Ron: Lake Street Dive – Free Yourself Up
Lake Street Dive gained national attention thanks to an impromptu video of them performing The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” – their stripped-down, bluesy take made your ears pay attention. Your eyes took notice too, as the video was shot in a friend’s driveway while cars passed by just a few feet away. Six years later, their seventh album Free Yourself Up proves this is no novelty act. My take is: vocalist Rachael Price says she’s this generation’s heir apparent to Bonnie Raitt. You’ll hear it in the torch of “I Can Change” and the defiant grit of “Good Kisser.” The band met as students at the New England Conservatory of Music and it shows – not just in Rachel’s voice but in the band’s technical instrumentation. This is no regular “3½ minutes of pop music, then we’re done” band. I expect to be hearing them for a long time.
Margot: Johnny Marr – Call The Comet
Johnny Marr has a big legacy to live up to. The co-founder, songwriter and guitarist for the still beloved (and long broken up) group The Smiths, Johnny Marr has seen his post-Smiths career filled with collaborations and two solo albums as well as ascending to icon status. Now, upon the release of his third solo album, Call The Comet, Johnny Marr seems at long last to have found his voice, literally. Call The Comet is chock full of great guitar and musicality but on this effort, Marr’s comparatively less strong vocals aren’t as noticeable, maybe because the whole album is so carefully put together. The songwriting is spot on and the signature Johnny Marr guitar sound complements rather than carries Call The Comet. Recommended track: “Hi Hello.”
Stacy: Alice Merton – No Roots
It’s rare to have the first song you record top the charts, but that’s exactly what happened to Alice Merton. In 2016, Merton released the single “No Roots”, an autobiographical, raucous romp that shot up the charts in Europe. Since then, she’s signed to Mom + Pop Records and released her debut EP also entitled No Roots. This five-song gem is sometimes soaring, sometimes melancholy, but all-the-time genuine. It all starts with the thumping bass line of “No Roots,” a rocking, White Stripes-feeling ode to finding home not in a physical location but with those you love. This segues seamlessly into “Lash Out,” a driving track about rebelling and sometimes having to smash stuff which, in turn, morphs into the introspective “Jealousy,” “Hit the Ground Running,” and finally wraps with the somber “Lie to My Face.” All in all, a wonderful debut from an artist from whom we hope to hear a lot more.
Benji: Dr. Dog – Critical Equation
Dr. Dog’s new album Critical Equation is the band’s first album of new material in over 5 years. There’s no rust showing for the Philadelphia outfit but there was a shift in their approach to making the new release. The band relocated to Los Angeles to record the album and brought in producer Gus Seyffert (Bedouine, Michael Kiwanuka). Seyffert talked the band into using only a 16-track analog recorder to make the album. The result is a collection of songs that has a much more live feel to it than previous efforts. “Go Out Fighting” is a good example, starting out with a strong groove that pulls you in and propels you to a dramatic conclusion. “Heart Killer” is another which helps to balance the record out. It’s catchy lyrics and strong melody help to fill out the album’s sound and enhance the band’s reputation for being eclectic. Critical Equation is a challenging album that may take a few listens to understand but the payoff is worth it.