Rob Koral – Wild Hearts – 2021 Tracks: Show Me The Way (5:46), Funky “D” (7:14), Summer (8:12), Take Me Back (4:40), Saving Grace (7:18), The Showdown (5:17), The Beyond (5:00), Hold Tight (5:37)
Part jazz, part classic rock, part blues, and all with a sprinkling of prog over the top for good measure. That’s probably the best way to describe Rob Koral’s new album, Wild Hearts. Rob has played on over 30 records, and he is most well known for his work with the band Sketch. He is also a founding member of the band Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion.
The songs on Wild Hearts are very upbeat, reminding me a little of the first Jethro Tull record and of Blodwyn Pig. The music is relatively simple – guitars by Rob Koral, Hammond organ by Pete Whittaker, and drums by Jeremy Stacey. The album sounds extremely fresh, which is likely due to the group recording the songs live in studio on one day in December 2020. I think that approach is best for this kind of jazz-blues instrumental music. It begs for improvisation. Rob wrote all the music, but he says that he didn’t tell Pete and Jeremy what to play. The result is music with form that still breathes. You can even hear the little hand movements on the guitar strings and the little natural noises you would get playing live. There’s even a sense of space from the room the recorded the music in. These elements add warmth to the recording, as well as bring a vintage feel to the music.
The Hammond organ really makes this record stand out for me. It adds such a rich atmosphere to the songs, even when the guitar is taking center stage. The drums have a jazzy improv feel that sets the perfect stage for the guitars and organ. My only really critique is perhaps a little bit of repetition throughout, but that also may be a result of the album being recorded live in a day. As such it’s quite an achievement. In a way it feels like a live jazz show. A song like “The Beyond” especially has that feel of anticipation as the soloing switches back and forth between guitar and organ. The longer guitar solo builds gradually over a very simple but effective drum beat. It’s smooth with a little bit of grit on the lower ends.
Wild Hearts’ strength as an album is it takes jazz and rock and strips them down to the basics. There’s nothing overly complicated here, but the extended jamming gives the songs room to grow and breath. It’s a solid album that has a positive and upbeat tone to it, sure to please on repeated listens.
“Suddenly, you were gone, From all the lives you left your mark upon……”
( Afterimage – Rush)
…..And that’s just how it happened. The tragic news about the accident which had taken you so quickly, so unexpectedly and so cruelly came through that fateful Saturday afternoon. You could hear the collective cries of disbelief from us all, the friends, fans and admirers who still mourn your terrible loss.
The magnitude of the grief that afternoon and still continues is monumental.
But it was that suddenness, recalling everything that had gone before, and anticipating what could still have been, that left us all so shattered.
It was also remembering everything you brought to us through the way you shared your unique, cosmos-given talents which you spent most of your life refining and perfecting, while at the same time, maintaining your incredible love of life and for people which always reflects in…
My album of the year (see Prog Magazine Issue 125) may have been overlooked by a lot of music lovers, but its existence has now been brought into sharp focus through David Longdon’s contribution on it.
“Songs From The Apricot Tree” (Ethersounds) is the 11th solo album from Theo Travis, the much respected jazz saxophonist, flautist and composer, who has played with a diverse range of bands and artistes such as Robert Fripp, David Gilmour, Soft Machine, Gong, The Tangent, Steven Wilson, Brian Eno, David Sylvian and Bill Nelson.
What makes this album so different is because on each of the songs, he plays the duduk, an ancient double reed wind instrument originating from Armenia, made from a single piece of wood from the apricot tree.
The sound it makes can only be described as haunting, a sound which touches the soul and evokes mysteries from the ancient past.
Travis first heard it played by former Gong bandmate Didier Malherbe but he did not realise its full power and beauty until Peter Gabriel’s Passion.
Malherbe gave him a duduk and Travis’ lockdown project was to learn how to play it, discovering it was not an easy instrument to master. He has been taking lessons from Arsen Petrosyan, who appears on Steve Hackett’s recent acoustic album, “Under A Mediterranean Sky”.
Whatever he perceives his current level of ability to be, the album comprises 10 eclectic compositions, all of which showcase the achingly poignant tones and nuances of the duduk.
The first two songs, “If I Forget You” and “Love and Mourning” give a real sense of the emotions the duduk evokes – feelings of sadness and loss, perhaps very apt now for the track which follows.
That is Longdon’s intensely beautiful interpretation of “Brilliant Trees”, the title track of David Sylvian’s first solo album, the song co-written with Jon Hassell. It’s a gentle acoustic song which Longdon delivers with incredible tenderness, Travis staying relatively true to the original with the duduk replacing the electronica.
Gong fans will be delighted with the way he stays in tune with the spirit of the band’s “Magdalene” in which he uses multi-tracked duduks to produce its jazzy, psychedelic edge.
The meditative quality of the duduk is at its most plaintive on “A Quiet Prayer”, a spiritual incantation during which the text of a traditional Hebrew prayer is sung by Gaddy Zerbib.
Again, the mood changes through “The Shadow of Your Smile”, the jazz classic on which Soft Machine’s John Etheridge provides some resonant guitar underneath the shimmering melody line.
On “All I Know”, one of Travis’s older songs, the duduk is multi-tracked and looped, creating a trance-like musical state. “She’s Coming Home” has King Crimson’s Jakko Jakszyk delivering all the voices on piano-led ballad which sounds both contemporary and classic, the duduk taking the place of the guitar parts.
A combination of Middle Eastern rhythms and a haunting melody are the irresistible features of Travis’ reimagining “A Feeling Begins”, the composition which opens Gabriel’s “Passion” album.
Closing the album, “Delusion Angel” has a modern jazz groove but within it, the duduk sounds even deeper and darker.
Among all the wonderful prog albums released this year, “Songs From The Apricot Tree” stood out because Travis has totally embraced the possibilities of this wondrous instrument and created a 45 minute meditative, magical musical journey unlike any other.
I’m not sure how I missed this one earlier this year, but Theo Travis released a song featuring David Longdon on vocals. It has a totally different feel than Big Big Train, and Longdon’s voice takes on what could be called a crooner tone. He could have held his own in the rat pack!
The lyrics to “Brilliant Trees” are rather haunting, but as it gets to the end it becomes rather heartbreaking. [Edit: “Brilliant Trees” is a cover of a David Sylvian song.] As he walks away from the camera into the trees, we know he won’t be coming back. Travis’ Duduk playing seems to have a dirge quality to it, especially in light of what has happened.
“I almost wish we were butterflies and lived but three Summer days. Three such days with you, I could fill with more delight than 50 common years could ever contain”~ John Keats
I am not sure where to begin or what to write. Or even if I should write at all. But the out-pouring of grief has been profound and deeply moving. So I wanted to say something.
To put pay to the rumours, speculation, inaccurate reporting and perhaps to help some of you with your own questions and sense of loss, I can tell you that David had a traumatic fall at our cottage during the early hours of Friday morning. I am not going to share everything which took place. Those intimate details are just for band members, David’s beautiful girls, his Mum and me. But I will tell you that David left this life being held in my arms on Saturday 20th November. I told him how much I loved him, that he was safe and that it was time to take the next step on his great adventure. To be with him during his very last moments is the greatest tragedy and greatest privilege of my life.
I waited all my life for David. He filled up my heart. He was inspirational, thoughtful, kind, generous, gentle, loving and funny. Goodness me, was he funny. We would laugh and laugh every day. He was the best of all men.
He leaves an enormous legacy behind. Not only in terms of his creative output but also the many lives he has touched, the friends he has made and the strong unshakeable brotherhood he shared with Danny, Dave G, Rikard, NDV and of course his dearest Greg.
I know David will always be right by my side. But if I ever feel I need that extra connection, I can always reach for the music. And so can you. Because even though he told us that we will find him in the hedgerow, let me tell you a secret : it’s not true. He’s in the music. That is where you will find him.
Good bye my beautiful boy – until we meet again one day.
Norwegian metal purveyors Connect the Circle have a new album coming out. In an interview for Progarchy, Arild Fevang (vocals) and Kenneth Brastad (guitars) tell us about the creative process behind new release, challenges, and more.
You have a new album with Connect the Circle entitled Mother of Evil. How do you feel about the release?
Arild: I’m very excited about it, and hopefully people are going to enjoy it as much as we do!
Kenneth: I’m proud! This is the first time I’ve been 100% satisfied with everything. Recording sessions, music, mix, master, cover art, lyrics…everything. Mother Of Evil truly represent Connect The Circle in 2021. This is us… like it or not, I’m still proud!
Where does the new record stand comparing the debut album—last year’s This is Madness?
Arild: I think it’s a natural step forward. This Is Madness was our first record together and we have grown to know each other a bit better this time around. We spent more time on the whole process, and we’ve added strings, organ etc. to broaden our sound. It’s more epic, I guess.
Kenneth: Musically this album is a tad more progressive and probably a bit more “heavy metal” than our debut album, I guess. But at the same time more melodic too. The biggest difference is the result of incorporating strings, organ, piano, synth, acoustic guitars etc. We wanted something bigger and more epic. So, if you compare this album with our debut, the main difference will be…Bigger & more epic.
How much of a challenge was it to work on Mother of Evil?
Arild: It was a challenge, because we knew it had to be better than This Is Madness, but I never doubted that we would reach that goal…and I believe we have.
Kenneth: We have matured as composers/writers. We worked our way through the “trial & error phase” with “This Is Madness”. Suddenly we had a common view regarding where to go and what to do when we started writing the material that ended up on “Mother Of Evil”, especially me and Arild.
We probably learned a lot about each bandmember as a person during this recording session, and that became some sort of a new challenge. When we recorded “This Is Madness” everything was new. The band was new, we hardly knew Arild, we had never been in the studio together as a band, so we were probably a bit too nice with each other. Too polite in a matter of speaking… This time around we disagreed and argued. If we had an idea or an opinion, we fought for it. Not just during the recording sessions, but during the pre-production on how to arrange the songs and how and where to include strings, organ, accordion, sound effects etc. and the post-production with Peter Michelsen during the mix and Tom Kvaalsvoll regarding the Mastering process. Suddenly everybody had an opinion about this or that, and we had to find a solution to that problem during this process. It was difficult, but I believe we ended up being as fair as possible to everyone involved. A lot of the decisions were made by voting. And if we were 2 vs 2, we included our Co-producer Peter Michelsen regarding that decision. I guess it became a bigger challenge than we expected, but we learned a lot and failed several times too. We were more mature when we started working on “Mother Of Evil” compared to “This Is Madness”, but we are going to be even more mature the next time around.
Speaking of challenges, have you sent any in the early phase of what has become the final result?
Kenneth: No. Our music is constantly changing all the way up to the final recording. It’s kind of a back and forth, back and forth process to create a final product that represent the entire story. If someone heard the first draft of “Flat Moon Army” or “1519” they probably wouldn’t be able to recognize those songs at all.
We always keep it to ourselves. A few of our closest family and friends have heard some of the early work, but no one have a copy of any of the songs yet. Not even the guest musicians on the album. In other words, no bootlegs available he he.
Tell me about the topics you explore on these new songs?
Arild: It’s about rage, space, revenge, conquest, fake news, digital shades, bravery, and hope.
Kenneth: The topics are madness, sadness, war, stupidity and sci-fi! Arild writes all the lyrics, but it’s usually a twisted tale of some sort of tragedy. I’ve learned about some weird tragedies involving mass murderers like Becky Cotton (The Legend Of Becky Cotton) & John Gilbert Graham (Mother Of Evil) through his lyrics. It’s not a tribute as a deranged fan or something, just a true story from the real world presented in a theatrical way.
The biggest difference is the story behind “When The King Cried”. It’s a true story of a tragedy that happened in Norway on July the 22nd 2011, where 77 people were killed during an act of terror done by one single maniac! A month later the king of Norway spoke to the whole nation about this horrible event during a live TV-broadcast where he also started to cry, and the whole nation cried together with him that day…
What is your opinion about the progressive rock/metal scene in 2021?
Arild: I believe it’s better than ever. Pioneers like Dream Theater recently landed at #52 on the USA Billboard Top 200 with their new album. That’s not bad for a prog-metal band. And the scene is full of new and exciting bands as well. Just the other day I discovered a great band from Norway called Connect The Circle, you should really check them out, ha-ha.
Kenneth: I love it! I am an old prog-rock/metal fan! I was sold the first time I heard Dream Theater with “Under A Glass Moon” in 92, and I got that same feeling when I heard “A View From The Top Of The World” a few weeks ago.
I’m an old fan of bands like DT, Rush, Genesis, Yes, Kansas, Symphony X etc. but I really love the “new” bands too. Bands like Jack The Joker, Caligula’s Horse, Tesseract, Periphery, Haken, In Vain, Textures, Leprous etc. are also a true inspiration to me and my guitar playing. I always try to check out their latest albums as soon as possible, but I feel like the prog-metal scene is growing these days and it is hard to keep up with all the new bands. It is hard to even keep up with my fav-bands and their new albums.
Some of my personal 2021 prog-favorites so far is: Jinjer’s Wallflowers, Soen’s Imperial, Dream Theater’s AVFTTOTW, and Gojira’s Amazonia.
Let me know about your influences—the artists that in a way shaped and continue to shape the music of Connect the Circle.
Arild: That list is very long, and I listen to a lot of different types of music, so everything from Queen, Roy Orbison, Deep Purple, Genesis, David Bowie, Savatage, Badfinger, Nevermore, Rival Sons, A Perfect Circle and Sam Cooke to Enslaved, I guess.
Kenneth: Oh, that’s a hard one. I have been influenced by so many different bands and musicians while growing up. But some of the bands/artists that has inspired me the most throughout the years in general and since we formed CTC must be Dream Theater, Steve Vai, Ayreon, In Flames, Gojira, Nevermore, Deep Purple, Extreme & Annihilator… and probably Opeth too.
What are your top 5 records of all time?
Arild: Impossible to answer, but here’s five great ones.
1. Chris de Burgh – Spanish Train
2. David Coverdale – Northwinds
3. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
4. Rainbow – Rising
5. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
Kenneth: My top 5 changes all the time based on my mood on that day. But I can choose 5 random albums from my top 50 list.
1: Dream Theater – Scenes From A Memory
2: Symphony X – Underworld
3: Ayreon – Y (01011001)
4: Extreme – Pornografitti
5: ARK – Burn The Sun
Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the near future?
Arild: Our bass player, Raymond Smith, left the band a few months ago so we’ve been busy doing auditions lately. As soon as we are back on our feet again (and it won’t be long) we will get back out there and do gigs, and we can’t wait! Besides that, we are a hard-working band and we’re always busy writing new stuff and planning for the future. We are hoping to tour outside Norway as well in 2022, but it all depends on Covid-19. Fingers crossed.
Kenneth: A new bandmember, to play at the awesome festival “Winter Metal Fest” here in Norway (January 28-29th 2022) together with great bands like Tungsten, Ignea, Kalidia, Shakra, Frozen Crown and many, many more! Play live again, write new music & start working on the pre-production regarding our next album.
Raymond (ex-bass player) recently left the band, so we can’t conquer the world just yet. [laughs]
Any words for the potential new fans?
Arild: Don’t bother listening to our music once. Give it a few times and it will grow on you, and stick with you, I promise.
Kenneth: As I mentioned earlier, if you want to check us out, you must dive into the lyrics and the music at the same time. Our music is a theatrical journey, and the whole intention is to give you an emotional real-life story. Something worth remembering as a fact. Do you know the distance between our planet and mars? Well… if you don’t, check out our latest single.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I stumbled across Prog magazine’s tweet announcing David Longdon’s death yesterday. I still can’t believe it. 56 years old and at the height of his music career with so much to look forward to. Life is so precious and so brutally short. To be taken so quickly and so unexpectedly… We’ve lost a lot of prog legends in recent years, but very few at the height of their careers. Piotr Grudziński from Riverside is the last I can remember who died so unexpectedly at a young age.
David and the band have been such kind supporters of Progarchy since our inception in 2012. Our site has had the fortune of interviewing him a couple times including this past summer when he gave a lovely interview to Rick Krueger. In that interview David shared his excitement for the band’s future plans. His thoughts on the song, “Common Ground,” really sting now that he’s gone:
This time in my life – I’m now 56. It’s time to get on it, because we don’t have forever! This was written slightly before the pandemic actually, the title track. But it’s just about that, really; it’s about claiming it! It’s not about “will we find it?” It’s “you’d better find it and get on with it, because you’re not — it won’t be forever. We don’t get forever.” That’s the beauty of being human, we don’t get forever.
I can still remember the first time I heard Big Big Train back in 2013. I was sitting in my dorm room in college. I think it was “The First Rebreather,” and I remember being captivated by David’s voice. So pure. So effortless. The tone of a fine pipe organ. Over the next few years I fell in love with Big Big Train, and by 2015 they were my favorite band of the “new” wave of prog. Now they rank next to Rush as my favorite band of all time. There was nothing David couldn’t sing, as he proved on Common Ground by mixing it up on “All The Love We Can Give.”
My journey as a Passenger reflects my journey with progressive rock over the last nine years. What started as an appreciation for bands like Rush, Kansas, and Styx grew into an obsession with progressive rock new and old. Thanks to friends here at Progarchy, I’ve been exposed to so much music, much of which has quite literally changed my life. I know Big Big Train has. I’ll never forget listening to English Electric on a bus in England while I spent a month there doing archival research. It was one of those key moments that sticks in my memory, and David is the voice for that memory.
David’s addition to Big Big Train in 2009 marked a major turning point for the already 20-year-old band. His voice, in my opinion, is unmatched in the music world. I can’t think of a better vocalist. Beyond that, he was an excellent lyricist and musician. The combination of Longdon and Greg Spawton as writers is certainly unmatched in music. Others might have more acclaim, but none are better.
David wrote two kinds of songs: stories and anthems. Being an historian, a curmudgeon, and a prog snob, I generally prefer the stories. But his anthems are far too good to be ignored or dismissed. He had such a bright and positive outlook on life, as evidenced in his song, “Alive.”
A new day
Bright blue sky
Open the door and step outside
Feel the wind at my heels
It’s good to be alive
These lyrics are a good reminder for a grump like me not to take anything for granted. Perhaps David’s legacy can be summed up in his own words:
I’m a travelling man
Each day I walk the byways of this life
Till I’m dead in the grave at the end of my days
I’ve known what it means to be alive
He ended the liner notes for “Alive” with the admonition to “seize the day.” Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us.
There aren’t many vocalists out there who can bring such power and emotion to the seemingly mundane. He brings adults to tears in songs about steam trains, pigeons, and shipyards through his powerful delivery.
I re-watched Empire last night, and I was reminded yet again what a brilliant showman David was. For whatever reason, the song “Winkie” has always hit me right in the feels. Maybe the story of doomed men being saved beyond hope because of the humblest of creatures does it for me. Watching the band perform that song now with the knowledge that David will never sing it for us again was really moving. I’m glad the band filmed their concerts so that we could all enjoy their live performances. I don’t think they could have imagined that we would so soon be using those Blu-rays to remember David. I’m incredibly sad that I’ll never be able to see him perform live. I was looking forward to them playing in America.
Another song of David’s that comes to mind in remembering him is “The Florentine” off 2019’s Grand Tour. The track is about Leonardo da Vinci, but these lyrics could easily be said of David:
You showed us
New ways to know our world
Of what we see and all we could be – ah
Inspire us to reach and spur us on
Daring us to dream – see further
I suspect I speak for thousands of fans who can say that David encouraged us to investigate our world and to dream – to see further.
My words could never do justice to David Longdon’s memory. Looking back over this tribute, I see that it is a bit of a mess and all over the place. That reflects my thoughts as I try to process his unexpected death that still doesn’t seem real. His loss hurts as much as Neil Peart’s did. His voice and his words have made him a close friend to me, even though I never had the honor of meeting him. His art has inspired me to be a better man. It has inspired me to be creative, whether that be in my writing or in my painting. In fact Big Big Train is my favorite music to listen to when I paint. His music has become so ingrained in my life that I can’t imagine life without it. I’m grateful that I can still listen to his music, but now it will always be bittersweet.
I offer my sincerest condolences to the band, to Sarah Ewing, to David’s daughters, and to his mother. Thank you for sharing David with us, and I hope the outpouring of love from his many fans is a tiny sliver of comfort in these dark times.
Genesis, United Center, Chicago, November 15, 2021
The moment was perfect. In a blaze of white light recalling their iconic Seconds Out album cover, Genesis kicked off opening night of their North American tour with a rampaging “Duke’s Intro”, the instrumental beginning and end of 1980’s Duke. And boy, did that one bring back memories as it rampaged.
The impact of hearing 1978’s And Then There Were Three and the ensuing deep dive into Genesis’ back catalog. Hearing the band live the same year (my first rock concert ever) and being thoroughly blown away by their precision and power. Seeing them again in 1980 — when, with live guitarist Daryl Steurmer ill, Genesis still put on a great show as a quartet — then in 1981, when they opened with that same arresting fanfare.
Forty years on, I was happy that Genesis still meant business; the players — Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Daryl Steurmer & Nic Collins — were firing on all cylinders from the word go, a tight ensemble that already promised each player choice turns in the limelight.
And already sitting at center stage, surveying the scene with a satisfaction that was obvious even to those five rows from the top of Chicago’s United Center, Phil Collins was getting ready to sing.
Discipline, Unfolded Like Staircase: a stone cold classic of late 1990s prog, freshly remixed by Rush producer Terry Brown. True, this Detroit quartet wore their influences (Gabriel-era Genesis, 1980s King Crimson, Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator) on their sleeves here, but they also gave them a fresh, arresting spin. As Jon Preston Bouda’s guitar, Matthew Kennedy’s bass and Paul Dzendel’s drums weave grim, mesmeric webs of sound, Matthew Parmenter’s flamboyant vocals and literate scenarios drill deep into existential desperation. Lush, dramatic and riveting, the four twilit epics included here, kicking off with the Dante-influenced “Canto IV (Limbo)”, will get under your skin in a breathtaking way. In short, I believe you need this music; get it on CD or LP from The BandWagon USA or download it at Bandcamp. (Here’s hoping Discipline’s studio follow-up To Shatter All Accord and the live This One’s for England get similar treatment in the near future.)
Ross Jennings, A Shadow of My Future Self: a superbly accomplished, immensely appealing solo debut from Haken frontman Jennings. Recorded during (what else?) COVID lockdown, he spans and mixes genres with ease, diving headlong into folk (“Better Times”), funk with lashings of metal (“Violet”), power pop (“Rocket Science”), cinematic ballads (the moving elegy “Catcher in the Rye”) — oh, and even extended-song-form-verging-on-prog workouts (“Phoenix” and “Grounded”). Jennings is at the top of his game on vocals and guitar, backed by stellar players. And the songwriting is outright wonderful; on every single track, the riffs demand air guitar, the verses demand your attention, and the choruses demand a cathartic singalong. Yes, all of this raises my hopes for Jennings’ upcoming collaboration with Nick D’Virgilio and Neal Morse, but that can wait; this thrilling, eclectic album is a genuine treat in itself. Unquestionably my pick of the month. Get it on CD or LP (merch and bundles also available) at OMerch.
The Pineapple Thief, Nothing but the Truth: whatever the substantial virtues of their studio efforts, The Pineapple Thief’s recent live albums have been where they’ve shone the brightest. Their latest is no exception; filmed for streaming in lieu of their cancelled tour for Versions of the Truth, this 90-minute set finds TPT as brooding, stylish and kickass as ever. Bruce Soord nurses his songs of disillusionment and division through the gathering angst, then opens fire on one blazing chorus after another; Gavin Harrison does the unexpected on drums with astonishing regularity — and yes, I bought the BluRay for the drumcam option! Steve Kitch’s atmospheric keys and Jon Sykes’ throbbing bass are essential ingredients here, not anonymous backing. The new songs gain heightened guts and strength; the dives into the back catalog aren’t just well-calculated, but passionately played, and essential to the set. This one makes me more eager than ever to see The Pineapple Thief when they return to North America next spring. Get it on CD, LP, Blu-Ray video and deluxe artbook box (CD/DVD/BluRay) at Burning Shed.
Radiohead, Kid A Mnesia: a band hard at work tearing down the sound that made them world famous, then rebuilding from scratch. Which somehow made them more famous, given that their first Number One album in America was the result. I’ve always found Kid A gripping stuff; with their wholesale shift to glitchy electronica beats, found-sound patchworks, soupy orchestral backing and sharp-edged noise, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and company achieved a genuine paradox — alienation embodied in music, that immediately connected with a mass audience. And when Radiohead walked backward into rock on Amnesiac, the success of their breakaway strategy made both guitar-based grooves like “I Might Be Wrong” and off-kilter art-pop like “Pyramid Song” even more effective. This triple-disc reissue pulls the era together with a bonus set of ear-tickling odds and sods: Yorke, the most deliberately unbeautiful of singers, reaches for actual purity of tone on the unreleased songs, while Greenwood scratches his avant-garde compositional itches, courtesy of a full string section. Get it on CD, LP, cassette or download from Radiohead’s webstore.
The War on Drugs, I Don’t Live Here Anymore: a recent immersion course in Adam Granduciel’s ongoing project — regrafting 1980s tropes like tick-tock rhythms and thick ambient textures onto the stock of classic rock — has proved enticing, though not consistently galvanizing. The War on Drugs’ latest slab of Big Rock Redux is their most organic album to date, integrating the blips and blobs with the rootsy muscle of a tight sextet. Whether a given track goes minimal or maximal, each musical backdrop is built in loving, precise detail, and the simple hooks become earworms before you know it. Granduciel’s vocals — his most individual to date — insistently ride the rhythms, his songs meditating on scenes of a dissatisfied youth (“Change”, “Victim”), then finding unanticipated serenity in the quiet victories and encroaching vulnerabilities of middle age (“Living Proof”, the widescreen title track, “Occasional Rain”). This one snuck up on me via multiple evening listens, and now it’s not letting go; see if it grabs you! Get it on LP, CD or cassette from TWoD’s webstore.