- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sure, it’s cold outside, which makes it all the more important to get rockin’ and groovin’ as the winter months chug along. Here are 11 new discs from artists established and on the way up worthy of your listening pleasure.

 

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Train

a girl a bottle a boat (rel. Jan. 27)

Columbia Records

The Train train rolls on in 2017, with Pat Monahan and company unleashing “a girl a bottle a boat” for the new year — lowercase styling and all. Radio darling “Play That Song,” with Mr. Monahan hitting his patented high-tenor notes, bears a passing, though pleasant, resemblance to a classic you may recognize. As with the band’s previous albums, “a girl and a boat” has more misses than hits — with the wins offset by far too many disposable tracks over the years — but highlights on the new one include the danceable “Working Girl” and the retro-throwback “Valentine” with its a cappela mosaics. “Lost and Found” is an uptempo good time, and “You Better Believe” is, well, fine to close out the disc.

I’ve been following Train for 15 years, and while “Hey, Soul Sister” and “Drops of Jupiter” remain two of the absolute best songs of the new millennium, an entire album of worthy material from the San Francisco band remains yet on the horizon.

But, please, fellas, keep trying.

 

Colin Hay

“Fierce Mercy” (rel. March 3)

Compass Records

On the heels of his stellar solo album “Next Year People” from 2015, Men at Work frontman Colin Hay returns with a new disc of introspective songs and ballads about aging, retrospection and hope. “Secret Love” discusses the road not traveled with a certain someone — which can be even more painful as the years pass. “Frozen Fields of Snow” is a meditation on the passing of time, which, as the artist sings much on the album, only seems to speed up as you age. “The Last to Know” and “I’m Going to Get You Stoned” are less about having fun than about realizing, for the narrator, that more of life is astern than afore, with Mr. Hay waxing nostalgic in the song about those magical 1960s. “I’m Walking Here” has Mr. Hay parroting the famous Dustin Hoffman line in his singular Australian accent, and the song even takes a departure by offering up a mid-song rap verse.

The absolute winner is “Two Friends,” which explicates on a pair of the narrator’s departed friends, with his ennui and angst screaming at creation at the unfairness of it all. Mr. Hay goes deep as he implores “my brothers … carry on,” whether it is those who are still living or those who have gone before him. “She Was the Love of Mine” is another dulcet song, but then Mr. Hay kicks it up a notch with the bonus uptempo track of “I’m Inside Outside In” and the countryfied “Blue Bay Moon” and “Love Don’t Mean Enough.”

Mr. Hay and his band will play The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, March 12 and 13. Tickets are available by going to Ticketmaster.com.

 

Fractal Cat

“The Tower” (rel. Jan. 26)

Maryland’s own cats are back, and offering more funkadelic, groovy tuns for either meditation or mellow dancing. “Be Careful What You Dream” is rocking fun reminiscent of their previous record, “Lovingkind.” “Have I Lost My Way” might be the end result if the Beach Boys and the Monkees got together, dropped a bunch of acid and wrote about it (trust me on this, it’s a cool track), and “Look at That Snake” bears the stamp of the Beatles’ later experimental period, as well as some of the sounds of Pink Floyd. “Streets Are Burning,” written by guitarist Keith Jones, features a killer bass line and a horn section beneath a toe-tapping melody — as well as a shredding guitar solo from Miles Gannett. “Let It Fill” is an easygoing album sendoff, but no doubt we can expect much more from this talented cabal of Maryland musicians.

 

Snowglobe

“Snowglobe”

Super Sonic Sounds Records

Memphis is certainly not short on musical talent, and local boys Snowglobe are keeping at it with this self-titled effort, their sixth album. “Easy” is a rousing opener, featuring some tricky vocals on the higher end of the male range from lead singer Brad Postlethwaite. Drummer Jeff Hulet offers up some serious percussion chops on “Walking With Her,” and “Birthday” may be the funkiest way to wish someone another trip around the sun that’s come along in many a musical moon. “One More Little Thing” bears the stamp of Weezer in its vocals and sardonically satiric look book on earlier life, and “Big and Bright” has an otherworldly quality about it that is somewhere between Radiohead and Renaissance by way of the Mamas and the Papas (trust me).

The sextet goes full-on experimental in “We Were in Love” and the two sounds collectively called “Universe.” The ennui of Southerners unused to winter is on full display in the smiler “We Have No Heat.”

In a city known primarily for blues, it’s great to see an act that seeks to elevate the Memphis soundscape to different, greater heights. Snowglobe is an act to catch as soon as you can.

 

O’Connor Band with Mark O’Connor

“Coming Home”

Rounder

Roots music gets another solid entry in this disc from the O’Connor crew. “Always Do” and the titular track give a great intro to those who may not know roots music, and “Coming Home” has the great lyric “I’ll be dead before I die.” Keep your ears peeled for some extraordinary vocals on “Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man?” “The Sweet Ones” features a fantastic duet, and I challenge you to keep from tapping your feet along to “Fishers Hornpipe.” “Fiddler Going Home” closes out this delightful album with a fiddle overture that is somehow both melancholy and hopefully mournful.

 

Deaf Havana

“All These Countless Nights” (rel. Jan. 27)

So Recordings

A little bit rock, a little bit modern, and you have Deaf Havana. “Trigger” is a rocking good time. “Happiness” is a lovely sweet song about finding your bliss — and not standing in your own way. “Pretty Low” is, ironically, a feel-good tune, and I especially dug the late track “St Pauls.”

 

The Brevet

“Embers EP”

Some fun tunes are to be found on this EP from The Brevet. Pay special attention to the titular track and the intelligence of “Be Your Man,” and “Hold On” will remind you of Mumford and Sons in the best possible way.

 

Kelsey Waldon

“I’ve Got a Way”

Eyebrow Recordings

Country and bluegrass music gets a new injection of fun and verve thanks to Kentuckian Kelsey Waldon’s new album. “You Can Have It” pairs Miss Waldon’s expertly modulated vocals against a mournful steel pedal, while “Don’t Hurt the Ones (Who’ve Loved You the Most)” is a strong country ballad with Miss Waldon’s soulful voice soaring to grand eloquence. “I’d Rather Go On” and “Let’s Pretend” are more fine examples of the power of country music, and “Life Moves Slow” presents a reminder to, well, retard one’s tread every now and again. “The Heartbreak” is a moving but welcome album-closer.

Expect to see much more from this talented youngster, whom we can only hope time will bring to the capital.

 

Annihilator

“Triple Threat” (rel. Jan. 27)

UDR

It’s funny what happens when a metal band unplugs and turns off the amps. Canadian rockers Annihilator do just that on this double album that also comes with a live DVD. For those who think that metal is nothing but “noise,” pay attention to the fantastic harmonics the band unleashes on cuts like “Sounds Good to Me” and “Snake in the Grass,” which bear the stamp of metal of yesteryear acts like Saigon Kick and Extreme. “Holding On” sounds lovely at a slowed-down pace, and other highlights include “Stonewall,” “In the Blood” and yet more awesome vocal harmonics on “Phoenix Rising.”

Disc 2 is more head-banging, which is fine, but not as singular and creative as the acoustic Disc 1, but if that’s your thing, it’ll do nicely.

 

Tom Chaplin

“The Wave”

Beautiful songs and sentiments permeate the new album by Tom Chaplin (no relation to Charlie … or Ben, for that matter). Listen for the mystical “Hardened Heart,” the haunting “Worthless Words” and “Hold on to Your Love.” The ethereal “Quicksand” is the album’s absolute winner, and should be listened to whenever you’re feeling blue or in need of a boost. Keep your ears open for “Solid Gold” and “The Wave.”

Mr. Chaplin’s album is a bit monotonous in both tone and theme, but he does the chill sound of his songs well — even if they lack in sonic and harmonic diversity. Bonus tracks “Turning Back” and “Cheating Death” are standouts.

 

Great Good Fine OK

“III”

Duck L’Orange Records

Electronic pop is a dicey game, as it can sound both overproduced and, well, not exactly as if much talent is underneath. However, the many-emotional Great Good Fine OK unleashes some fun tracks on this album for Duck L’Orange. “Get Away” is a funky good time, and “Always” might be the best tune to groove to at the club without regard for the outcome in a long time, and “Everything to Me” recalls some of the more synth-y tunes of the New Wave era.

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