Rockin Rudys Staff Picks
Rockin Rudys staff favorites of 2018!
Wide Awake! is New York’s Parquet Courts’ fifth record since their formation eight years ago. It’s also their most groundbreaking. It’s an album about independence and individuality but also about collectivity and communitarianism. Love is at its center. There’s also a freshness here, a breaking of new territory that’s testament to the group’s restless spirit. In part, this may be attributed to the fact that it’s produced by Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, but it’s also simply a triumph of their songwriter’s art. The songs, written by Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, are filled with their traditional punk rock passion, as well as a lyrical tenderness, but are elevated to even greater heights by the dynamic rhythmic propulsion of Max Savage (drums) and Sean Yeaton (bass). Ultimately then the message contained in Wide Awake! is complex. “In such a hateful era of culture, we stand in opposition to that — and to the nihilism used to cope with that — with ideas of passion and love,” Brown says. For Savage, it comes back to the deceptively complex goal of making people want to dance, powering the body for resistance through a combination of groove, joy, and indignation, “expressing anger constructively but without trying to accommodate anyone.” “The most exhilarating exercise from New York’s reigning indie-rockers laureate since their legend-making “Stoned and Starving” – as if you didn’t already have reason enough to be on high alert for Wide Awake!” – Stereogum “An urgent, fantastic return that sees the band at the very top of their game, and more together than ever” – DIY Mag
Ever since his debut album Dolls of Highland was released on Sub Pop in 2016, Kyle Craft has been a critic's dream. Based in Portland, he serves up all the observational, storytelling talent with none of the attitude that so often comes with male singer-songwriter territory. “I've found my place,” he says. “I'm not one of those people that approaches music for anyone other than myself. My favorite part about music is when it's just me and a notebook.” Speaking of, his second forthcoming album Full Circle Nightmare is entirely autobiographical. Sonically, thematically, lyrically, it's a huge leap forward from his 2016 release. The title Full Circle Nightmare refers to a moment where Craft saw his life for what it is and told himself to be satisfied. “But that's nightmarish to me,” he laughs. He described his debut record as: “like walking down this long hall of bizarre characters and surreal experiences, moving through the spider web of love and loss.” This album is when you get to the end of that hallway, turn around and see all the stuff you've been through, then walk through the door, close it and start a new chapter in an even crazier hallway. A straight-up rollicking rock'n'roll album, it traverses all the different nuances of the genre; from the bluegrass twang of 'Exile Rag,’ to the gothic style of 'Gold Calf Moan,' it's a timeless piece that could exist in any of the past five decades. In terms of contemporary peers, Craft likes to stay in his own lane. He's an old soul who sticks to his tried and tested influences. Social media is not his game - it's just not interesting to him. He's not fussed about preaching his politics or discussing the status quo either. “I don't really like writing a time piece. I don't wanna get trapped in the 'Donald Trump era of Kyle Craft,' you know? I'm a very off-the-grid sort of person. As much as I am traveling across this giant place sometimes I just feel so outside of it. Also, I'm not necessarily a stand-up citizen so it's hard for me to say: here's Kyle Craft's America, ladies and gentlemen.” The ironic thing is that Full Circle Nightmare sounds exactly like Kyle Craft's America. That is what he's built for us: the story of one man's trials and tribulations to find his passion and voice for art and creativity in this vast opportunistic country. Where did he find it? Among the historic riches of America's most honest sounds.
Lindsey Jordan is on the brink of something huge, and she’s only just graduated high school. Her voice rises and falls with electricity throughout Lush, her debut album as Snail Mail, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn. In the time that’s elapsed since Habit, her 2016 EP, Jordan has graduated high school, toured the country, opened for the likes of Girlpool and Waxahatchee as well as selling out her own headline shows, and participated in a round-table discussion for The New York Times about women in punk -- giving her time to reflect and refine her songwriting process by using tempered pacings and alternate tunings to create a jawdropping debut both thoughtful and cathartic. Recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, with contributions from touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass as well, Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade. “Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” sings the eighteen-year-old guitarist and songwriter halfway through the sprawling anthem that is “Pristine,” the album’s first single. You can’t help but agree with her. It’s a hook that immediately sticks in your head—and a question she seems to be grappling with throughout the record’s 10-songs of crystalline guitar pop. Throughout Lush, Jordan’s clear and powerful voice, acute sense of pacing, and razor-sharp writing cut through the chaos and messiness of growing up: the passing trends, the awkward house parties, the sick-to-your-stomach crushes and the heart wrenching breakups. Jordan’s most masterful skill is in crafting tension, working with muted melodrama that builds and never quite breaks, stretching out over moody rockers and soft-burning hooks, making for visceral slow-releases that stick under the skin. “The artist I’m most excited for in 2018” -Jon Caramanica, NYTimes “Songs that combat the acute smallness of suburban youth, filling in empty space with punk-inflected guitar and imagining vantages from which everything feels bigger and more beautiful”. Pitchfork “Rarely can we witness the creative progression unfold from prodigious potential to fully realized vision so quickly” - NPR
4-panel digipak with matte coating
Formed in Brooklyn in 1998, The Essex Green released four albums between 1999 and 2006. They became one of the few bands from the Northeast to be associated with the groundbreaking Elephant 6 Collective. Their unique blend of harmony-infused pop music culminated in the 2006 release of Cannibal Sea.
Sasha Bell, Jeff Baron, and Christopher Ziter were last seen together in the late aughts, waving from their van as they bid farewell to Brooklyn. And then, the unthinkable: The Essex Green went silent. But why? Legal cannabis? Climate change? Bad oysters? Nothing so dramatic. It was a simple promise made among them to chase down their separate dreams: Baron to build a houseboat and navigate the mighty Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers; Ziter to return to his home state of Vermont and lead local fermentation efforts; and Bell to decamp to Montana to study elk rutting.
Having achieved their goals or not, they vowed to break their silence in secret on the frigid waters of Lake Champlain during the blood moon eclipse of 2015 when the effect of the moon in Libra would be most powerful. Over the next two years, the three continued to meet and record in undisclosed locations. The result is Hardly Electronic, a music mapping of the trio’s personal journeys over the past decade.
Ty Segall and White Fence are AS ONE again. Six years after their fun favorite "Hair" collaboration, and jeez, almost four years after Ty produced the last White Fence record "For the Recently Found Innocent", they're back at it. But the second time around, it's no Hair 2 - Joy is its own reward. Tim Presley and Ty take it up a notch, with fifteen wild tracks that share space in a effortless fashion, dispersing doses of the fabled vintage obsessions, but threading them together instead with their own sound of today. Joy, indeed!
The Eels's 12th studio album was performed by E (Mark Oliver Everett) and longtime collaborators Koool G Murder and P-Boo alongside The Deconstruction Orchestra & Choir. It was produced by E, with some songs produced by Mickey Petralia for the first time since 1998's Electro-Shock Blues. Eels mastermind E says of the new album, ''Here are 15 new EELS tracks that may or may not inspire, rock or not rock you. The world is going nuts. But if you look for it, there is still great beauty to be found. Sometimes you don't even have to look for it. Other times you have to try to make it yourself. And then there are times you have to tear something apart to find something beautiful inside.''
Producer/singer/songwriter Neko Case has won a large and loyal audience for her smoky, sophisticated vocals and the downcast beauty of her music. Now more than 23 years into her musical calling, Case is the consummate career artist--fearless and versatile, with a fierce work ethic and a constant drive to search deeper within herself for creative growth.
On June 1st, Anti- will release Neko Case’s ‘Hell On,’ an indelible collection of colorful, enigmatic storytelling that features some of her most daring, through-composed arrangements to date. Produced by Neko with help from Bjorn Yttling (Peter Bjorn & John), ‘Hell On’ is simultaneously the most accessible and most challenging album in a rich and varied career that’s offered plenty of both. Rife with withering self-critique, muted reflection, anthemic affirmation, and her unique poetic sensibility, the 12 tracks of ‘Hell On’ — which features collaborations such as Joey Burns, Beth Ditto, Kelly Hogan, KD Lang, AC Newman, Paul Rigby, Laura Veirs, and more.
Transforming pain and injustice into love and compassion is a rendering that has been universal to poets and prophets for centuries. In present times, choosing to amplify community and positivity through art can seem like a radical act. With the arrival of People Are My Drug, Phil Cook is taking the spark from the lights left on by musical heroes and offering a torch for listeners as they navigate their own dark corners. Where 2015's Southland Mission illuminated for listeners what Phil Cook hears in his head, this latest record lays bare the way that music makes him feel. Side A alone, culminating with the shiver-inducing ''Another Mother's Son,'' has the capacity to light a fire in even the coldest of hearts. Having only recently stepped into the center of the stage as a solo artist, Cook now takes a moment, citing the power of community as his thesis statement. Each track asserts that he alone is no greater than the sum of the people who have brought him to this moment. Instead of standing on the shoulders of his heroes, Cook is humbly kneeling at their feet. Since Southland Mission, Cook has performed with childhood heroes including Mavis Staples, Bruce Hornsby, John Prine, Amy Ray, and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Cook notes, ''I see life on a timeline that includes multi-generations. As someone who has sought mentors my whole life, I am honoring the people who shaped who I am, not only musically, but spiritually, emotionally and personally.'' He bring that forward in every note on People Are My Drug.
Bombino is an internationally acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter from Agadez, Niger. His music frequently addresses Tuareg geopolitical concerns and is sung in the Tuareg language of Tamasheq. Deran is Bombino’s (Omara "Bombino" Moctar) follow up record to 2016’s Azel. Deran was recording in Casablanca, Morocco and will be released on May 18th, 2018. Previously Bombino has worked with producers such as Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) and Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors). This album sees a return to his African roots while still pioneering and exploring a new style of Tuareg music which he affectionately calls ‘Tuareggae’ – a sunny blend of Tuareg blues/rock, reggae one-drop and bounce.
When asked to describe the title track from his new record, Kyle Thomas—aka King Tuff—takes a deep breath. “It’s a song about hitting rock bottom,” he says. “I didn’t even know what I wanted to do anymore, but I still had this urge—this feeling—like there was this possibility of something else I could be doing… and then I just followed that possibility. To me, that’s what songwriting, and art in general, is about. You’re chasing something, there is something out there calling to you and you’re trying to get at it. ‘The Other’ is basically where songs come from, it’s the hidden world, it’s the mystery. It’s the invisible hand that guides you whenever you make something. It’s the thing I had to rediscover—the sort of voice I had to follow—to bring me back to making music again in a way that felt true and good.”
The fact that Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks have thrived, rather than simply endured, over 17 years and delivered six albums of buzzy, sub-cultural significance, constitutes an impressive legacy. The challenge with album number seven is one that any successful band with integrity faces: how to safeguard that legacy and hold on to their identity without rehashing old ground (unthinkable), and also say something meaningful while (crucially) having fun doing it? With Sparkle Hard, Malkmus, Mike Clark (keyboards), Joanna Bolme (bass) and Jake Morris (drums) do exactly that. It’s light ’n’ breezy, head-down heavy, audacious, melancholic and reflective, goodtime and bodacious, and it pulls off the smartest trick: it’s both unmistakeably The Jicks and – due to the streamlining of their trademark tics and turns, plus the introduction of some unexpected flourishes (Auto-Tune! A fiddle! Guest vocalist Kim Gordon! One seven-minute song with an acoustic folk intro!) – The Jicks refashioned. If 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments, then Sparkle Hard bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before. It also has turbocharged energy and enthusiasm by the truckload.
The highly-anticipated album, The Tree of Forgiveness, is Prine's first collection of new material since 2005's Grammy-winning Fair and Square. Rather than going out on a limb, Prine cultivated the themes that have brought international acclaim since the 1970s. For example, he can take a topic like loneliness and make it funny or heartbreaking.
Prine teamed with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb to record in Nashville's historic Studio A, enlisting friends like Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, and Amanda Shires to sing along. The songs are new, although some had waited to be finished for decades, like a co-write with Phil Spectro called "God Only Knows." Another incomplete song, "I Have Met My Love Today," now celebrates the unexpected spark that leads to lifelong romance -- with a dash of youthful innocence. The musical arrangements may be simpler than on past efforts, yet his unique ability to distill complex emotions into everyday language remains fully intact.
Ry Cooder’s first new release in six years, The Prodigal Son, is all America, our spiritual, hopeful voices, our raw cries and our sly provocations, voiced through the songs of the Pilgrim Travelers, The Stanley Brothers, Blind Willie Johnson, and Ry Cooder himself.
BOARDING HOUSE REACH is the new solo album from Jack White, and is a testament to the breadth of the artist's creative power and his bold artistic ambition. This new material finds Jack White expanding his musical palate with perhaps his most ambitious work thus far, a collection of songs that are simultaneously timeless and modern. Written and conceived while holed up in a spartan apartment with literally no outside world distractions, White exclusively used the same kind of gear he had when he was 15 years old (a quarter-inch four-track tape recorder, a simple mixer, and the most basic of instrumentation). The album explores a remarkable range of sonic terrain -- crunching rock 'n' roll, electro and hard funk, proto punk, hip hop, gospel blues, and even country -- all remapped and born anew to fit White's matchless vision and sense of restless experimentation.