Another anxiously awaited album this Summer is Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem, yet another reminder of how much great music has come out this Summer. I have been a fan of Gaslight since I first heard the album, The ’59 Sound, and became “hopelessly devoted” after catching them live at Coachella, in 2009. This new album is just continuing my love affair with the band, one that seems to be becoming a long term kind of relationship.
The first song, Stay Vicious, starts out in the way the title might suggest. It took me off-guard, the roughness, the power, the Jack White/Kills guitar and a 90’s Alice In Chains era vocal. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m digging it. And then — AND THEN — it goes melodic, recalling Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts, and my heart is pulled in closer. It switches again, and even delves into guitar solo territory, and then back to the tenderness, eventually blending both ends of the sound spectrum into a bittersweet melody that is pretty damn breathtaking. Yeah, I’m in — I’m all in.
My first listen favorite is the song that shares its name with the title, Get Hurt. This is a lonely, life on the road kind of song, but it could be translated just as much to a lonely, life away from a love lost. As with the first song, I am completely taken in by the transitions of sound and feeling. This one is the emotions in reverse, starting tender, reverent, an almost whispered confessional that builds and explodes into conviction and that giant leap off the cliff of opening up to love, and the possibility to be hurt. The dynamics and the heart-cracked-open lyrics remind me of Ryan Adams’ Come Pick Me Up and Fix It, and of Prince’s Purple Rain. I can already tell this one will be a favorite for a long, long time.
This is changer of an album, a little bit grown-up kind of album, yet I can still hear where they’ve come from both in Brian Fallon’s vocal wailings and softer moments, and the bands punk rock power, honed a bit more, but still raw and rockin’ as hell. There are sonic shifts, and new directions, but the heart and soul of Gaslight is here in big, big ways and oh my stars I needed this album this week.
Too Close took me by surprise when I first heard it, blowing me away with the emotional complexity and force. The single led me to Alex Clare’s debut album, which I embraced and listened to more than a lot, stealing songs to throw into playlists and mixes, and to use as musical writing muses. I was excited to see that there was a second album on the horizon, and despite the ever-present expectation of that dreaded “sophomore slump” (I hate assumptions like that), I am spinning this album with an open mind and willing ears.
I will say the first track plays a little too “current radio play” for my taste, the sound and soul of the debut album not readily recognizable. I felt a rush of disappointment thinking “oh no, this is going to disappear into the blur of a handful of sound-a-likes” that are on-air all the time. Here’s the thing – I was way wrong. Well, not wrong about that opening track. Honestly, I would be fine if the album started with track two because starting there the album comes to life, and all the things I loved about the debut is here again – and then some!
First listen favorite is track two. Three Hearts is bluesy and soulful. A heartfelt song about being young and starting a family, the struggles, and the hope. It is a love song expanded, with sentiments and sounds that remind me of Terence Trent D’Arby’s Sign Your Name and Bob Marley’s Is This Love. Alex’s voice is stunning in this song, raw and real and wonderful.
War Rages On, the album’s first single, is a soaring track. It is a close second initial favorite of mine. I love the way the song builds on itself, feeling at times like a whirlwind of movement and meaning. There is an overarching feeling of survival to this song that I love.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention the cover of Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love. While it is a stellar, straightforward cover, it is not my favorite take on the song (my favorite is Florence Welch’s version). That said, it fits in well on the album, both in mood and sound – and brought a “hey I know this song! I love this song!” moment for me. I like, too, that it comes in the end of the album – a perfect way to end an exceptional second album.
War Rages On
Tahliah Barnett, the voice behind FKA Twigs, comes across as something otherworldly. Vocally, she reminds me of some of my favorite 90’s Trip Hop, like the younger sibling of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and Sneaker Pimp’s Kelli Dayton, which is refreshingly wonderful as I have missed Trip Hop music so much.
The whole album plays at that sensibility, marrying it up to pop-electro-dance styles of the 2010’s. Oh, and there is a little early Bjork here, too, circa Sugarcubes and 1993’s Debut.
My first listen favorite is definitely Two Weeks. It is glorious and gorgeous sounding, lush and lusty. It is like erotica set to music and all of the sensuality and sexuality is female driven, powerful, commanding. Kicks is disarmingly erotic, as well, a new take on the Divinyl’s I Touch Myself sentiment.
The album overall reads like Anais Nin if she was transported into the future and backed up by the likes of Tricky and BT of Tori Amos/Blue Skies. An alluring and unpredictable experience, especially when notes and sounds often clash and then come back together in something that feels futuristic and hypnotic, yet still melodic.
I discovered/was introduced to Lucero around the same time as Dawes and The Hold Steady, and they are all bands that I hope to see play live someday. For now, I suppose this live Lucero album is a little closer to having that hope realized. It certainly makes me want to see them play live even more than I had already.
Whiskey-drenched storytelling that feels grounded in 50’s rockabilly, punk and classic country, a mix that transcends the label of “alt-country” into something far beyond. This is dive bar music and I mean that in the very best way. I want to spin this album from a corner jukebox, or see them play on a small, corner stage, while singing-a-long with my friends whilst toasting the music with shots of Jameson.
It is hard to pick a favorite from a live album because everything flows so well together and feels organic as a whole. Can I choose all 32 songs? And, if so, can I go see them play all 32? Please?
Texas & Tennessee (live)
I want to love this album, I want to love it in big ways because I respect the ideas here, the lyrical refrains, the spirit of the album. And Sinead, I have always loved her music, her voice, and her strength so much. Truth is, though, I don’t love it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are high points and songs that have potential, but on the whole I am finding myself not connecting with it. I miss the rawness of Sinead, her offbeat themes, her different styles like the album of torch songs or reggae or Irish traditional tunes. This though, it feels too polished, too produced, and too packaged.
High points and first listen favorites? The Voice of My Doctor which feels more Sinead than the rest of the album. I like the rough edges to her voice, the passion, the rock to it. It feels like the Sinead who sang Troy, with some inspirations from early Alanis Morissette and Courtney Love/Hole.
Take Me to Church, the first single, gets under my skin, too. I think its the lyrics I feel connected to more than the sound. I love the lyrics — and the video.
Maybe this album will grow on me. I’m not ready to give up just yet, that’s for certain.
Take Me to Church