Title: Five Cool Albums - Early 2018



Are you looking for some new music to listen to?  Here are 5 releases from early-2018 worth checking out.

1) Buffalo Tom - Quiet and Peace

Buffalo Tom is a rock band from Boston, Massachusetts. They originally formed in 1986. I consider their 1992 album, “Let Me Come Over”, one of my favorite records from the early-90’s.

After an extended hiatus starting in the late-90’s, I was pleasantly surprised when the Buffalo Tom reformed in 2007.  Since then the band has released three albums including their most recent called Quiet and Peace.  I think this ranks as the best album of their second phase output and amongst the best of their career.

I have listened to this record a dozen times by now. It is solid all around. Their original songs are as good as ever.  The two covers that close the album, “Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon & Garfunkel and “The Seeker” by The Who are good choices for alt-rock playlists.

RIYL: Pearl Jam with better songs and lyrics you can understand.

2) Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!

Parquet Courts are one of my favorite bands. Basically I love 90% of what this band has released.  That’s a pretty high batting average!  Simply stated, they have mastered the art of fusing simple, melodic, and well-written punk songs with the perfect amount of feedback, dissonance, and rough edges to keep the music interesting.  What’s not to love!

I can say a lot of nice things about Parquet Court.  I think they are good musicians.  I have seen them play live a few times.  They are a really good live band.  They play loud.  I like that! 

Choosing Danger Mouse, a veteran artist/producer with a diverse and dynamic toolbox, to produce Wide Awake! turned out to be a great decision.  This album has a funk component, reminiscent of early Talking Heads, that is more pronounced then on previous releases.  I can’t help but think that Danger Mouse had something to do with this. It is cool that the band is open to expanding their musical pallet.  They excel when doing so.

One of the things I like best about Parquet Courts is they are open to trying new things.  Each album builds on what they have done before and adds something new to the equation.  In my opinion this is one of the smartest, most literate, and interesting rock bands currently doing it.  As always, I look forward to hearing what they do next.

3) Dr. Dog - Critical Equation

I have known about Dr. Dog for a few years or more but for some reason the band’s music never quite resonated with me. With the release of their most recent album, Critical Equation, that has changed.  This record is a mature and polished effort with lots to like – good songs, interesting arrangements, and great pacing.  It’s clear that a lot of thought went into this collection of songs as a unified body of work.  Like a good book, once I start listening to this record it feels like something I want to keep exploring.

 I would describe this record as soulful indie-rock with influences ranging from lo-fi to classic rock.  The pop sheen that sits on top really makes this record a standout.  The production is stellar.  After falling for this record, I plan to revisit the band’s back catalog.  I need to see what I might have missed.

RIYL: Floating Action

4) Sunwatchers – II

I am not quite sure how to best describe Sunwatcher’s music.  Free jazz and instrumental rock are definitely two of the broader terms but that wouldn’t be telling the full story. I found a review on NPR’s website that referred to the band’s newest release as “….psychedelic music - a brew potent with free jazz, gonzo rock, droning Thai folk melodies, minimalism and mutant funk.”  After giving it some thought I must say, that about sums it up.

If NPR’s description sounds at all appealing then this is a really great record to check out.  While this music is not what I would consider mainstream it is accessible in a way that some avant-garde music is not.  The musicians on this record have a long history of making sophisticated and adventurous music and their collective and diverse influences shine thru on this release.

RIYL – Sun City Girls, Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band

5) Angelique Kidjo – Remain In Light

As the story goes, Angelique Kidjo first heard the band Talking Heads in the early 1980’s when she was a young musician, from the African country Benin, who had recently relocated to Paris.  The album’s African influence instantly resonated and she appreciated the fact that the Talking Heads had been influenced by Fela Kuti and the music that she had grown up listening to.

Fast forward some 38 years later and Kidjo is a highly accomplished world-renowned artist who has had a long and distinguished career.   Her most recent album, a song-by-song cover of Talking Heads ‘Remain In Light’, takes this music full circle by further enhancing the African influences that made the original recording such a landmark effort.  For anyone who was a fan of the original, this album is both instantly familiar and a truly enjoyable listen.  For those individuals who are new to the material, this is a great introduction to both Kidjo and Talking Heads.

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