Jack White’s Lazaretto and Miranda Lambert’s Platinum might be Kanye’ing the attention of most rock press this month, but not Popdose. June 2014 is bursting with fresh sonic fruits in every category. Two beloved acts from the 80’s make glorious returns and a trio of promising artists make stunning debuts. Let’s take em for a spin:
JAMES • LA PETITE MORT
Just when you think King James is dead, Tim Booth and company comeback bigger and brighter than ever before. La Petite Mort, the Manchester band’s first album in 6 years is easily one of their best. With every new James album, you roll the dice to see if you’re gonna get Happy James (Laid, Whiplash, Millionaires) or Gloomy James (Pleased to Meet You, The Morning After/Night Before). Mort is ambitious, joyous and utterly glorious — sure, it tackles some dark themes, but as the title says, it’s only “a little death”.
Clocking in at a hair more than seven minutes, album kickoff ‘Walk Like You’ is a career highlight; it never overstays it’s welcome and morphs into multiple acts before crescendoing into silence. ‘Curse Curs’ rides waves of buoyant synths like an Alice Deejay anthem, also breaking into multiple suites versus the same old verse/chorus/verse. Guitars return with ‘Moving On’, building and building momentum like Pulp at its finest. A big, wet bass line ushers ‘Gone Baby Gone’ down the tracks; at points you hear echoes of the Killers (Max Dingel, engineer on Sam’s Town, produced), until the song explodes into an array of sonic fireworks.
The flipside of the album quiets the party with a pack of lovely ballads (OK, one’s a bit sappy, but it grows on you) before ‘Quicken the Dead ” and ‘All I’m Saying’ end proceedings on a high note. Sonically (at least), James is like the lover who keeps dumping you and then shows up on your steps years later looking hotter than ever before. La Petite Mort is stacked with at least seven Top 10-worthy singles. Booth’s voice sounds younger, smoother and more elegant than ever; and with the band in fine form, they will hopefully put out three or four more times before breaking-up with us again.
Click Click • Those Nervous Surgeons
Click Click is one of those Wax Trax! era bands I was obsessed with in college. Industrial music that was dark, minimalistic, beautiful, sinister, danceable and most importantly — accessible; unlike the scads of creepy, angry, tuneless shit this heavily pierced “industrial girl” once placed on a mixtape for me.
To catch you up, here’s some Classic Click Click: ‘Awake and Watching’…
Click Click has been clicked off for 17 years, but now join the ranks of eighties bands that have made stellar comebacks.
Those Nervous Surgeons pulls its album title from one of the working band names the Smith brothers, Derek and Adrian K., pondered in the early 80’s before settling on Click Click (and I assume, inspiring Microsoft to invent the double click). The album sounds simultaneously retro and gloomy and modern and upbeat.
Surgeons comes in a standard digipak and a limited edition (300 unit) deluxe edition with a bonus CD and a copy of Adrian K. Smith’s novel, The Eradication of Hate.
Gedeon Luke & The People • Live Free and Love
Popdose discovered Memphis-born Gedeon Luke when his Perfect Ain’t Perfect EP landed on our year-end best albums chart at the tail end of 2012. Perfect gets more perfect with the addition of six additional tracks to form his debut-full length platter Live Free & Love. The album pulls inspiration from classic Lenny Kravitz, Curtis Mayfield, Prince and Al Green albums; producers Marc Swersky and Jack Daley capture Luke’s ferocious live band it all of its glory — searing horns, funky grooves, gospel highs and organic rock and roll. If anyone could give the Dap Kings a run for their money, it is The People.
The new single: ‘Live Free & Love’:
The first single: ‘Hey (That’s What I Say)’
All of Perfect‘s big jams are here, including ‘Standing on Top of the World’ and ‘Lend Me Your Sunshine’. Among the new tracks, ‘Hey (That’s What I Say)’ is a straight up earworm pop smash that is as catchy yet less annoying than ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ and ‘Call Me Maybe’. ‘Electric Playground is a slow, sexy, and very funky sidewalk prowler. Don’t let album closer, ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’, fool you — it has no interest in being your friend; play this sultry window steamer when you are ready to seduce and reduce your lover to a puddle of strawberry jelly.
Check out a searing live performance of the title track from Gedeon Luke & The People on WGN-TV here.
So why should you Live Free & Love? Simple. Music this glorious — like Kravitz, Amy Winehouse, D’Angelo, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and The Heavy before him — honors and refreshes a classic sound that needs to return at the forefront of modern music. Questlove’s series of essays, How Hip Hop Failed Black America, discusses why our culture needs to think beyond the macho posturing. female objectification and wealth glorification of modern rap as the cornerstone of our musical identity — albums like this aren’t our only salvation, but they are a step in the right direction.
Joseph Lemay • Seventeen Acres
Rarely has an album by a complete unknown hit me like a ton of bricks the way Joseph Lemay’s stunning debut has. Lemay worked the southern state county fair circuit as a teen before moving to New York City and befriending producer Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars, The Lone Bellow). Soon he was a fly on the wall inside Peacock’s Nashville studio as artists came and went. Making sandwiches 80 hours a week, Lemay moved with his new wife into a beat-up single wide trailer on her family farm to make ends meet. Here is where the songs on Seventeen Acres took shape. Hope and fear, desperation and joy, love and regret — these themes balance beautifully within Acres‘ narrative. The music is an exquisite tapestry of Americana and Country. Seventeen Acres is a stellar debut from an insanely promising artist.
Seventeen Acres’ appeal extends way beyond the boundaries of the current Americana boom. Fans of Crowded House, Tom Petty, Iron & Wine, Paul Simon and countless others will welcome the tales of this gifted storyteller.
I could post all the tracks here, but that would deny you the joy of discovery.
Bonsai • Bonsai EP
Bonsai is the brainchild of Simone Stevens — perhaps not a group as much as it is a collaboration of kindred spirits (including Greg McMullen on guitar and pedal steel and Bryan Bisordi on drums). She and they cover a lot of territory in five songs, from the title track that pays homage to The Weepies to the spellbinding ‘When It Rains’. While sounding nothing like Kate Bush, this record scratches that ethereal, enchanting, pop itch better than any other record I’ve heard this decade. ‘I Like You Man’ needs to be a global #1 smash record — infectious, delicious and way too sweet to be nutritious.
Prepare to fall in love:
Lead single, ‘I Fashion You’re a Dreamer’, is a stunner — one that you can download for free for a limited time by clicking below:
In many ways, Bonsai reminds me of those early Jane Siberry albums — playful, quirky, inventive, delicate and daring. Hopefully a second EP (a trilogy perhaps?) is not too far away.
LP • Forever For Now
Perhaps the only thing holding LP back from global domination is her stage name — seriously — try typing “LP” into Google, not to mention SoundCloud or your own personal iTunes. In this day and age, bands with names like Sales, Dresses and Blouse get lost in the ether while the Lordes, Rihannas and Adeles are #1 acts. Even The The was smart enough to add that second “the”. Compounding the confusion, last year, LP released an EP — try finding that one on Amazon.
That said, once you can find her @#$%*& songs, the payoff is well worth the frustration. If you’re over Lady Gaga, perhaps it’s time to get under the stage lights with LP’s arsenal of giant, stadium-sized pop songs. LP, already a hit songwriter for the likes of RiRi and Xtina, is signed to Warner Brothers, so big gun Rob Cavallo (Green Day) is on board to produce. Despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix, LP’s epic voice is always front and center and well served. Compared to the Bonsai EP, the LP LP is the Redwood Forest.
Image is everything in pop music and LP is a refreshing change of pace; she looks like St. Vincent’s edgy sister or the guitarist in an all-female Strokes tribute band. Her sound is both modern and Mega 80’s; imagine Rachel Sweet as produced by Lady Gaga or Jim Steinman — one might even say, Forever is a Fiona record for the new generation. Every track is huge and most of them hit their mark. The over-the-top, Muse-y title track is a bit much, but then again, it might kill in a playlist next to Knights of Cydonia.
Forever For Now is on sale for $7.99 this week at Amazon.