Jan. 71. Dropkick Murphys, “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory”I felt it in my blood. As a born East Coaster and someone who spent a good chunk of my life wandering the woods of Franklin, Massachusetts, I heard the bagpipes on the wind and I suddenly felt drunk and dropped my “r’s.” The Murphys are back, and, as always, this is cause for celebration. Some call them cheesy, some call them rip-offs, but I have very fond memories of this band, and I love them with all my heart. The new album is the traditional mix of quiet anthems to heritage and bar family and rip-roaring stories of unity. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a highlight for me with its great vocal harmonies. This will certainly become an anthem for me and mine come March.
2. Gone is Gone, “Echolocation”One of the many Mastodon side projects, this one in particular looks pretty promising. Gone is Gone brings together Troy Sanders, bassist and vocalist for Mastodon, Troy Van Leeuwen from Queens of The Stone Age, and Tony Hajjar from At The Drive In. They dropped an EP in early 2016 that was surprisingly promising, as most “super groups” tend to be disappointing, and Jan. 7 sees the release of their full-length record “Echolocation”. Stylistically their sound pulls a lot from QOTSA, with heady desert rock riffs with high-pitched harmonics layered over them and Sanders’ trademark throaty warble at the head of the mix. If you’re the type to drive with the windows down in the middle of a blizzard, wearing aviators because you can, then this is the album for you.
3. Brian Eno, “Reflection”Reflection will be Eno’s 19th studio album since 1974, and his third for seminal electronic music label Warp. Ambient music is a very special kind of thing. At its outset, one would think it almost easy to put together ambient music, but to my songwriting friends out there: Have you ever tried to write a 20-minute song? It’s hard. And this dude has been at the forefront of experimental music for over 40 years! Last year’s “The Ship” was a solid ambient piece, and I expect “Reflection” to follow suit, an exercise in tonality, texture, and feeling, which is exactly what good ambient music is.
4. Kid Cudi, “Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin”Kid Cudi has recently become one of the more divisive figures in hip-hop. A lot of people, including myself, actively hated his last record “Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven” for being a sophomoric attempt at indie rock with aggressive garbage lyrics. From my first impression, Cudi learned his lesson after “SB2H,” and went back to what he’s good at: Spacey beats, humming, lyrics about being sad, and features that make sense, including a few standout verses from Andre 3000 and Pharrell. Cudi always brings me back to my freshman year of college, an apartment on Florida Road and rearranging furniture after eating a very special pizza. It’s a good thing.