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International Music Releases from the Second Half of December- Reviewed

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Paul McCartney/ McCartney III, Art-Rock, Capitol Records

Playing around with instruments and tunes in his Sussex home during the lockdown, Paul McCartney came up with enough material to release McCartney III. Like the first two self-titled volumes released in 1970 and 1980, he’s done everything himself, except for a guitar part on one track and a drum feature on another.

Some songs like ‘Lavatory Lil’, ‘Sliding’ and ‘Deep Down’ are too experimental and vague, despite unusual orchestration. But hats off to the man for pushing the boundaries at 78, and exploring the previously-untapped territory.

The goodies include the Celtic folk-inspired almost-instrumental opener ‘Long Tailed Winter Bird’, his 1970s throwback ‘Pretty Boys’, and vibrato-heavy ‘The Kiss Of Venus’. The album closer ‘Winter Bird/ When Winter Comes’ is vintage McCartney, talking of challenges faced in a farm.

The ex-Beatle tries an epic love song on the eight-minute ‘Deep Deep Feeling’ but it rambles on. The net result is a collection that proves his musical mettle but lacks the sheer brilliance and consistency of earlier albums like Ram, Chaos and Creation In The Backyard, and the Wings beauty Band On The Run.

Rating: 7/ 10

Osees/ Panther Rotate, Experimental Garage Rock, Castle Face

Not many would be familiar with the San Francisco group Osees, earlier called Thee Oh Sees, Orinoka Crash Suite, Orange County Sound and the OCS. And then you realise they were formed in 1997 and have just released their 24th album. It must have taken some effort to remain unknown after so much work.

Basically, it’s the brainchild of guitarist-vocalist John Dwyer, who started off by producing experimental home recordings. The main concept of fooling around with musical styles remains the same, though the band has been clubbed under garage rock or post-punk.

The new album Panther Rotate is more experimental than the punk-rock tilt of its predecessor Protean Threat, released in September. Interestingly, the titles of nine of the 11 songs end with the word ‘experiment’.

Though there are influences of The Kinks, Portishead, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd on a bad-hair day, this stuff is weird and at times scary. A couple of tracks like ‘Don’t Blow Experiment’ and ‘If I Had An Experiment’ are tightly-produced, but a good chunk of this is sonic mumbo-jumbo. Even Mumbai’s traffic jams have more melody.

Rating: 5/ 10

The Avalanches/ We Will Always Love You, Electronica, Modular Recordings

In 20 years, Australian electronica group The Avalanches have released just three albums, taking a good 16 years between the first two. They’ve been regular on the gig circuit, and their sound is based on the heavy use of sampling and assorted guest appearances.

Their recent album We Will Always Love You is fronted by Robbie Chater and Tony di Blasi. They pack in 25 songs in 70 minutes, constantly changing the sound and relying on keyboards, synths, and bass. From dance-pop to rap to psychedelia to trip-hop, they fill in a range of styles.

The guests include the band MGMT, Sananda Maitreya (formerly known as Terence D’Arby), British folk singer Vashti Bunyan, Sweden’s Neneh Cherry and Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. Kurt Vile, formerly of The War On Drugs, and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, come together on the beautifully-constructed ‘Gold Sky’.

The album offers a warm collage of sounds. ‘Interstellar Love’, featuring soul singer Leon Bridges, samples the Alan Parsons hit ‘Eye In The Sky’. ‘We Go On’, featuring Mick Jones of The Clash, pumps up the tempo. ‘Music Is The Light’ has traces of neo-psychedelia, adding variety to this wonderful set.

Rating: 7/ 10

Taylor Swift/ Evermore, Country-Pop, Republic Records

For popular American singer Taylor Swift, 2020 seems to have been a year of surprises and experimentation. In her suddenly-released July album Folklore, she dabbled in indie-folk. Now, her latest record Evermore tilts towards country-pop, with fingerpicked guitars and lush pianos.

Swift’s maturity could be attributed to her association with Aaron Dessner of the group The National, who’s helped produce both these albums. Moreover, the lyrics brim with emotion, whether she’s addressing mental health on ‘Champagne Problems’ or talking of seeking joy even in dark moments on ‘Happiness’.

On the first single ‘Willow’, Swift sings, “The more that you say, the less I know; Wherever you stray, I follow: I’m begging for you to take my hand; Wreck my plans. that’s my man”. On ‘Closure’, she sings, “I know it’s over, I don’t need your closure”.

‘Coney Island’, her duet with The National vocalist Matt Berninger, is tightly done. Other collaborations with sisters band HAIM and indie-folk group Bon Iver add a fresh twist.

Rating: 8/ 10

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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