Summer in the music industry is normally dominated by tours and music festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnero and this year’s doomed Field Day. While most bands are busy on tour, some spend some time in the studio and squeak out a gem or two when no one’s looking. Here are some of the CDs that came out this summer that you may have missed.
Combine the lyrical comedy of the Bloodhound Gang and the gnashing guitar of the new Detroit garage rock revival and you’ve got the Electric Six. Humor and Rock n Roll together again. The band made up of Disco, M., Surge Joebot, Dick Valentine and The Rock-N-Roll Indian, rip through songs like “Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother),” “She’s White,” “Gay Bar,” “I’m the Bomb” and “Danger! High Voltage” featuring Jack White of the White Stripes. The songs are all rough, raunchy, danceable and fun. You can listen to the entire album for its rock value without even realizing how funny it is too. The Electric Six will appeal to both your taste in hard rock and dirty jokes. You can’t lose.
“How the West Was Won”
A must have for any Zephead. The first live Led Zeppelin album since The Song Remains the Same far exceeds its predecessor. This is the band at their peak with Plant’s screaming blues cries, Page’s dark guitar, Jones’ irresistibly walking bass, and, of course, John Bonham’s legendary pounding on the drums. The CD features extended jams on “Dazed and Confused,” “Moby Dick,” and “Whole Lotta Love,” as well as some of the best live rock material to come out of the 70s. If you don’t know much about Led Zeppelin, this makes a fine introduction for the rookie and a great keystone for the veteran’s collection. Forget the summer concert series, the best live music from this summer comes right on this disc even if it was recorded back in 1972.
On the softer side of the summer comes the debut from Hem. Rabbit Songs is a beautiful album mixing traditional folk music with the songwriting talent of Dan Messe and the quiet, powerful voice of Sally Ellyson. If you like Bob Dylan, Dar Williams, Ryan Adams or any of the other more popular folkie artists, you’ll want to get in on Hem. Acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin and loads of harmony drive the album right to the heart. Great for late night listening, a romantic dinner, or just to relax and think, Rabbit Songs is an album of such subtlety, if you’re not careful, you may just miss it.
“Sing Sing Death House”
The album was released in 2002, but The Distillers have been getting a lot of press this summer for their impressive live shows. This is old school punk made new again. Screaming vocals and guitar that can make your ears bleed if you’re doing it right. Brody Armstrong leads the band through 12 songs that probably average three minutes each packed with raw, fueling energy. Forget those wannabe jokester punks that have been dominating the charts the past few years, this is the real thing. Watch out, you might inadvertently cause a mosh pit in your room listening to this.
In case you haven’t heard, Rock is the new Dance, as evidenced by bands like the Electric Six, The Music and now, The Faint. Combine the darkness of AFI with 80s pop-New Wave like Blondie and The Cure’s early work and you’ll get rock that makes you really move. Not for the faint of heart with songs like “Agenda Suicide” and “Let the Poison Spill,” The Faint makes people feel good despite all the sadness and death-talk. This is the kind of music that is meant to rock out to in the car or when you’re all alone. This is music that you can dance anyway you want to. If these guys from Nebraska take off the way it looks like they will, then we’ll soon all be sporting Flock of Seagulls hairdos.
A scruffy Irishman who writes heartbreaking songs of love and loss, Damien Rice is the new Millennium’s acoustic answer to Van Morrison. Much like David Gray, Rice has taken all the murky, foggy sadness of the other side of the pond and plucked it out in notes on his guitar. Working with vocalist Lisa Hanningan on songs such as “Volcano” and “The Blower’s Daughter,” Rice creates a mood of pensive uncertainty and sensitive tension. If you like acoustic music of any kind, Rice will appeal to you. He’s no one trick pony though, – his song “Eskimo” transforms itself into anopera as the CD’s final track.
“Comfort in Sound”
Feeder’s song “Come Back Around” was recently featured in American Wedding. They’ve had a sizable following in their home of England for quite some time but are just starting to break in the states now. Comfort in Sound made Q Magazine’s Best Albums of 2002 list when it was released in the UK, and now that it’s been released here, it will no doubt have equal success. Somewhere between Foo Fighters and Live, Feeder is good, straightforward, radio-friendly rock. As long as they like solid guitar, melody and attitude, mainstreamers and aloof music aficionados alike will find something in this emerging British band.