Klinger: Sometimes sitting down to talk about an album is a daunting task. Sometimes that’s because an album just isn’t sparking a conversation in your head. But sometimes it’s because you quite simply have no idea where to begin talking. That’s the case for me with this week’s album, XTC’s 1986 masterpiece Skylarking. Arising from a series of difficult sessions with Todd Rundgren (“As if there were any other kind of sessions with Todd,” say the New York Dolls), Skylarking polishes up the group’s sometimes thorny pop and creates a shimmering, technicolor gem that I’m pretty sure every critic everywhere has called “pastoral”—and for good reason. Not only does it sound wholly organic with its lush strings and instrumentation, but it also conveys an almost spiritual quality in its underlying wisdom, “Dear God” notwithstanding. Skylarking is so nearly perfect to my way of thinking that it’s hard to actually pull it apart and turn it into words.
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I have never seen a concert go from utter shit to spectacular like Anathema’s performance at the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands, on Sunday, 12 April.
It was such a strange way to cap off the 20th edition of the renowned music fest, but going in the potential was there for something special to happen. With their recent albums equal parts progressive rock and Coldplay-style stadium rock, Anathema was a bit of a left-field choice as the headliner for Sunday’s “Afterburner” lineup, but considering the band’s roots as a doom metal band in the early-‘90s, it was an idea that could work, especially when you took into consideration what the UK band had in store. It was Roadburn’s suggestion that Anathema explore their early output in a special set, and that inspired brothers Vince and Danny Cavanagh to organize a special set that would start with Anathema circa 2015 and gradually work its way back towards the band’s extreme metal beginnings. Better yet, the brothers had reconnected with former vocalist Darren White and former bassist/songwriter Duncan Patterson, and both would be joining the band onstage, with White singing on the last handful of songs from their pre-1996 era.
Mic Harrison and the High Score started as the merging of a backing band for Harrison’s solo work, but has become a band in itself over the years. After John Paul Keith moved on from the regionally beloved band the V-Roys to pursue his solo career, Harrison stepped in and joined the band for their run of albums on Steve Earle’s former label and cemented themselves in Southeastern roots rock clubs. (Former V-Roys member Scott Miller is also an alumnus of Country Fried Rock.)
Mendelsohn: Like most people, I tend to romanticize the music of my youth a little. There are groups from the 1980s that loom large in the back of psyche because they managed to enter my brain and then stick there for a couple of decades before surfacing like some unwelcome repressed memory. I never really got to live through the cultural impact of some of these groups. I was far too young to understand the zeitgeist. My music consumption as a kid was pretty much limited to whatever my parents were listening to at the time, which wasn’t all bad, but they weren’t always following the trends. Inevitably, though, some of the current music seeped in and stuck around.
The impossible has happened: Cannibal Ox have released a second album.
Some are not too surprised by this development, given that the duo consisting of Vast Aire and Vordul Mega dropped a short EP in 2013 after over a decade of inactivity. At the start of that decade, 2001 specifically, a little album called The Cold Vein was released, produced by Company Flow’s El-P and the flagship full-length for his new record label Definitive Jux. With Vordul and Vast’s poetic, dense lyrics given a dark, brooding atmosphere in the form of El-P’s beats, the album quickly became a stone-cold classic, immediately putting the label on the map, setting the guys up for success, and redefining the very possibilities of what indie rap could do at a time when more indie-centric press was finally coming into prominence.
So what the hell happened?