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The power of words isn’t lost on longstanding Americana triumvirate The Devil Makes Three—Pete Bernhard, Lucia Turino, and Cooper McBean. For as much as they remain rooted in troubadour traditions of wandering folk, Delta blues, whiskey-soaked ragtime, and reckless rock ‘n’ roll, the band nods to the revolutionary unrest of author James Baldwin, the no-holds barred disillusionment of Ernest Hemingway, and Southern Gothic malaise of Flannery O’Connor.
In that respect, their sixth full-length and first of original material since 2013, Chains Are Broken, resembles a dusty leather-bound book of short stories from some bygone era. As the band began writing ideas for Chains Are Broken, they veered off the proverbial path creatively. Instead of their typical revolving cast of collaborators, The Devil Makes Three stuck to its signature power trio, with one addition. This time, they invited touring drummer Stefan Amidon to power the bulk of the percussion.
Another first, they retreated to Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, TX a stone’s throw from the Mexican border to record with producer Ted Hutt [Dropkick Murphys].
The incorporation of new sounds as well as the experimentation in space finds the Devil Makes Three crafting a new yet still familiar sound. Coupled with a continued focus on in-depth lyricism that tells a story in every song, Chains Are Broken is a liberating, rump-shaking collection of past, present and future.
In 2018, Low will turn twenty-five. Since 1993, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker—the married couple whose heaven-and-earth harmonies have always held the band’s center—have pioneered a subgenre, shrugged off its strictures, recorded a Christmas classic, become a magnetic onstage force, and emerged as one of music’s most steadfast and vital vehicles for pulling light from our darkest emotional recesses. But Low will not commemorate its first quarter-century with mawkish nostalgia or safe runs through songbook favorites. Instead, in faithfully defiant fashion, Low will release its most brazen, abrasive (and, paradoxically, most empowering) album ever: Double Negative, an unflinching eleven-song quest through snarling static and shattering beats that somehow culminates in the brightest pop song of Low’s career. To make Double Negative, Low reenlisted B.J. Burton, the quietly energetic and adventurous producer who has made records with James Blake, Sylvan Esso, and The Tallest Man on Earth in recent years while working as one of the go-to figures at Bon Iver’s home studio, April Base. Burton recorded Low’s last album, 2015’s Ones and Sixes, at April Base, adding might to many of its beats and squelch and frisson beneath many of its melodies. This time, though, Sparhawk, Parker, and bassist Steve Garrington knew they wanted to go further with Burton and his palette of sounds, to see what someone who is, as Sparhawk puts it, “a hip-hop guy” could truly do to their music. Rather than obsessively write and rehearse at home in Duluth, Minnesota, they would often head southeast to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, arriving with sketches and ideas that they would work on for days with Burton. Band and producer became collaborative cowriters, building the pieces up and breaking them down and building them again until their purpose and force felt clear. As the world outside seemed to slide deeper into instability, Low repeated this process for the better part of two years, pondering the results during tours and breaks at home. They considered not only how the fragments fit together but also how, in the United States of 2018, they functioned as statements and salves. Double Negative is, indeed, a record perfectly and painfully suited for our time. Loud and contentious and commanding, Low fights for the world by fighting against it. It begins in pure bedlam, with a beat built from a loop of ruptured noise waging war against the paired voices of Sparhawk and Parker the moment they begin to sing during the massive “Quorum.” For forty minutes, they indulge the battle, trying to be heard amid the noisy grain, sometimes winning and sometimes being tossed toward oblivion. In spite of the mounting noise, Sparhawk and Parker still sing. Or maybe they sing because of the noise. For Low, has there ever really been a difference?
Singer/Songwriter and music producer William Fitzsimmon’s album Mission Bell is a chronicling of the tumultuous last year of his life - particularly of the separation from his second wife. Sonically, Mission Bell is Fitzsimmon’s first analog tape-centric album. The sounds are raw, real, and tangible. The familiar comforts of acoustic guitars are present but now joined generously by synthesizers, electric guitars, drum loops and violins.
Richard Thompsons new album, 13 Rivers, is the artists first self-produced record in over a decade. 13 Rivers is a very stripped down, bare-bones recording and according to Thompson the album is a reflection of current events that have happened in his life. This has been an intense year for myself and my family, getting older doesnt mean that life gets easier! There are surprises around every bend.
I think this reflects in the immediacy of the stories, and the passion in the songs. Sometimes I am speaking directly about events, at other times songs are an imaginative spin on what life throws at you. The music is just a mirror to life, but we try to polish that mirror as brightly as possible. The album was recorded at Boulevard Recording in Los Angeles, California. 13 Rivers features Richards regular accompanists, Michael Jerome and Taras Prodaniuk, as well as Thompsons guitar tech, Bobby Eichorn, on second guitar.
Each track on the album was recorded in analog, with minimal overdubbing. Boulevard is a really funky-looking studio, says Richard, but it sounds great. It used to be called The Producers Workshop, and was owned by Liberace, whose ghost is reportedly still hanging around. Steely Dan records were done there, and The Wall by Pink Floyd was mixed there. Clay Blair, the engineer, is a Beatles nut, and has every piece of Beatles gear he can lay his hands on - so if things sound a bit like Abbey Road, so be it!
13 Rivers consists of thirteen tracks. It is an album as much about growth as it is about reflection. Says Thompson, I dont know how the creative process works - I suppose it is some kind of bizarre parallel existence to my own life. I often look at a finished song and wonder what the hell is going on inside me. We sequenced the weird stuff at the front of the record, and the tracks to grind your soul into submission.
Thrice created Palms with a free-form and fluid approach to the album’s sonic element. The result is their most expansive work to date, encompassing everything from viscerally charged post-hardcore to piano-driven balladry. To carve out that eclectic sound, Thrice enlisted trusted producer Eric Palmquist for the recording of the percussion and vocal tracks, and self-produced all of the guitar parts on Palms. “When we track our own stuff we tend to be far less neurotic about getting every note perfect,” says singer Dustin Kensrue. “It’s more about getting the right emotion out of the performance, so that it connects on a deeper level.” Kensrue, co-founded Thrice with guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge, and drummer Riley Breckenridge in 1998. Hailing from Orange County, California, the band formed when three of its members were still in high school, making their debut with the kinetic punk/hardcore hybrid of the 2000 album Identity Crisis. Their breakthrough arrived with 2003’s The Artist in the Ambulance—Thrice’s third full-length, whose singles “All That’s Left” and “Stare at the Sun” each landed on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Palms is the band’s first release since signing to Epitaph in early 2018, and the album matches its raw passion with a measured intensity, a rare feat for an album so informed by the volatility of the times. “Even though some of these songs are really aggressive-sounding, I wanted to make sure they never felt like finger-pointing, especially at a time when there’s so much talking past each other,” says Kensrue. Within that approach, Thrice reveal their profound commitment to making an enduring impact on the listener.
Joyce Manor are back with a new album, entitled Million Dollars To Kill Me. Frontman Barry Johnson along with co-founding guitarist Chase Knobbe, new drummer Pat Ware—(“Awesome new drummer,” adds Johnson)—and longtime bassist Matt Ebert, wrote enough songs to fill a full-length, and then worked to get songs lifted from emails between Johnson and one of his musical hero Impossibles’ guitarist/vocalist Rory Phillips, with whom he had been co-writing long distance, to match the ones written at full volume. (“Bedroom charm versus live rock band,” Johnson explains.) Their next step was a new step: their first time recording outside their L.A. hometown, at Converge’s Kurt Ballou’s GodCity studio in Salem, Massachusetts. They recorded daily 10-to-6 and then slept right upstairs in bunk beds: “Kinda felt like camp,” says Johnson. “It was a pleasure—I would recommend it to anyone.” If 2016’s Cody was about growing up, then Kill Me is about what happens next—the reckonings with love, money, doubt and confusion, and the hope that persists despite it all.
A previously unheard home studio cassette recording of Prince performing at his piano in 1983 will be released as Piano & A Microphone on Sept. 21. The nine-track, 35-minute project from the Prince Estate in coordination with Warner Bros. Records is planned for what would have been the rock icon's 60th birthday.
This rare, intimate glimpse finds Prince working through songs including "17 Days" and "Purple Rain" (which would both be released the following year), a cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," "Strange Relationship" (issued in 1987 on the Sign O' The Times album) and "International Lover," as well as a rare recording of the pre-Civil War spiritual "Mary Don't You Weep," which will be heard on the end credits of Spike Lee's upcoming film BlacKkKlansman, due out in August.
Tony Bennett and Diana Krall celebrate their shared love of the music of George and Ira Gershwin on their new collaborative album, LOVE IS HERE TO STAY, set for a September 14th release.
LOVE IS HERE TO STAY is a subtle, sophisticated and beautifully rendered love letter to The Gershwins’ music and their status as one of the premiere songwriters of the American popular standard. It is a masterclass in vocal delivery and phrasing and the command that Bennett and Krall display of the material in both their duets and solo tracks makes it appear effortless, belying the honed skill of the vocalists. The duet tracks include “S’Wonderful,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “Fascinating Rhythm,” among them. “Fascinating Rhythm” was Tony Bennett’s first physical recording in 1949, made under his then stage name, Joe Bari, which he revisits as a duet with Krall for this project.