Let’s be honest here, it’s not going to be a hot boy summer and it’s not going to be a hot girl summer. 2022 is about new beginnings but this is going to be a hot ass summer, the season to test what we’re made of. Will we rise to meet the challenge or is everything melting into just another shallow pool of water to dissipate into nothingness? An odd nod to global warming? Who knows, I’m rambling. But to fulfill your hot ass summer the releases are beginning to make their way in.
I never thought the comparisons made regarding Craig Finn were fair. Some I know have referred to him as a poor man’s Springsteen but he’s not. Finn has always shared his own stories, through his own unique delivery. His new album, A Legacy Of Rentals, is no different. Of course(!) there are similarities but it’s no different from Springsteen and his own influences. Through Finn’s new album, he’s come into his own as a storyteller, accentuating it with piano, guitar, strings, etc. There are some standout cuts on the new album but one that has particularly stood out has been “The Amarillo Kid,” which I’ve had on repeat. It’s a great recording, one that deserves your attention.
Back in this motherf…. sorry, the excitement gets the best of us sometimes but there’s good reason for it though. This time it’s the return of Cave In with its new Heavy Pendulum (Relapse Records). Maybe it was just me but 2019’s Final Transmissions seemed like unfinished work, and there was good reason for that but now with the latest album, things have changed. From the fiery opener “New Reality” to the massive “Amaranthine,” it seems we get the band at its very best. With the addition of Nate Newton (Converge, Old Man Gloom) on bass, the band has found a kindred musical soul. But it’s “Pendulambient” that gets my attention here as well. At almost 2 minutes long, the band plays with sound as the track cleverly leads right into “Careless Offering.” That in itself is pretty badass.
While it’s not an odd offering, it does come as a bit of a surprise. Weird Nightmare is the new project by Alex Edkins who is that recognizable singer/guitarist of the powerhouse that is METZ. After four full-length releases, was it time for a break from the abrasions sustained from the loud frenetic music the Canadian outfit has released? That’s a definitive “no” because while Weird Nightmare mines a different territory, it runs concurrently alongside the group’s voluminous rock. The self-titled release (Sub Pop) adds much more coloring with an obscene about of pop melodies throughout. Honestly, it’s relentless!
“Searching For You” opens with sputtering guitar chords set to 11 and its 3-chord progression isn’t trying to impress listeners, but instead beat them into submission and gets help with the flurry of impressive harmonies in the background. This may be Garage 101 but with Edkins, no fucks are given because the song gets to the point without a lulling moment within the song. But can Edkins keep that pace, and retain the energy from one song to the next? Well, have you heard METZ???? Remember, I did say no fucks are given and the hum of his guitar through amplifiers as “Nibs” opens sets the tone as he allows space throughout to accentuate instruments. Guitars briefly pause so we can get the full impact of drums but no, this isn’t the obvious loud-soft-loud dynamic interplay, it just is. But it’s “Wrecked,” the self-professed song about missing someone, a collaborative effort with Bully’s Alicia Bognanno. Both vocalists play off of one another, allowing for great harmonies on this punchy track. To say it’s one of the friendlier tracks would be a misnomer because no matter how intense Weird Nightmare gets, the songs are all catchy AF!
Edkins is a masterful craftsman, and “Sunday Driver” is a testament to that. Distorted guitars give way to clever melodies, catchy hooks, and flavorful vocals. Its structure and delivery are perfect in just about every way. But it’s the feedback and muffled delivery of “Oh No” that’s captivating! It reeks of danger the way punk is supposed to make you feel without relinquishing its hold on melody. It’s everything wrapped tightly together. There’s nothing that seems out of range for Weird Nightmare, and the almost 8-minutes of “Holding Out” shows that. It moves with despair, slowly careening in and out as Edkins tries to hold it all together but allows it to move of its own volition.
Weird Nightmare’s debut offering goes off the rails time and time again but guess what? You’ll be more than happy to go along for the ride because you know, who knows where it’ll take you. That’s one ride everyone should take.
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I’m not a big drinker – anymore – and I’ve never had an Alabama Slammer although I’ve been intrigued by its name. Alabama is a beautiful state, lush with foliage from what I remember, and is a nice place to visit. And while they may call Nashville home right now, the 6-piece Banditos, made up of Corey Parsons, Stephen Pierce, Mary Beth Richardson, Randy Taylor Wade, Jeffery Daniel Vines, and Jeffery David Salter, hail from Birmingham. The group’s sophomore full-length was released back in 2015 so we haven’t heard the band since but 7 years later, the band has resurfaced with its new Right On (Egg Hunt Records). The band plays with a variety of styles and while it’s southern fried country and honky tonk are flagrantly up front and center, its garage rock and soul can’t be denied.
From the start, Banditos boogies with a penchant for backing harmonies under Richardson’s soulful vocal delivery on “Time Wasted.” The band sways back and forth as it channels 60s R&B and soul. You’ll wonder if the song was written then or now but the band is firmly rooted in the 21st century. But the band literally defies categorization through its musical transgressions, opting to shake things up as guitars & banjos stir the pot on “The Waves” as Richardson shows restraint. Mind you, she’s a powerhouse of a vocalist, and when the band belts it out as the track progresses, so does she. Over an infectious rhythm that’s unrelenting, the band capitalizes on everything it does well.
If there was ever any question as to the Banditos prowess, it could probably be found wrapped neatly around the title track, which is a slow build that morphs into a monstrosity of a song! It’s 60s soul & Southern roots rock through a contemporary lens that will leave listeners stunned. The underlaid organ offers more than one might think, allowing the band to build their powerful instruments all around it. This could be the band’s mic drop moment, but the track is cleverly placed smack dab in the middle. The group rocks on through the 70s rock sound of “Deep End” as well as the balladry of “One More Time,” a heart-wrenching number the band doesn’t relinquish its loud guitars for. The unexpected turn is on the closing “Ozone” where Banditos offer up its exquisitely delivered banjos & guitars as Richardson coos through her words before it changes momentum. It’s that one song that’s lovely, inviting, and has varying levels of strength to captivate with its siren call.
The band, as a whole, is greater than its individual parts. This is the group that every member has found musically comfortable ease within. There’s no greater joy than hearing that on Right On, probably the best record of the year.