MUSIC SPOTLIGHT: New Releases – August 30

Highlights from Friday August 30, 2019 Release Day 

I have noticed that my reviews have been themed without really attempting to theme it. First week, was a diverse variety to get you started off on taking chances with new music. Second week, was all about female empowerment. This week is all about rock music. Many people in the music world have written countless blogs and articles about the death of the guitar. I always pushed back against this notion. The guitar is not dead it is simply finding its new place in a world of new production toys. This week the two albums I chose to highlight showcases what the guitar can be in this new age of music. 

1) Tool – Fear Inoculum 

Tool was a band that got me into the rock and metal scene. Unlike many of the other bands in the 1990s they were focused on musicality more than packaging a brand that needed to be sold. Undertow (1993),Ænima (1996), and Lateralus (2001) were all albums that changed the way I looked at music. The craftsmanship of haunting guitar riffs, animalistic drum beats, and the unapologetic unleashing of the ultimate power that musical instruments can give all made them a band to respect and honor. I have to admit, that as the albums came, the inspiration seemed to have lacked. So I went into this album with high expectations, yet low belief they could meet them. I was wrong. Tool exceeded them.  

Fear Inoculum, which is their fifth album, is a creative project for those who love music. If you are looking for rock anthems or songs to sing then this might not be the album for you. Instead what you have is a ten track over ninety minutes of music therapy and experimentation that we have not seen for awhile. Pink Floyd and The Doors are celebrated and hated for the work they did pushing the rock envelope. Tool did the same thing. Most tracks are over ten minutes long and take you on a journey of anxiety and hope that fits the album title completely. It is a concept album that is mastered by instrumentalist geniuses doing what they do best…putting music before rules. Tool is a breath of fresh air and I hope that it reminds all rock artists the whole point of what they do. Make people uncomfortable with the extremes of their instruments and the raw intensity of their voices. At the end of the day true rock fans just want to feel something. So, be like Tool, and make us feel something. 

Songs of Note: 

Truth is. This is an album that should be listened to from Track 1 to Track 10 to get the full experience. If you are however on the fence about committing to such a feat then I would say take a listen to ‘Fear Inoculum,’ this track sets up the tone and themes of the album. The guitar riffs are breathtaking and the lyrics are abstract enough to make you wonder about the point of fear. The other track to check out would be ‘Descending’, because of the musicality and the experimentation on the track will leave you feeling distinct opposite reactions. To go down seems like a bad thing, but sometimes it leaves you with a raw authenticity that is freeing. 

2) The Futureheads – Powers  

The Futureheads are an English post-punk band who has just released their sixth studio album. Now, many of the sub-genres get thrown out there with little to no explanation. Punk was a huge genre in the seventies and eighties and then it came back again in the early 2000s. There is something about economic depressions, conflict, and political confusion that usually signifies in our modern world, the need for proper punk music. In the seventies and eighties, it was the Cold War, economic recessions, The Troubles, and the explosion of mass consumerism that led to teen unrest making punk a necessity for self-expression. In the 2000s, it was  9/11, the Iraq War, the age of terrorism, as well as the Great Recession. So wonder what is going on now that makes punk music seem needed once more? Political polarization, Brexit, Anti-Immigrant sentiments, and, of course, continual decline in the trust of our democratic institutions. Punk music by definition cannot be neutral and the Futureheads are by no means neutral in their new album.  

This album raises more questions than answers which is what I find most fascinating. Literally every track asks something of us in terms of reflection. Usually punk bands instruct, but this album really asks us to look into ourselves for solutions. Questions about if it is possible to get things done, to care, and to control our emotions. It seemed like every track was reminding me that even though I might be angry at the world… if I give into the apathy of feeling overwhelmed then I will be swallowed whole by inaction which means I am complicit in what I see as toxic. Punk bands usually blame something else, but this album blames me as much as it blames the institutions it criticizes. I think the best line that showcases this feeling comes from the track called ‘Good Night Out’ and it says: “You said I want to be popular. I want to be relevant. I want to be politically engaged.” To me this is calling out the bloggers and the millenials who say they want to change things, but recognizing how overwhelming the task is and that leads to nothing. This band made me think about the world in a different way, but despite the heavy content at the end of the day they are fun punk songs to jump around to. Just maybe it makes you reflect a little while you jump around. 

Songs of Note:  

‘Across the Border’ this is a track that is fun and the guitar on it will have you moving around. It is also a song that showcases the displeasure of certain institutions taking things and using certain groups of people as a way to continue to take. ‘Listen, Little Man’ is a fun song that looks at the idea that we are reverting back to a small minded and base reaction mindset. ‘Don’t Look Now’ is a more pop-friendly track that you can sing along to.  ‘Jekyll’ is a strong song with a great sense of musicality that explores the human psyche. What makes people go from normal to violent? What makes people angry? How can we control this? Can we?

Other Notable Releases from August 30, 2019 

  • G Flip – About Us (Indie Pop – 10 Tracks- Australian) 
  • Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell (Pop – 14 Tracks – American) 
  • Close Talker – How Do We Stay Here? (Indie Rock – 11 Tracks – Canadian) 
  • Sheryl Crow – Threads (Pop Americana Genre Bender – 17 Tracks – American)
  • Common – Let Love (Rap – 11 Tracks – American [Chicago])  
  • Trisha Yearwood – Every Girl (Country – 14 Tracks – American) 
  • Olivia Jean – Night Owl (Alternative Rock – 14 Tracks – American) 

Playlist of the Artists who Dropped Music on August 30, 2019 

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