Blues, Review, Rock

Album Review: Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song

Dan Auerbach is a busy man. Aside from his successful rock project The Black Keys, Auerbach created The Arcs, an impressive side project that took off during his hiatus from the Keys. His latest music project is simply himself: Dan Auerbach. Auerbach’s second album, Waiting on a Song, comes 9 years after his debut album Keep it Hid. Waiting on a Song is unique in its sound. Black Keys were bluesy, The Arcs were modern but still bluesy, and even Auerbach’s own Keep it Hid disappeared into the abyss of his other work. Waiting on a Song portrays a side unseen in Auerbach’s work before. While the majority of Auerbach’s work undertakes a dark guitar centric sound, Waiting on a Song has a southern upbeat tone with undertones of soul and funk, using violin, trumpet, acoustic guitar, clap styled percussion and other unlikely Auerbach-esque instruments.

Auerbach has been in Nashville since 2010, and it shows in his music. The album has southern rock hints comparable to that of Steely Dan, or CCR. In fact, many of the songs on the album parallel some of the greats. Auerbach mimics the likes of Al Green or Neil Young throughout the album.  In “Shine on Me” hints of John Lennon can be heard. On a similar note, Show Me” could be some variation of a George Harrison song. Originality in music is not as relevant these days, which makes the lack of it here alright; that’s not the issue with the album. The main problem with Auerbach’s album is the missing change in rhythm or pace.

“Waiting on a Song” starts off the album. A catchy and simple track about looking for that song to write, Auerbach explains the patience and process of writing music: “Songs don’t grow on trees/ You gotta pick ’em out the breeze…And pray one comes along,” stating that sometimes, and arbitrarily, the song will appear.  Creating a song is not an effortless process, so it is interesting to hear Auerbach’s unconventional perspective.

“Never in my Wildest Dreams” is the most sensitive track in the album. A soft love song about an unattainable love, Auerbach sings “I know where my purpose is/ It ain’t on some pilgrimage/ It’s wherever my baby is/ My love supreme.” The sadness in the lyrics can be heard in the slow tone mainly backed up by an acoustic guitar.

One of the lighter tracks is “Stand by My Girl”, a comical song about staying with a girl out of fear. Auerbach sings, “I’m gonna stand by my girl,/ because she’ll kill me if I don’t.” Banjo plucking in the background and tambourine shaking, the old Auerbach cannot be traced in this track.

Waiting on a Song is an album full of mostly empty lyrics. The overall simplicity of the lyrics is unfortunate and can get lost with the vague pop rock from the 70’s. Not every good artist needs to make meaningful music all the time, but it would have been nice to have seen some in this album. Regardless, the album gives off retro vibes that will provide comfort for soft rock fans. As for old fans of Auerbach or the Keys, the album is not of their regular blues sound and the new direction might be unsettling for some, but at the same time, Waiting on a Song has the potential to attract an entirely new fan base.  

Best Track: “Never in My Wildest Dreams”

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Hip Hop, Jazz, Review, RPM

Album Review: King Krule – The Ooz

Archy Marshall is royalty, but you might not know it if you haven’t heard his music. The 23 year old London based singer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire is back with The Ooz, his second full length album under the moniker King Krule. He gets his performing name from a Donkey Kong character, but more than that it’s a great descriptor of his music. Marshall’s harsh, gritty vocals create an interesting juxtaposition with the smoother beats that accompany most tracks on the album. The record fuses elements of punk, jazz, indie, and hip-hop to create an end product that sounds like a mellowed out version of John Zorn’s Naked City.

Musically, the album is extremely consistent. Most tracks feature very tight, suppressed drums, reminiscent of J Dilla or Young Marble Giants. Marshall uses catchy guitar riffs, such as those on “The Ooz” and “Slush Puppy” in unison with spacey and subdued keyboard synths (present on most every track), building tension to create beautiful, sprawling harmonies.  The last, most important ingredient to every track is his vocals, where he ranges from soft and somber to loud and aggressive depending on the lyrical content of the song.

“The Locomotive” is an introspective slow burner where Marshall describes himself waiting at a train station, plagued by his own thoughts. On “Logos” he describes a lost relationship with a woman: “We were soup together, but now it’s cold / We were glue together, but it weren’t to hold”. On these tracks, Marshall sounds more like an orator or a poet than a singer. He deals with themes of depression and isolation in a way that’s brutally honest. The accompanying instrumentals are slower and more toned down to put more of an emphasis on his vocals.

Some of the more fast paced songs include “Dum Surfer” and “Half Man Half Shark”. Marshall’s use of native jargon and his thick, clumsy accent create a clear vision of life as a punk in London. In “Dum Surfer“, he finds himself disoriented and intoxicated in a club where he scams a “dumb surfer” out of some cash. He pukes on the pavement and takes a cab home with a girl from the club, paranoid the whole trip home that the gods are out to punish him for his misdeeds. These songs feature somewhat cynical, more snarky lyrics as opposed to the introspective lyrics of most other tracks. Contrasting the more somber tone of most others on the album, these tracks serve as great changes of pace to keep the listener on their toes.

Archy Marshall presents an album that should leave any fan of alternative music excited for the future of the genre. The project marks a maturity and precision in his lyrics and showcases deep, catchy and well produced music. True as his name suggests, Archy is the new King of jazz-rap-punk fusion, if there even was one before.  

SCORE: Ooz/10

BEST TRACKS: The Locomotive, Slush Puppy, Czech One, The Ooz, Lonely Blue

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Review, RPM

Track Review: Porches Share New Song, Music Video: “Country”

Aaron Maine’s first offering since 2016 finds Porches relying on a fresh, glowing road map.

Manhattanite Aaron Maine, known professionally as Porches, has returned with new music following 2016’s Pool, an album of moody funk and washy club-rock; both danceable and wistful. Set to be on Porches’ upcoming album, Country is accompanied by a brief, stark video shot in upstate New York, far from the crooner’s noisy digs. The song itself is a beautiful reflection of the concept, populated by plucky, synthetic strings with quick decay. Maine’s trembling words are dry and without resonance, encircled by waves of sticky organ surging peacefully beneath the spaciousness of the song. The new track also features background vocals from Devonte Hynes (Blood Orange), a frequent collaborator and Domino label-mate. This sound seemingly marks a departure from the sanitized and spooky electronics Pool- instead, Country serves as a tender, blissed-out reintroduction to the quiet insistence and sensual metaphor of Porches. Maine is no stranger to changing up his style, though- Country is just another stepping stone across a river of genres that have spanned his seven-year career, beginning at dusty, gruff, and bombastic indie-cana and ending at whatever mysterious album Maine has in store for us.  

Porches gave a performance at last year’s WMUA Spring Concert and Pool was included in WMUA’s best records of 2016.

Listen/watch the video for Country below:

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