New Music Through Old Ears: Short Bites

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There’s so much new music coming out that entertainment editor John Turnbull just can’t keep up, so here’s a grab-bag of a bunch of stuff that you might like — or not!

Cheap Trick: Christmas Christmas

‘Tis the season to cash in, and yet another band have released a Christmas album, joining the likes of Hanson, Sia and the Josh Groban in the quest to find a song that pays royalties every year forever. The weird thing in this case is that the band in question is Cheap Trick and the album isn’t actually that bad…

Cheap Trick are in the midst of a creative frenzy at the moment, evidenced by the fact that Christmas Christmas is their third release in the last 18 months. It would be easy to be cynical about this one, but there is something irresistible about the bands dead serious approach to writing good rocks songs that happen to be about Christmas.

Standout tracks: I Wish it Was Christmas Today

Verdict: 8/10 — surprisingly good. Like, I was genuinely surprised.

Anthony Priwer: The Photographer

One of Australian music’s nice guys, Adelaide singer/songwriter Anthony Priwer is somewhat reminiscent of stage musical legend Anthony Warlow, an artist whose specific talents place them slightly outside the musical mainstream. In Priwer’s case, it’s the fact that he plays the ukulele, an instrument that doesn’t get much respect in some circles. I was in Hawaii at this time last year and they love it, but the uke hasn’t really broken wide in Australia.

Backed by the Deanna Djuric Trio (a musical force in their own right), Priwer’s sophomore album sees him venturing into country, lounge music and folk, his versatile voice morphing to suit the song. This leads to some slightly mannered choices on tracks like They Thought I Was Your Boyfriend, but if you picture Priwer on stage in Boardwalk Empire you’ll be fine…

Standout tracks: Bring It On, The Photographer

Verdict: 7/10 — put this on at Christmas when someone starts complaining about Cheap Trick.

Project Mama Earth: Mama Earth

Something of a world music supergroup, Project Mama Earth includes singer Joss Stone, guitarist Nitin Sawhney, drummer Jonathan Joseph, bassist Etienne M’Bappe and keyboardist Jonathan Shorten. Over 10 days in June 2017, the band started out with nothing and finished with the half-dozen tracks that make up this EP.

Somewhat reminiscent of Paul Simon’s seminal Graceland, Mama Earth take sometimes complex tribal rhythms and make them accessible to an audience conditioned to radio-friendly pap. It’s world music, but you don’t have to worry about a bout of Tuvan throat singing breaking the mellow mood.

Standout tracks: Mama Earth, Breathe

Verdict: 7/10 — world music isn’t just for hippies.

Catherine Traicos: Luminaire

Listening to Luminaire, it is easy to envisage Catherine Traicos on a dimly lit stage in front of thousands of enraptured audience members, all captivated by her ethereal voice. Telling tales of love lost and fading memories, Traicos creates an atmosphere of serenity and peace.

Recorded over a three year period at Oceanic Studios in Sydney with a full backing band, Luminaire segues from jazz to blues and soul, like the house band at a club too exclusive for you to get into. The production is lush and crystal clear, the musicianship accomplished and Traicos’ voice is as beautiful as ever.

Standout tracks: The Broken Times, Ghosts

Verdict: 8/10 — album of the week.

U2: Songs of Experience

I have nothing personal against U2, but I don’t find their music terribly interesting. This is not to say that they haven’t made good music in the past, but honestly, if you had to name your favourite U2 song, would it be something released in the last 20 years?

Songs of Experience is technically proficient, has a couple of interesting-ish tracks and shows that Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr are still one of the tightest rhythm sections around, but at the end of the day it’s another U2 album that sounds like every other U2 album released this millennium.

Standout tracks: Lights of Home

Verdict: 5/10 — not offensively bad, but just more of the same.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Who Built the Moon?

It must be hard to be Noel Gallagher, or as least as hard as it could be to be a multi-millionaire with an over-inflated sense of your own historical importance. You see, Noel Gallagher will never write a song as catchy as Wonderwall, as loose as Cigarettes & Alcohol or as grandiose as Champagne Supernova, so now he’s just making music to keep himself amused.

Sounding at times like the Stone Roses on one of their more coherent days, Who Built The Moon is a decent rock 'n roll album that’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is. The elder Gallagher isn’t quite the vocalist his mouthy sibling is, but he manages to cover his limitations with slick production and lots of backing vocals.

Standout tracks: She Taught Me How to Fly, The Man Who Built the Moon

Verdict: 6/10 — higher if you’re an Oasis superfan. You know who I’m talking to.

10 Years: (how to live) As Ghosts

Formed in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1999, 10 Years have undergone a number of lineup changes in their lifestime — losing members to other bands, family commitments, the lure of Hollywood and the inevitable creative differences. This chaos didn’t stop the band from recording eight albums over the next 18 years, culminating in the recent release of (how to live) As Ghosts.

Lyrically, this album tackles the current state of the world and how many people are preparing for death rather than embracing life. Of course, it may take you a couple of listens to work this out, as singer Jesse Hasek isn’t really a master of annunciation. But you can feel it, man…

Standout tracks: Novacaine, Burnout

Verdict: 7/10 — heavy music with a positive message.

Taylor Swift: Reputation

Fresh from smacking down a sleazy DJ who grabbed her ass, Tay-tay is back with her copyrighted brand of female empowerment. To be fair, it’s a slightly odd brand of empowerment that allows you to constantly play the victim, with songs like You’re Not Sorry, Tell Me Why, I Knew You Were Trouble, to the recent Look What You Made Me Do. It’s hard to be a role model, donchaknow?

Musically, Reputation is everything you’d expect from a Taylor Swift album. The production is super-clean, the songs catchy in a generic sort of way and if you switched out Taylor for Katy Perry half way through there is a chance that nobody would notice.

Standout tracks: They all sound pretty much the same to me

Verdict: 3/10 — will sell truckloads of copies whether this middle-aged white man likes it or not.

Andy Grammer: The Good Parts

Andy Grammer seems like a pretty upbeat sort of guy. His first hit Honey I’m Good was all about making good decisions and not cheating, while the filmclip for Fresh Eyes took a bunch of homeless people and gave them makeovers, which was a pretty feelgood thing, depending on how you feel about a singer using the homeless as props.

As the title would suggest, The Good Parts continues the trend of Andy Grammer being a super nice guy. Even the songs about breaking up are all "it was completely my fault, please forgive me" rather than the vindictive screeds the aforementioned Ms Swift has released…

Standout tracks: 85, Fresh Eyes

Verdict: 7/10 — the relentless positivity gets a bit old eventually.

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: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).

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