The 2nd Weezer album of 2021 was recorded before the 1st (the stellar OK Human) but is stylistically different in every way. That’s not to say it isn’t without charm. The backstory for Van Weezer is that Weezer finally lets their (heavy metal) hair down. It’s a gimmick to be sure, but it mostly works. If you jumped off the Weezer train 20 years ago there is nothing on this album that will change your mind. For the Weezer faithful, it is a good album but may come as a slight letdown after the masterful album released just a few months ago. As for me, I’m “Weezer, ride or die” – for better or worse. Van Weezer is worth your time and energy and is a worthy addition to the Weezer canon. It bears almost no relation to Van Halen, but the album is dedicated to Eddie Van Halen’s memory. Probably all great material for the indie snobs pining for 1996.
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.
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.