For the last decade, Lana Del Rey has consistently put out stunning albums. Very few missteps, each album seemed to be an improvement over the previous. Her aesthetic was – and is – unwavering. Dedicated to a timeless cool imbued with fashion and nostalgia, she was both in vogue and hopelessly out of fashion. Not unlike another female icon – Nico, who did her own thing from the 60’s until her untimely death in the 80’s. There’s been many think pieces critiquing Lana’s every move – what she said, what she meant, who she was with. It never ends, it seems. All of this obscures the fact that the music she puts out is consistently great. 2021’s Chemtrails Over The Country Club might be her best album yet.
A few years ago, I got it into my head that wearing a John Mellencamp shirt to punk rock shows would be the most punk rock thing ever. Of course, it is kind of silly coming from me – an unabashed John Mellencamp fan and settling (mostly) comfortably into my 40’s. But I was really proud of the thought and put it into motion. I tested this theory of being uncool by wearing my Mellencamp shirt to a Mudhoney show in Seattle. Of course, I ran into Mark Arm (Mudhoney singer / co-founder) randomly, had a brief conversation with him, and realized that I wasn’t cool enough to own my uncool. Or something like that anyway. This story came to mind as I was listening to my review copy of the third Death Threat Cassette album. Use Your Delusion features a song called John Mellencamp & the Infinite Sadness – not only one of the best song titles in history, but it is also the best song on the new album.
Not too long ago, there was a Saturday Night Live skit that had Matt Damon playing the world’s biggest Weezer fan, much to the chagrin of Leslie Jones – who was adamant that Weezer made two great albums – 1994’s Blue Album and 1996’s Pinkerton – before losing their muse and becoming corny. I’ve seen variations of that argument play out on chat boards over the years and read snobby reviews of their modern albums. It has never failed to bring a smile to my face. Anyway, in case you were wondering, I related more to the Matt Damon character. He states he is “Weezer Ride or Die” – and I actually own a t-shirt with that slogan. Not every Weezer album is great, but there are gems on each album. I continue to be amazed by the indie elitism espoused by fans of only their first two albums. Their loss, I suppose. 2021 promises two Weezer albums. Van Weezer will be out in May and promises to be Weezer’s heavy metal inspired album. But first, we have OK Human – an album recorded with a full orchestra at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. It just may be my favorite Weezer album since the early days.
Kicking off reviews for 2021 in February, bypassing January completely, in the midst of a snowstorm the likes of which has not been seen in these parts in ages. Fitting, really. What better company than that of an old friend? I am speaking of the new record by England’s Sunstack Jones. A group that is equal parts Americana and British psychedelia. All these things and more. The band enjoys a loose association with The Verve’s Simon Jones (no relation), who has lent his recording techniques to the latest records by Sunstack Jones (no relation). All joking aside, this is a fruitful collaboration that has drawn out the band’s strengths. Paul Den Heyer once again is involved in the final mixes, giving the new album a familiar vibe from previous albums. That being said, Golden Repair is the finest album yet from Sunstack Jones. Not many bands can say that at this stage in their career.
The Conduit of Humanity project released a promising debut album The Zen Cage late last year. An album featuring many musicians and collaborations, it made an impact on me. To this day, it warrants repeated listens. Fred Jeske & his collaborators were inspired by the timeline songs of Todd Rundgren as filtered through a Sloan inspired alternative rock sound. I found it to be one of the best debut albums of 2019. Rather than resting on their laurels, the band is back with their 2nd album. Fortunately, this is no sophomore slump. Rather, this is an album that deepens the sounds of the 1st album while exploring new horizons. It’s a different animal, really – there are even shades The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway era Genesis here. Equality might even be better than the debut.