Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Filter - The Sun Comes Out Tonight [album review]

Released in June

Those that dismiss Filter as a two-hit wonder from the 90s clearly haven't done their homework. Six studio albums in now, the band that's never garnered much respect from music critics continues to produce high quality work that, unfortunately, has also consistently fallen under the radar of most rock fans since the group's more commercially viable days disappeared in the rearview mirror. Granted, there's a distinct familiarity to many of the songs on their latest LP, The Sun Comes Out Tonight; in particular, the formula for those two hits is reapplied on "What Do You Say" (a bass-heavy crusher that unabashedly echoes "Hey Man, Nice Shot"), and the poppy "Surprise" and "First You Break It" (direct descendants of "Take A Picture"). These retreads won't earn Filter any points for groundbreaking artistry, but the end results certainly don't disappoint, either. Lead singer/guitarist/frontman Richard Patrick's pissed off disposition remains intact on other standout aggressive tracks like "We Hate It When You Get What You Want", "This Finger's For You", "Self Inflicted", and "Take That Knife Out Of My Back", while stronger melodies dominate the excellent and still-heavy "Watch The Sun Come Out Tonight" and "It's Got To Be Right Now". Patrick's more sensitive side, occasionally evident on Filter's poppier numbers, is really laid out on the stark piano ballad "It's My Time", a haunting piece of work that provides a welcome new wrinkle to Filter's largely recycled sound.

Rating: B+

Friday, August 16, 2013

Natalie Maines - Mother [album review]

Released in May

The Dixie Chicks have been mostly absent from the musical landscape since the supporting tour for their hugely successful Taking The Long Way album ended in 2006. Aside from a few one-off soundtrack recordings and opening for The Eagles on their 2010 summer tour, the trio of Natalie Maines, and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison have focussed on family life and other musical endeavours (a new Dixie Chicks album is planned, though, and the group played a handful of dates at some Canadian festivals last month). Maguire and Robison's Court Yard Hounds side project recently released their second album and Maines' first solo album, Mother, was released in May. 

Overall, Mother is a solid mix of a few Maines originals (a couple of which are written with co-producer Ben Harper, who also plays on the album with his backing band) and mostly covers. The title track is a cover of the Pink Floyd classic that Maines originally contributed to the soundtrack for the West Of Memphis documentary, and it turns out to be one of the few songs on the album that fails to ever really spark, although it is interesting hearing a female vocal delivery of Roger Waters' abrasive lyrics. "Free Life" is the title track from an obscure solo album by Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson and despite some impressive vocal work from Maines, leans more towards the middle-of-the-road bland sound of that band than the outstanding material that Wilson has written or co-written for other artists, like the Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice" and "Easy Silence", Adele's "Someone Like You", and Taylor Swift's "Treacherous". More memorable are Maines' interpretations of Jeff Buckley's soulful "Lover, You Should've Come Over", Patty Griffin's romping "Silver Bell", The Jayhawks' "I'd Run Away", and the soothing "Without You", written by Eddie Vedder. "Come Crying To Me" points to the strength of the Taking The Long Way album, as the excellent Sheryl Crow-evoking track was deemed not worthy of inclusion on the LP. Rounding out Mother are the measured and moody "Vein In Vain" and "Trained", a track that finds Maines adopting a funky Prince-like groove that feels a little out of her wheelhouse. 

Mother mostly stays away from The Dixie Chicks pop country sound, adhering to more of a roots rock feel that Maines comfortably embraces. Considering this different musical direction, the fact that Maines seems to be done with anything related to Nashville, and the traditional country leanings of Maguire and Robison's Court Yard Hounds outfit, what the next Dixie Chicks album will sound like is anyone's guess.

Rating: B