April 27Sleep, “The Sciences”After 19 years, the masters of stoner doom have graced us with a surprise new release, courtesy of Jack White’s Third Man Records. I knew this album was going to be great as soon as I got it out of the plastic and read the credits section, in which bassist and singer Al Cisneros was credited with playing the water pipe. The record opens with an overwhelming whirl of fuzz, which is punctuated with the aforementioned, and accredited, bong rip, before sliding into “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” which is about as subtle as you would imagine. The riffs are massive and it is easy to fall into their rhythm, though those seeking a whole lot of variation will probably get bored fairly quickly. Sleep are defined by their trance-inducing heaviness, and in that, they do not disappoint.
Willie Nelson, “Last Man Standing”Wearing its themes on its sleeve, Willie Nelson’s latest album, “Last Man Standing,” continues Nelson’s ongoing nod to loneliness without the instrumentation getting too plodding or dreary. Almost in spite of itself, a lot of the music on “Last Man Standing” is super upbeat, while the lyrics revel the heavy themes. On the title track, Nelson notes that he is conflicted about being the last man standing after friends like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price have moved on from this plane. He knows he isn’t long for the world, but he wants to enjoy his time while he can. Though not exactly new territory for the Texan, it is delivered with the muted respect and self-deprecating humor that has always been Nelson’s trademark. He has been able to deliver great records consistently throughout his career, and like last year’s album, “God’s Problem Child,” this new album is another example of an old artist maintaining his peak.
God Is An Astronaut, “Epitaph”I am a fan of moody music – the kind with quiet dirges and laments that builds up to the emotional apexes, which act as a bursting tidal wave released through the combination of piano chords and pads. God Is An Astronaut have been revelling in the drearier side of post-rock for over 15 years now, and each record finds the time and space to bring in new emotional moments. GIAA’s work is always able to perfectly capture the mood they’re looking for, with layering guitars, Tangerine Dream-style keys, subdued drumming deep in the mix, and haunting whispered vocals. The components build to a sound not similar to genre contemporaries Mogwai or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but without the guitar solos like Mogwai, or comfortable loops like Godspeed. Amongst GIAA’s discography, “Epitaph” sits on the quieter and slower side, but that’s not to say it’s boring. “Epitaph” is unafraid of silence or space, which is just a part of what gives it power.
Other new releases from this and last week include Janelle Monae, Keith Urban, Godsmack, A Perfect Circle, Neil Young, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sting and Shaggy, Pennywise, Peter Rowan, and more.