Jeff Walker May Music Reviews: Nick Waterhouse, Robert Forster, Glen Hansard, Stephen Malkmus

AGEIST music columnist Jeff Walker tells us which new album releases he's most excited about.

Nick Waterhouse “Nick Waterhouse” (Innovative Leisure). At only 33 years old, Nick Waterhouse has released his 4th album, a fantastic mix of rockabilly, ’60s pop, and old-school soul. This is a collection that very successfully leans toward a nostalgic look to the past. This record contains sharp musicianship, bopping tempos, tight arrangements with lots of counterpoint instrumentation and vocals, and the highest standards of pop craft melding elements of soul, blues, R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll. The entire collection of songs is an easy and undemanding listen. Standout tracks are “Song for Winners” and “Undedicated”.

Robert Forster “Inferno” (Tapete). Former frontman of the Australian band The Go-Betweens returns with a new solo album 13 years after the untimely death of his Go-Betweens partner and best friend, Grant McLennan. He’s very much an acquired taste, but lyric-driven songs that seem tuneless on the surface are the ones you find yourself humming later. This is Forster’s 7th solo album and is filled with presence and warmth missing from his last outing. This effort was produced by Victor Van Vugt (Nick Cave, Beth Orton). Standout track: “I’m Gonna Tell It.”

Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound). This latest release from Jay Farrar and his band finds him taking a demonstrative stance and confronting our current political climate. Throughout most of these tracks, Mr. Farrar is channeling Woody Guthrie with a focus on the current state of our nation. “While Rome Burns” starts off the album with a strong portrait of our current national division: “The interstates connect more than divide / free will can only survive,” he lays out in the chorus. On the song “Lady Liberty” he sings, “Lady Liberty, are you here?” with references to the hopes and dreams many of us once shared. Standout tracks: “While Rome Burns,” “Lady Liberty,” and “The 99.”

Glen Hansard “This Wild Willing” (Anti). Known for his work with the movie Once as well as with The Frames and The Swell Season, Glen Hansard’s new release — his third in less than four years — is a pleasant surprise. It has a balanced mix of traditional instrumentation with a bit of electronica, and showcases a rawer sound which is the perfect backdrop to this collection of songs. There is a whisper to the vocals at times, which brings to mind a reference to Leonard Cohen. Recorded in Paris, “Race to the Bottom” lyrically paints with references to recent unrest in the city. This is Mr. Hansard’s strongest work to date as a solo artist. Standout tracks: “I’ll Be You, Be Me,” “Fools Game,” and “Race To The Bottom.”
Stephen Malkmus “Groove Denied” (Matador). Now into his 30th year as a recording artist, Stephen Malkmus has released his second solo album and the first in 20 years. On this effort he takes a detour from his traditional rock stylings in his bands Pavement and the Jicks. This electronic-focused release is a solitary effort record recorded over 13 years in both Portland and Berlin. The effort channels 1979 post-punk stylings and, unlike earlier Pavement and the Jicks releases, the guitars are buried in the mix. These tracks successfully reference tone clusters used by the iconic German prog rock band Kraftwerk in their early releases. Some may be surprised by the stylistic change here, but it really works. Standout tracks: “Forget Your Place,” “Rushing the Acid Frat,” and “Viktor Borgia.”
Read here for Jeff Walker’s reviews of David Byrne, Andrew Bird, Yola, Jenny Lewis…
Read here for our profile on Jane Wiedlin, musician and rock icon
Read here for our profile on musician Amanda Dill


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