band’s transformation from a popular indie band to plain old pop. Yet this isn’t’ necessarily a negative thing. The songs are dense and layered, with guitars, organs, synthesizers, background vocals and other effects entering and exiting above an always upbeat combination of bass and drums. It may be generic, but it’s also infectious, falling into a similar category of calculated accessibility as bands like Phoenix. It’s simple fun, and will surely find its market.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 11/25 @ Aragon Ballroom

Jagwar Ma- Every Now & Then [10/14]

Jagwar Ma has a sound that should make them a massive force in the modern indie scene, combining studio production tricks with dense electronic arrangements, layers of clean guitars and endlessly infectious lyrics. Each song’s arrangment is clean and deliberate, the music constantly shifting and building to incorporate new textures and ideas. Though certainly not the only band attempting such a sound, Jagwar Ma are far superior to most peers, showing a mastery of studio recording that makes Every Now & Then one of 2016’s most fun records.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 11/3 @ Bottom Lounge

Vulfpeck- The Beautiful Game [10/17]

The Beautiful Game encapsulates everything that has contributed to Vulfpeck’s fast rise to fame in the jam band scene. Silly lyrics and funky grooves combine to create a sound that’s downright fun, styles changing constantly yet the danceable nature remaining intact. Revolving around impressive bass lines and dense, shifting keyboard textures, Vulfpeck is undoubtedly on the way to greatness, and doing it their own way.

The Dean Ween Group- The Deaner Album [10/21]

The Deaner Album is exactly what Ween fans have been waiting for since the band’s initial split. The Ween guitarist flaunts his unparalleled proficiency on the album alongside his knack for jumping genres. The album features progressive rock, funk, metal and more over the course of its 14 songs, each anchored by Deaner’s incredible abilities on the six-string. Comparable to Ween’s Quebec or Chocolate & Cheese, the record is a dizzying journey through rock & roll history, and arguably amongst the most interesting releases this year. A must-hear record for Ween fans and music fans alike, The Deaner Album is an uncompromising representation of artistic freedom and creativity. 

Leonard Cohen- You Want It Darker [10/21]

82-year-old Leonard Cohen recently made headlines by stating that he was “ready to die,” and his newest album, You Want It Darker, only reinforces this morbid mood. Cohen’s lyrics, delivered in his gruff, baritone drawl, seem be especially spiritual while poetic as ever. The music is sparse and delicately arranged, strings and choir vocals giving a spacious quality to their slow crawl. It’s a gorgeous record that lives up to Cohen’s reputation as a writer, and one that should appease all fans.

Brian Jonestown Massacre- Third World Pyramid [10/28]

The always prolific psychedelic rockers Brian Jonestown Massacre return with another record, Third World Pyramid. From lush acoustic numbers to layered electric tunes to horn-laden classic rock, BJM continue to mine the depths of the 60s psych scene for a nostalgic yet creative blend of trippy tunes. More mature and cohesive than most of the band’s past work, Third World Pyramid finds the band doing what they do best, and is certainly worth a listen.

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