Okay, so I was super-underwhelmed by the new Springsteen album - and, in a way, so too was Rolling Stone magazine, offering a mere 4.5 star review this time... But 2014 has started off well in terms of music; new releases. And it's been heartening to hear from old friends, bands and artists I had forgotten about, given up on, moved away from - then a new album arrives and it's good - more than that it's very good!
That's happened a few times already this year - and we're only a couple of weeks in; it's still holiday season for a lot of people.
So, click on the links below to read my individual reviews of the albums mentioned...
I couldn't say I ever gave up on Rosanne Cash - in fact I find myself even more of a fan with each album she releases; a big shadow threatened her at one time or another but not only is her new album, The River & The Thread one of her very best - possibly a career-best in fact - it builds on fantastic albums across the last decade. She takes a few years between releases, doesn't flood the market, but the level of quality has been high from her. And The River & The Thread is likely, I should think, to bring her some new fans. Give it a go. One of the first great albums of 2014.
Now, Mogwai is a band I had pretty much given up on, forgotten about - and then they go and reinvent themselves with easily their best album, Rave Tapes. I had an advance copy of this so it's certainly the new release of 2014 I've listened to the most - so far. And it's sold me on the band all over again. A slight shift too, change in direction; reason then for people to give it a go if they've never tried Mogwai before - I'm so into this album.
I've never really cared about Stephen Malkmus' post-Pavement career. I couldn't say he's ever embarrassed himself, but his albums with The Jicks are just not memorable for me, I give them a go, they sound slightly-catchy, but ultimately they don't stick. And then he releases his latest, Wig Out At Jagbags - and not only is it instantly his best solo album, it rivals some of my favourite Pavement moments. It's pretty much a stick-to-the-knitting approach, it's what anyone who has heard Malkmus/Pavement would expect, no huge detour, but it's good - really good. Full of fun/funny songs, great hooks, it seems to burst out with ideas where the other records coasted along on the back of whatever following/kudos he had. This is a ripper.
And Warpaint's new self-titled album is my current addiction. I loved their debut and their first EP, I've enjoyed the informal YouTube clips of the band - but I can't lie, I worried that when Warpaint returned to the long-player format it would be as underwhelming as the sophomore releases from bands like The xx, all that street-cred, kudos, that feeling of bubbling over from the underground and then the major - lazy - sellout. Well, not to worry, Warpaint's new album is true to the spirit of the sound of the first album but there's more in it, more hooks, more ideas, the songs go to new places. Oh man, it's fantastic.
Geez, it's gonna be a(nother) good year for music.
Heard any of these already? Any of these albums likely to make it onto your turntable or into your earbuds? And what have you discovered brand new in 2014 so far? Any old favourite acts returning with a brand new feel or sound? Any brand new bands wowing you already this early into 2014?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.