January 20, 2020

The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger

By Kristi Kates | July 20, 2019

The Raconteurs — White Stripes frontman Jack White, along with Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler — haven’t released any studio music in a decade, but it feels like the band never really left the scene, such is its skillful hold on current soundscapes. Mixing power pop with grungy rock, the album zigzags through a range of genre textures, from the ’60s-inspired “Shine the Light on Me” to the Seattle sounds of “Bored and Razed” to the outright swampy blues of “Don’t Bother Me.” There’s plenty of experimenting with quirky instrumentation, too, which suits this band well. ***
The Tallest Man on Earth – I Love You, It’s a Fever Dream – R/B Records
Written and produced by TTMOE’s Kristian Matsson, in his Brooklyn apartment, this set was spurred by songwriting frustrations while on tour — and turned out to be exactly its enemy, an album about life on the tour bus. It’s a listen full of minute and intriguing details, from the vast reaches of “Hotel Bar” (many, around the world) to the sad observations of “I’m a Stranger Now” and the faint electronica echoes on “The Running Styles of New York.” Executed primarily on guitar, harmonica, and banjo, it’s a quirky yet personal set of compelling musical stories. *** ½
The B-52’s – Cosmic Thing 30th Anniversary Edition – Rhino/Warner Bros.
Celebrating its bandiversary is The B-52’s, the rollicking Athens, Georgia, outfit that “grew up” alongside The dB’s and R.E.M. in the ’80s. You’re probably very familiar with Cosmic Thing’s huge hit “Love Shack,” now a karaoke staple everywhere, but the “lesser” tracks are well worth repeated listens, from the jaunty “Roam” to the way-’80s “Channel Z.” This deluxe remastered re-release also includes a second disc of standout live versions (from a 1990 Texas performance) of B-52’s classics like “Quiche Lorraine,” “Private Idaho,” and “Give Me Back My Man.” ***

Gov’t Mule – Bring on the Music (Live at the Capitol Theater) – Provogue
Gov’t Mule is also celebrating a whopping 25 years as a band, a solid accomplishment further enhanced by the fact that the band just keeps going. Recorded at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, this is one of those live albums recorded in a way that places you directly in the audience; you’re marinated in the sounds of tracks like “Traveling Tune, Pt. 1,” “Mule,” “The Man I Want to Be,” and “Railroad Boy.” The band is confident and brawny throughout, and the set plays through many fan favorites. ** ½


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