Album Review Saturdays 2023 Episode 31

This Album Review Saturdays 2023 Episode 31 probably should have been held to be number 32.  The number 2.  The roman numeral.  The notification of another part or the first sequel.  The indication that there was more to be shared, or perhaps like the movies, a pouring of affection for the original.  Sometimes the affection for the original lingers, not just with the participating audience in the music multiverse, but truly within the band.  As is obvious with our second review, it was apparent that the band realized the music-wheelhouse they were in and how it sort of fit as a sequel to that effect.  In our third second (there’s words that will never be next to each other again), it’s straight up feels like a drop dead – bang it out – sequel, going further than the original.  But, what the hell was going on this year in the album release universe?  Here are those number “II’s” from this year so far, and this is based on my quick lists of albums I might have an interest in hearing, reviewing, and bringing up to Beyond Your Radio panelists (you can have your sequel party after you’re doing with these reviews).

  1. Smashing Pumpkins – Atum Act I & II & III
  2. Killing Joke – MMXII
  3. Faust – Momentaufnahme II
  4. Devil Driver – Dealing With Demons Vol II
  5. Blackbraids – II
  6. Ring Van Mobius – Commissioned Works Pt II: Six Drops of Poison
  7. Ten Kills the Pack – That You For Trying:  Act I & II
  8. Mammoth WVH – Mammoth II
  9. Victoria Monet – Jaguar II
  10. Dave McMurray – Grateful Dedications, Vol 2
  11. Joe Bonamassa – Blues Deluxe Vol 2
  12. Ten56. – Downer Part 2
  13. Corey Taylor – CMF2

Plus these three albums, below, it’s been a year of number “2,” and we might even have a few more before the year’s over? (and yes, I checked ahead, there are actually a few more coming).  Now the moment you’ve been waiting for.  It’s time for Album Review Saturdays 2023 records that went for number “2!”

 

The YouTube Version Link
(This includes a video version of these articles with three additional reviews)

 

 

Margo Price – Strays II

Ms. Price’s vocal and delivery is a unique alt-country weapon.  Strays, which was released back in early January of this year, continued her very direct, singer songwriter approach coupled with the alt-country musicianship, moving back and forth between simple, lovely ballad and modest spitfire awareness she put out a ten song standard.  I remember it well, and while I felt the connection and enjoyed it, the ending track ‘Landfill’ left me kind of perplexed about the flow.  Then, last week, here comes Strays II, which when I clicked it to get into it, I immediately realized that the tracks were identical.  I look again, and I finally realize there are more tracks, and they come right after ‘Landfill.’  So, I’m sort of excited because I remember that confused or lacklustre feeling I had back in January.

The oddity here is the fact the title track finally arrives, nearly nine months after the original release.  Crazy right?!  And considering how well ‘Been to the Mountain’ came off as the first track, here we are wondering how this was left off.  Naomi Ludlow of New Zealand comes in on the next track, and I’m starting to feel a greater attachment to the record and the flow.  Just more substance maybe and levels of music entering now.  Jonathan Wilson’s entry into two tracks, and probably production direction really links to the original but brings a lot more!  Yes, there’s another track featuring Mr. Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, too!  A lot to be excited about here, and the tempo of the record overall is more balanced and hooked beyond the vocal delivery and lyrics, allowing the music to provide some interesting additions to the melodies.  A much more complete experience on Strays II.

The Band

  • Margo Price – vocals (all tracks); bells, maracas, tambourine, percussion, acoustic guitar
  • Alex Muňoz – 12-string acoustic guitar, background vocals, electric guitar, baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar
  • Jamie Davis – acoustic guitar, background vocals (all tracks); electric guitar
  • Jeremy Ivey – acoustic guitar (all tracks), bass guitar
  • Dillon Napier – drums , drum machine, percussion
  • Micah Hulscher – keyboards (all tracks), organ, piano, synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta
  • Kevin Black – bass guitar
  • Mike Campbell – electric guitar
  • Jonathan Wilson – Moog bass; guitar, timpani, bells, piano, acoustic guitar, castanets, tambourine, percussion
  • Sharon Van Etten – vocals
  • Ny Oh – vocals
  • Dexter Green – drums
  • Jess Wolfe – vocals
  • Holly Laessig – vocals
  • Jacob Braun – cello
  • Zach Dellinger – viola
  • Andrew Bullbrook – violin
  • Wynton Grant – violin

Stray II (including the Strays I) Tracklisting

  1. Been To the Mountain
  2. Light Me Up (feat. Mike Campbell)
  3. Radio (feat. Sharon Van Etten)
  4. Change of Heart
  5. County Road
  6. Time Machine
  7. Hell In the Heartland
  8. Anytime You Call (feat. Lucius)
  9. Lydia
  10. Landfill
  11. Strays
  12. Closer I Get (feat. Ny Oh)
  13. Malibu (feat. Jonathan Wilson, Buck Meek)
  14. Black Wolf Blues
  15. Mind Travel
  16. Unoriginal Sin (feat. Mike Campbell)
  17. Homesick (feat. Jonathan Wilson)
  18. Where Did We Go Wrong?
  19. Burn Whatever’s Left

 

 

Metric – Formentera II

Emily Haines and her bandmates seemed to be surprised (at least in their interviews) as to their continued ability to remain a band, make the music they want to make, and continue to press against the norm of their debut and sophomore records.  While I do agree with them in that perplexity of maintaining their ability to flow freely in the music multiverse, I am more in tune with the fact that I’ve been less smitten with where they’ve been and what they were doing before Formentera came around in 2022.  I felt like some thing were a bit “tired” and that they had strayed from the bass delivery and pulse that made them unique in the indie alternative music of the time.  Against Emily Haines’ tone-minded and shoegaze ready vocal, Formentera II, definitely finds some of what I lost in them, as well as how to accentuate the dull drums of their brand of shoegaze into a dance and club atmosphere without truly pushing themselves and their audience all-in.  It’s a very tricky and clever undertaking, and they have seemed to start that on Formentera and be way more in control of it in Formentera II.

Companion pieces?  We can argue that until their next record (unless there’s a third coming in a few week), but I do believe the albums do stand much on their own.  Formentera II finds more of the bass and clever tricks to punctuate Haines and the lyrics, as well finding great areas and space to add tempo and pump up the background.  This augmentation feels somewhat like a reminder of where they came from, allowing some of their alternativeness to shine in all the right places, while it still fits beautifully in melody and comfort to the continued vocals of Emily Haines.  Formentera II has a bit more of what I’ve loved about the band; some sonic distortion, some really well hit bass lines and synth.  Nothing is perfect.  They’re not giving up pushing the electro-alternative indie-pop clubbing vibe, which is commendable (as it still works and the audience is probably bigger), but I do feel that in the concept of having a number “II’ album they’ve done this very well, and it was the right time and music space to do it.  It’s very worthwhile experience, and you pick up more each listen.

The Band

  • Emily Haines – lead vocals, keyboards
  • James Shaw – guitar, backing and occasional lead vocals
  • Joules Scott-Key – drums, percussion
  • Joshua Winstead – bass guitar, backing vocals

Formentera II Tracklisting

  1. Detour Up
  2. Just The Once
  3. Stone Window
  4. Days of Oblivion
  5. Who Would You Be For Me
  6. Suckers
  7. Nothing Is Perfect
  8. Descendants
  9. Go Ahead And Cry

 

 

 

Blue October – Spinning the Truth Around Part II

The ever-transforming, intelligent, and emotional charged rock band from Texas from 1995 is not only still going, they’re continually becoming inventive beyond their alternative rock roots, engaging in pop-turbulent song-writing, swaying unpredictably from rock to shoegaze to edgy adult contemporary, as well as even some hooky bluesy soul thanks to some clever beats and flow.  That’s where we get the contradiction of their “vibe” — what it is?  Hell, the Spinning the Truth Around 2022 album utilized the very issue in their second song on the album.  For me, it was so cool, so out-of-left-field.  It also informed me that Blue October has a front man and band mates that were really, truly capable of making a real push musically, experimenting with how their sound could bend to their maturity, lend a ear, and even up-stage the ballad and Imagine Dragons pop-circuit.

Enter the sequel, to a very good 2022 record, Spinning Around the Truth Part II.  And, enter the first song, ‘Sideways,’ which definitely, immediately picks up where Part I left off.  The vocal and raise-the-bar ballad exposition here set the tone and arena for what might be the most memorable Blue October record!  Vocally speaking, this album utilizes Justin’s vocals to truly be the powerhouse we’ve always known they could be, and the band has allowed themselves to be completely comfortable in the pop-rock wheelhouse of their current incarnation.  It’s larger, deeper, and definitively filled with great expressions of all kinds of current situations, emotions, and an edgy hopefulness that kind of rivals a certain Coldplay record.  There is just a lot of songs to appreciate and some vocal shifts that are unique to a band of their past nature.  There’s Eddie Vedder in ‘Leave Room For A Miracle,’ and ‘Last Look Moving Forward’ and then into a fast paced pop tempo vocal in “Down Here Waiting” (which is not my most favorite, but very respectful to what they’ve accomplished here).

There’s nothing this band cannot do, and I think people should pay more attention to them than they have in the past.  They are truly an all-in work that has a true grasp of the overall experience of a record, what you can push, where you can experiment, and where you can really deliver — not only a great song or lyric or hook — but an entire album.  And in this case, they did it back to back despite push back from the pop-rock environment and the alternative place where they technically started.  I’m in for Part III.  Yes, it’s coming, I believe.  It was their intention from the start, so here’s to hoping they don’t pull a Matrix error.

The Band

  • Justin Furstenfeld – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Ryan Delahoussaye – violin, mandolin, mandocello, keyboard, guitar, backing vocals
  • Jeremy Furstenfeld – drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Matt Noveskey – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Steve Schiltz – lead guitar, bass-guitar, vocal, backing vocals

Spinning the Truth Around Part II Tracklisting

  1. Sideways
  2. All I See Is You
  3. Sobriety
  4. Magic Isn’t Real
  5. Leave Room for a Miracle
  6. Last Look Moving Forward
  7. Down Here Waiting
  8. Goodbye to the Old Days
  9. Slow Down
  10. 1222 Bay Oak Street
  11. A Better Man
  12. Down Here Waiting [Mark Needham Mix]
  13. A Better Man [Brooklyn Mix]
  14. The Flood  (NOT AVAILABLE ON MY COPY ALTHOUGH AMAZON SAYS SO)
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