Talia Keys’ Fool’s Gold album is soulful collection to be reckoned with. With songs she has developed and created over the past 8 years, each has unique tone, while seamlessly working together. In other words, none of her songs sound the same. Keys’ powerhouse of a voice has the range from grind and grit to the soft and soothing, which can be heard of in each of the songs. The convictions of emotions are heard right off the first track Help Me, and a softer tone is heard in Intergalactic Crime Scene. Politics combines jazz and rock, and to close out Fight With Love uses everything from trumpets and sax, to classic guitars and bass. Her lyrics express her opinions clearly with a variety of topics and issues. She is now pursuing a solo career, and with that she is able to connect more through her music. Openly bisexual, she uses her talent and artistry to make a name for herself and a figure for the LGBT community. In the song Help Me, she describes discrimination in its forms of sexuality, gender, and even race. No Justice No Peace also equally shows her fighting activist spirit. From the lyrics, to the recordings which are basically live, everything you hear Keys’ soulful magic. Some of her lyrics can be explicit, however they add to the expressive emotion. Keys’ entire album is raw. Fool’s Gold is a progressive, soul-rock album and worth a listen.
The first thing to notice about this album is that it sounds like it was recorded during a performance rather than a studio. Through the endless progression of different guitar riffs and instrumental breakdowns, there is a consistent energy that keeps your attention. It has a minimalistic vigor that isn’t dumbed down by over equalizing the treble but then has a high enough production quality that makes it as easy to listen to as any record. The two opening tracks, “Call up the Devil” and “Get What you Want” provide an open welcome that immediately introduces intricate jams and a high level of instrument technicality that can only rightly be called progressive rock.
The same two tracks also introduce the records theme of songs blending into each other. It’s a gimmick that I frankly think bands could use a lot more and it’s pleasing to see Red Dog Revival do it so well here. They don’t implement it in every track transition but they do it enough to remain aesthetically fulfilling. “So Hard” and “Crazy” keep up the psychedelic blues with more guitar licks and loud snare pops. They keep the album driving with same upward velocity that made everyone fall in love with those early 70s concept albums. However, “Crazy” has such a drive and backbeat that it starts to prematurely edge into hardcore music before it digresses and returns to blues the pattern it began from. The album knows what its initial progressive goal is but that doesn’t stop it from laying a few surprises in the tracklist.
The most surprising track by far is “Burn On.” Coming out of a Deep Purple blues orientation, the track slips a ska influence that, though is a bit out of place, feels right at home. It doesn’t let down on the same consistent energy the record has been pushing and it gives it a curve that pulls the other tracks from the initial goal and into something that feels fresh as well as nostalgic. “When Love Becomes War” becomes the best song on the release when this final track arrives. You realize that the entire record is vitalized here and that it is where everything comes together. Not only are the melodies executed so well, but also, the four-minute outro for the track allows the band to flex their muscles and really show off. The riffs here are as nasty as they are complicated. Although it is the final track, it doesn’t let up quite yet and wants to finish strong. By the end of this record you realize a solid effort has been made and that progressive rock isn’t dead. Psychedelia and concept albums still have a lot more to say and still have room to say it.
Coming off a Smith Westerns breakup, Cullen Omori has finally recuperated and has debuted his solo career. New Misery, in Omori’s own perspective, is a derivative of his former band’s track, “Varsity” that came off of their final album, Soft Will. He wanted to take a step back in his song writing processes, further away from a “prog rock” mentality, and into something of more casual chord progressions. Although the record does have a few psychedelic aspects – the opening track “No Big Deal” has similarities to acts like Tame Impala – it does take on a more minimalistic quality than the work he was formerly putting out. With lots of reverb and simple acoustic guitar strums, “Hey Girl” provides a contemporary outfit with easy going melodies and a chorus that isn’t anywhere the risk of going over the top. And that’s one of the great perks of this album: it sounds full with a lot of energy, but the more you listen the more you realize how little is going on in each track and the more you appreciate the efficient use of reverb.
One thing to remember about the Smith Westerns is that they started out as a lo-fi/diy act. However, as their career went on, they were able to eclipse both garage and psychedelic music it such a perfect and modern way. They reached an essence that was of a cheap garage band but at the same time fulfilling the presence of flourishing prog rock group of the early 70s. Omori pretty much does this exact thing in this new record. “And Yet the World Still Turns” sounds like it is composed of a stage full of musicians but really only has like, at most, four instruments on the track. It’s full, minimal and satisfying. And really, surprising. “Cinnamon,” the single of the record, gets a bit more complicated, but really only with its percussion. There are a few digital effects that coincide with the snare drum that give it a nice atmosphere comparable to current bands like Foals and The National. Omori chases the theme of this song with tribal rhythms and pre-choral chants.
Eventually the album arrives at a kind if ballad, “Synthetic Romance” that realizes that relationships are hard. “All of my life/I’m just trying to make it all turn out right” states how difficult to it is to make things last. Romances, love, bands, etc. Life gets complicated and sometimes you need to move on. Omori chooses to move on with this track with confused lyrics and his bold organ. Finishing up the record, as well as sharing its title, “New Misery” is a song about coming to terms with a current situation. It opens with a melancholy guitar and the words, “Is it enough to be happy.” Omori is obviously struggling with a problem that isn’t cut and dry. Is it ok to just be? Before even writing this record he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a musician. There was a lot from the Smith Westerns that put a bad taste in his mouth, like deadlines from labels and a band that was indifferent to their own music. With this concluding track Omori sums up his feelings and his career with his former band. It’s bitter but for the best. It took hard hits and put a lot of negative thoughts in his head but thankfully it didn’t ruin his love for music. With this debut solo release, Cullen Omori proves to that he’s still good at writing music, and to himself, proves that he still loves writing it.
Enveloping their selves in L.A.’s neo/pop-psychedelic scene, Golden Daze’s debut is an aroma of waves hitting the beach and a nostalgia of old back beats. The strengths of this album are its oceanic themes and its call back to old bands like the Byrds of the 60s. This early rock and roll influence is most prevalent in their track, “Sleepin’ in the Sun.” Acoustic guitar and synthesizers glaze over a great drumbeat that refuses you to let you get down on yourself – especially while lying in the sun. Songs like this on the record keep a smile on your face with their upbeat rhythms and southern California dreams. Not only are they nostalgic, but pretty damn catchy too. Another appeal this record has is that it can make a sour situation feel comfortable. “Never Comin’ Back” deals with change and moving on in your life with such great vibes and an attitude that accepts the world’s malleability. “My mind is open wide/taking back her time” speaks to a transition we’ve all been through, regardless of what pronoun we need to use. We can forget what is in the past because ahead of us is miles and miles of a beautiful sandy beach.
The first single from the release, “Salt” is a steady jam with intricate bass lines and an atmosphere filled with lots of reverb. And “Low” has a synthed out drive that blends together rippling guitar effects and bouncy acoustic strums. Though this album has a lot of similarities with other pop-psych acts, it also has traits that a lot of more recent acts don’t. “Lean In” slips us a sex appeal that we can only ever find in places like the Little River Band and Mac DeMarco. It’s catchy synth-wah is as calm as it is cool. It really makes you want to go back to that sandy beach we were on earlier, light a cigarette and decadently lie in the sun for years to come. It’s the kind of music that says don’t worry, “lay down with me my brother.” Following on the record, “Foreigner” upholds the sexy grooves and adds to them bits of an arena rock focus. The song’s bouncy wahs center on its strong choruses of loud cymbal crashes and harmonized “Aaahhhh’s.” You might be crazy enough to say that it sounds a little like Arcade Fire. But thankfully, the track mostly resides with its own erotic affair. The record concludes with “Still Life” which, unlike most other tracks, evokes a kind of deranged and distant atmosphere. Its tempo is a lot slower and provides more time to notice the individual and unique tones coming through the track. The record in general does so well in recreating old vibrations of the 60s but at the same time provoking feelings not found in other modern pop-psych albums. Its sex appeal and mystery leaves you wanting more while its nostalgia and catchy beats keep you turned on.