November 21, 2019

Sting – My Songs – A&M

By Kristi Kates | June 15, 2019

Simple yet confident, the title tells you most of what you need to know about this collection of some of Sting’s most celebrated tracks, each of which have been reworked and remixed into different versions of themselves. It’d almost be a greatest hits set, but it’s a little more experimental than that. Happily, the experiment works well. “Brand New Day” deletes the lengthy intro/outro and adds synths and an energetic harmonica; classic “Every Breath You Take” is a little faster, with a more complex arrangement; and “Message in a Bottle” gets funky and adds in stacked vocals and an extra chorus. ***

Justin Townes Earle – The Saint of Lost Causes – New West
Oh, the melodrama. While folk/roots/Americana artist Earle is known for his direct and straightforward lyrical thoughts on a wide range of topics, he really digs his heels deep into the downtrodden on this set. Don’t expect to listen to the tunes as anything even close to a pick-me-up. You’re far more likely to catch a hefty case of sorrow from storylines ranging from men gone wrong (“Appalachian Nightmare,” “Ain’t Got No Money”) to general corruption (“Don’t Drink the Water”). The musicianship is decent, but this set is so depressing it’s practically unlistenable. *

Elton John and Taron Egerton – Rocketman: Music from the Motion Picture – Interscope
Devoted Elton John fans might well be divided as to whether or not this album is a must-have — the songs aren’t sung by John, but by Taron Egerton (who plays John in the movie — but the performances by Egerton are quite good. The arrangements add variety (only some stick close to the original sound), while other songs take a more Broadway approach. Also interesting: The tracklist is sequenced in a way that underscores John’s biographical story, as opposed to each song’s release date. Standouts include Egerton’s takes on “Pinball Wizard,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.” ** ½

Black Mountain – Destroyer – Jagjaguwar
The Canadian rockers return with a major shift in their lineup: Only one original member remains. The rest are all new musicians carving out their place in the band. Where Earle (see above) was heavy in subject matter, the  Mountain is heavy in sound — dark, dated, teeth-gnashing rock, from the acidic, grinding opener “Future Shade” to the unfocused speed of “Licensed to Drive.” The difference between Black Mountain and other ’70s-inspired bands, like The Darkness, is that Black Mountain takes itself way too seriously. The end result sounds like they got stuck in the ’70s and still haven’t found their way out. * ½


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