Jeff Walker’s August Music Selections: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Sleater-Kinney, The Bird and The Bee, Imperial Teen, My Morning Jacket

Keeping us up to date with the latest musical delights, our cultural expert gives us this month's best tracks.

The latter part of summer is typically slower for releases but here are five titles I have been enjoying. Stay tuned for many new releases coming in the early fall. The Spotify icons should like directly to the albums.

Sleater-KinneyThe Center Won’t Hold” (Mom + Pop Music). On the opening track of this new collection of songs by the Pacific Northwest trio, we are introduced to a percussive beat and lo-fi vocals that suggest a radical new musical direction for the band. This bold first track starts with a build up of stripped down instrumentation and vocals and then builds to a full rocker. Key to this new sound is the brilliant production by St Vincent (Annie Clark). This is a follow-up to the 2015 comeback record “No Cities To Love” and the entire collection of songs is an exploration of a new sound palette, and has led to the departure of original drummer Janet Weiss. Taking cues from both personal and political turmoil, this album is full of sonic surprises. Key tracks are “The Center Won’t Hold,” “Can I Go On,” and “The Future is Here.”

The Bird & The Bee “Interpreting the Masters Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen” (No Expectations / Release Me). On this second volume of classic covers, following up Vol. 1 which was a tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, singer Inara George and keyboardist/producer Greg Kurstin take on the classic hits of Van Halen and have created a brilliant record, ironically free of guitars that were present on the original recordings. Mostly drawn from Van Halen’s debut record, this collection of songs proves that a great song is a great song. All of these 10 tunes are drawn from the David Lee Roth-era band and are filled with pure joy in their delivery. The duo are assisted by veteran bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass (Beck, Air, and Nine Inch Nails), Dave Grohl on drums (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and a cameo performance by Beck. Key tracks are “Panama,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” and “Hot for Teacher.”

Multiple Artists “Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Columbia Records / Sony Music). As we have come to expect from Quentin Tarantino’s films, the music is, many times, the glue and lasting memory of them. This collection of rock & roll, DJ sound bites, and period-specific commercials sets the context of this remarkable and highly anticipated film. The setting is Los Angeles 1969 and the national politics of the time are at a full boil. The use of the music of many of these artists establishes the push/pull of the turbulent times by using these seemingly innocent, infectious melodies while presenting the uncertainties of the times the country was living through, whether it be the Vietnam War or the horrific crimes of the Manson family. Paul Revere & The Raiders’ music helps to set the tone. These were the best of times in music and this soundtrack reminds us of how music was enjoyed at the time, with no boundaries, through the magic of AM radio. Key tracks are Paul Revere & The Raiders’ “Good Thing,” Mitch Ryder’s “Jenny Take a Ride,” José Feliciano’s take on “California Dreamin’,” and Dee Clark’s “Hey Little Girl.”

Imperial Teen “Now We Are Timeless” (Merge). This new album is full of absolute pop perfection. This is the fifth release from the SF four-piece band that has been active for over 23 years. Led by guitarist/vocalist Roddy Bottum (Faith No More), the record is full of retro chords and infectious melodies. The new collection of songs could best be described as having electronic edges with guitar overtones. The sound is incredibly warm and beautifully produced. All of these 10 songs contain absolutely irresistible hooks. The band’s harmonized vocals make this one a standout in every way. Coming in at only 35 minutes long this is a record to keep on repeat. Key tracks are “How We Say Goodbye,” “Walkaway,” and “Somebody Like Me.”

Reissue of the Month:

My Morning Jacket “The Tennesee Fire — 20th Anniversary Edition” (Darla Records). Although now an established rock act, My Morning Jacket’s groundbreaking debut album is celebrating its 20th anniversary with this expanded reissue. Recorded in a barn in Shelbyville, Kentucky (home of the real life Colonel Sanders), there is a mix of influences from the rust belt, midwest, and a bit of Appalachia, but this debut was always rooted in alt-country. Legend has it that Jim James laid down his vocals in an abandoned grain silo for this one. They had yet to sound like an actual band at this time and had yet to develop their signature sound with extended guitar jams. Only one song tops out at over five minutes, and most are under three. The innocence on this record comes through as the band tries new sounds without any preconceived notion of what the outcome would be. It’s a nice look back at a now veteran band in their infancy. Key tracks are “Nashville to Kentucky,” “I Will Be There When you Die,” and “Heartbreakin’ Man.”


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