Here comes Mr. M, the man you once knew in your past or the man you used to be depending on what mood you’re in when you hear Lambchop’s new release. A painter turned singer songwriter, Kurt Wagner has written his latest album as if it were his last. Pairing up with Mark Nevers, a Nashville producer yearning for the sounds of a “psycadellic Sinatra,” the two created something very smooth.
After the loss of a dear friend Kurt returned to the silence and solitude of painting which led to the creation of the debutante themed album art. From that process Kurt regained the strength to communicate with the public again and this tragic moment in life becomes one long song. Sonically we travel from the peaceful coasts of Hawaii to a hole in the wall Harlem jazz club and from a French café overlooking the Louvre to a wet basement full of sentiments. Through the atmosphere alone of each and every song, conveyed with ominous strings, loungey drum fills and bossanova guitar stylings we know exactly where Kurt is and we’re right there with him in the drudges.
Timeless and filmic in nature, this self-proclaimed “indirect communicator,” very clearly gets across the message of finding your way again when life gets you down. With stream of conscious style lyrics and a Tom Waits approach to singing, Lambchop seems to have mastered the art of letting a song breathe the way a painter must let a layer dry before assessing what else is to be done, if anything at all.
Much like a good background actor can add more to the scene with subtlety than the ego in the limelight, Mr. M seems to lend itself to something more with humility and grace. “Never My Love” is my favorite on the album, coming across as the most cohesive of the songs with “My Blue Wave” coming in second. No clear single jumped out at me, but whether that’s a good or bad omen will be revealed in time.
An intro reminiscent of an operatic nightmare with wandering time signatures and high voltage theatrics kicks off Fun’s sophomore album by saying welcome to Some Nights, a world all in itself. Like a Freddy Mercury reincarnate with the backup choir from Paul Simon’s, Graceland, Fun’s lead singer, Nate Ruess let’s his modern day vocal chops shine through in the very catchy song, “Some Nights.” The next track, “We Are Young,” featuring Janelle Monae, showcases the radio friendly sound of album producers Jeff Bhasker and Emile Haynie. With these two behind them and the band’s wide range of influences including Elton John and Queen, Kanye West and Paul Simon, Fun takes its listeners on a hook-fueled journey.
“Carry On” brings in the Irish pub vibe until the guitar solo from Jack Antonoff kicks in. “It Gets Better” picks up the pace with pop rock that was as “effortless” to write as it sounds, according to the band. The same couldn’t be said for “All Alright,” which was the last song to be written on the album due to being denied use of a sample as their hook. Luckily Emile saved them from the arduous process of starting over from scratch by handing over an original beat. That instance aside, some songs may have been better off less produced such as “Why Am I the One?” which was intended to be an acoustic song from the onset (or Nate’s highly vocoded vocals throughout the album and especially overdone in the closing track “Out of Town”).
All in all Fun’s Some Nights makes for a simple party concoction with vocal heavy rock compositions mixing with the bouncy dance driven singles. There is a cohesive anthemic energy evoking memories of summers long gone and child’s play emitting from this album. Taking inspiration from everyday life and the artistic greats of many generations, this young songwriting trio delivers a solid second go around that is equal parts hip hop and indie rock, bubble gum pop and dance music with Some Nights, and quite possibly a song of the summer.
As a follow up to their latest LP, Blood Pressures, The Kills have released an EP, The Last Goodbye. The album begins with a reprisal of their most well-received song by the same name, a track gushing with emotion reminiscent of Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue.” Only instead of a blonde with Motown influenced vocals you’ve got VV singing with the dark and moody ruggedness of a 1980’s heroin high in Tompkins Square Park. It’s a haunting melody that will interrupt your dreams for days and a lyrical line that resonates with anyone who’s ever had to begrudgingly bid farewell to an unhealthy love.
Then you’ll hear the covers. Fitting right in with the ambience created in the title track is the second song, “Pale Blue Eyes,” made famous by The Velvet Underground decades ago and still a staple in the late night bar scene. Fortunately The Kills balance the acts of paying homage to the original vocal performance and stepping it up a couple notches of intensity with a simple but heavy drum beat combined with a sleepy garage rock sound on guitar.
Next on the list is “One Silver Dollar” where VV shows the lighter side. Sticking with the acoustic nature of the original as performed by Marilyn Monroe, The Kills hold true to their somewhat sullen sound but cut back the edge on this one. Like a bridge after two dark verses, “One Silver Dollar” lightens the EP up just before delving back into the abyss of heartache. Winding down the EP with a jukebox favorite and popular cover song, “Crazy” fits right into the theme of The Last Goodbye as a suitable closing for one very lovesick ride.