New at Southwest Sound, June 1

by Cooper Stapleton

June 1 Ghost, “Prequelle”Ghost has taken the stage by storm over the past few years by releasing multiple albums that have quickly risen to classic status within their hard rock genre, and “Prequelle” may be the record that breaks them out of their pseudo-underground status and gets them to the main mainstream. After releasing the live “Ceremony and Devotion” earlier this year, Ghost frontman Tobias Forge had a fairly angst-ridden year, between old band members of Ghost suing him, and a designer who claimed that he created the frontman’s character, the ghastly pope figure Papa Emeritus. But, it seems that these trials only invigorated the current band, which has stepped away from the heavier, Blue Oyster Cult/Blue Cheer-inspired sound of their earlier records, and has really come into their own as songwriters of catchy, ’80s-inspired hard rock. Guitar solos, organ accents, child choirs, bridges clearly intended for getting the audience clapping, and other staples of the genre made their way onto the record. Older fans of the band – and their somewhat heavier past – may be turned off by some of the ballads and softer sections of the record, but it is hard to argue against just how goddamn catchy some of these songs get. Seriously. The chorus in “Dance Macabre” might be the catchiest thing to come out of the rock world in the last decade or so. It is made for clapping and jumping up and down.

Neko Case, “Hell On”Neko Case has been a favorite of the shop for a while, and though she has released many things with the likes of The New Pornographers, KD Lang, Laura Veirs, and others, her solo output has remained the absolute highlight of her discography. Her soft voice doesn’t want for power. It simmers and buzzes in your ear without becoming bombastic or overwhelming. Instrumentally, the record is always interesting, full of weird echo-y guitars in the empty space, while swirling in a bedraggled waltz. Neko has clearly moved away from her alternative country roots, although there are some slight elements of that sound that pop up on the record. Now, though, the music calls to mind the smoky rooms that Tom Waits and Nick Cave occupy, rather than the dancehalls that Jason Isbell or the Old 97’s are at home in. There are a fair amount of surprises on this record, and the most notable for me is Mark Lanegan popping up for a song-long duet with Neko on “Curse of the I-5 Corridor,” an absolutely mesmerizing seven-minute track that closes off the first half of the record. Overall, I would say that the five years between solo records has only given Neko a sharper edge on her craft, and after seven solo albums, she is continuing to write the best music of her career.

Other new releases include Oneohtrix Point Never, Roger Daltrey, Flaming Lips, Ben Howard, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Father John Misty, Kataklysm and more.

Cooper Stapleton

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