Sunday, May 13, 2012

Good new music: Dr. John, Storm Corrosion, Jack White

It's true that democratization of the music industry via the Internet and cheap and easy recording equipment may not have been the best thing for our culture as a whole, but it's been great for subculture. And at least you have more choice, even if you can't agree with everyone else so easily anymore. Every cloud... So it's worth celebrating the fact that I came across three albums -- two of which I bought blindly, though with some foreknowledge of their concepts -- that were clear winners.

Dr. John - Locked Down

There's not much to say about this album. It's a modernized traditional New Orleans sound veering toward a more African influence. Very interesting overall, even though it's a bit off-putting to hear a 70-year-old still talking about revolution.

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

This is the anticipated (if by a small audience) collaboration between Steven Wilson and Mikael Ã…kerfeldt.

I don't really know how to categorize it, but "Death New Age" (in the vein of "Death Metal") seems like a good description to me. It's quiet, eerie, dissonant, and powerful while being sparse and subdued. It's an extension of what "Heritage" accomplished, and also what Steven Wilson accomplished with tracks like the amazingly efficient "Index" on "Grace for Drowning". The puppeteered video they created for the opening track "Drag Ropes" was equally efficient and powerful.

If you didn't like Opeth's "Heritage" and you had no patience for Steven Wilson's "Bass Communion" project, you probably won't like this one. To me, of the three albums mentioned here, this one will probably be my favourite of the three albums and the most timeless.

Jack White - Blunderbuss

I knew I was going to buy this one, but it took me awhile to actually go and do it because I haven't had much spare time lately.

Before I bought it, I had seen it for sale in Starbucks and this made me feel a bit nervous. It reminded me of the story around the song "Little Boys" on Devendra Banhart's "Cripple Crow" album: whether true or not, he had apparently put that song on the album after a friend had warned him after hearing a preview of the album that "they'll be selling this in Starbucks". So, the song, whose full chorus is "I see so many little boys I want to marry", and sung from the perspective of a hermaphroditic pedophile, done in a 50's folk style, was put on to ensure that wouldn't happen. I never did see it in Starbucks. He's a weird fellow, but when you're familiar with his overall strangeness it makes some sense. Don't shoot the messenger.

Anyway, no need to worry about this album -- it is Jack White distilled, with all of the influences of others from his various projects removed. And now he's got a good drummer, too (ahem). It's the Jack White you know from all of his other projects, but focused, and it's a really good album with a variety of influences on display and very few filler tracks.