First and foremost: there is not a “Women In Music Pt. I” or “Pt. II”. There is a lot of significance to the number “three” here, however, given the three sisters that make up HAIM (Este Haim, Danielle Haim, and Alana Haim), this being their third album, and likely other references that I’m not smart enough to get. Regardless of nomenclature, though, this is a powerhouse of a pop album.
Women In Music Pt. III shines for all of the different areas that it touches and excels in. From a funky beat on “Los Angeles” that would be at home in an early 90s hip-hop track, to something closer to a Fleetwood Mac track (“Up From A Dream”), HAIM hits all the literal and figurative notes.
I refuse to call HAIM a “girl group”, because that would insinuate that “boy groups” are on the same level, which the vast majority are not. The sisters have not only matured their sound, but have truly expanded upon it here. I will be doing them the justice that I should’ve done them years ago, and going back to check out their previous two albums. I know they won’t be as good as Women In Music Pt. III, but they will still be a treat.
If you’re like me and you were a huge closet fan (because you were way too old to be an “out” fan) of the teen drama the O.C. in the early 2000s, then you are already familiar with at least one song by Phantom Planet, “California”. This little band actually had 4 studio albums between 1994-2008, but haven’t played together or released anything since. Even though Jason Schwartzman is no longer a band member (fun fact, he was the drummer for the band from 1994-2003), I am still a fan of this band that I have heard dubbed as the kings of “wholesome American Indie”.
It’s always tricky for bands with long spanning careers to release new albums, especially when they have fallen into a strict genre of music. On the one hand, fans expect a sound that they can recognize. We want to be able to turn on the radio and say “Hey, that’s Phantom Planet!” On the other hand, we want something fresh and new, something that doesn’t sound exactly like the previous album from 2018. Devastator does a great job of this on both accounts. Their unnecessary teenage angst is gone (come on guys, you live in California), but what remains is an album of heartfelt melodies, exceptional instrumentals, and an album that I have not been able to stop playing on repeat.
My favorite song on the album also happens to be the first single released: “Time Moves On”. This is a bit of a sad and angsty song (albeit more grown up level angst) about time passing us by and the constant hope for things to change, all the while they just stay the same. “BALISONG” and “Party Animal”both play like upbeat rock anthems, and “Through the Trees”is a tale of accepting heartbreak from a “gated community turf”. “Torture Me”, “Waiting for the Lights to Change”, and “Gold Body Spray” are all also break up songs, presumably about the “devastator” who seems to have done just that.
Overall, Devastator is a no-skip playthrough, an album that will remind you of your emo days while remaining modern and relevant.
Note: The post is uncharacteristically light on material this week. We would apologize for that, but we don’t produce the banality that got released on June 12th. When an artist does something of note, we’ll comment. Feel free to argue for your favorite artist that we slighted this week. Or any week for that matter.
Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour (Parkwood Entertainment)
Sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey have both lived a full life in the entertainment world, despite being only 21 and 20 years old, respectively. From acting credits including The Fighting Temptations, Meet the Browns and Let It Shine, to being discovered from covers performed on YouTube; following all that up with a mixtape, two EPs, and now their 2nd studio album, Ungodly Hour – and their first charting single on the Billboard R&B Songs chart. At this point, you’ve already got a pretty good career. Or, in the case of Chloe x Halle, a pretty good start.
The superstar that discovered the Chloe x Halle duo on YouTube was none other than Beyoncé, who sought them out after listening to their cover of Bey’s “Pretty Hurts”. The influence is palpable; all three women are strong, sensual, introspective and unapologetic. The production is at the perfect level, enough so that it doesn’t just fade into the background, but not so much that it overshadows the work of the two songstresses.
The best song on Ungodly Hour, in my opinion, is also the charting single. “Do It” is a legit earworm through and through, with a great beat and fun lyrics (“He say, ‘Where you from?’ Tell ’em, ‘Outer space’/’Cause a bag the only thing I’m tryna chase”). “Overwhelemed” is a short track that highlights the more emotional side of the duo, while closing tune “ROYL” (short for “Rest Of Your Life”) is a nice nod for doing your thing in the limited Earth time you have left. In all tracks, the sisters are balanced, both within themselves and together as a single entity.
Even with all the success they’ve had already, the future remains bright for the pair. Halle will be starring as Princess Ariel in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid soon, with Chloe nabbing a role alongside Russell Crowe in upcoming horror flick The Georgetown Project. I’m sure it won’t be long before the two get back in the studio to start work on album #3 – and if I had to guess, we’ll be talking about how they just keep improving a few years from now. Beyoncé better watch out, lest the students become the teachers.
Dion – Blues With Friends (Keeping The Blues Alive Records)
It has been nearly 60 years since Dion first appeared on the scene with his first hits, “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer”, songs that will live forever. He is a living legend, and at 80 years old, has given us his 18th studio album. Taking a note from Santana, Dion asked a different guitar icon to join him on each track.
Among those he counts as friends are the prodigious talents of Joe Bonamassa, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer, Jeff Beck, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, and several others. Each of those tracks takes on the personality of the guest artist, varying the styles of blues from swing – to folk – to rock – to traditional. Through it all, Dion’s voice provides a unity between the songs. Age has most assuredly not weakened his voice. On the contrary, he sounds as vibrant, powerful, and relevant as he ever did.
I defy anyone to listen to “My Baby Loves To Boogie” (John Hammond), “Bam Bang Boom” (Billy Gibbons), or “I Got The Cure” (Sonny Landreth) without feeling the need to move. Equally difficult would be ignoring the emotional grip of “Can’t Start Over Again” (Jeff Beck) or “Told You Once In August” (John Hammond, Rory Block).
From the first track to the last, Blues With Friends is a trip worth taking.
FFO: Eric Clapton, Alabama Shakes, any of the artists named above
In the past, I have been accused of comparing too many artists to Radiohead, to the point where that comparison loses some meaning. As such, I hesitate to use that as a jumping off point, even when the record is screaming for it.
Dive Index is an L.A. based collaborative electronic project led by producer and composer, Will Thomas. Waving At Airplanes is the fifth full-length album under this name, and collaborators for this effort are vocalists Natalie Walker and Merz. In a convenient arrangement of songs, the tracks alternate back and forth between the two of them.
Stylistically, this is shoegaze electronica at the top of the class. Most of the music is static pulses, electric blips and ethereal, atmospheric chord progressions. Every sound on the album is made using a modular synthesizer, with the exception of the construction sounds that happened to breach the studio soundproofing.
Natalie’s vocals are beautiful and intoxicating, singing about deeply emotional moments of self-discovery, ignorance in relationships, and being absorbed by the things around us. “She’s Exploding”, “Wish I Had A Pulse” and the eponymous track stand out as jewels in this particular display case. Merz’s tracks, on the other hand, are a pretentious word salad that only occasionally stumble across a message. The most egregious example is “Pristine Wilderness”, which makes as much sense as a stroke victim with Tourette’s. His tracks SOUND good, though, and ultimately, that’s what is most important.
This record is definitely not for everyone, but it certainly struck a chord with me.
FFO: Amnesiac-era Radiohead (Sorry. Had to.), Roger Eno, Ian Masters
Let’s face it: these are trying times. We’re all stuck inside, oftentimes without much to do. Some of us are locked down with significant others, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wifes, etc. After that 5th or 6th ep of your rewatch binge of The Office, you glance at one another, and it’s time. Clothes go off, deodorant goes on – don’t pretend that you smell good right now – and from there it’s into or onto the bed, the couch, or even the washing machine.
You know what’s missing in this scene? The music, of course. But not just any music; it has to be right. The two of you (or more, I don’t judge) deserve it to be right. And that’s where Caught In The Groove comes in.
I can’t claim to know much about German jazz musician Nils Jiptner, or what exactly he was thinking as he conceptualized this album. Maybe it was an audio illustration of the rolling German countryside, or an ode to the neo-gothic architecture still on prominent display in Munich. Perhaps it was more of a call-to-action, to encourage all who listen to unite and make the world a better place. But regardless of any of that, this is very clearly a sex album for doing sex with other sex-doers.
From the uptempo “Good Times are Better” and “I Like The Way You Do It”, to the slower “My Mornings With You” and “All Roads Lead To You”… oh. I guess Nils knew that he was making a sex album all along then. As smooth as a fine whiskey, and as layered as a fine dip, Caught In The Groove delivers as a complete listening experience. Good luck getting through the whole 12 track ride with your pants on.