Five-Minute Record Reviews: Lana Del Rey, Willie Nelson and Echo & The Bunnymen!


Echo & The Bunnymen - Meteorites

There is this weird human condition where a band we once loved, whose music we once eagerly anticipated, gradually falls from our radar.  We go from owning everything they've put out to barely raising an eyebrow at the sight of a new release.  In many cases, the artists in question are mostly to blame for putting out less-than-stellar records and expecting their audience to follow them anyway, but in the case of Echo & The Bunnymen, this could not be further from the case.

In truth, Meteorites, the band's fourth studio album of the new millennium, is yet another consistently delightful record from a band that continues to be unjustly ignored by most of the planet.  Ian McCulloch continues to be in fine voice (although he always seems to look like a homeless wanderer in-person, but who are we to judge?).

On "Holy Moses", the band does a better job at sounding like Wilco and U2 than either Wilco or U2 can be bothered to do these days.  That's not to say that Echo &The Bunnymen are trying to sound like other bands, but that the band's sound is so influential that other bands can't help but wanna sound that cool.

"Is This A Breakdown?" would not sound out of place in the next iPhone commercial while the album-closing "New Horizons" is a mid-tempo stunner full of chorusy guitars and McCulloch's brooding commentary. Putting it simply, this is a great record, the very essence of an immediately likable album that reveals new color and depth with each listen.


Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

In a recent interview, Lana Del Rey expressed dismay at not being as famous as Rihanna or Katy Perry, going so far as to wonder why thse gals were moving so many more units than her.
For starters, her music is an ethereal, midtempo blast straight out of a David Lynch movie that, despite this fact, has still connected with a huge mass audience when others of that same musical ilk continue to play to small cult audiences.

Even a song with a title like "Fucked My Way Up To The Top" is delivered in low-key, vaguely ironic fashion and you can't help wonder if Lane is merely try to take the piss out of the whole star-making machine.

If anything, one would think Lana would be thanking her lucky stars that she stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Rihannas and "Katy Gaga"'s of the music world while remaining fully clothed.  Anytime she wants to change that, all she has to do is, you know, not wear clothes.

So how's the new album you ask?  It's great, but, at the same time, it's exactly what one would expect from Del Rey.  There's nothing wrong with remaking the same album over and over as long as its a good album, right?


Willie Nelson - Band Of Brothers

On this, Nelson's 68th studio album, the legendary country singer actually manages to sound engaged in the process of making new music for the first time since, well, it's been awhile.  Sure, recent past efforts, like the duets album To All The Girls... were calculated attempts to make Willie palatable to the current country crowd, but, on Band Of Brothers, the real difference here is that Willie is once again WRITING SONGS!

That's right, for much of the past decade, Willie has been a tireless road warrior and, at the same time, has maintained a furious pace of one new studio album a year since 2008, but the downside was that Willie's songwriting contributions were minimal.

Considering the fact that Nelson is literally without peer as a songwriter in the country genre, or ANY genre for that matter, seeing his name appear a whopping nine times in the songwriting credits should come as music to your eyes and ears.

"Bring It On", "Guitar In The Corner", and "The Wall" open the album in fine, conversational fashion, with Willie's voice noticeably wobbly, which only adds to the joy of the music.  After all, this isn't some Pro Tooled Miranda Lambert, Stepford Wives of Nashville crap, this is 100% road warrior, outlaw country.

Producer Buddy Cannon, who has been at the helm for the last few Willie records, finally sounds at home at the board, probably because, for the first time, he has an actual stake in the album, having co-written many of the album's song with Nelson.  Cannon, of course, isn't too shabby in the songwriting department, having penned George Strait's "Give It Away", among others.

Those who, like me, may have grown just a tad weary of each new uninspired Willie record are urged to tune in again.  This one's a delight from start to finish.

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