AudioHammock Podcast #76 - Album Reviews for August and Early September

AudioHammock releases podcasts to keep you up to date on the latest music, albums, and festivals concerning music you like. We also feature a ton of new music, primarily from the Pacific Northwest. Android users can can subscribe via Stitcher, BeyondPod, or any other RSS feed podcast device. You can also find us on iTunes.Take AudioHammock on the go!

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August and early September were caked with new albums from high profile artists and bands. In AudioHammock Podcast #76, Dylan, Anthony, and Russ wade through the music to talk about some of the releases they found enjoyable, were disappointed with, and surprised by. A few of the albums featured are written about below. Check out the podcast for the rest!


The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

Genre: Rock
Released: August 25th, 2017 on Atlantic

A Deeper Understanding takes everything from 2014's Lost in the Dream and expands on it in every shape and form. The songs on unrequited love and missed and lost connections are in abundance and with it come the drum machines and heartland reverb drenched guitars. The nods to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Dire Straits are clearly noticed yet Adam Granduciel puts enough modern touch on the album to keep it compelling all the way through.

With the band's move to Atlantic from Secretly Canadian a few fans wondered if lead singer and band frontman Adam Granduciel would have to compromise his core sound or push for a more mainstream product. Clearly this was not the case as the album's first single "Thinking of A Place" was released back in April with a blistering 11:10 song length. The journey builds slow with Adam's narration reflecting on a chance meeting with someone on a beautiful river in the Dakotas before branching off into a beautiful instrumental led journey of valleys and plateus. Guitar's dance around you as if floating down a river of emotion and harmonica ebbs and flows in a way that will undoubtedly remind you of Neil Young. With only one song under 4 minutes (the piano ballad "Knocked Down"), the music in A Deeper Understanding weaves in and out of lush arrangements with different instruments taking turns at the forefront depending on the song. "Nothing to Find" features a stellar harmonica solo that carries the whole tune in a jovial balance while the xylophone breakdown and racing piano in the album's apex "In Chains" will have you looking forward or back in a moment of truth.

For fans of the War on Drugs A Deeper Understanding will undoubtedly solidify the band's already strong position as a favorite. The dejection and search for self-identity felt in the band's music is still ever present and whether that's something you as a music fan will view as melodramatic or anthemic will determine how you feel about the album as a whole; for us, it's defintely the latter.

For more on The War on Drugs check out the podcast or our review on Lost in The Dream.

AudioHammock Score (Russ): 9.5

Queens of the Stone Age - Villains

Genre: Hard Rock
Released: August 25th, 2017 on Matador Records

A tame offering from a band that more and more seems to be shifting into a Josh Homme collective, Villains is a steady collection of tracks that feel like cards being held too close to the chest. Gone are the crunching riffs, psychedelic elements, and bolstering unkept drumbeats, replaced with a more pedestrian approach that seems entirely too influenced by Iggy Pop and producer Mark Ronson. Musically what was once a Camaro charging through the desert now seems to be a Toyota Camry. The band is getting better gas mileage but it's not nearly as exciting.

AudioHammock Score: 6.5

Oh Sees - Orc

Genre: Psychedelic rock, Garage
Released: August 25th, 2017 on CastleFace Records

It wouldn't be a year of rock music without Jonathan Dwyer releasing at least one new album. Once again changing the band name (this time omitting "Thee") fans are left scratching their heads but one thing that isn't as debatable is how this band seems to be firing on all the right cylinders. Taking the best psychedelic elements from 2015's Mutilator Defeated at Last and mixing it with more of the digital tones and tempest that was last years An Odd Entrance, Orc is a vibrant mix of guitar, drums, and well, Orcs and Goblins. The mayhem that those aforementioned creatures can inflict in most fantasy worlds is felt on the album as guitars assault you from all angles resulting in a sonic coma(it's definitely more pleasant than that reads). The highlight of Orc is the album's closer "Raw Optics" which includes a double drum solo. Drum solos themselves seem to be a lost art in the music landscape today so the inclusion of a double drum solo is a bold move and it pays off with immense dividends.

AudioHammock Score: 8.8

Ghostpoet - Dark Days + Canapes

Genre: Downtempo, Trip hop, Spoken word
Released: August 18th, 2017 on Play It Again Sam

A favorite from across the pond. Obaro Ejimiwe's music is often a societal critique and critical commentary on European issues, social constructs, and anxiety in spawrling urban environments. Using a sound on this most recent release that is more inline with the Bristol scene (Massive Attack, Portishead), Ejimiwe's tracks are no less thought inducing than 2015's excellent Shedding Skin yet seem extremely relevant in an increasingly antagonistic world. Highlights include "Immigrant Boogie" which sheds light on the increasing immigrant crisis in Europe, "Karoshi" which translated in Japanese means "overworked death" which captures the western work culture in a pretty fair assesment, and "Woe is Mee" which features Massive Attack's own Evan Marshall playing the devil over the shoulder character who influences the song's protaganist to take risks regardless of cost.

AudioHammock Score: 8.4

The National - Sleep Well Beast

Genre: Indie rock
Released: September 8th, 2017 on 4AD

Expanding their sound more than past releases High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me combined, Matt Berringer and the Dessner and Devendorf brothers have truly crafted a gem that might see the band at the pinnacle of their careers. Berringer, known for his baritone vocals, sings as a man who doesn't like to but needs to deliver a message to the listener in the most utmost sincerity and intimacy of circumstances. While most fans were expecting bold polical statements against the current administration ("Turtleneck" aside), Sleep Well Beast seems to reflect on issues of death, marriage, and hiberation. The abstract climax seems to be the title track at the end where Berringer looks at the younger generation as the "sleeping beasts", watch out when they wake up and you suffer their wrath for we're the ones that got us in these predicaments in the first place. This paints a stunning visual that the change required to make the world a better place is on others (due to our partisan inability to get along with one another) and while it isn't the most upbeat narrative it's one that seems poignant and utterly realistic.

The songs on Sleep Well Beast are vibrant and offer a stark contrast to the lyrical subject matter but there's something unique to it that makes the entire album a canvas of creeping drama that never fractures nor breaks but leaves you perplexed enough to return to the album time and time again.

AudioHammock Score: 9.4

Other bands discussed on this podcast episode include: Iron and Wine, Brand New, Grizzly Bear, and LCD Soundsystem.


Russ Bashaw

Founder, Owner

Russ Bashaw founded AudioHammock in the summer of 2013 and continues to be an active contributor and editor. In addition to writing the occasional review Russ is also one of the hosts of the AudioHammock Podcast. Follow Russ on Instagram @russba1 or email him at russ@audiohammock.com.

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