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Chatham County Line - Wildwood

“Wildwood” is already album number five for these North Carolina boys and while they have added some touches of drums and piano here and there, their acoustic brand of bluegrass doesn’t really need these enhancements to shine. Especially not when you’ve just written an instant classic called “Crop Comes In”, a song about a farmer working on the field while thinking about his girl. You’re instantly there beside him. It even makes you forget about the next song, “Porcelain Doll”, which is a bit too cheesy for me.

Luckily the band doesn’t fumble the ball on any of the other songs and as they strum and harmonize their way through the remainder of the songs, I can’t help but be instantly charmed. It’s like when I heard The Jayhawks for the first time… all of a sudden you realize that a genre you didn’t really care all that much for, can actually be really good as well.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Tamaryn – The Waves

Whether you want to call it shoegaze or dreampop that slowly evolves into a nightmare, you’re not too far off the mark. On Tamaryn’s debut full-length “The Waves”, the duo that consists of Tamaryn and her partner in crime Rex John Shelverton do a pretty solid job of adding layers on top of each other and then letting them wash all over you (to keep up with the album title).

Think of My Bloody Valentine making sweet, sweet love to Cocteau Twins and you’re not too far off the mark either. The rhythms on here sound like a person dragging his feet while making sure he doesn’t stumble over them. At the same time the guitars and hushed vocals completely hypnotize you and lure you in over and over again. Even after listening to the band’s more upbeat songs like “Love Fade”, you will find yourself reaching for the nearest antidepressant only to then press repeat.

Fans of Spacemen 3, Slowdive and Beach House are sure to appreciate this.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

JJ Grey & Mofro – Georgia Warhorse

Following up 2007’s “Country Ghetto” and 2008’s “Orange Blossoms”, JJ Grey and his band Mofro are back for another round with “Georgia Warhorse”. While the album’s predecessors were already well worth your time, “Georgia Warhorse” sounds even more accomplished and surprises all the way through.

You can tell right away that these guys hail from the Deep South of the United States as soon as opener “Diyo Dayo” kicks in the door in a funky kinda way. It’s that laidback, swampy vibe that trickles throughout the entire album that fools you. At first you think that you’ve heard all this before, no matter if they’re getting it on in a rocking, bluesy, funky or soul-y (?) way. But then, several listening sessions later, you realize that the songs on here have gotten under your skin and by then it’s simply too late. It doesn’t hurt that Grey has guitarist Derek Trucks and reggae singer Toots Hibbert helping out, but he’s doing a damn fine job of making his material sound fresh on his own.

Now that the summer is becoming somewhat of a distant memory, buying a copy of “Georgia Warhorse” is a good move to help relive some of those hot summer nights.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Morlocks – Play Chess

When The Morlocks got back together in the late 90ies, they didn’t have a lot in common with the original band other than the vocalist and the band name. And if ten years down the line all you can come up with is a covers album, then maybe it’s time to put it to rest.

On “Play Chess” The Morlocks tackle a dozen songs that were originally released on Chess Records. They do this in a garage-y way while still maintaining the bluesy edge of the originals. The problem is that a lot of the songs on here end up sounding very much the same, making “Play Chess” an at times fun yet overall superfluous release by a band about whom you can say pretty much the same thing.
Score: 6 out of 10

Kings Of Leon – Come Around Sundown

Wait a minute… didn’t Kings Of Leon claim that their new album would harken back to their old sound? You know… the time before they sold out stadiums and had even Paramore covering their songs. On “Come Around Sundown” all that reminds me of the pre-“Only By The Night” Kings Of Leon are a couple cuts like”Mary” and ”Birthday” on which they rock like they won’t make it to the next year.

Most of the time though the Kings build on the sound that helped shift 6.5 million copies of their last album. Opener “The End” shows these guys have that Edge-like wailing, slowly echoing guitar sound down pat while Caleb’s voice still manages to slither through all the cracks in the song. They do manage to mix things up here and there like on the fiddle-enhanced “Back Down South” that sounds like it came from a late-night jamming session on someone’s back porch. It’s one of a few highlights on the album. And then there’s “Pony Up” which surprisingly enough comes with a Talking Heads vibe.

All in all “Come Around Sundown” doesn’t hold too many – if any - surprises but it does show a band further establishing their sound without fumbling the ball too badly. I just wish they had been a little more adventurous rather than for a large part simply being content with repeating themselves.
Score: 7 out of 10

John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up!

Supporting Obama in 2008 seems to have given R&B artist John Legend something of a social and political awareness boost. This now resulted in a collaboration with the ├╝berhiphoppers of The Roots called “Wake Up!”, an album on which they re-interpret just under a dozen of both well-known and lesser known protest songs that cover Philly soul, funk and gospel.

Donny Hathaways “Ghetto Boy” and Baby Huey’s “Hard Times” are juxtaposed against more hopeful cuts like Ernie Hines' “Our Generation” en Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' “Wake Up Everybody” while Bill Wither’s anti-war classic “I Can’t Write Left-Handed” is stretched from a ‘mere’ 6 minutes to an 11-minutes long epic story.

“Wake Up!” is not so much a cover album as it is a modern take on the originals that haven’t lost any of their power… both musically and lyrically. It makes “Wake Up!” an album that is the perfect antidote for all the crap they try to sling as R&B these days while being a rallying cry at the same time that is worth being heard.
Score: 9 out of 10

Go Rydell – The Golden Age

After having terrorized Florida (in a positive way) for over a year with their energetic live shows, it was time for Go Rydell to take the next step. So they got Less Than Jake’s Roger Lima to produce what would become their debut full-length which was then mastered by Descendents’ Stephen Egerton.

“The Golden Age” is fifteen minutes of melodic hardcore that reminds me of Kid Dynamite and Shook Ones. Well, it does more than remind me… it pretty much sounds exactly like the output of those two bands. But the guys that make up Go Rydell lay it all down with so much enthousiasm that you can’t help but get sucked in by their energy and passion. And sometimes that’s all it takes for an album to be a keeper.
Score: 7.5 out of 10


V/A – Past Present – Breaking Out The Classics

For its 150th release Revelation decided to pull out all the stops and so they asked a bunch of current hardcore bands to cover some of the classics. The result is a compilation with a whopping 23 songs, all of which are exclusive to this release. I think this one was originally announced four years ago... no idea why it took so long but whatever, it’s a cool compilation.

So what current hardcore bands you ask me? How about Sick Of It All, Terror, Set Your Goals, Capital, This Is Hell and Down To Nothing? And which classics? Well, Warzone, Gorilla Biscuits, Bold, Judge, CIV and Texas Is The Reason to name but a few.

To top it all off, this release comes with fun artwork and 50% of the profit will go to Human Rights Watch... can’t really go wrong with that, right?
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Street Sweeper Social Club – The Ghetto Blaster EP

While Street Sweeper Social Club’s deubt wasn’t a bad album per se, I think it’s fair to say that more was expected of a collaboration between Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello and The Coup’s Boots Riley.

Following up last year’s debut, they are now back with a 7-song EP. Opener “Ghetto Blaster” is a kick in the teeth that goes a long way of redeeming that debut and “Everythang” keeps the momentum going with a nice funky vibe. The cover of M.I.A.’s hit “Paper Planes” was a bad move though... it does little else than annoy. Luckily they pick up the pace again after that with “The New Fuck You”, an enjoyable cover of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” and they even manage to reclaim the best song from their debut whil they’re at it by disco-fying “Promenade”.

All in all, the material on “Ghetto Blaster” is a step forward compared to the band’s debut but they’ve still got a long way to go before they will have the whole world shaking their hips and their fists at the same time.
Score: 7 out of 10

Jimmy Eat World – Invented

Album number seven sees Jimmy Eat World teaming up again with producer Mark Trombino, the man behind “Bleed American” and “Clarity”, without a doubt the band’s best albums to date. It’s a good thing because listening to Jimmy Eat World became a bit too easy with their last two albums.

Opener “Heart Is Hard To Find” shows Jimmy Eat World from a restrained perspective with a song that’s about to burst wide open any second. They save that for “My Best Theory” though. It’s a song that doesn’t as much knock on the door rather than kick the damn thing wide open. The same can be said for “Action Needs An Audience”... I want more of that! But since this is still Jimmy Eat World we’re talking about, there are always the emotional ballads to deal with as well. There’s the title song for example which comes with some hauntingly beautiful backing vocals courtesy of Courtney Marie Andrews, a singer-songwriter from Phoenix, AZ who also helps out on four other songs here. And then there are songs like “Higher Devotion” and “Movielike”, which are mellow and determined at the same time.

On “Invented”, the guys in Jimmy Eat World make it clear that they are still able to pull your heart strings effortlessly before making you jump around the room as they kick out the jams. I guess it makes them excellent puppeteers who have released an album that works wonders when it’s dark, wet and cold outside.
Score: 8 out of 10

Neil Young – Le Noise

“Le Noise” is what happens when you let Neil Young do his thing during four nightly sessions in Daniel Lanois’ house in Los Angeles. It’s just Young’s voice and his electric guitar with Lanois fiddling the knobs but it works.

Don’t expect anything radically different because the lyrical content is the same always (peace and mother nature good, capitalism bad), Young’s voice is still the same as well and he still knows how to play his guitar. Surprise! But following up some weaker albums, it looks like Neil Young finally found his way back to being relevant and noteworthy.

With just eight songs, “Le Noise” might be a bit short on content but the songs that did make it on here, are gems. “Love And War” is an acoustic cuts that holds its own between le noise of the distorted guitars of the other tracks and while “Angry World” comes with the same lyrical theme, it lets Young bring out the fury. “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” is another beautiful acoustic track and then I haven’t even mentioned “Hitchhiker”, a live favorite that has finally found its way on an album.

I doubt “Le Noise” will be an instant classic but with the help of Daniel Lanois, it did turn out to be a great album that shows you don’t need a backing band to make a lot of noise.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns

When Linkin Park entered the scene in 2000 with “Hybrid Theory” they helped define the nu metal moniker. That album alone shifted over 20 million copies. It’s hard to follow up a debut like that but Linkin Park never wavered and kept on going. Nevermind that not a single one of their subsequent albums ever even came close to “Hybrid Theory”.

The turning point came with 2007’s “Minutes To Midnight”. It showed a band that was completely clueless and didn’t know where to go from there. Maybe that’s why this time around Linkin Park teamed up with Rick Rubin, a producer known for whipping bands who’ve lost direction back into shape. Unfortunately not even Rubin can save these guys. “A Thousand Suns” is the worst Linkin Park album to date with the band sounding like a mix of some softrock outfit and a boysband.

The first two songs (“The Requiem” and “The Radiance”) are like an intro that’s not going anywhere and “Burning In The Skies” is the kind of mellow popsong that has me reaching for the barfbag. And the crap just keeps on coming from there. Thanks a bunch but I think I’ll stick with the memories of “Hybrid Theory” and leave it like that.
Score: 3 out of 10