August 7, 2020


This week, we decided to try something a little different. We added a “Quickies” section of this review blog for quick, bullet point reviews. We had been discussing how we could cover more ground and talk about more music. This section will allow us, and you, to be exposed to more releases. Check it out and let us know if it’s something you would like us to continue or if it feels like clutter. Cheers!

-JR


Deep Purple – Whoosh! (Edel Germany GmbH / earMusic)

3 members of the current lineup of the band have been there since 1968. Ok, that’s a lie. Deep Purple are sort of an industry joke, with an ever-rotating cast of dozens of Class A musicians, earning its own special band members Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Deep_Purple_members). Only drummer, Ian Paice, has been on every studio release. But Roger Glover and Jesus Chri…I mean, Ian Gillan, have been on nearly all of them. 

Honestly, this album does not sound like it was released in 2020. I suppose it’s a breath of fresh air in that regard. Chock full of the goofy, intense theatricality that we would have expected of these cats back in the mid-’70s, Whoosh! is just plain fun. Who doesn’t like organ solos, choral harmonies, classic guitar tone, and sing-along grooves? Vocally, Gillan is starting to sound his age, with just a hint of Joe Walsh creeping into his voice. But what he’s singing doesn’t really need the high-pitched wails that he has been doing for 50+ years. 

This is your dad’s music, in the best possible way. It really might be the perfect feel-good soundtrack in the time of pandemic. Put the windows down in your car, stay on the highway, and take “The Long Way Round”. 

FFO: Kansas, BTO, Styx

-JR


Drugs – Episodic (Park the Van)

Are you plagued by singer/songwriters? Are you stuck in a sea of formula-riddled pop? Has metal got you feeling less than your best? Have we got the artist for you!

Drugs! The remedy for all that ails you. 

The band has quite a bit in common with its namesake: a) you don’t know where they came from. They have a (nearly-impossible-to-find) Facebook page, a bandcamp page…and that’s it. And those don’t have a lot of information aside from a few photos and some posts about this album dropping. b) They are consistent in quality, but the effect they have is a bit varied. c) They like jazz.

Listening to this record is a little bit like hearing the inside of Mike Patton’s brain on a happy day. It is a controlled chaos. The complexity of the music cannot be overstated, it is all over the place. Time signature changes are accompanied by dramatic shifts in tone and attitude. Slow, Shins-like pop verses are juxtaposed with freakout breakdowns or post-theory interjections. 

The most indicative song on the album is the second track on the album, “Joyride”, a short burst of energy that gives you an idea of everything that you’ll hear on the album. Sort of an overture, but if the editor took a smoke break and the meth’d-out janitor pushed a bunch of buttons, then published it. 

This is one of my favorite releases of the year so far. It is crazy, paranoid, frenetic and wholly enjoyable. 

FFO: Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa

-JR


Mach-Hommy – Mach’s Hard Lemonade

As you may already know, we do a fair amount of album reviews here at Fairly Kickass.  Some of those albums come from artists that we were not familiar with prior, for a number of reasons: it’s a debut album, or a lesser-known artist, or perhaps because we’re all not-so-secret troglodytes and philistines.

Every so often, we’ll spin a release from one of those artists, and it will catch us totally off-guard.  We’ll have to listen again, and again, to make sure that we weren’t inflating how great the listening experience was.

Mach’s Hard Lemonade is just such an album.

From what I can find, this is Mach-Hommy’s fifth overall album, and his second solo album, following last year’s Wap Konn Jòj.  When I tell you that this album slaps… please believe it.  Beats that would be home on a Wu-Tang album, ridiculous lyrics and lyrical references a la MF Doom, and tons of bars (no filler to be found here).  An example of the lyrical prowess comes on “Smoked Maldon”: “Spin you like Katarina Witt in Sarajevo/spin you like a dreidel/shoot you out them Adi Dassler superstar kicks without no label”.  Sir, may I have a word?  Because that’s just beyond absurd.

You know I love me some featureds, and Mach’s Hard Lemonade doesn’t disappoint there.  The back-and-forth delivery with Your Old Droog on “Pour House”; some slick bars from b on “Smoked Maldon”; and Earl Sweatshirt doing the Earl Sweatshirt things on “Soon Jah Due” (which, to clarify, are quite good things that Earl does with the words and the saying of them).

Mach-Hommy’s Mach’s Hard Lemonade has instantly catapulted itself into my personal list for top rap album of the year, and is in the short list for best album of the year altogether.  And it’s a reminder to everyone – myself included – to take a leap of faith every so often.  Find an album on your streaming service of choice, or YouTube, or ask a friend.  The key is to locate a release that you’ve never heard, preferably from an artist that you have never heard of.  Listen with an open mind you might just be amazed at what you hear.

FFO: Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, Griselda

Z.


Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Dirt and the Stars (Lambent Light Records)

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s discography is an interesting case study in marketing.  If you ask her, she was simply a “singer-songwriter”, and if her earlier sound was anything like The Dirt and the Stars, she would absolutely skew toward Americana.  But her label at the time, Columbia, had other ideas, packaging her as a country artist.  It worked to a T.

Mary received five Grammys, all within country categories, and was the CMA female vocalist of the year in 1992 and 1993.  Three of her more country-centric albums went at least 1x Platinum, and she even had a few charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, along with a slew of top-10 hits on the Country chart.  Without that success, she may not have had the chance to showcase her non-country abilities later in her career, and something like The Dirt and the Stars may never have actualized.

And good thing it did.  Much like Jason Isbell’s album from earlier this year, Reunions, this is Americana at it’s finest.  Mary’s voice is a gentle breeze, gently sitting on top of each track, never weighing any of them down.  Slower jam “Old D-35” (“As long you appear in my dreams to show me how it was/As long as I am here to shake a fist at the universe above”) and more upbeat “Secret Keepers” (“Secret keepers are lost and found/Spare a little kindness when you meet someone/You never really know what they’re carrying around/Is it a live grenade or a loaded gun?”) are my favorite tracks, with “Asking for a Friend” not far behind.  There’s definitely enough variance for everyone to find something they like here.

The Dirt and the Stars marks Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 16th studio album, at a clip of one at least every two years since 2007.  At 62, she is showing no signs of slowing down – nor should she.  Keep ’em coming.  I’ll let Mary take us home, from the aforementioned “Asking for a Friend”:

When there’s nothing left to say, how do you say it?

When there’s nowhere else to go, have you reached the end?

I’ll let you decide that for yourself, dear reader.

FFO: Lori McKenna, Courtney Marie Andrews, Sarah Jarosz

Z.


The Fast Romantics – Pick It Up (Postwar)

When their first album came out a few years ago, it had been affected by the madness of the world. Songwriter, Matthew Angus, set out to write the love he was feeling in his heart, but the American political landscape was the dominant emotive theme of the resulting publication. This, despite the fact that he lived in Canada. 

This time around, he managed to combine those combating themes. Especially in songs like “Made For You”, in which he croons, “Hey, get it together. I’m trying to give you my heart / I said, it’s hard to fall in love while the world is falling apart”, which is a beautifully depressing sentiment. This expression is made even stronger by its method of delivery. 

The Fast Romantics make relatable rock ‘n roll that would be at home in any era of music…except this one. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, they would have been contemporaries of Tom Petty and Neil Diamond. In the ‘90s, The Wallflowers and Soul Asylum. In the ‘00s, you would have seen them with Kings of Leon. The only current acts that align with this style are relegated to the sidelines of the industry, never to reach the charts. Artists like Blitzen Trapper and Fleet Foxes.  

And it’s a shame. These songs are beautifully rendered, poetic depictions of life and humanity. They are honest, hopeful, miserable, and anyone can relate to them. 

FFO: The Wallflowers, Kings of Leon

-JR


In Hearts Wake – Kaliyuga (UNFD)

This is what happens when incredibly talented Australians have access to the catalogs of every heavy music act ever. I’m torn on this one for a very specific reason: it’s too good for what it is. 

They call it metalcore, but it could just as easily be called an identity crisis. Did someone from Disturbed learn to play guitar finally? Did Chester Bennington’s zombie join Periphery? Did Prodigy and The Acacia Strain have an irresponsible nu-metal baby?

Before I knew any better, I would have loved Kaliyuga without any qualifying language. High School Jeremy would have been all over this. As an adult, steeped in music history, I can see it for what it is. It is absolutely a shakedown. Hundy-P, bro. They took the low-end rumble from Korn, the melodic sensibilities of Linkin Park, the anger and bark of Hatebreed, the production sense of Coheed and Cambria, and the energy of Issues. They don’t bother to mask it either. The songs change styles constantly, mimicking whatever act they have annexed. I lost count of how many different vocalists I heard throughout the record, making the effort feel more like a “collective” than a band. “Oh, this track needs to sound like Mudvayne? Perfect! Which singer will get us there?”

Here’s the problem: It’s really fucking good.

Every song is engineered to be as dynamic and engaging as they could make it. And it worked. I’m still not sure how I feel about that. 

FFO: Amaranthe, Parkway Drive, any of the bands listed throughout this write-up. 

JR


New Fries – Is the Idea of Us (Telephone explosion)

I was looking for an album to round out my reviews for the week: something unique, different, interesting.  “Good” was a bonus, but not a requirement.  And then I hit on Is the Idea of Us by New Fries.  Jackpot.

It’s hard to describe, so I’ll do my best: mostly instrumental, highly unsettling, lots of echo, lots of echo, repetitive but with enough additions and oddities to keep it fresh.  This isn’t dancing music, and it’s far from chill.  There’s not really much you can do with this album.  And yet, Is the Idea of Us pulled me in in a weird, mesmerizing, almost hypnotic way.

Toronto’s New Fries don’t try to make it any less weird throughout, either.  From the beginning (“Bangs”) to the middle (the short-but-sweet “Genre III”) to the end (final track “Arendt: Adler: Pulley Pulley Pulley Pulley Pulley”… yes, that is the full name of the track), the album stays true.  That is, if “true” is short for “a moderate-to-severe psychotic break”.

I can’t say that Is the Idea of Us is going on a playlist of mine, but I’m glad that I discovered it.  It’s nice to have something truly weird and bizarre in the music world; if nothing else, it does well to balance out what was a bit of a slow week in the way of new releases.  For that, I thank New Fries.

FFO: HAHAHAHAHA okay sure

Z.


+QUICKIES+


Abir – HEAT EP (Atlantic)

The energy of this recording is off the charts. She is a Moroccan-born dynamo, living in NYC. HEAT is her second release, and it is quite a showing. She has a rarified take on what it is like to be an Arab woman in the Western world, comparing the modern world to antiquated traditions.  Her music combines elements of her nation of origin with the music she was raised with in New York. Her voice falls somewhere between Halsey and Shakira

Start with: “Yallah”, “Inferno”

FFO: Dua Lipa, Shakira

-JR


joan – cloudy (Photo Finish Records)

The halcyon days of *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and 98° are on full display.  You can just hear Carson Daly introducing any one of the six tracks, before a live performance from Tom Green.  Also, according to the Internet, the track “want u back” is a “bop”.  So yeah, do with that info what you will.

FFO: That feeling of seething hatred when Korn or Limp Bizkit has the #1 video AGAIN, c’mon why isn’t “I Drive Myself Crazy” #1 today, this whole thing is rigged, screw it I’m gonna go play Dreamcast

-Z.


Sam Tinnesz – White Doves (Savage Youth)

The first track, “Brother”, puts Sam Tinnesz in a similar category as young British bluesy rock singers like Rag’n’Bone Man and Barns Courtney.  Which is great!  What is less great is that none of the other tracks seem to capture that same raw emotion or nuance.  The remainder of the album is not bad, but this Quickie would be a full review if every track was like “Brother”.

FFO: For “Brother”: Rag’n’Bone Man, Barns Courtney.  For the rest: Zayde Wølf, The Federal Empire

-Z.


Felt – Felt 4 U (Rhymesayers)

Felt – the duo of underground hip-hop mainstays Murs and Slug – get off to a slow start on Felt 4 U.  I was left wanting more from all aspects… from the beats, to the lyrics, the delivery, and the chemistry – it just seemed off from tracks 1-4.  But starting with “Through The Night”, the album picked up quite a bit on all fronts.  Do yourself a favor and begin at #5, and you’ll have 67% of a nice rap album on your hands.

FFO: Aesop Rock, The Grouch

-Z.


Jaga Jazzist – Pyramid (Brainfeeder)

I’ll let Spotify do my heavy lifting once more, with this five-word… something: “Boundary-crashing Norwegian big band”.  I feel like whatever else I write will pale in comparison to that – and the sentiment seems wholly accurate to boot.

FFO: Big bands, Norway, the marriage of the two

-Z.


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