New Music Tuesday: Justin Timberlake • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club • Palma Violets • Phosphorescent • Low

Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.

Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Pusher Love Girl”
“Suit & Tie”
“Strawberry Bubblegum”

Album Highlights: Justin Timberlake, boy band heartthrob gone full-blown-pop-megastar-actor-sex-symbol, has released one of the most interesting R&B pop albums in years. The 20/20 Experience is an album of two halves. First there’s the radio-edit half, mostly catchy pop tunes that are, for the most part, pretty standard. Then there’s the musical outro half. The dancey half, booty-shakin half. Most tracks on 20/20 are over 7 minutes, and contain an extended dance outro. Songs like “Pusher Love Girl,” “Don’t Hold the Wall” and “Strawberry Bubblegum,” to name a few, have extended dance time. This second half concept is what makes the album so interesting, and it opens the door to unlimited musical possibilities. From the dirty south to jazz clubs, this album touches upon many genres and styles. With The 20/20 Experience, Timberlake can have his cake and eat it, too.

I love it and I hate at the same time. It’s so poppy and produced, yet it hooks you with the musical interludes. There really is something for everyone on this record.

Album Lowlight: This album draws from so much of what has been done in the past. The beat in “Suit & Tie” sounds like an updated version of the beat from Outkast’s “Rosa Parks.” But it works, that’s why it’s so popular.

Takeaway: JT has created an album that contains songs with two distinct halves. The first half, the radio-friendly half, will be heard on AM/FM dials from here to Bombay. The second half, the half that makes me want to buy $10 watered down cocktails and grind on the dance floor until sunrise, will be responsible for unplanned pregnancies for years to come. Don’t expect to have a quiet evening with Pintrest and your hubbie while sipping Gewurztraminer in your snuggie with 20/20. Expect to channel your inner R. Kelly and bump n’ grind to this album. It is this yin-yang dynamic that makes this album worth a listen.

And just when you’ve had enough Justin, Timberlake announced on Monday that the second half to The 20/20 Experience is on the way.

~Kevin Raos

Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubSpecter at the Feast

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Fire Walker”
“Hate the Taste”
“Funny Games”

Album Highlights: This seventh full-length release from the leather clad rockers signifies their return after years off the radar, and they have turned a painful time (death of crew member) into one of their best albums to date. A split album of heavy and mellow rock is evident, but doesn’t detract much as the album acts as tribute to a fallen brethren. Fuzzed out guitar and bass has made it’s way back to the forefront as demonstrated on soul-tinged track, “Hate the Taste.” The brooding tension on “Sell It” is some of the heaviest music out of these guys, and is one track you can’t resist head-banging to.

Album Lowlight: Nothing ground-breaking from this rock band. Though they weren’t active 20 years ago, the album does have a sound that might have been more palpable in the 1990s, alongside bands like Alice in Chains and Tool.

Takeaway: Specter at the Feast features the band’s return to straight ahead garage rock after flourishes in alt-country and outlying styles. Expect a big year from them as this record will win over new fans while fulfilling the desires of almost all longtime fans with a return to the B.R.M.C. sound that launched their career. A must listen for fans of harder-edged music, and a repeater for fans of leather jackets and true rock and roll.

~Kevin Quandt

Palma Violets180

2.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Step Up for the Cool Cats”
“Rattlesnake Highway”
“I Found Love”

Album Highlights: Reminiscent of a western themed battle hymn, the band channels punk rock roots in the format and lyrical structure of “Chicken Dippers”. Equal parts a moody ballad and rockabilly revamp, “Chicken Dippers” showcases both the band’s musical talent and songwriting ingenuity. A creative risk uncommon on most debut albums, Palma Violets pulled this track off with the bravado of seasoned professionals.

Album Lowlight: Sounding more like the band professionally edited this during a studio warm up, the lyrics to “Last of the Summer Wine” are lackluster and the song’s composition is all over the place. This track’s delayed pick up leaves you in anticipation for a climax which is never fully reached, bottoming out awkwardly into a conclusion that even the band talked through while recording. Guess they were that bored.

Takeaway: A stomp box and surf guitar riff lead you into the lo-fi “Best of Friends” that instantly hooks you from the moment Sam Fryer shrieks out the opening lyrics. An homage to the clangy Brit rock singalongs of the late 60’s, Palma Violets produce a rousing garage rock anthem bound to be a crowd favorite during live performances. This track is not only the perfect introduction to the bands overall sound, but also is the strongest representation of their group dynamic on the album.

~Molly Kish


4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Song for Zula”
“The Quotidian Beasts”
“A Charm / A Blade”

Album Highlights: If all “country music” sounded this good, I might be able to move away from the city. The opening “Invocation” and closing “Exit” songs frame Muchacho with such sonically delightful harmonization that the bookend helps all tracks within it shine. “Song for Zula,” the second track on the record, is surely in the running for best song of the year going forward. Matthew Houck’s spiritual voice is matched by a layering and swelling of strings. The track is striking as a timeless song at first listen, and it succeeds while hardly rooting itself in any of today’s trends. “Song for Zula” holds so much emotion it’s cinematic – the song could carry a boring montage to lofty heights and probably will. The third track “Ride On / Right On” is based around a crunchy beat and distorted guitar, creating a contrasting instrumental base for Houck’s vocals. Either way, whether featuring his voice over a symphonic, hopeful chorus or a steady distorted head-bobber, it all works magnificently.

Album Lowlight: The standard country arrangements in “Terror in the Canyons” and “Muchacho’s Tune” cause the tracks to end up hidden within the scope of the record, yet these cuts provide just enough pause to help you realize how easy this record is to absorb, and how addictive it is.

Takeaway: It’s all win for the most diverse-sounding and best Phosphorescent album yet. Muchacho is a soaring LP, and one of the best so far this year. The latter third of the record, from “A New Anhedonia” through the end, might be the strongest section. It’s power lies within “The Quotidian Beasts,” an epic track in the vein of Crazy Horse and The Allman Brothers that might serve as a rambling set-closer live. Instantly catchy yet nuanced, Muchacho achieves an elevated sound quality and long-lasting resonance through varied arrangements that serve as a continuous bed for Houck’s desperate, searching voice.

~Mike Frash

LowThe Invisible Way

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Plastic Cup”
“Holy Ghost”
“Just Make It Stop”

Album Highlights: The subtle guitar and piano work fits perfectly with the angelic harmonies of husband and wife duo of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. The simpleness of this album is what makes the harmonies truly stand out and makes this album special.

Album Lowlight: The pace of the album is really slow, so if you’re looking for a jump start to your day this album is not for you.

Takeaway: Producer Jeff Tweedy from Wilco seemed to stay out of the way in his production duties and let the trio truly shine on their own. The harmonies and lyrics are what stand out on this album, especially the album opener “Plastic Cup,” where Sparhawk explains how our trash will be looked upon as a kings treasure in the future.

~Pete Mauch

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