Staff Picks: September

Justin Wesley
Senior Contributor
Artist: Ryan Bingham
Album: Tomorrowland
Comments: Coming into his fourth album Tomorrowland, Ryan Bingham, the Texan rocker with a drifter’s rusty heart and burning belly full of red-blooded dreams, stood at a crossroads with his career and elected to move forward in pursuit of his most pressing desire: freedom. After nearly a decade with loving allegiances to his band (The Dead Horses) and his trusted label (Lost Highway), Bingham relocated to Los Angeles with his wife Anna, founded his own label Axster Bingham records and set up camp in a Malibu home to record on his own terms. Initial reviews of Tomorrowland frequently cite the album’s brawn catching listeners off guard. Bingham has always been a heartbreak balladeer and an authentic chronicler of the weary kind, and his outcast songwriting hasn’t lessened on Tomorrowland; he has just added muscle courtesy of heavy blues-rock riffs. He still sings of not settling for crumbs, lamenting phones without quarter slots and standing by true love with no help from God; but this time around, Bingham brandishes his heart full of rhythm and rock and roll like a righteous weapon.

Will Donelson
Assistant Editor
Artist: Grasscut
Album: Unearth
Comments: So British electronica can be a real mixed bag. It’s a niche I’ve found that lacks a solid style or presence and instead relies far too heavily on unevolving loops or (worse yet) overloading tracks with the most “electronic” sound effects possible. Something Grasscut do not lack is style. Each of the songs on Unearth manage to be both unique and memorable, from the inspiring opening of “Cut Grass” to the cool melody of “A Mysterious Disappearence.” It also manages to be rather personal at times, painting pictures from the band’s past and forming clear soundscapes to characterize the album. I’m looking forward to seeing more from the band, but for now I can confidently say Unearth is one of the best electronic albums of the year

Josh Gripton
Artist: The Faint
Album: Blank-Wave Arcade
Comments: Keyboards and synths are so frequently neglected, confined to simple chords, background music or 80s car chases; but every so often, a group will come along will the miraculous ability to not sound like the guy moping around at the back of the band at some hair metal gig. Layered synthesizers are supported by a throbbing bass lines, and guitar flourishes in The Faint’s second release, Blank-Wave Arcade, a satisfyingly aggressive take on new wave. The band creates the line between electronic dance and brooding, gothy new wave without being held down by the conventions of any of these genres. They’re not quite as dark as their forebears, The Cure, and they’re not quite as punky as Blur, so imagine, if you will, a distinctively dancey, sexy middle-ground; it will save me trying to describe their style any further.  Try “Call Call” for your daily dose of dark groove and “Worked up so Sexual” or “Casual Sex” for a livelier, more electro-laden Depeche Mode (and you thought I managed to write about new wave without mentioning them).

John Beringer
Artist: J. Roddy Walston and the Business
Album: J. Roddy Walston and the Business
Comments: J. Roddy Walston and the Business’ self-titled LP is one of the best straight-no-chaser rock and roll records I’ve heard in a long time. If you enjoy early Kings of Leon circa Youth and Young Manhood – way before Caleb Followill traded his long hair for a bowl cut, his flannel shirt for a silken, sleeveless vest – then you will undoubtedly be a huge fan. While the classic rock hooks are certainly derivative, they are brilliantly revived with the additional punch of an ever-present organ manned by J. Roddy himself live. Get your beak wet with “Don’t Break The Needle,” a classic Southern-style romper with a hammering organ riff. Groove to the thundering bass and sing-along chorus of “Brave Man’s Death.” Spin in circles and smash your air guitar during the rollicking “Don’t Get Old.” Check them out and tell me I’m wrong. Spoiler alert: I’m not.

James Brightman
Senior Contributor
Artist: Marianne Faithfull
Album: Before the Poison
Comments: Being the Baroness that she is, Marianne Faithfull’s place in music aristocracy is cemented with the advent of Before the Poison. Roping in an array of talent from the peripheries of the mainstream (PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Damon Albarn), Faithfull showed the world that while her voice is not the greatest in the world, she can pull a masterpiece out from nowhere. Particular highlights “No Child Of Mine” and “The Misery of Love” shiver along spinal columns like the touch of a doctor’s unwarmed stethoscope. Faithfull has a confident air that fits perfectly with the idiosyncratic sound of each musician that she worked with, but it is her record and hers alone, without a shadow of a doubt.

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