Album Reviews: August 20, 2018

Miles Kane – Coup De Grace (Merseyside, England)

After a few cycles playing in The Last Shadow Puppets with Alex Turner, Miles Kane has decidedly switched up his solo game. Pulling in a darker and less overtly derivative sound, Kane produces one of his sharpest albums while keeping things fun. With the drums slamming on "Too Little Too Late," Kane plays into a grimy personality while bringing time-tested pop to the forefront. Marc Bolan is raised from the dead on "Cry On My Guitar" as Kane shows he can reinvent the wheel just enough. Kane even taps into Hives-era garage rock on "Cold Light Of The Day" with a snarly delivery sending things over the top. The bar-tones of "Coup De Grace" are matched by the electronic beats and ambiance with Miles showing his range as a writer. 

John Ian – Out Of Tune (Ottawa)

With his pieced-together sound, there's a rustic and lo-fi charm to the music of John Ian. Rather than feeling like downbeat band tunes, Ian crafts songs focused on emotion where each instrument feels organically part of the painting. "Windows At Night" eases you into this ideas as its slow lull of guitars slowly opens up into fully fleshed-out choruses. In the swinging rhythms of "The Light Outside" it would be easy to feel as if Ian has sunk into a familiar pattern but his sense of phrasing keeps it dynamically unpredictable. The tender sadness of "Back Then" sees Ian reflecting  on a much more derivative set of chords while he tells a surprisingly dark story out of his past. The colour to the sound of "Grey Skies In Disguise" feels so wonderfully hopeful that it's easy to get swept up in its contagious joy.

Jake Shears – Jake Shears (Mesa, Arizona)

Years with the Scissor Sisters have allowed Jake Shears to develop his voice while letting his freak flag fly in full force. For his solo departure from the group, Shears meets expectations and exceeds them in other places. In the midst of hokey grandiose sounds, "Introduction" sees Shears playing along ironically. He bring a fun Wham! energy to "Good Friends" as the beats kick up excitedly and Shears hits his stride as a performer. This takes a more satirical tone on "Big Bushy Mustache" where the hard rock overtones serve to hammer home its anti-macho message. "S.O.B." is the best mix of Shears' writing however, as he brings dance-fuelled funk and equally sharp and funny lyricism to the table.

Joe McDonald & The Walkin' Hawks – Underground Rattlesnake Party (Ottawa)

Through his lo-fi microphone, Joe McDonald roars out with a fury on "Square Business" while the effect can leave some of his quieter lyrics questionably unintelligible. As the beats really pick up steam on "Too Long Gone" McDonald rides the energy and finds his band all pushing their riffs as far as they can go. As a sassy instrumental break, "Flat Tire Twist" does bring more of loud take on certain elements of the band's mix, while letting their personalities shine a lot more subtly. The Walkin' Hawks take a psychedelic and trippy sound on "Comin' On Easy" mixing a CCR groove with bizarre effects to create a unique blend that really stands out for the album.

Foxing – Nearer My God (St. Louis, Missouri)

Expanding the sonic palette of rock is hard, but it shouldn't completely override writing. For their newest record, Foxing makes a stunning mix of sound but fall into predictable patterns with many songs on the record. With acoustic and synthetic clashing on "Grand Paradise" there's a glorious tension in their sound long before the vocals soar in to take it forward. They stick to catchy tones however on "Slapstick" with the band's full entry turning the song into a wave of sounds falling in and out beautifully. Foxing let pop shine brightest on "Nearer My God" with all their voices complementing the core tones of their already broad sounds. "Heartbeats" however grabs listeners by setting out their instrumental hand immediately and pulling pieces in and out to create dynamics.