Matt Pryor – Memento Mori CD/LP (Equal Vision)
Though best known for his work as the primary singer-songwriter for The Get Up Kids, Matt Pryor has a vast musical catalog including his folk-tinged group The New Amsterdams, children’s music project Terrible Twos and indie-rock super group Lasorda – featuring Nate Harold (fun.), Mike Standberg (Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band), and Dustin Kinsey (The New Amsterdams). Pryor also contributes to Chicago start-up Downwrite – a website that enables artists to create fan-commissioned songs and connect with fans on a personal and creative level. Pryor hosts the Nothing To Write Home About podcast as well, where he interviews fellow musicians and industry friends, including the likes of Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra), Chris Conley (Saves The Day), Dan Campbell (The Wonder Years), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), and more. Memento Mori is his fifth solo album. “We lost a lot of people close to us in the last couple of years,” notes Pryor. “This album is both a way for us to remember them and to celebrate everyday the lives that we still have.”
Melvins, The – King Buzzo [Reissue/1992] 12”+MP3 (Boner)
Melvins, The – Dale Crover [Reissue/1992] 12”+MP3 (Boner)
Melvins, The – Joe Preston [Reissue/1992] 12”+MP3 (Boner)
“In 1992 the Melvins’ fascination/adoration/denigration of the mighty Kiss rock & roll universe compelled them to excrete three solo masterworks inspired by the Kiss solo LPs. The first in the series is King Buzzo, from the Melvins’ giggling guitar grumpus. Four songs of atmospheric clanging and rockin’ banging. Also features the many talents, drumming and otherwise, of a famous Grunge™ superstar, whose name sort of rhymes with New Wave Asshole. The second in the series is Dale Crover, from the Melvins’ sleepy drum caveman. Four songs of gloomy heaviness, with Dale doin’ the drummin’, singin’, guitarin’, and dancin’. The third in the series is Joe Preston, from the Melvins’ electronic beard warlord. Three songs of fuzz bass computer drone temper tantrum. All three 12”s reissued on vinyl after 100,000 years out of print.”
Nikki Lane – Highway Queen CD/LP+MP3/Cassette (New West)
Nikki Lane’s third album Highway Queen sees the young Nashville rebel emerge as one of country and rock’s most gifted songwriters. Produced by Lane and fellow singer/songwriter Jonathan Tyler, and recorded in Denton, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee, Highway Queen is an emotional tour-de-force. Blending potent lyrics, unbridled blues guitars and vintage ‘60s country-pop swagger, Lane’s new music will resonate as easily with Black Keys and Lana Del Rey fans as those of Neil Young and Tom Petty. Highway Queen starts with the whiskey-soaked restlessness of “700,000 Rednecks,” a rowdy call to action, and ends on the profoundly raw “Forever Lasts Forever,” where Lane belts freely, mourning a failed marriage – the “lighter shade of skin” left behind from her wedding ring. Lane’s journey to heartbreak takes exquisite turns. “Companion” is pure Everly Brothers’ dreaminess (“I would spend a lifetime/ Playing catch you if I can”). Elsewhere, she goes on a Vegas bender on the rollicking “Jackpot,” fights last-call blues (“Foolish Heart”) and tosses off brazen one-liners at a backroom piano (“Big Mouth”).
Orwells, The – Terrible Human Beings CD/LP+MP3 (Canvasback Music/Atlantic)
You know the kind of song that makes you feel uneasy, but excited? Maybe you felt it the first time you heard The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or The Pixies “Monkey Gone To Heaven” -- creepy yet catchy songs that are ominous and playful at the same time. It’s a category that now welcomes The Orwells’ raucous third album, Terrible Human Beings, the Chicago band’s most dynamic and engrossing collection to date. “Not too far back we sat down to write what we call mutilated pop songs," explains guitarist Matt O'Keefe." “We wanted to make songs that at their core are catchy and pretty, then slash them up,” adds singer Mario Cuomo. "After two misfires we landed on something that felt right," O'Keefe continues, "like an engine failing to start then finally turning itself over.” Whereas Cuomo was more focused on the his own tales of suburban malaise for The Orwells 2014 album Disgraceland, he found external inspiration for Terrible Human Beings. Movies such as the psychological thriller It Follows and noir fiction like Last Exit To Brooklyn provided fodder for a more narrative, vignette-based approach.
Ryan Adams – Prisoner CD/LP (Pax Am/Blue Note)
Ryan Adams mined an unexpected influence – hard rock icons AC/DC – for the sonic design of his 16th LP, Prisoner. “When I run, I listen to [an iPod] Nano that I have,” the singer/songwriter told Entertainment Weekly. “I put all the AC/DC records on from back to front, or I'll listen to the best of stuff from the '80s: Springsteen, or Hornsby, and I'll listen to what is going on there. I was listening to AC/DC's Fly On The Wall, and that's when I realized what I had to do for the record.” Last fall, Adams told EW his next album would feature material inspired by Bruce Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge Of Town and the Smith's Meat Is Murder. But he's since added several disparate influences into the mix – including classic rock act Bachman-Turner Overdrive (“Takin' Care Of Business,” “You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet”) and pop hit-makers Electric Light Orchestra, both of whom helped expand his guitar production expertise. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ I understand the multicolored guitar tone moments now,” he said. “You can layer stuff. I really just learned a lot.” “How do I make a real distinct record where anybody listens to it and says, ‘That's the truth from beginning to end?’” he said. “So it's like exercise. It sucks in the beginning. But then you get into it.”
Son Volt – Notes Of Blue CD/LP (Transmit Sound)
The 10 songs on Notes Of Blue are inspired by the spirit of the blues, but not the standard blues as most know it. The unique and haunting tunings of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Skip James and Nick Drake were all points of exploration for Son Volt’s Jay Farrar for the new collection. The album opens with the country soul of “Promise The World,” followed by “Back Against The Wall,” a song that could stand alongside the great Son Volt songs of their early albums. However, Notes Of Blue reflects the blues as it resides in the folk tradition, but heavily amplified. The primal stomp of Cherokee St, the frenetic guitar on “Static” and the raw slide in “Sinking Down” exude grit and attitude. Conversely, tracks such as “The Storm” and “Cairo And Southern” seamlessly meld blues with hypnotic melodies that add a unique balance to the album.