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Heavy Rotation #28

Here's what I've been mostly listening to for the last month or so...

Foo Fighters/Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and Sonic Highways - The Foos were featured in my last Heavy Rotation way back in October and I suggested then that they would appear in future editions. Obviously, I was right. My Foo resurgence continued with the TV version of Sonic Highways, which I got for Christmas, and watching those episodes did not make me sick of the songs. In fact, I only wanted to listen to them more, especially opener "Something From Nothing," which is played in every episode. The song is Foo Fighters in a nutshell - quiet opening, pounding drums, power chords, a solid melody, a guitar solo, and lyrics that might not make total sense but sound good when you're singing along. That combination totally works for me right now and Sonic Highways delivers in spades - from the snarl of "The Feast and the Famine" (track #2) to the epic sweep of "I Am A River" at the end and all points in between (hello, "Congregation" and "In the Clear").

After I'd run through Sonic Highways a few times, I turned to Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Even though I really liked "The Pretender" when the album came out in 2007, I never went beyond that song. The different movements within "The Pretender" seemed like something different for the band. As for the rest of the album, I really really like it. The next two songs are "Let It Die" and "Erase/Replace," which are great examples of their brand of melodic muscular rock. I'm a huge fan of "Long Road To Ruin" with it's driving bass, a descending chord motif in the chorus, and a great guitar solo. I'm also partial to the power poppy "Summer's End," the piano-led and strings-assisted "Statues," and the closing piano ballad "Home," that gives the whole album its title. Have I mentioned before that I love embedded album titles? Oh, only two dozen times or so? Okay. Anyway, I'm happy to have finally come to this album and to be back in full-blown Foo fandom.

The I Don't Cares/Wild Stab - If you don't already know, this band and album is a collaboration between Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield. I became a fan of Westerberg when I heard his two songs on the Singles soundtrack in 1992. I picked up 14 songs the following year and was introduced the The Replacements via "I'll Be You" getting airplay on a classic rock station around that same time. I learned about Juliana Hatfield through her work on The Lemonheads' It's A Shame About Ray and then her success with "My Sister." Recently, she's had a great run of albums with her Matthew Caws (of Nada Surf) collaboration Minor Alps in 2013 and a new (after more than 20 years) Juliana Hatfield Three record early last year. So, I was curious to hear what they would sounds like together. The answer is gloriously ramshackle. Take "1/2 2P," for instance, which is a song about having to pee. A song like that doesn't require a tight structure. I'm not sure how the songwriting worked for the album, but it definitely feels like Westerberg was the originator of most of them. He takes the lead on the majority of the songs and they do an uptempo version of his "Born For Me," which I really like. Hatfield sings lead on a couple songs, but mostly sings in unison or harmonizes with Westerberg. The album has 16 songs, but it has a great pace to it. Closer "Hands Together," an acoustic ramble that begins with Ty Cobb's funeral, is the most expansive at nearly 7 minutes; the shortest song is "Little People" at 1:42. My favorite song is probably "Outta My System," which is a perfect piece of pop rock. This album is even better than I was hoping for and how often can you say that?

Petal/Shame - I'd never heard of this band until my friend Scott told me about them. I'm so glad he did because this album is some 90s indie rock goodness...even though it came out last year. The second song, "Tommy," is a prime example with its buzzy guitars, pounding drums, and melodic lead vocals from Kiley Lotz. The band isn't a one-trick pony, though. "Heaven" takes a standard lyric like "You are heaven to me" and builds it into something different. Sure, it's yearning and churning, but what sets it apart are the layered plaintive vocals. "Sooner" is a really strong song that benefits from layers of guitar coming in at the end. Petal also uses percussion in an interesting way - "Camera Lens" is built around a drum beat heavy on the symbol and "Nature" is all drums and vocals (including harmonies). This is just a really strong collection of songs and the more you hear them, the better they are. That's not always the case with music, so I'm happy to take it where I can find it.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/You're Gonna Get It - I read Warren Zanes' great Petty biography a few months back and, naturally, had to take a deep dive into the music. This one in particular rose to the surface. It's not an album I grew up with. Sure, I knew "Listen To Her Heart" and "I Need To Know" but it's only been a year or so since I'd actually heard the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, it's great. This is the band's second album and came out in 1978 when I was 7, but it is timeless music. The album opens with the guitar blast of "When The Time Comes" and you know you're in good hands. I love singing along to "I just want to let you know that I will stand by you/Through whatever might come, wherever you run/Will you stand by me when the times comes." The title track is driven by Benmont Tench's piano and Petty's snarling vocals with a typically great Mike Campbell guitar solo in the mix. "Magnolia" might be the most underrated song in the entire Petty catalog (of course, there's probably a dozen songs about which I might claim the same thing). And everyone knows the two songs I mentioned earlier. "I Need To Know" starts with "Well, the talk on the street's that you might go solo" and "Listen To Her Heart" has the immortal "You think you're going to take her away/With your money and your cocaine/You keep thinking that her mind is gonna change/But I know everything is okay" on into the chorus and those ringing guitars. What more do you need?

Salad Boys/Metalmania - I'd heard the song "No Taste Bomber" a while back on KEXP...and then I heard it again on an episode of KEXP's Music That Matters podcast and fell head over heels. It's a freight train of a rock song that accelerates with a three minute guitar-filled gallop at the end of it. The rest of the album switches between that kind of electric rock and a more jangle pop acoustic feel, sometimes in the same song. Take "Dream Date" for instance, which has a bed of electric jangle and a bouncy beat but overlays a scalding guitar, especially in the outro. Other standouts include opener "Here's No Use," and "Bow to Your New Sensation" on the jangly side and "I'm A Mountain" on the rock side, in which we hear "I won't let you fuck it up" over and over again while the guitars work their magic. Honestly, if I'd heard this album in 2015, it probably would have made the top 10.

Shearwater/Jet Plane and Oxbow - I really liked their 2012 album, Animal Joy, and was looking forward to this new one when I heard it was coming out. The first time I heard "Quiet Americans" I wasn't too sure about it, but the jittery pulse of "Quiet Americans" makes more sense after the shimmery keyboard start and furious finish to album opener "Prime." Those two are followed by "A Long Time Away," which is full of the grand musical sweep and soaring Jonathan Meiburg tenor that you expect from this band. This is such a strong collection of songs (see "Pale Kings" and "Wildlife in the America") and cool musical moments (see the high-up-the-neck bass around 4:36 in "Radio Silence" that exists for only 30 seconds or the ringing arrhythmic guitar over a snapping drumbeat in "Backchannels." I have a feeling this record will be mentioned again at the end of the year. It's that great.

Suede/Night Thoughts - I really liked Suede's last album, 2013's Bloodsports, which was actually my first exposure to them (also note that they're called The London Suede in the U.S. for uninteresting reasons). That's right, I completely missed them during their 90s heyday; it was a different time and you actually had to buy a CD in order to hear the music. I know, right? Anyway, this new album is even better than the last. The grand musical sweep I was just talking about with the Shearwater? This album has it in spades. Each track rolls into the next; for instance, the moody and ringing "Outsiders" slips into the more strident chime of "No Tomorrow," which in turn shifts into the fragile, emotive "Pale Snow." The songs are so well-constructed and the title is very reflective of the lyrics, which ruminate over relationships and missed opportunities. I recognize that not everyone will buy into this style of music, but for those that do, you will not be disappointed.


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