Sept. 8Gregg Allman, “Southern Blood”It is the dream of all artists to be able to narrate their own end. By the time Gregg Allman was able to get time at Muscles Shoals’ (Alabama) beloved FAME studio, his liver cancer had returned, and added a ticking clock to any and all writing. The album itself is a cover record, with one original studio cut. “My Only True Friend,” the one original song, is an elegy regarding the choices a touring musician must make, and that his love of the road did indeed overshadow his personal relationships. The other tracks all have something related to his musical history as well, culminating in Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam,” an invocation to his brother Duane, who passed away from a motorcycle crash in 1971. According to Rounder Records, during the recording, Allman became wrought with emotion, unable to finish the final verse, ending it on “When I stood myself behind, I never felt so strong / Still it seems he stopped singing in the middle of his song.” Gregg Allman will be remembered.
Mogwai, “Every Country’s Sun”Post-rock grandpas Mogwai have unleashed their ninth studio album (second for label Temporary Residence) and it is absolutely wonderful. After 2014’s “Rave Tapes,” I thought that they were going to continue to mellow out with layered electronics. In lieu of mellowing, they have crafted a stirring, emotional, and pure post-rock record with all the genre trappings of slow builds, reverb, and looped guitars. I think being signed to Temporary Residence has reinvigorated them, as it has quickly become the label for post-rock (besides Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Constellation Records, of course). Listeners unfamiliar with the genre’s languid pacing and repetition might not be swayed, but if you are looking for a soundtrack for writing or brooding, this will suit nicely.
Usnea, “Portals Into Futility”Metal has the best subgenre names. The latest from Usnea, “Portals Into Futility,” is a celebration of their genre, blackened funeral doom. Like an undertaker dragging a coffin up a long and winding path, Usnea trudges through the muck and mire, with riffs that you cannot do anything with besides bang your goddamn head. Their last record, “Random Cosmic Violence,” really stuck with me in a scene where pretty much every new band is doing the doom thing, and I expect “Portals into Futility” to do the same. If you ever liked a band like Blue Oyster Cult or Black Sabbath, and wondered what would happen if those guys got really pissed off, it would probably sound like Usnea.
Neil Young, “Hitchhiker”After sleeping soundly since 1976, some golden-era Neil Young artifacts have been unearthed and prepared to be ingested by your ears. Most of the tracks on this record have appeared on other albums, like “Pocahontas” and “Powderfinger” on “Rust Never Sleeps” and the title track showing up on “Le Noise.” But what makes these recordings special is that they were intimately tracked and mastered, with no bells and whistles, just Young dropping tracks one after another. During the recording session, they were laid down in a similar way, with Young stopping only for beer, weed, or coke, in his words. “Hitchhiker” is an astonishing insight into one of the most prolific songwriters of our era, and from one of his best writing periods. If you have been finding the new material wanting, definitely take the time to listen to “Hitchhiker” and remind yourself why Neil Young is so important.