This week’s Album Survey covers a wide variety of releases from Tuesday, June 14 and the week surrounding it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the music industry, most albums are released on Tuesdays in the U.S.A. (every country is different — for example, Great Britain releases albums on Mondays). We will take the time to write one-minute reviews (under 250 words) for select albums the weekend before their release, so you know what to pick up come Tuesday.
We use a 50-point rating scale, with albums ranked from 0.0-5.0 in increments of 1/10. 0-1 ratings signify albums that are almost completely worthless; 1-2 ratings are very bad albums that may have a redeeming song or two; ratings from 2-3 are albums that may have a good tune or two, and are fairly well-made, but lack staying power or general interest; any albums from 3-4 are worth checking out, as the majority of the album is good music; and lastly, albums rated in the 4-5 range should always be heard, and are among the best 50 releases of the year, most likely.
Without further ado, here is this week’s album survey — if you see any albums missing that you think should be reviewed, email with your suggestion.
We already released full-length reviews for:
Dananananaykroyd – There Is a Way (iTunes
In Flames – Sounds of a Playground Fading (iTunes
Jonathan Jones – Community Group (iTunes
Junior Boys –It’s All True (iTunes
Ledisi – Pieces of Me (iTunes
Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler (iTunes
Owl City –All Things Bright and Beautiful (iTunes
Sons and Daughters – Mirror Mirror (iTunes
Vetiver – The Errant Charm (iTunes
Woods – Sun and Shade (iTunes
WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain (iTunes
Bad Meets Evil – Hell: The Sequel EP (iTunes
“The poor stay poor, the rich get richer/ It’s just so disproportionate,” Claret Jai sings in one of her guest spots on the new EP (album, actually; it’s 46 minutes long) by Detroit rappers Eminem and Royce Da 5’9″. It’s only one of the many insightful remarks on the album, something we’ve come to expect from Eminem — alongside the desire to “stick my penis in your anus” and ridiculously catchy hooks (“Lighters” and “Fastlane”). Two two make a dynamic duo whether they’re “on everything” (painkillers, cigarettes, weed, Hennessey, and vodka on “I’m On Everything”) or a fucked up “true story” (“The Reunion”). The rhymes are more clever than ever, and the hooks are almost as addictive as Recovery. It’s simply amazing that, in a world inundated by post-Marshall Mathers LPrappers, no-one can touch Eminem in terms of “rawness.” Royce is a worthy sidekick, however, and you can’t help but feel that the two are tag-teaming you all the way through the album. But it feels so good.
Ziggy Marley – Wild and Free (iTunes
Bob‘s eldest son is at it again with his fourth solo album, the conscientiously stoned Wild And Free. From anthems about peace, love, and pot (“it’s good for the body/ it’s good for the soul”) to hedonistic lovesongs (“Forward To Love”) to discussions of his dad’s affairs (“Roads Less Traveled”), this is easily Ziggy’s best album yet. Sure, at every turn he sounds so similar to his dad that you might mistake each’s songs for the other’s…but who cares? We could all use more peace and love, and we could all stand to learn something from the message “why does money got to make the man?”
Nerina Pallot – Year of the Wolf (iTunes
On her fourth album, this soulful Brit is part Norah Jones, part Vanessa Carlton. Nearly every track boasts nonstop melodic pleasure, like a drink where every sip is exactly as good as the last — it doesn’t get old, nor does it get better. Assortments of instruments and styles (strings on the selfish-yet-sweet lovesong “Put Your Hands Up,” country-lite on “Butterfly”) only add to the charming appeal. Pallot takes her cues from singer/songwriters of years past, invoking Jeff Buckley on “Grace” (what a surprise!) and a southern-rockin’ Sinead O’Connor on “I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have.” Titles aside, though, Pallot suggests Joni Mitchell‘s straightforward songwriting and ’60s/’70s soul on many of the songs, and doesn’t even mind dropping the charm for a second on rocker “I Think”: “don’t give me your shit!” she repeats, but even then it comes across as less a command than a suggestion. Year Of The Wolfis nothing new, but Pallot shows a talent for revisiting what works, rather than what never worked decades ago.
The Swellers – Good for Me (iTunes
Most bands that attempt to combine early-’00s pop-punk, ’90s indie rock, and melodic punk rock, as The Swellers do, aren’t successful. They lean too heavily towards one side or the other, too pop, too unproduced, or too headbanger-hard. I wasn’t expecting much from Good For Me, and was pleasantly surprised to find a sound reminiscent of the pop-punk from a decade ago that guided me through some of my teenage years. The choruses are big, the power chords bigger, and the songwriting confronts subjects typical to pop-punk — getting out of Dodge (“Better Things”), miscommunication and apologies (“Inside My Head”), bad relationships, (“Parkview”), and past loves (“The Best I Ever Had”). It’s music directed towards that subsection of 25- and 30-year olds who can’t find their way out of their childhoods. Thus, the immaturity may lessen the appeal to those of us who believe we’ve moved past that point in our lives — but when you think of this is fun rock music whose lyrics aren’t that important, it’s a lot more fun to blare with the windows down.
The Wonder Years – Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
Genre: Pop-Punk (iTunes)
“I spent the winter writing songs about getting better,” the Philly pop-punk group insist on the opening track to their album. Judging by the angst of the Suburbia, however, they did not succeed — which the song readily admits. This album is more like than unlike The Swellers’ new effort, but it’s a little harder and the lyrics (though just as angsty) are more chantable. Sometimes the barrage of sounds threatens to overwhelm the hooks, though, resulting in rather unmemorable moments. I’ve been listening to pop-punk for a long time (since it sounded like this regularly), and after lead single “Don’t Let Me Cave In” got me excited with its ValenciaStarting Line ‘tude, I was itching for this album — but I’m still scratching. Nothing quite measures up to that single, and the album suffers from the same issues as The Upsides: a lack of intriguing melodies and uncentered tunes that rely more on their live power than their recorded panache.