I’ve just loved everything about this week’s rollout of Josh Ritter’s new album Sermon on the Rocks. Though the last record had some strong moments, I could never quite get behind the whole “well-adjusted breakup album”-concept. So it’s fair to say “Getting Ready to Get Down” blew through my speakers like a breath of fresh air. I love the Ronstadt-influenced country-meets-new-wave production. I love the hurried verses and tangled Biblical illusions. I love the story about a woman’s defiance of small-minded religion. Hell, I even loved the stupid title of both the song and album. Ritter’s recent NPR interview about the album is equally exciting. In it he mentions that he recorded in New Orleans, that Trina Shoemaker (QOTSA, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris) produces and Matt Barrick formerly of the Walkmen is on drums. Oh, and by the way, he’s apparently writing cowboy songs for Bob Weir! Josh Ritter sounds like a man personally and creatively refreshed and it’s got me feeling pretty sanguine about the prospects for the rest of Sermon on the Rocks.—JOHN M. TRYNESKI (9/10)
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How the Sweeplings came to be is unusual, but in keeping with contemporary culture. Singer-songwriter Whitney Dean was watching America’s Got Talent at home in Huntsville, Alabama, and was entranced by the vocal talent of finalist and Spokeane, Washington resident Cami Bradley. At his wife’s urging he flew out to meet Bradley in Spokane, the musicians clicked, and the end result is Rise and Fall, a combination of Americana grit and Southern soul, brought forth by Bradley’s dulcet voice.
If 2010’s glitzy All You Need Is Now was a time travellin’ Rio successor, Duran are now seemingly redialing their DeLoreans towards 1986’s Notorious. A ‘Get the funk out’ rumpshaker with Co-Pilot Nile “Goldfinger” Rodgers (back! Back! BACK!) again sprinkling a soupçon of Chic magnifique. Le Bon struts around hollering about “The Future!” with such fizzy abandon you suspect it was recorded the day Duran signed their new swanky ‘Daddy Warbucks - Champagne Breakfast - Enormodomes ‘Ere We Come’ deal with Warner Bros. Sure it’s all a bit daft, slightly “Duran dumbed down” for “The Kidz” but we’re promised forthcoming album Paper Gods will honour their “Dark, weird experimental side” so it’s worth sticking around. Le Bon’s got rid of his dodgy Captain Birdseye beard too which is a bonus.—MATT JAMES (6/10)
Having grown up in a North Dakota town of 50 people, Ana Egge‘s music is seemingly spare at times, which makes you wonder if that geographical vastness has influenced the similar sparseness of her music. If you’ve ever spent time in a tiny town on the Plains, though, you’ll know there’s a lot of heart underneath such seeming harshness and isolation, and you feel it in the title track for Egge’s latest album, a song that’s also very near and dear to her as well.
I’ve been to listening to New Order for 30 years now, and I can say with complete confidence that this is the first New Order single in their storied history that brings nothing, absolutely nothing to the table. The band is on complete autopilot, playing a second-rate mid tempo jam that you’d expect from a lower-rung Arts & Crafts band. Sure, it’s brisk, and Gillian’s synths sound pretty, but they’ve gone to an overused well and have finally yielded nothing. The bass melody is an insult to Peter Hook, and as for Barney, he’s not restless at all. He sounds bored to tears. As am I. For its level of sheer disappointment, this is easily one of the worst singles I’ve heard all year.—ADRIEN BEGRAND [1/10]