It’s time new music time, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out recent releases from neo-feminist icon P!nk, whimsical folkies The Mountain Goats, Aussie rocker Nathan Seeckts and British pop prodigy Billie Eilish.
New Album from an Old Artist
P!nk: Hurts 2B Human
It feels like I reviewed the last P!nk album Beautiful Trauma only a few months ago, but it turns out that was back in October 2017, which seems to support the cliché that time passes faster as you get older. This may or may not be the case for Alecia Moore, who barely seems to have aged a day since the release of debut album Can’t Take Me Home back in 2000.
While P!nk has certainly evolved over the last 19 years, it’s probably fair to say that she found her signature sound early and, as a result, one P!ink album sounds pretty much like another. That may sound like an insult, but it just means that every album manages to include a mix of rock tracks and ballads, a liberal helping of female empowerment and the occasional guest star to add some flavour to the mix. To my knowledge, P!nk has not made a bad album.
Despite the Prince-inspired title and the old-timey feel of opening song Hustle, it quickly becomes evident that Hurts 2B Human doesn’t stray too far from the formula. Sure, it’s another highly competent and frequently catchy bunch of songs from a talented artist, but it’s not particularly striking or memorable.
Much like Metallica, P!nk is one of those artists who puts on a spectacular live show with enough self-awareness to only play a handful of new tracks, knowing that most of the fans are just there for the classics. Give this album a listen and, if you like what you hear, then the live show will blow you away.
Standout tracks: Walk Me Home, Hustle.
Sample lyric: “I keep hiding the keys in all these places I can’t find.” (My Attic)
Verdict: 7/10 — a decent album from a future rock ‘n roll hall of famer.
New Album from a New Artist
Billie Eilish: When We All Sleep, Where Do We Go?
Born in Los Angeles in late 2001, Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell (awesome name) joined the L.A. Children’s Choir when she was eight-years-old, then began writing songs with her brother Finneas soon afterwards. When she was 14, Eilish released the catchy Ocean Eyes, quickly signing a record deal with Interscope Records.
Over the next few months, Eilish released a bunch of singles, including Bored, Bellyache and Watch, collecting them on the 2017 EP Don’t Smile at Me. Her breathy, mumbled vocals and distinctive style garnered her a growing legion of fans, inclusion in the Netflix teen drama 13 Reasons Why and a duet with rising R&B star Khaled, all by the age of 16.
Somewhat reminiscent of Trip-Hop guru Tricky, mixed with Lana Del Rey without the trite faux-suicide fetish, Billie Eilish makes a weird kind of pop music, dark and foreboding. Brother Finneas is still on the scene, partnering with Elish to produce a lo-fi album of surprising depth and nuance. From the hyper-catchy opener Bad Guy, to the melodic lamentation of closing track Goodbye, this album benefits from multiple listens, revealing layers of fresh darkness and ennui.
With Eilish hitting the Australian news this week after being groped by a fan at an Australian meet & greet (apparently not for the first time), one hopes the home-schooled musical prodigy survives the harsh reality of being a touring rock star.
Standout tracks: Bad Guy, You Should See Me in a Crown, Bury a Friend.
Sample lyric: “What do you want from me? Why do you run from me?” (Bury a Friend)
Verdict: 9/10 — disquieting yet compelling.
Oddity of the Week
The Mountain Goats: In League with Dragons
Formed by singer/guitarist John Darnielle in 1991, The Mountain Goats started life as a solo act with a band’s name releasing super lo-fi tapes recorded on a boom-box. Darnielle’s first credited work is 1991’s Taboo VI: The Homecoming, but the musician has stated that he only made the tape for his friends, and if he had expected it to be released he would have put in a bit more effort.
Accompanied by longtime collaborators The Casual Girls (later credited as the Bright Mountain Choir), Darnielle started to find his sound with 1992 follow up The Hound Chronicles, weaving intricate tales of people who didn’t fit in. Now a band (sort of) The Mountain Goats released their major label debut Zopilote Machine in 1994, then proceeded to release a new album every couple of years, racking up a total of 17 with the recent release of In League with Dragons.
With their unique blend of character-driven, vaguely sarcastic folk, The Mountain Goats are one of those bands that inspire a rabid following among some and absolute bafflement among others — I have friends who still talk about the time I tried to make them listen to "that weird country album about pro wrestling" (2015’s Beat the Champ, which I still maintain is great).
Thematically akin to the ubiquitous Game of Thrones, In League with Dragons tells tales of wizards, baseball stars and fallen rock gods, crafted by a talented weirdo who knows exactly who he is, and doesn’t care what you think of him.
Standout tracks: Cadaver Sniffing Dog, Younger, Passaic 1975.
Sample lyric: “I want everyone to get high.” (Passaic 1975)
Verdict: 7/10 — won’t be to everyone’s taste, but interesting all the same.
Ch…check it out
Nathan Seeckts: The Heart of the City
I recently reviewed the single Old Blood from Geelong-based singer-songwriter Nathan Seeckts (pronounced Seeks), calling it 'a remarkably mature track from an artist of Seeckts tender years'. That review holds true for the former bit-part actor’s full-length debut album, The Heart of the City.
Telling stories of love and loss in country towns and seedy bars, The Heart of the City bears more than a passing resemblance to an Australian Bruce Springsteen. Addressing issues including domestic violence, substance abuse and self-destruction, the tag Australian Americana feels a little odd to apply, but seems to ring true for Nathan Seeckts.
Crowd-funded by Seeckts through clearly-less-dodgy-than-it-sounds site Pozible, The Heart of the City was recorded over two marathon sessions at Union Street Studio, accompanied by a bunch of talented players, including Sean McDonnell on guitar, Matt Dietrich on bass and Mark McLeod on drums. The result is a kinetic, heartfelt slice of authentic Aussie country/rock with a raw edge, smoothed by guest vocalists including Nathan Barrett and Golden Guitar nominee Gretta Ziller.
If you like music made with passion and raw talent, give The Heart of the City a listen.
Standout tracks: Old Blood, Beast Beneath the Bed, Whiskey Drunk
Sample lyric: “Well there’s a hole within my chest, and nothing can fill it.” (Beast Beneath the Bed)
Verdict: 7/10 — an Aussie artist to watch
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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