August Reviews

8/30/20

Airborne Toxic EventHollywood Park (2020)

I got motivated to check out this new album after reading an excerpt from lead singer Mikel Jollett’s book, detailing his ordeal as a child being held captive in the Synanon cult in Venice in the mid Seventies, and then later in an orphanage. The unsettling memoir serves as a companion piece to the album, a song per chapter. Musically, it’s way better than I expected. I’m particularly fond of the title track, which laments the demolition of the famous racetrack/casino in Inglewood where his father used to take him when he was a child. Referring to the track’s recent demolition to make room for the new NFL football stadium, Jollett sings:  “And when they tore it down, there was a wrecking sound/And it rattled through my bones/And then a cry went out through the streets that night/’Cause we knew we’d lost our home.” I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a song about modern gentrification until now. Also particularly wonderful is “All These Engagements.”

Pigeonhole: Rock

8/28/20

Elvis PresleyHe Touched Me (1972)

I’d never listened to an entire Elvis Presley album until now and, to be fair, this was probably not the best place to start. The peak of his career had come and gone by this point and he was approaching “Fat Elvis” status. Before we go any further, I have to mention the title track. Oh, how times have changed. Yeah, Elvis was talking about Jesus, but even Jesus couldn’t get away with touching someone today, at least not without expressed consent. This was his third gospel album and clearly he hadn’t mastered the art even after a trifecta. It’s more evidence that most white folk should leave gospel to the folks that invented it, the black folks (compare this Elvis album to the one reviewed last week on M4S, Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace, and then decide who has the better gospel chops). Elvis still remains the best-selling solo artist ever, some estimates put his total number of units sold approaching a billion (yes, with a “B”). If there was anything on this album worth recommending I would, but I can’t. Although for shear humor and irony, maybe give “There Is No God” a thirty-second spin.

Pigeonhole: Gospel 

8/27/20

Randy NewmanSail Away (1972)

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who famously battled mental illness and drug addiction, credits this album with keeping him from sliding further into depression in the early Seventies (he said he physically wrote down all the lyrics to the album longhand while he listened). Newman, the satirical Los Angeles-born singer/songwriter/composer, might be best remembered for his hit “I Love LA” (1983) or the tongue-in-cheek “Short People” (“got no reason to live”) from 1977. This album is considered Newman’s best and would launch a career that would flourish for five decades.  It was great to hear “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” which Newman wrote but was popularized by Joe Cocker.  “Old Man,” about coming home to bid farewell to a dying father, is a real tearjerker. Also love the circus imagery of “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear.” He’s had ninety-two Academy Award nominations in various musical categories as well twenty-two for original score, including nine Disney-Pixar animated film scores.

Pigeonhole: Pop rock, Americana

8/25/20

Avett BrothersThe Third Gleam (2020)

Their 2009 album I And Love And You is one of my faves of all time, but I’ve been a little disappointed in the bros since then. This new release is the third installment in the Gleam Series (the others released in 2006 and 2008) featuring a stripped down version of the band, with only brothers Scott and Seth Avett and bass player Bob Crawford. This one, like the other two, falls way short for me. The songs are missing depth and emotion; simple lyrics, simple chord progressions. In short, these tunes don’t make me feel anything. They’re simple songs about standard topics (parenting, surviving as a modern-day American), exploring no new ground along the way. 

Pigeonhole: Country folk

8/23/20

Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire (2011)

It’s easy to confuse the Adams musicians Ryan and Bryan. Rhyming first names only compounds the problem. I know one is better than the other, but I really have to stop and think which one. Ryan Adams once famously stopped a concert after a heckler kept shouting Bryan Adams’ best-known, albeit god-awful, song, “Summer of ’69, presumably as a joke. Ryan went into the audience, found the culprit, gave him thirty dollars as reimbursement for his ticket, and wouldn’t continue playing until the jokester left the building.  So there’s your answer as to who’s the better Adams. Ashes & Fire is his thirteenth album, from which the single “Lucky Now” is perhaps the most recognizable song. But I was blown away by the rest of it, a collection of acoustic songwriting so beautiful and (occasionally) heartbreaking you just want to hug the guy when he’s done. Two songs in particular struck me. “Kindness” is about a guy in need of help from a broken heart, looking for someone to offer a little kindness.  “I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say” is an anthem for clumsy guys in love who want to express themselves but somehow never can. I’m a sucker for melancholy songwriting, and Ryan Adams does it better than anyone. Worlds better than Bryan Adams. 

Pigeonhole: Folk rock, indie rock

8/22/20

Aretha FranklinAmazing Grace (1972)

Live albums don’t qualify for consideration here at M4S, since our mission is to highlight the best new material from a particular year, and live albums (like greatest hits collections and a soundtracks) tend to be made up of songs spanning many different years. But I felt I had to at least listen to this album, since it’s the biggest seller in Aretha’s fifty-plus year career, and the highest-selling gospel record of all time (over two million copies in the US). Now I know why. Holy cow, what an experience! I’m not a religious man but by the end of this record I would have bought anything Aretha Franklin was selling, from encyclopedias to Jesus. Recorded at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles with the Southern California Community Choir, this double album makes you feel like you you’re right there, almost fifty years ago, jumping up from the pews and shouting “Hallelujah!” Absolutely not to be missed is the eleven-minute version of “Amazing Grace.” It’s nothing like what you expect. 

Pigeonhole: Gospel

8/21/20

DestroyerKaputt (2011)

This (2011) wasn’t an easy year to choose a best album. Back then, the only albums I was listening to from 2011 were by The Decemberists, Bob Schneider and Adel. Going back, I find numerous gems I missed. Among the eighty-two albums I considered, I settled on Kaputt by Destroyer as my top album of the year. I initially balked at listening to this record, based solely on the band’s name. I made the inaccurate assumption they were metal or goth, that they’d be ear splitting and bombastic. Nothing could be further from the truth. I found it helpful to approach this band with an open mind and willingness to bend the definition of pop/rock. Frontman Dan Bejar (late of the New Pornographers) is admittedly an acquired taste. He doesn’t have so much a singer’s voice but an actor’s delivery. His poetic lines often feel off key. He’s been compared to David Bowie, I suspect more because he redefines stereotypes and not because there’s any like-for-like comparison between Bowie and Bejar. This is Destroyer’s ninth album (Kaputt my personal introduction to the band) and Bejar credits both Miles Davis and Roxy Music as inspiration for the laid back, lounge-ish feel. Kaputt’s true place in history might lie somewhere in the early Eighties; a combination of soft rock, smooth jazz and romantic pop. My personal favorite is “Poor in Love,” about a guy who’s either been deprived of love or knows he’s woefully inadequate at it. Either way, the use of the word “poor” to describe his predicament really underscores the emotion. 

1. Destroyer, Kaputt
2. Ryan Adams, She’s & Fire
3. Wilco, The Whole Love
4. Tom Waits, Bad As Me
5. Bob Schneider, A Perfect Day
6. Adel,
7. M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
8. SBRKT, SBRKT
9. Cage The Elephant, Thank You Happy Birthday
10. The Decembrists, The King Is Dead

HONORABLE MENTION:

Tinariwen, Tassili
St. Vincent, Strange Mercy
Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin’
Little Dragon, Ritual Union
TV On The Radio, Nine Types of Light
Elbow, Build A Rocket Boys
My Morning Jacket, Circuital
Girls, Father Son Holy Ghost

8/19/20

Washed OutPurple Noon (2020)

One of my favorite musical genres, if for no other reason than the implication, is “bedroom pop.” I guess such music is supposed to promote certain activities in the bedroom. Personally, I think the genre should be broken down further, to take into consideration what kind of (let’s face it) sex we’re talking about. I’m mean there’s the romantic kind, where you gaze into each other’s eyes in a loving embrace, and then there’s the animalistic kind, where it’s mostly about self gratification. The former, I would argue, is the version perfected by Ernest Weatherly Green (aka Washed Out). There is something sultry, sexy and methodical about pretty much everything he does, particularly on this new album. Green, who incidentally has a degree in “librarian and information science,” seems to grow a little more with every album. This one in particular seems richer in production value and harmonies than his past work, particularly stronger than 2011’s Within and Without, his best performing album previously (Within and Without just so happens to have a cover shot of a topless man and woman in a passionate embrace, where else but in bed). 

Pigeonhole: Bedroom pop, dream pop, chill wave

8/18/20

M83Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)

It’s not always easy to sit through an entire album. It has to be really special to keep my twenty-first century attention span engaged. Mustering the patience for a double album borders on a major life commitment. So it says something that I sat through this, not once but twice. Eagerly! At times it comes off a trifle overdramatic. The opening cut could be a mash up of the Tabernacle Choir and the NY Philharmonics. M83 (a reference to the M83 galaxy, a mere fifteen million light-years away, btw) is the brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Gonzalez, who creates a spectacle of sound here that stops just short of being over-the-top. The almost cinematic feel isn’t disingenuous. Gonzalez has leant his talents to both movie and stage scores (he was musical director for Cirque du Solieil’s VOLTA in 2017). It’s less than two minutes long, but “Another Wave From You” feels like that moment in a movie when everything comes together, where a plot twist is revealed in a crescendo of sound. “Echoes of Mine” could be used in scene where a victorious underdog finally getting her due. Other gems: “Wait” and “New Map.”

Pigeonhole: Synth-pop, dream pop

8/16/20

Glass Animals, Dreamland (2020)

These guys are quickly becoming a M4S favorite! ZABA (M4S: 4/23/20) and How To Be A Human Being (M4S: 1/19/20) are so good they made my best of lists in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Now this new record is a strong contender for the 2020 list. There’s something immensely appealing about Dave Bayley’s vocals (incidentally, he studied neuroscience in college; the fella’s multitalented). Much of the inspiration behind these lyrics came from Bayley’s flashbacks of growing up in Texas, where he was keenly aware of the expectation to fit into masculine sterotypes, which were unnatural to him (he’s straight, btw). In the album’s opening cut he sings: “You go ask your questions like what makes a man/Oh, it’s 2020 so it’s time to change that/So you go make an album and call it Dreamland.” GA trods on some new ground here, specifically “Tokyo Drifting,” featuring American rapper Denzel Curry. In the song, Wavey Davey (Bayley’s ultra ego) is snorting something: “Drug lust and two packets in your pocket/Clear score, dust hits your nose like a rocket.” There are numerous highlights, my two favorites being “Your Love (Déjà vu),” and “Tangerine.” The last two minutes of the album (“Helium”) are beautifully fluid and gentle, colored with an electronic keyboard and a bit of suspense (spoiler: the song isn’t over when you think it is. Nor when you think it is a second time). 

Pigeonhole: Psychedelic pop, trip hop, indie electronic

8/15/20

Foster the PeopleTorches (2011)

I can only assume everyone is as sick of “Pumped Up Kicks” as me. It was the huge (and unexpected) hit off of this album and was nearly impossible to avoid for the better part of a year. It was the only song I skipped when listening to this disc, which made the remainder feel entirely fresh and new, and quite good, surprisingly.  My favs: “I Would Do Anything for You,” “Houdini” and “Warrant.”

Pigeonhole: Indie pop

8/14/20

The WhoWho’s Next (1971)

As it turns out, 1971 was the perfect year to jump back and start retracing my musical steps. (Reminder, M4S is now considering albums from two years at once, forty years apart, 2011 and 1971.) Perfect because 1971 was the first year in nearly a decade that The Beatles weren’t taking up all the oxygen. Which begged the question: Who’s next? There were plenty of contenders, and all relatively new to the scene, like Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Yes, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison (all English acts, btw) and, on the American front, The Beach Boys and The Doors. But for me it was this album that stands out in 1971, slightly edging Zeppelin’s IV, as my album of the year. I don’t believe the album title has anything to do with the question of who would take over the throne from The Beatles. It’s just ironic. Some of the lyrics here clearly wouldn’t fly today (on “My Wife,” Roger Daltrey threatens to get a gun, or a black belt in judo, or a tank to protect himself against his wife, who suspects he’s been with another woman). The power of this collection is astonishing, even fifty years later. There is no better album lead-off than “Baba O’Riley,” with its insatiable opening, the tinkling of Lowrey organ keys, the pounding of piano chords, then a drum combo which leads to Daltrey’s booming vocal introduction. The energy on this album just builds from there, with legendary songs as “Bargain,” “Going Mobile” and “Behind Blue Eyes.” Then, just as it started, the album ends with one of the great rock songs ever, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” punctuated by Daltrey’s scream heard around the world. 

If you take the English bands out of the equation, it’s interesting to consider what was happening with American rock artists in 1971. The most interesting acts were mostly bands of color, consider Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Funkadelic, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Santana, James Brown. Not sure what the takeaway is from that, but it’s an observation worth note.

On a more personal note, 1971 was a pivotal year in my musical awareness. Barely in kindergarten, I acquired my very first full-length album, The Partridge Family’s Up to Date, an absolutely unlistenable disc now, but at the time, it was my entire world, probably because there were two little kids in the band (Danny Bonaduce and Suzanne Crough). To be more precise, they appear to be in the band on the television show, but aren’t even mentioned on the album; a detail too fine for my awareness at the time). Had I been eighteen instead of eight, perhaps my musical taste would have been refined enough to appreciate these amazing records:

M4S Best LPs of 1971

1. The Who, Who’s Next
2. Led Zeppelin, IV
3. The Doors, LA Woman
4. John Prine, John Prine
5. The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
6. Funkadelic, Maggot Brain
7. Sly & The Family Stone, There’s A Riot Goin’ On
8. Santana, Santana III
9. Pink Floyd, Meddle
10. Yes, Fragile

HONORABLE MENTION

Carole KingTapestry; Joni MitchellBlue; Jethro TullAqualung; Marvin GayeWhat’s Going On; Black SabbathMaster of Reality; Elton JohnMadman Across the Water; David BowieHunky Dory; Al GreenGets Next To You

8/13/20

St. VincentStrange Mercy (2011)

“Chloe in the Afternoon,” in addition to being the first cut on St. Vincent’s third album, was also the North American title of a 1972 French file about a love triangle that presented a multitude of moral dilemmas. What Anne Erin Clark (aka St. Vincent) is trying to tell us by using this obscure reference is anybody’s guess. In the movie, a married man fantasizes about having the power to seduce any woman he wants, but when an ex very nearly gets him in bed, he’s stricken with guilt and flees before anything can happen, in tears, to return home to his wife and newborn. In St. Vincent’s version, it’s hard to know what’s going on. “Find my heels/Heal my pain” is about all we have to work with in this lyrically sparse opener. Other highlights include “Champagne Year,” “Year of the Tiger” (about her experience with depression) and the magnificent single “Cruel,” about, among other things, the cruelty of having to “look good.” Clark began her musical career with the Polyphonic Spree and later as a member of Sufjan Stevens’ touring band. To create the eleven cuts on this her third solo album, Clark self-isolated the recording studio of Death Cab for Cutie drummer Jason McGerr

Pigeonhole: Art rock, indie rock

8/11/20

The DoorsLA Woman (1971)

Like anyone with ears, I’m quite familiar with The Doors’ hits. Songs like “Light My Fire,” “Riders on the Storm,” and “LA Woman” are embedded in the memories of those of us from a certain era. But my Doors’ knowledge was pretty shallow otherwise, so over the last two days I’ve listened to every Doors album featuring Jim Morrison and have come to the less-than-novel conclusion: Jim Morrison was a tragic, fascinating and troubled soul, more poet than musician, and singularly responsible for the entirety of the Doors’ success. That final point was reached after also listening to Other Voices, released in late 1971, after Morrison’s death earlier that year. For me it’s proof that, without Morrison, The Doors really aren’t much more than a great blues band. Ray Manzarek is a phenomenal keyboardist and a curious character himself. But the mythology of The Doors is greatly diminished without the troubled Morrison. The Doors’ self-titled debut (1967) is in sharp contrast to what the Beatles were doing at the time, which was essentially monopolizing the airwaves with polished, almost bubble gum pop. The Doors were the anti-Beatles; Morrison the bad boy who incited chaos, drank himself into oblivion, and stuck his finger in the eye of authority. For me, Morrison’s final album with The Doors, LA Woman, is a masterpiece. Some of the most memorable moments aren’t even musical, the punch of a car accelerator that begins the title track, or the thunder clap and pounding rain of “Riders.”  There’s nothing I can say about this album or this band that hasn’t been said before other than, if you haven’t listened to it, you should.

Pigeonhole: Rock, psychedelic rock 

8/9/20

Dua LipaFuture Nostalgia (2020)

It’s still 2020 (damnit!) which means I’m looking for things, any things, to take my mind off, you know, 2020. Enter my latest distraction: Future Nostalgia by the English pop star Dua Lipa. This is her sophomore effort, which is always a scary prospect for musicians, but  Future Nostalgia is anything but a let down, in fact, it’s leaps and bounds better than her debut. For me, it’s the most rewarding album of year, so far. It’s fun and catchy and danceable and quite possibly an addictive substance. It didn’t take long to get pulled in. She had my undivided attention on the second line of the opening verse, when she mentions a famed twentieth century Los Angeles architect by name! “You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game/Like modern architecture, John Lautner coming your way.” Not exactly the kind of reference you’d expect from an English pop star. From there, the record keeps building and delivering without a bad song in the bunch. It’s hard to even pick a couple favorites, but those in a hurry should go immediately to “Hallucinate,” “Cool” or “Levitating.” After that, you’ll probably be pulled in like me and listen to the entire thing. Over and over and over. 

Pigeonhole: Synth pop, dance-pop

8/8/20

Black SabbathMaster of Reality (1971)

I was never a fan. For one thing, when Sabbath was at it’s peak, in the early ‘70s, I was still a little tike, being raised in a suburban white neighborhood by conservative Presbyterian parents. Not that certain music was forbidden. But I wasn’t drawn to “metal” rock, and this album is considered one of the bedrocks of the genre. So today was my first sitting through an entire Sabbath album, and was rather indifferent, until the seventh song.  Just knowing they were capable of “Solitude” made me suddenly question everything. I listened to the next song, “Into The Void,” with a more open mind than I’ve ever summoned for Black Sabbath and suddenly had an ah-ha moment, which inspired another pass through the album. What I appreciate most is how the guitar is not in my face all the time, as it easily could have been. Instead, it’s almost muted in the mix. Which makes the whole thing bearable. For me, if it’s not Jimi or Stevie, I’m not that interested in blazing guitar work anymore. Even with my favorite band, the guitarist is the only expendable member. There’s some nice drumming by Bill Ward, and Ozzie Osbourne’s voice is just wicked crazy. I’m not ready to kneel at the alter of Black Sabbath, I’ll only say the days of dismissing them based on not much more than a hunch are over.

Pigeonhole: Heavy metal

8/6/20

Fontaines D.C.A Hero’s Death (2020)

Truth be told, I was a little disappointed at first. Their debut Dogrel (2019) is an incredible example of Celtic post-punk and one of my favorites from last year (see M4S: 1/5/20). So I was expecting the same raw, controlled aggression here and, while there’s some, a mournful pall is cast over most of it. It opens with a creeping ballad orated by the monotone Grian Chatten. It’s not how I expected a Fontaines album to burst out of the gate, nor is the second cut any more brazen. A flurry of bass drum and high hat hints at something explosive, only for Chatten to chime in with vocals so deadpan and somber you want to reach for the Zoloft. It doesn’t all drag. There are cuts more in line with my expectations, like “A Hero’s Death” that repeats the line “life ain’t always empty” until the point is thoroughly driven home. “I Was Not Born” is a real standout that would’ve fit nicely into the Dogrel mix. “No” wraps up the album, again at a more plodding pace than expected, and with lyrics uncharacteristically bordering on uplifting: “Don’t you play around with blame/It does nothing for the pain/And please don’t lock yourself away/Just appreciate the grey.” The problem with this record, though, is probably me. I committed the ultimate sin: listening to a new record with preconceived notions. If, instead, I’d told myself this was just some random band from Dublin, I would’ve been struck by the diversity of tone and texture. Moreover, had A Hero’s Death been a blast furnace like their debut, I probably would have called it predictable and repetitive. 

8/5/20

SBTRKTSBTRKT (2011)

English musician and producer Aaron Jerome goes by the stylized name SBTRKT (the word “subtract” with several letters, um, subtracted) which seems appropriate since there are times it feels like these mixes might actually be missing something, too. Maybe it’s the skeletal structure of dubstep that makes most of these tunes work. This debut album offers several gems, like “Hold On,” “Look At Stars” and my personal fav, “Pharaohs” featuring vocalist Roses Gabor, who’s collaborated with the likes of Gorillaz

Pigeonhole: Post-dubstep electronica, house

8/4/20

Pink FloydAtom Heart Mother (1970)

I haven’t smoked from a bong in decades, but lockdown tedium got the best of me and, while browsing one particular website, I hit the “Add to Cart” button and a few days later (today) my very own water pipe showed up on my doorstep in perfect condition. So I abandoned my regularly scheduled pandemic isolation plans to give the new apparatus a try, choosing Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother as accompaniment. About five minutes into the twenty-three minute opening title track, with it’s over the top orchestration and vocal choir, I had to stop what I was doing and lie down. The combination of everything was overwhelming. I’m not sure how much of it was the new smoking vessel and how much was Pink Floyd, but the combination demanded my undivided attention. At some point during the song I looked at my phone screen, saw there was another ten minutes to go, and I was like, okay, I’m good with that. This is Floyd’s fifth studio album and while the title track consumes the entirety of side A, the flip side focuses more on individual members. Keyboardist Richard Wright’s “Summer of ‘68” was the only one of these songs Pink Floyd ever performed in concert. The album is most interesting at the beginning and the end, finishing with drummer Nick Mason’s twelve-minute, three-part instrumental “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast,” which has so much going on, from ambient noise (including the disgusting sound of an open mouth chewing) to perhaps some subliminal messaging, it’s difficult to comprehend. But like a puzzle that makes no sense but keeps your interest anyway.  

Pigeonhole: Experimental rock

8/3/20

CubicolorBrainsugar (2016)

There’s something dreamy and soothing going on here. Lead singer/songwriter Tim Digby-Bell, has been compared to Thom Yorke, but I hear more Tyrone Lindqvist of Rufus de Sol. His vocals make Cubicolor the wonderful listening experience it is. Take him out of the mix and you’d be left with not much more than a skeleton. “Dead End Thrills.” and “Mirror Play” are the standouts. Footnote: This post amends the Top 10 list for 2016, published a few months back. I’d missed this record back then, and circled back only after hearing their new album, Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night (a serious consider for the best of 2020). To make room on the 2016 list, I bumped Blackstar by David Bowie, which is an interesting album, but will be remembered mostly because it was released two days before his death).

Pigeonhole: Electonica, dream synth

8/2/20

Taylor Swiftfolklore (2020)

Here’s something I couldn’t say a year ago: I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan. I’m now intimately familiar with four of her albums (see M4S: 5/26/20; 7/10/20) and unlike the other three (Lover, 1989, Red), this one took some getting used to. I like Taylor Swift in all her moods, but I especially like when she’s backed by big instrumentation. There are instruments being played here, but they’re muted, almost an afterthought. Some of the best cuts offer little more than her incredible voice, like the wonderfully stark “Hoax,” or “Peace,” a song most notable for the maturity in her voice. Or on “Seven,” which includes the magnificent bridge: “Please picture me in the weeds/Before I learned civility/I used to scream ferociously/Any time I wanted.” As only she can, many of these songs deal with love, sometimes shattered, sometimes euphoric, but always delivered in deeply emotional terms. It’s hard to hear “Illicit Affairs” and not think it’s about being involved with someone famous, say, Taylor Swift. I’m not yet enamored with every cut. The duet with Bon Iver doesn’t work for me yet, and I’m only slowly warming to both “Mirrorball” and “Mad Woman.” But overall, I’m shocked by this collection, if for no other reason than there seems to be no end to Taylor Swift’s ability to create incredible music.

Pigeonhole: Pop

8/1/20

Tom WaitsBad As Me (2011)

At some point you have to wonder if Tom Waits will ever lose his edge. Far from getting tiresome, his shtick feels fresh as ever on this, his sixteenth album. It’s also his last studio album to date (could a nearly ten-year absence portend an overdue song dump to come?). Tom Waits is to music what Wes Anderson is to movie making, which is to say, head-scathingly eccentric and borderline unstable. How many musicians can claim to be relevant and fresh on album sixteen? There’s so much to like here, nothing skip worthy. The gospel tinged “Satisfied,” the blues burner “Raised Right Men” and the title track are my particular favorites. But there’s a golden nugget in every cut. Cameo appearances by such heavyweights as Keith RichardsFlea and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo

Pigeonhole: Experimental rock/blues/jazz