Patti Smith - Banga
Musical icon and all-round legend Patti Smith is back with her eleventh album, entitled Banga, a work bringing together her "unique dreams and observations" in nearly an hour of music. And it is one of the most eclectic and enjoyable albums Smith has made. Shifting from a dramatic opening into soft pop tunes and balladry, and then becoming more intense and dramatic as Banga continues, this is incredible composition and song writing. Now 65, and like contemporary veteran Neil Young whose After The Goldrush is covered as the closing song, Smith shows no signed of slowing down and her fearless sense of exploration has no bounds. Banga is weird, wonderful and wickedly infectious.
Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Canadian duo Brian King and David Prowse follow their début Post-Nothing with the mighty Celebration Rock. Japandriods deftly mix punk sounds with 'classic' rock and the effect brings together influences like Tom Petty with Green Day, The Who and Guns 'n' Roses. The two big songs Fire's Highway and Adrenaline Nightshift showcase this sound perfectly while opener The Nights Of Wine And Roses echoes The Hold Steady, while adding something unique and interesting. The continued presence and power of the vocals; shared duties sounding mostly like a packed stadium and the relentless charge right up to sing-along closer Continuous Thunder. Brilliant, fast-paced and breathless guitar rock at its very best.
Grass Widow - Internal Logic
An all-female trio from San Francisco create a wonderful sound of delicious harmonies and retro-guitars on their new album Internal Logic. This time the band tackles more 'intellectual', nerdy and extradite subjects, from Spock (presumably Mr and not Dr) to The Goldilocks Zone to the fate of commercial society (Disappearing Industries). Lead-guitarist Raven Mahon adds the sharp edges to the slick ethereal vocals as the band take meticulous song construction to great heights on every track. As the album progresses, this craft becomes more apparent, the second half more impressive than the slightly disjointed first - more accessible pop melodies collide with the shimmering sound highlighting the progression from 2010's Past Time.
The Young - Dub Egg
Every so often a band comes along that is so infectious that you quickly learn to overlook their discretions, obvious or otherwise. With The Young, whose singer Hans Zimmerman has such a laid-back free style that is not to everyone's taste, it's the supreme guitar work from Kyle Edwards that stands out. Dub Egg has a very 'Crazy Horse' shambolic live-take feel. Opener Livin' Free and the mammoth Dance With The Ramblers are great early examples, the latter spiralling off into a bass-driven set of solos. But this still feels like work-in-progress for The Young, unstructured, loose ideas and a mix of styles make Dub Egg feel very unfocused, if very engaging and compelling on the first few listens. Plunging Rollers for example doesn't build into anything new in spite of more supreme guitars and the oddly laboured Numb is a psychedelic thrash through a muddled mind.
Plankton Wat - Spirits
Dewey Mahood, from Portland Oregon, is making music solo as Plankton Wat, since humble home-studio beginnings in 2001. With his eyes and ears on other projects, Spirits is a great outlet for his creative flow, the entire album blending together as a huge ambient guitar solo fused with exotic rhythms and drum-machine percussion. This is a musical meditation, a bit Eno and a bit Floyd, reflecting on ancient cities and civilisations (Mahood takes the name from the city-temple of Angkor Wat, circa 12th century) juxtaposed against the US Northwest coast landscape. Slightly more that just background music, Spirits sweeps you away with its seemingly random and shifting instrumentation, textures and effective production.