Jack White and Beach House have also been lapped up in recent weeks. Whatsthatabout? Let’s find out.
Jack White, “Blunderbuss:” Jack White is slightly mad. And that’s how I like him. Not when he’s semi-serious for The Dead Weather, or 007 soundtracks. Thankfully he regresses in his zany debut “Blunderbuss”. A blunderbuss is a gun. Did you know that? I did not. I thought it was a bus driver who had taken a wrong turn. Filled with hard riffs, loopy lyrics, corrupted organs, no Meg, and interestingly a release of tremendous energy and “real emotions”. His recent divorce has slightly crept into his music and many have labeled this as Jack’s “Blood on the Tracks”. All the famous eccentricities come out in songs like “Freedom at 21”, the “Trash Tongue Talker” while “Sixteen Saltines” and the Little Willie John cover “I’m Shakin’” are wonderfully gritty: “I’m noivouss” says Jack, just like that. The plunk of the pianee (there’s a difference from piano) makes a welcome intrusion with the brilliantly titled “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and “Weep themselves to Sleep”, which drowns out Jack’s usually prominent guitar. More than anything Blunderbuss demonstrates a more grounded album, closer to reality than all of my favourite White Stripes albums put together (which is all of them). There are flashes of Elephant and the sheer craziness of Icky Thump, but White turns a lot of his attention to some woman, who seems to be causing him a lot of anguish (his ex, Karen Elson sings on a couple of the songs – ouchy), like “Love Interruption” featuring the lyrics “I want love to grab my fingers gently/ slam them in a doorway/ put my face into the ground”. This new-found source of material certainly cements Jack the innovator, confirms Jack the genius, and offers us Jack the human being. Maybe he should get divorced more often?
Beach House, “Bloom”. Being a long time admirer of Beach House and their incredibly relaxing and beautiful ambient dream pop, means I don’t give two hoots if they stay in their comfort snug zone, with extra padding, bubble wrap and pillows. In fact, I would definitely join them. Sounds amazing. Victoria Legrand has such a reassuring voice that just hearing it makes it hard for me to critically examine the Baltimore duos’ latest offering. And yes, it isn’t that much of a leap from the exceptional “Teen Dream”, filled with soft keyboard, dreamy synth, and neat little guitar lines from Alex Scally. But it doesn’t make the album any less brilliant. Opener “Myth” eases you into comfort, with those delightful loops swirling around Legrand’s tender lullaby-like voice. This is the mere scratching of the surface. A closer inspection reveals a vast plain of emotions: “You can’t keep hanging on, to all that’s dead and gone”. “Troublemaker” discloses a fading relationship: “In the night we stick together/the walls are shaking in their skin/ Does it become you troublemaker/Watch them unravel you/Pulling everything apart” while one of the certain highlights “Wild” takes your breath aware, with surprisingly brazen guitar from Scally and heartfelt lyrics from Legrand: “Our father won’t come home/because he’s seeing double”. Other highlights like the Enya epic “Lazuli” (Note, I don’t like Enya much) and the beautiful “New Year” cement the album as cozy for all occasions, floating out to sea, burying a pet, watching the rain, waking up, going to sleep, having a nip of bourbon at 4 in the afternoon. You could spend an eternity listening to it, and it might feel like time has suspended itself on your behalf. As closer “Irene” suggests, Beach House selflessly create a “strange paradise” for us all.
Redemption? I’ll step up, I promise. Based on these five, i think there will be a few more delights this year.