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International Music Releases from the Last Fortnight: Reviewed

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Taylor Swift/ Folklore, Indie-Folk, Republic Records

It seems to have become fashionable to release surprise albums. After Eminem, Childish Gambino, and Neil Young put out records without notice this year, Taylor Swift joins the list. Considering that her last album Lovers evoked mixed reactions despite its initial commercial success, this was quite a risk.

Unlike Lovers, where Swift blatantly repeated the formula of her earlier album 1989, Folklore is a marked and welcome departure in style and sound. Focusing on indie-folk melodies, the songwriting is intense and mature, and the singer seems to have grown out of her tendency to only target the younger audience with mushy tunes.

Many songs, notably ‘The 1’, ‘Illicit Affairs’, ‘My Tears Ricochet’, and ‘Mad Woman’ deal with broken relationships, adultery, and a feeling of being mistreated or betrayed. ‘My Tears Ricochet’ is, in fact, one of the album’s most hard-hitting songs with the lines, “Even on my worst day, did I deserve babe, all the hell that you gave me?”

‘Exile’, a duet with Bon Iver, provides variety, and the beautifully written and sung ‘Peace’ talks of a different side of romance, filled with tolerance. Folklore has been produced by Aaron Dessner of the band The National. It’s a great combination and he seems to have brought out the evolved side of Swift. A Taylor-made collaboration, may we say?

 

Rating: 8/ 10

 

Bush/ The Kingdom, Post-Grunge, BMG

Fronted by Gavin Rossdale, British band Bush had its glory days in the mid-1990s with the huge-selling albums Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase. However, like the other post-grunge bands Candlebox, Collective Soul, Live, and Matchbox Twenty, the charm faded after a few brilliant albums.

Bush continued to release new material and has now come out with its eighth studio album The Kingdom. On the surface, this seems like another trademark Bush album with Rossdale’s angst-filled vocals and Chris Traynor’s fluid guitar lines.

But scratch beneath, and one doesn’t find anything remotely as magical as ‘Glycerine’ and ‘Machinehead’. The ballad ‘Undone’ and the grungy, rhythm guitar-driven ‘Bullet Holes’, first heard in the John Wick Chapter 3 soundtrack, are well-written but predictable.

A couple of tracks, namely the opener ‘Flowers On A Grave’ and the concert-friendly ‘A Time Will Come’, rise above the ordinary. But it makes more sense to go back to the earlier gems. Here, they seem to be beating about the Bush.

 

Rating: 6/ 10

 

Alanis Morissette/ Such Pretty Forks in the Road, Pop-Rock, Epiphany Records

On ‘Smiling’, the opening song of her latest album Such Pretty Forks In The Road, Canadian star Alanis Morissette sings, “And I keep on smiling, keep on moving, can’t stand still”. Like a good chunk of this album, mainly the second song ‘Ablaze’ written for her children, the words talk of personal experiences. They could be about coming out strong in the face of extreme situations or awry relationships, or about simply disintegrating.

Indeed, the lyrics are the strength of this 11-track album, her first in eight years. In terms of the compositions, there’s nothing new, and one regularly finds the structure used in 1995 hit Jagged Little Pill and thereafter. But Morissette’s voice is still sturdy, and the instrumentation is tight, with superlative piano and guitar.

Among the songs, ‘Diagnosis’ is blunt, with the lines “Call me what you want, ’cause I don’t even care anymore, call me what you need to, to make yourself comfortable”. The piano-driven ‘Missing The Miracle’ begins with the line “Welcome back nostalgia”. On ‘Reasons To Drink’, she talks of alcohol addiction and eating disorders.

Morissette seems to run out of ideas on the latter half, as songs like ‘Sandbox Love’ and ‘Her’ ramble on. But she gets back in form on ‘Nemesis’, where she sings “Change, you are my nemesis”. Though the end result isn’t a masterpiece, it’s good enough for a bit of serious consideration. Old-time fans shouldn’t be disappointed.

 

Rating: 7/ 10

 

Protomartyr/ Ultimate Success Today, Post-Punk, Domino

The group has been around only eight years, but Detroit post-punk revivalists Protomartyr is already out with its fifth studio album Ultimate Success Today. The title has been inspired by the desire of people to get rich quick, and the songs are dark and dismal.

Vocalist Joe Casey’s baritone is a treat, as he takes you through hard-hitting tracks like ‘Processed By The Boys’, ‘Michigan Hammers’ and ‘June 21’ (featuring half-Indian singer Half Waif). Bassist Scott Davidson plays a prominent role, and it is able to support from guitarist Greg Ahee and drummer Alex Leonard.

The lyrics have lines like “There’s a dawning of a day without end, when fear steps into the light, I have been planning for this day all my life, or have I not?” The sound seems loosely inspired by 1970s and 1980s acts like The Fall, Joy Division and Nick Cave, and by the more recent The National, but have its own contemporary touch. The punk fans are sure to enjoy this.

 

Rating: 7/ 10

 

 

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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