Showing posts with label Blues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blues. Show all posts

July 14, 2019

The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger Review

After 11 years, the Jack White-led blues-rock band The Raconteurs finally released their follow up album to 2008's Consolers of The Lonely, Help Us Stranger, on June 21st of this year. As far as why the long wait stretched beyond a span of a decade may be due to lead guitarist Brenden Benson's solo music career, as well as the prolific post-White Stripes career of Jack White, who leads his own solo act as well as another blues-rock band, The Dead Weather. The time between both of these albums was so long that most fans were pretty certain that there might not have been another album coming, especially since the reports were unlikely as far back as 2015 that there was hardly any new material recorded at all, according to Benson in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. Finally, in 2019, The Raconteurs surprise their fans with the release of their third album, the hard-rocking, and blues-licking, Help Me Stranger.

Bored and Razed makes for an unassuming opening riff that repeats until it crescendos into a familiar hard rock groove with White's unmistakable, defiant, yelling vocals. There's not a whole lot to latch onto in this opening bit, as it has a pretty standardized formula that any fan of rock n' roll will enjoy with quiet enthusiasm, and the album really doesn't pick up the pace until their title (is it though?) track, Help Me Stranger. This second song pulls up its britches and presents such a colorful blend of percussion, guitar melodies, and verse-chord structure, that there is something to be said for the combined songwriting talents of Bensen and White, which is something that can't be heard on any other White or Benson-related release. It hits an exalted high point early on in Help Us Stranger, which the album has to continue to try to match or exceed for the remainder of its runtime, which it more or less succeeds.

Only Child slows down to showcase the storytelling ambitions of these two guitarists, as they sing about the prodigal son coming home. It is a satisfying melody once again and filled with familiar themes found in other songs such as leaving everything behind and forging a new life. It is accentuated by neat, buzzy organ work that makes it complete. As soon as it's over, Don't Bother Me explodes into a loud and bustling outburst of a tune that White has been known to make in his other bands, The Dead Weather, and The White Stripes. Its makeup is frenetic and stylized with heavy-effected guitars and a defiant, repeated, vocal shout, "Don't bother me!"

Shine The Light on Me and Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying) are softer and more self-reflective as the album crosses into the back half. Other highlights include Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness), their single Sunday Driver, and the loud and distorted What's Yours is Mine, but the real high point is reached again as the band comes to their final song, Thoughts and Prayers. White and Benson slow the group down for a traditional sounding, folky, blues tune that has great acoustics and lyrics. It succeeds at producing a great string crescendo with their assorted instruments and brings the album to a satisfying finish.

Help Us Stranger is a welcome return from a band that had ghosted their fans for 11 years long. Jack White, never truly revealing what The Raconteurs had been up to, was always busy producing work with The Dead Weather and as a solo artist since 2009 and 2012 respectively. Their collaborative efforts to put out a brand new album in 2019 might not have been needed, but it is an enjoyable listen nonetheless to give fans another fresh dose of bluesy, garage rock and roll.

Help Us Stranger - 7.8/10

Recommended Tracks: Help Me Stranger, Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying), Thoughts And Prayers

July 12, 2019

Various Artists - The Music of Red Dead Redemption II: (Original Soundtrack) Review

Today released an original soundtrack from the makers of the wild west, cowboy masterpiece of last year, Red Dead Redemption II. A fully alive world of the west, Red Dead was instantly hailed as an undisputed classic in modern cinematic and interactive storytelling. It's awe-inspiring immersive characters, setting, and story were brought to vivid life not only by its beautiful, picture-perfect graphics but also by its swooning music, which could quietly enhance a scene or break out in full bravado, placing any player right in the middle of a classic western film. Rockstar shows the world again that their release last year was more than just a video game, but an arresting piece of art that deserves another look this summer, in the form of RDRII's original soundtrack.

Composed by various multiple Grammy-award-winning artists, Red Dead's OST has many different forms as it plays through. The music in this short 40-something minute release takes inspiration from the period of the wild west, so it's vocals and notes understandably so venture into the styles of instrumental banjo tunes, folk, country, and even some headier western rock tracks. The opening tune, Unshaken, features a deep, gravelly-toned vocalist with a choir of backing singers, in a Johnny Cash-like melody. It appropriately introduces listeners to the world of Red Dead. The second track, Moonlight, almost traverses into gospel territory, as singers croon and moan with the soft rising and lulling instruments. Other tracks that follow feature traditional sounding, bluesy country numbers, such as That's The Way It Is, and Cruel World, sung by none other than Willie Nelson.

Mountain Finale is the first of several instrumental pieces that inject a feeling of spirited excitement into the mix, a welcome break from the moody country and folk numbers that precede it. Crash of Worlds is ultimately a reprise of Unshaken, with an added melodic twist and an atmosphere of a story and song sung around a campfire of runaways and outlaws. Mountain Hymn is a transcendent piece of beautiful guitar-work and heavenly vocals and it further paints a serene setting of settlers' struggles and living their lives. Mountain Banjo is the second instrumental that opens up a suite of visually stimulating musical tracks, such as the introspective, steady Table Top, and the unflinching, rocking and rolling Love Comes Back. Oh My Lovely caps off this series of instrumental takes into western culture with a reverb-y (almost too-much-so) guitar meditation. The soundtrack is brought to a close with its final rendition of Cruel World by Joshua Homme, a retrospective look at the world that we've created before us.

The Music of Red Dead Redemption II is satisfying and illuminating as a video game soundtrack. Its many different styles throughout, all influenced by the same time period, showcases the studio's talent for storytelling in more ways than one. As Rockstar stated in their press release, an original score, intended to be this soundtrack's official companion album and featuring much more musical content, will be coming later this summer. Until that time comes though, there are some real quality tunes to enjoy now while the table is being set for Red Dead's next music release.

The Music of Red Dead Redemption II - 8.25/10

Recommended Tracks: Unshaken, Table Top, Love Comes Back