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Entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new albums from Aussie hip hop legends The Hilltop Hoods, British singer Paloma Faith, Punk stalwarts Rise Against and Blues master Joe Bonamassa.

New Album by an Old Artist

The Hilltop Hoods: Walking Under Stars

Often regarded as Australia’s foremost hip hop band, The Hilltop Hoods originally formed back in 1994 in Adelaide and first found success with Triple J favourite single The Nosebleed Section from the 2003 album The Calling. This was followed up in 2006 with The Hard Road, which went to number 1 on the ARIA charts and significantly raised the profile of the band.

After a heavy tour schedule filled the next few years, the band released State of the Art in 2009, driven by lead single Chase That Feeling.

The following year the band wrote, produced and starred in the zombie movie Parade of the Dead — the fact that you haven’t heard of it probably tells you all you need to know.

During 2011 the Hoods supported Eminem during his Australian tour and worked on their next album, Drinking From the Sun. Led by single I Love It featuring Sia, the album was hugely successful, going on to obtain double platinum status, which equates to over 140,000 sales in Australia. 

With many tracks recorded in the same sessions as Drinking From the Sun, Walking Under Stars finds the Hoods at the height of their game, dropping complex rhymes over catchy hooks. Lead single Won’t Let You Down is a bit of a departure from previous singles, with an almost operatic approach and hook sung by Irish singer Maverick Sabre. More familiar is the awesome Cosby Sweater, which pays tribute to the forgotten 80’s fashion over a ridiculously catchy hook.

Walking Under Stars is an album that rewards repeat listens, revealing layers of nuance in both lyrical content and musical approach; even the relatively simple track The Art of the Handshake has a lot more going on than is first apparent.

Best tracks: Cosby Sweater, The Art of The Handshake, I’m A Ghost

Sample lyric: ‘I feel like Bobby Fisher, always four moves ahead.’ (Cosby Sweater)

Verdict: 8/10 — even if you’ve never listened to Aussie hip hop before, give this album a listen.

New Album by an Old Artist

Rise Against: The Black Market

Since their formation in 1999, Chicago Punk band Rise Against have played thousands of live shows, released seven studio albums and a collection of B sides that included a cover of the Journey anthem Any Way You Want It.

At the same time they have fought passionately for humanist causes including LGBT rights, wealth disparity and the plight of the West Memphis Three. The Rise Against website has an extensive section devoted to activism, which is more than you can say for Justin Beiber.

While previous albums haven’t been shy about taking on the big issues, The Black Market embraces the rage, tackling subjects including personal responsibility, eco-terrorism and youth suicide. It’s not all screaming into the maelstrom, however, with gentle tracks like Tragedy + Time and People Live Here providing a welcome balance of light and shade.

First single, I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore, is a blast of contained fury, raging against the materialism and short-sightedness of the modern world. While this isn’t exactly new territory for a punk band, Rise Against display subtlety that differentiates them from contemporaries like System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine.

At the end of the day, The Black Market doesn’t reinvent the punk wheel, but it’s a solid addition to the genre in an age when bands like Good Charlotte have the temerity to use the term.

Best tracks: I Don’t Want to be Here Anymore, Tragedy + Time

Sample lyric: ‘Hoods and bandanas make not an enemy.’ (The Eco-Terrorist in Me)

Verdict: 7/10 — catchy punk rock with a message

Album I Expect to Suck

Paloma Faith: A Perfect Contradiction

I was in two minds about the classification of this review.

When I first heard a Paloma Faith song on the radio, I didn’t think it was terrible. Not great, mind you, but definitely not terrible.

Things took a turn south when I walked into my local record shoppe (they do still exist) and picked up the CD. The cover depicts Ms Faith portraying six distinct characters including fetish policewoman, slutty chambermaid and naked victim. Hmm… perhaps a misguided stab at female empowerment?

Always willing to try something different, I put the album on the stereo.

There is no doubt that Paloma Faith has a good voice, but most of the songs on A Perfect Contradiction are either derivative or quirky for the sake of being weird. A few more listens might help… along with some backstory.

Paloma Faith Blomfield was born in in London in 1981.

After studying contemporary dance and theatre directing, Faith gravitated towards music and released her first album Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful in 2009.

She dabbled in acting, appearing with Timothy Spall in the comedy Blandings and in the ill-fated Terry Gilliam film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Somewhat similar to artists like Lana Del Rey, Regina Spektor and Kate Miller-Heidke, it seems that Paloma Faith is an acquired taste. By the third spin a few of the tracks started to grow on me, particularly the live versions of Can’t Rely on You and Trouble with My Baby.

Best tracks: Trouble with My Baby (live version), Can’t Rely on You

Sample lyric: ‘I’m a dead girl walking with no shoes again.’ (Taste My Own Tears)

Verdict: 6/10 — may increase to 7/10 after a couple more listens.

Ch-check It Out…

Joe Bonamassa: Different Shades of Blue

Blues is one of those musical genres that most people either love or hate.

‘Blues is the music of storytelling!’ fans will insist.

 ‘The songs are so predictable!’ haters will reply. 

‘Blues is raw and honest!’ fans will protest.

‘It’s the only original American artform!’ 

‘You’re thinking of Jazz,’ haters will counter, ‘of which Blues is only a sub-genre. And everybody knows that Jazz sucks…’

Fortunately, Joe Bonamassa doesn’t care what you think. After getting his professional start opening for BB King at the tender age of 12, Bonamassa has forged a career playing the music he loves with people he likes. He has released a plethora of solo albums, live albums, video album and collaborations, most notably with Beth Hart on 2011’s Don’t Explain and 2013’s Seesaw.

I first fell in love with the Blues through the 1980 John Landis movie The Blues Brothers — a film I watched dozens of times growing up. I still have fond memories of Ray Charles, Cab Calloway and Aretha Franklin grooving out with Jake and Elwood to the sound of Chicago Blues.

In terms of influences, Joe Bonamassa comes from a slightly different place. Early in life Joe discovered the British blues of Cream, Jeff Beck and Rory Gallagher, and eventually founded the Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation with the purpose of maintaining and promoting the heritage of Blues music through the ages.

Even if you don’t care for Blues, I suggest checking out some of Joe’s videos — he’s quite a talented chap…

Best tracks: Love Ain’t A Love Song, Oh Beautiful!    

Sample lyric: ‘Happiness is a woman you love until she goes on and shames you.’ (Love Ain’t a Love Song)

Verdict: 7/10 — a solid album by one of the modern masters of the Blues

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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