20 Watts

Releases of the Week, Week 12: R.E.M., the Black Keys and the Wood Brothers by 20watts
April 13, 2008, 2:34 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , , ,

R.E.M. – Accelerate

Recently in Spin magazine R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck said: “we went from being the greatest band on earth to being old, miserable has-beens to people going ‘you know what? They’re actually pretty good.’”

Although R.E.M. hasn’t climbed the ladder to once again be “the greatest band on earth” they certainly prove that old timers can still rock hard and create great music. This album is full of mature songs that only a band with their vast experience could create. The album opens up with “Living Well Is the Best Revenge”, which reveals true writing talent. This track has immense replay value and as you get older the song will get older with you.

Another thing that I love about this album is that none of the musicians try to do anything more than what they need to. There are no scorching solos – it simply isn’t necessary. R.E.M. has already proven they know how to play their instruments so what’s the point? These tracks are simple and thought provoking. The single from the album “Supernatural Superserious” seems to have it all. It has catchy lyrics and biting but simple guitar riffs. R.E.M. refuses to be put in the rock and roll “has-been” column and continues to refresh the palate.
Best Track: “Living Well Is The Best Revenge”

The Black Keys – Attack & Release

The Black Keys have always had a very special place in the music scene, and that’s become especially clear now that they have Danger Mouse to produce their newest release. Attack & Release is an album that has more of the same great Black Keys sound with a hint of dynamite. Most of the tracks on this album could be made into hip-hop beats, a result of the Danger Mouse collaboration.

The Black Keys don’t ignore their blues roots but introduce new sounds such as jazz flute and vocal harmonies that add a certain eerie outcome. The Keys have been compared to The White Stripes but while the White Stripes got off the punk, blues and hard rock train, The Keys continue to grow and prosper in those genres. Not caving in to the public’s wants and needs, The Black Keys find themselves in a very comfortable nook.

My favorite track on the album, “Same Old Thing”, is a mellow old school blues track. It goes back to the days of R.L. Burnside and although the guitar rarely strays from the original riff, the song never gets boring as the flute and vocals keep you guessing. This is a diamond in the rough, an album that stands out from White Stripe wannabes.
Best Track: “Same Old Thing”

The Wood Brothers – Loaded

The Wood Brothers’ new album Loaded is the most colorful album I have ever heard. The music played from this sibling folk duo is deep and rich, a combination very hard to be found these days.

Many of you jazz fans may know bassist Chris Wood from Medeski, Martin and Wood, but this album is a completely different direction for him. The Wood Brothers play old school folk music with a new school feel.

My favorite cut, “Postcards From Hell,” is a sweet but sad song about a blues singer trying to make a living without selling his soul. This song is almost like a biography about the duo. They play what they love and love what they play. There’s no need to sell out to expectations (and profit grab) of giant labels. The song may be simple but Oliver Wood’s guitar playing and singing is melodic and beautiful, creating an incredible piece of scenery to drift off to.

The band also teams up with Amos Lee to cover Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel.” They bring a soulful, reggae vibe to the classic and although I wouldn’t call it a great cover, I respect the effort. Overall, if you like good music, incredible harmonies and beautiful stories then this album is for you.

– Zach

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