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The new releases have been piling up, so it’s time for entertainment editor John Turnbull to review a plethora of recent albums, including Sydney rockers Gang of Youths, British album-machine Jake Bugg and rapper turned chef Action Bronson.

New Album from a New Artist

Gang of Youths: Go Farther In Lightness

Formed in Sydney in 2012, Gang of Youths met in an evangelical church. Drawn together by their diverse ethnicity and love for the man upstairs, the band released their first album The Positions in 2015. Written by singer Dave Le’aupepe about his partner’s battle with cancer, the album drew comparisons to Kings of Leon and Bruce Springsteen with the emotional honesty of Elliott Smith.

New album Go Farther In Lightness demonstrates a growing maturity and the fact that the album focuses on more universal (if no less harrowing) problems is only likely to increase its appeal. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand music with any hint of Jeebus this won’t be for you, but it’s well worth checking out for fans of new Aussie rock.

Standout tracks: Let Me Down Easy, Atlas Drowned

Verdict: 7/10 — possibly the least intimidating gang in the world, but worth a listen.

New Album from an Old Artist

Jake Bugg: Hearts That Strain

It seems slightly odd to refer to 23 year old Jake Bugg as an Old Artist, but Hearts that Strain is the fourth album from the British singer/songwriter. When you consider the amount of time that some artists take to release an album, this consistency is impressive, with an album a year since his self-titled debut in 2012.

Hearts that Strain continues Bugg’s journey into the realm of country and folk, which seems likely to upset fans that enjoyed his earlier Nu-Britpop sound. To be fair, Bugg has grown immensely from his early Arctic Monkeys soundalike days, developing a level of subtlety and nuance rare for an artist so young. Hearts That Strain is one of those albums that grows on you with every listen, not the most catchy album of the year but something that will stay with you in the long term.

Standout tracks: In the Event of My Demise, Waiting

Verdict: 8/10 — adult contemporary rock done well.

Album I Expect to Suck

Action Bronson: Blue Chips 7000

I first encountered Action Bronson as the host of Fuck That’s Delicious. For those unfamiliar, this is a show about a bearded fat guy who likes to get stoned and eat a lot. The appeal of the show is Action’s ebullient personality and taste for the bizarre (he has a thing for Jamaican cow head soup) and occasionally you get some brief footage of Action rapping with his shirt off.

As a rapper, Action Bronson makes a compelling TV host. It’s not that his raps are bad per se, but his rhymes aren’t particularly imaginative and he takes a minimalist approach to beats that exposes the throwaway nature of some tracks. If you’re a fan of rap in general, you might find something to like here, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

Standout tracks: Hot Pepper, Let Me Breathe

Verdict: 3/10 — lacking inspiration

Album Most Likely to Make You Angry

Decapitated: Anticult

Despite what their name might suggest, Decapitated are not what you’d call a happy band. Formed in Krosno, Poland in 1996, Decapitated play death metal like they really mean it. After releasing debut album Winds of Creation in 2000 the band quickly developed a reputation for technical proficiency and wicked shredding, but were almost derailed by the departure of original vocalist Rafal Piotrowski in 2006 and the death of drummer Witold Kieltyka in 2007.

Fortunately, Decapitated didn’t give up, coming back stronger and louder than ever with 2011’s Carnival is Forever. New vocalist Covan Kowanek more than fills the shoes of his predecessor, mixing the most guttural of screams with some surprisingly gentle moments. Taking a strong stance against organized religion, Anticult is an aural assault in the best possible way – headbanging music that will make you think.

Standout tracks: Kill the Cult, Earth Scar, Amen

Verdict: 7/10 — not for the faint of heart.

EP of the Week

Black Stone Cherry: Black to Blues

Black Stone Cherry are one of those bands who found their sound early and decided that it wasn’t necessary to reinvent the wheel.

Formed in Edmonton, Kentucky in 2001, Black Stone Cherry play southern stoner rock, a genre that sounds niche until you consider Josh Homme’s output. Since their self-titled debut album in 2006, the band have released five studio albums, all of which provide a fine accompaniment to an evening of moonshine and weed around the campfire. I would imagine.

New EP Black to Blues is a tribute to some of the bands influences, from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Freddie King, taking blues classics and turning them up to 11 with heavy riffs and thunderous drums. From the fat-guy justification of Built For Comfort to the somewhat predictable Champagne & Reefer, Black to Blues is a great album to put on in the background at a party, but you probably wouldn’t sit down and listen to it over a glass of Pinot Noir. 

Standout tracks: Champagne & Reefer, Born Under a Bad Sign

Verdict: 6/10 — no-nonsense Southern stoner rock.

Ch..check it out

SIMO: Rise & Shine

Formed in Nashville in 2010, SIMO are one of those bands defined by a single member. Much like Josh Homme is Queens of the Stone Age and John Butler is the John Butler Trio, SIMO is virtuoso guitarist JD Simo.

Joined by experienced session musicians Adam Abrashoff and Elad Shapiro, SIMO are a psychedelic soul band, which means a lot of guitar noodling and songs about dragons.

Rise & Shine is something of a concept album, introducing some funk influences into the band’s sound. This is particularly notable on Don’t Waste Time, replete with fuzzy production and wah-wah guitar, sounding like Sly and the Family Stone after a particularly bad trip. If you’re a fan of 70’s space-metal there is a good chance that you’ll find something to like on Rise & Shine.

Standout tracks: Shine, Meditation

Verdict: 7/10 — trippy, man.

Books by John Turnbull are now available on Amazon and Kindle. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in the IA store HERE. (Free postage!)

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