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International Music Review From The Second Half Of August 2021- Reviewed

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The Killers/ Pressure Machine, Roots Rock, Island Records

Formed two decades ago, The Killers have been one of the most consistent bands on the American scene. Most of their work is the brainchild of frontman and synth player Brandon Flowers, who now comes up with a concept album.

Talking of Flowers’ childhood in Nephi, Utah, Pressure Machine tells stories of people he grew up with, using American symbols like canyons, horses, rodeos and salt-creeks. With its content and roots sound, it’s reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and Western Stars.

Flowers delights on the vocals of West Hills, which talks of opiate usage, and Cody, where he sings, “We keep on waiting for the miracle to come, fall from the firmament and give us nice things.” Terrible Thing is about a gay teenager, and singer Phoebe Bridges appears as a guest on the country-laced Runaway Horses.

The use of regular spoken interludes between songs gives the album a narrative feel and continuity The songwriting is consistently brilliant. As Flowers sings on Sleepwalker, “it doesn’t come from without, it comes from within”.

Rating: 9/ 10

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Big Red Machine/ How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, Indie Pop, Jagjaguwar

A partnership between Aaron Dessner, guitarist of The National, and Bon Iver vocalist Justin Vernon, Big Red Machine is out with its second album. If Vernon dominated vocals on the self-titled 2018 debut, he’s assisted by many guest collaborations here.

Singers Taylor Swift, Anais Mitchell, Ilsey and Sharon Van Etten, and the band Fleet Foxes chip in, as the songs talk of family issues, broken relationships, mental health, childhood, love and grief. With subtle guitars and keys, and snazzy rhythms, most songs have a laidback feel.

Anais Mitchell appears on three tracks, including the opener Latter Days and New Auburn, which talk of childhood. Renegade, featuring Taylor Swift, addresses anxiety. Dessner takes charge on the nostalgic acoustic folk track The Ghost Of Cincinnati, whereas Vernon shines on Hoping Then.

With an array of varied artistes, the album moves from one style to another, switching tempos and genres. Mimi and Easy To Sabotage get into peppy space, and the change is smooth.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Halsey/ If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power, Alternative Pop-Rock, Universal

Two things make American singer Halsey’s latest release stand apart. One, it is a concept album about the joys and downside of pregnancy and childbirth. Two, it has been produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, famous for the Social Network, Gone Girl and Mank movie soundtracks.

The sound blends electro-pop with ballads and distortion-heavy alternative rock. From the piano-driven The Tradition, the Billie Eilish-ish Bells In Santa Fe to the industrial sound of Easier Than Lying, the tempo is set perfectly.

On You Asked For This, Halsey sings, “Go on be a big girl or everybody’s gonna drown out”. There’s an acoustic lullaby-like beauty in Darling, with the lines “Darling don’t you weep, there’s a place for me, somewhere we can sleep, see you in your dreams”.

The grunge-pop sound on the symbolic The Lighthouse has been brilliantly produced, ending with the sound of waves. All through, the vocals, lyrics and production are first-rate.

Rating: 8/ 10

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John Coltrane/ Another Side Of John Coltrane, Jazz, Craft Recordings

The track list reveals many popular jazz tunes. However, this isn’t a ‘best of’ compilation, but a collection of recordings by tenor saxophone legend John Coltrane when he still played sideman to different maestros.

Recorded in 1955-56, the tunes reveal Coltrane’s more aggressive, rapidfire style, much before he evolved as a bandleader and developed his characteristic ‘sheets of sound’. All the same, it’s a treat for fans of Coltrane, who died in 1967 at 40.

The album begins with ‘Tenor Madness’, the only known recording of Coltrane with saxophone giant Sonny Rollins. The contrasting styles are evident, with Rollins showing smooth improvisation.

Other highlights are the mellow Soultrane with pianist Tadd Dameron, and an early recording with trumpeter Miles Davis on Someday My Prince Will Come. And for fans of pianist Thelonious Monk, he appears of three tunes. In short, a collector’s album.

Rating: 9/ 10

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Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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