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(Legacy Recordings, $10.99)

RAY DAVIES Citing money disputes with promoters (with at least one punch thrown) and rowdy stage behavior, The Kinks were banned from playing in the U.S. between 1965 and 1969 by The American Federation of Musicians. By the time they returned, the British Invasion had retreated but The Kinks’ sardonic, class satire and music charmed stateside fans to great success and, in turn, Ray Davies’ love (and cynicism) of this country never diminished. Davies’ latest album “Americana”, named after his 2013 autobiography, is filled with songs of that mangled, first U.S. tour (“The Invaders“) and his wild west, childhood longings  (“The Great Highway”). Joining Davies on this trip are The Jayhawks, whose mid-western sensibilities and Anglophile love suit Davies’ Merseybeat, theatrical-like melodies. He’s generous in giving keyboardist Karen Grotberg center stage to sing most of the tender lament “Message From The Road” where her candid, beautiful vocals reveal a knowing acceptance touring has on a relationship. The catchy “A Place In Your Heart” is a delightfully jaunty, British toe-tapper showcasing the rolling, seamless harmonies of Gary Louris, Tim O’Reagan and Grotberg, who again gets lead vocal duties, singing the breezy, delightful lyrics of one of rock’s most clever songsmiths.

(Lava Music/Republic Records, $10.49)

LORDE “I’m 19 and I’m on fire/But when we’re dancing I’m alright”. So sings Lorde on “Perfect Places”, a track from her sophomore effort “Melodrama”. The syncopated, dance party declares the joy/misery of being young and “All the nights spent off our faces/Trying to find these perfect places.” Fun frontman Jack Antonoff co-produced the album and adds his signature bright, full chorus of voices for listeners to knowingly commiserate. In spite of her international, mega-success, the New Zealander nails the dissatisfaction and longings of that space right before full-on adulthood. The musical arrangements of the 11 tracks go in three distinct directions: throbbing electronica, delicate, piano-led ballad, or a combination of the two. “Homemade Dynamite”, with its’ syncopated beats talks of sh#t teenagers do (driving drunk and pretending to be someone they’re not) and “Sober” slowly tears down that youthful pretense with the lines, “These are the games of the weekend/We pretend that we just don’t care/But we care”. For all the melodrama “Melodrama” delivers, Lorde hits it out of the park and admits on the song “Sober II”, adolescence is of the “seek and ye’ shall find” with the line, “We told you this was melodrama/You wanted something that we offered”.

PHEONIX "TI AMO" ($9.99)

 PHEONIX For their sixth album, The French rock band tosses aside the guitar rock for disco. Yes, disco! The group’s synthesizers, electro beats, groovy hooks, and lyrics in French, English, Italian, and Spanish could very well resuscitate the genre. The glitter explodes on the twisted love song “J-Boy” with its sparkling keyboard work and cyclical bridge of “Don’t tell me no/Don’t tell me no” is all kinds of creepy predator behavior. Lead singer Thomas Mars revealed in an interview the tune has a “sci-fi, romantic quality”. Ok. Mars leans in to Pet Shop Boys territory on “Ti Amo” with a bridge reminiscent of the British duo’s 80s hit “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”. The fun never ends thanks to the carnival-like, break up song “Lovelife” and the techno, dance-‘til-you-drop “Fleur De Lys”, which like “J-Boy” is another stalkerish track with the pre-chorus, “Terrorizing your neighborhood/I’m a Siberian tiger/I’ll always be an outsider/Don’t neglect me Fluer De Lys”. 

The effervescent “Via Veneto” is a brief interlude from the dance floor thanks to its floating, subdued atmosphere. Phoenix ultimately makes “Ti Amo” a case study in how obsessive love can border on crazy but ultimately harmless thanks to a great backbeat.

(Atlantic Records, $7.99)


With half a dozen members making up The War On Drugs, you’d be remiss in expecting anything less than a true “band” record. It’s a big sound with layers of instrumentation that resonates with a similar indie folk rock sound like that of My Morning Jacket minus the cacophonous, jam band crests. The Philadelphia-based collective are highly skilled musicians who enlisted engineer Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Weezer) to record the 10-song release, its fourth but first on a major label. The dreamy, spacious “Thinking Of A Place”, released this past April on Record Store Day, takes a methodical approach clocking in at over 11 minutes. This ethereal track rolls out like a dream, keeping listeners locked in thanks to frontman Adam Granduciel’s pacifying vocals. No self-indulgent navel gazing here, instead a beautiful near-symphonic composition. “Holding On” is a bouncing rock track with Granduciel’s scratchy vocals reminiscent of early Springsteen as he sings “I went down a crooked highway/I went all outside the line/I’ve been rejected, now the light has turned and I’m out of time.” No mere downer thanks to the upbeat tempo that never ceases, and the subdued circular ending refrain, “Heart or hope”.


(Nonesuch, $12.00)

The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach relocated from Ohio to Nashville with the clear intent of playing with local legendary session musicians and giants like John Prine and guitarist John Eddy. All appear on Auerbach’s new solo album, “Waiting On A Song”, which naturally resulted in a nostalgic trip down the AM radio dial; a mix of pop, country, rock, and R&B. It’s a clear, straight ahead verse-chorus-verse collection of laid back, easy listening. The title track is a countrified pop tune that chugs along while “Malibu Man” is 70s blue-eyed soul. Less noise than from his band The Black Keys, Auerbach restrain effortlessly embraces a familiar past.

(Big Machine Records, $1.29)

While the plot lines in the fifth season of TV’s "Nashville" are arguably the soapiest of soap operas, no one can deny the show’s saving grace is its music. Initially steered by producer T-Bone Burnett and then, in 2013, musician Buddy Miller, the song selections have elevated the cast’s musical talents to staggering heights. One such song this season is “Sanctuary”, sung by Charles Esten (Deacon Claiborne) and sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella (Maddie and Daphne). With it’s angelic, pristine 3-part harmonies offering comfort from life’s heartaches (farewell, Connie Britton!) the songwriters Sarah Siskind, Jill Andrews and Gary Nicholson should be lauded for composing an elegantly sorrowful ode that keeps “Nashville” a must-see.

(Silver Cross Records/Thirty Tigers, $7.99)  /

For their first duets album ever, sisters Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne cover songs across a wide swath of music. Nirvana (“Lithium”), Merle Haggard (“Silver Wings”), The Killers (“My List”), and Jason Isbell and Amanda Shire (“The Color of A Cloudy Day”) are among the offerings. Arranged by Teddy Thompson, the siblings take on The Louvin Brothers’ “Every Time You Leave” aches with tragedy, while Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” has a serious, teetering-on-resilience determination as Benmont Tench weaves a church organ throughout.  The sole original track, “Is It Too Much”, concludes this most exciting and long-awaited sibling collaboration.

(Merge, $12.98)

The ‘90s pop revival continues thanks to Waxahatchee and its Breeders/Throwing Muses indie pop explosion of mighty guitars and girl harmonies. The first single, “Silver”, is a monster wall of sound that makes for the ideal summer soundtrack. The beguiling harmonies of twin sisters Katie (vocals) and Allison Crutchfield (guitar) over a crunch of guitars is always captivating, while “Never Been Wrong” ascends to big, bright aggravation that is completely relatable.

The lyrics on the fourth album from Katie come from a professional and romantic breakout that, as she shared in a recent Lenny interview, are “reflecting on the whole spectrum of sadness and anger and resentment”. / Issue 194 - July 2018
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