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New Music Tuesday: Queens of the Stone Age • Disclosure • Portugal. The Man • Rogue Wave

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

Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“If I Had A Tail”
“My God Is The Sun”
“I Sat By The Ocean”

Album Highlights: Queens of the Stone Age have come back from a seven-year hiatus since their last album Era Vulgaris, and the group has crafted another solid record. Less commercial sounding than Lullabies to Paralyze but more approachable (while including more ‘single-worthy’ tracks) than Era Vulgaris, …Like Clockwork brings QOTSA’s melodic breakdowns and tempo changes in with Josh Homme’s distinct rock falsetto and guitar to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable album. Stand out tracks such as “I Sat By The Ocean” and “If I Had A Tail” rely heavily on Homme’s signature riffs and guitar work reestablish the Queens’ trademark sound of perfectly executed breakdowns, tempo changes, and psychedelic guitar work pushed forward by crisp drums and harmonies. The lead single “My God Is The Sun” has the Queens, and their one constant Homme, written all over it from haunting, down-a-tunnel background vocals to wailing staccato guitar over the choruses. The album delivers for hard-core fans of QOTSA.

Album Lowlight: No one track seemed sticks out as a ‘lowlight’, and while it’s a perfect Queens Album for fans of the group, it hasn’t gotten much better with subsequent listens, nor has it created unabashed enthusiasm as I hoped after such a long hiatus. Most of the songs, while technically perfect and fun to listen to, seem like rehashed versions of songs they put out in the past. A handful of tracks seem to take new directions or try new things, but overall the sound doesn’t differ enough from previous albums to make this a truly great album. It could be due to the never-ending flux the band is in with members, leaving them unable to grow and develop a sound that grows along with them. The album is still a fun listen, but will doubtfully go down in history as one of their best, especially compared to such classics as R and Songs for the Deaf.

Takeaway: Overall, the album is good, at times excellent, for a QOTSA album. As an whole album though, it falls a bit short. Die-hard fans won’t be disappointed, as it can be easily played over and over without getting tired of it, but it doesn’t flex much new muscle or show a lot of passion. The psychedelic, stoner rock flavor is still there, but it tastes slightly stale this time around, as it feels that much of it has already been done on previous albums, save for a handful of songs. If you’re a fan, grab it as you’ll enjoy it, but I can’t see …Like Clockwork wooing many new fans.

~Sean Little


DisclosureSettle

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“F for You”
“January” (feat. Jamie Wood)
“Confess to Me” (feat. Jesse Ware)

Album Highlights: It’s about time for one of the freshest, most sought after acts in the electronic genre to release their debut album, and boy it doesn’t disappoint in the least. Disclosure’s resurrection of late 90s UK garage coupled with two-step, contemporary bass and UK funk has become a highly praised formula that combines new and old styles. Sure, the careers of Artful Dodger and Todd Edwards are still going, so it doesn’t seem like a massive leap since the popularity of UK garage was within most of our lifetimes. Guy and Howard Lawrence, the brotherly duo behind Disclosure are very young, making their understanding of these style even more impressive. They truly know their UK dance music history, and it’s with this knowledge that they have built a style that is more palpable to the ever-growing throngs of dance music aficionados. The Lawrence brothers have taken styles that were largely ignored by the rest of the world and tossed in enough House influence to be suitable for the dance floors of Vegas as well as the basements of South London.

Songs like “Latch” are hard to ignore with it’s swirling bass and sultry vocals provided by Sam Smith. Settle demonstrates a preternatural knack for clean production, ready for remixing and repeated play on the dance floor.

Album Lowlight: Though some of the stronger tracks Disclosure has produced, the inclusion of a couple of previously released songs (mostly on the deluxe edition) is just slightly disappointing. On the flip side, the album logs in at over an hour so there’s plenty of tunes, so no big whoop.

Generally speaking, when one looks at an EDM track list and sees that more than half of the release features special guests, that can be a big red flag, but not in the case of Settle. The impressive selection of both male and female vocalists is superb and without banner names to American market, with the exception being Jessie Ware. Some argue that this tactic is a blatant run for the charts, which is likely in the UK, bit it remains to be seen elsewhere.

Takeaway: It’s clear to see that the state of EDM is a constantly shifting one, keeping loyal followers on their feet and pulling in new recruits through new sounds all the time. Though Settle is a deadly serious dance effort it is also a pop album with appeal beyond festival dance tents. Comparisons to Basement Jaxx have been rampant, and yes, they had a few dance songs that slid slightly into the pop-realm, but let’s be honest, Jaxx were a little too over-the-top in their production to truly be embraced by the masses. Disclosure may close some gaps that still exist between EDM and mainstream culture, a phenomena that the US is inching closer to, for better or for worse.

As the word continues to spread about the Lawrence brothers, we can only look forward to their banner summer sets across the globe, exemplifying the universal appeal of exceptionally produced dance music.

~Kevin Quandt


Portugal. The ManEvil Friends

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Modern Jesus”
“Sea of Air”
“Waves”

Album Highlights: Portugal. The Man continues its steady climb up the rock ‘n’ roll ladder with their seventh full-length album since 2006, Evil Friends. Maybe Portugal. The Machine would be a more appropriate band name. This time around, they have enlisted famed producer Danger Mouse (producer for The Black Keys, Norah Jones, Gorillaz and a member of Gnarles Barkely as well as Broken Bells) to bring this record to fruition.

Evil Friends has all the of signature trademarks of Portugal. The Man’s sound — catchy falsetto-laden hooks, head-banging psychedelic rock and deep introspective lyrics, yet the flow to this album is much better than its two previous studio efforts. This LP holds up much better when listened to all the way through, rather than cherry picking songs. A PTM album has not had this kind of flow since The Satanic Satanist (its best album, in my humble opinion).

Album Lowlight: This album has rekindled my love for Portugal. The Man after they lost it with American Ghetto. In the Mountain in the Cloud regained some of that love, but Evil Friends brings it back to Satanic Satanist levels.

Can we go back in time and see what Danger Mouse can do with their previous seven studio albums?

Takeaway: This could be the record that people look back to reference when Portugal. The Man “got huge”. The band is fairly well-known to anyone that has moderately followed indie music in the last five years. If you went to a few major music festival in the last four years, there’s a good chance it was on the bill.

This LP is highly accessible and listenable all the way through. Long time PTM fans will get their fix without screaming “sellouts”, while at the same time, they should gaining slews of new fans. Is there a debate as to which Portugal. The Man record is their best? If there is, this album is now in the discussion.

~Kevin Raos


Rogue WaveNightingale Floors

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Everyone Wants to Be You”
“S(a)tan”
“Siren’s Song”

Album Highlights: Oakland’s Rogue Wave has returned with their 5th LP, Nightingale Floors, and it thrives best when it hones in on meditative repetition. Opening track “No Magnatone” utilizes an Eastern drone sound that hints at transcendental aspirations, then quickly repeating guitar melodies layer on until Zach Rogue’s modulated vocals pleasantly blend. This track and the breathtaking closing song “Everyone Wants to Be You” utilize Zach’s voice as an instrument, as opposed to a leading force behind the songwriting, and the psychedelic wandering in these two tracks leave the greatest impact on the listener. These songs represent what

Themes of death and acceptance of passing on dominate, and “Figured It Out” captures the zeitgeist of the album’s mantra better than any other track. The inspired writing and delivery of the repeating lyrics is utterly transfixing: “At the moment i pass away, I know I’m gonna be so proud.” “Without Pain” also overtly waxes poetic on letting go at the end of life. Two other tracks, “Siren’s Song” and “S(a)tan” are excellent and well worth a couple spins.

Album Lowlight: The first singe “College” is hyper-catchy, but doesn’t necessarily fit in with the record. The happy tone and prep-school upbeat-ness to it is too strikingly different than the rest of the record, even if they meant the song to be interpreted with irony. Although this is unlikely; Rogue Wave have a track history of sincerity and earnestness. The refrain is repetitious to the point of annoyance, while instrumentally the song is pleasant. “College” is likable at first but falls flat after multiple listens within the scope of the album as a whole – it smells like the song’s dominance in the album sequencing and the choice of making it the lead single involved the presence of suits from the record company. Also, the track “Without the Pain” is rather pedestrian despite the reoccurring theme of accepting death.

Takeaway: The meditative, minimalist tracks work best in Nightingale Floors, but at the same time “Siren’s Song” flashes beastly grandeur and “S(a)tan” finds it’s appealing center in reverberating electric guitar picking that is reminiscent of DIIV. Some range works very well with this record, but the attempt at pop-radio play with “College” puts a dent in it’s excellence. But overall, this record is meditative self-examination at it’s best.

~Mike Frash


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