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Paul's Choices

Justalittlelovin 1

When, after spending more than a decade on the fringes of the country mainstream, Shelby Lynne, made her official break from Nashville with 2000’s extraordinary I Am Shelby Lynne, many critics were quick to compare her new sound to Dusty Springfield’s brand of blue-eyed Memphis soul. Though the styles of her three subsequent albums varied from the overproduced rock of the critically and commercially disastrous Love, Shelby to the stripped-down Americana of Identity Crisis and Suit Yourself, it isn’t much of a surprise to find Lynne finally embracing those comparisons on her new album, Just a Little Lovin’. A collection of covers of some of the standout tracks from Springfield’s catalogue (and one original song, “Pretend,” that fits seamlessly into the set), the album has a greater sense of direction than many efforts from the recent glut of phoned-in covers albums by the likes of Joan Osborne and Raul Malo. Lynne brings her own bluesy, lived-in sensuality to such familiar songs as “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Breakfast in Bed,” and her languid sense of phrasing makes her as well-equipped as any modern vocalist to go head-to-head with Springfield’s iconic deliveries.


Billy Strings -Home


The highly anticipated sophomore album from psychedelic progressive bluegrass pioneer, Billy Strings, arrived when the clock struck midnight on September 27th, 2019. Two years after the release of his debut album, Turmoil and Tinfoil, which turned the bluegrass community upside down, the 14-track expedition through bluegrass, rock, and psychedelia dubbed Home landed just hours after it was announced that Billy would be named guitar player and new artist of the year from the International Bluegrass Music Awards (IBMA). 

“Taking Water” opens the album with a dark voyage through a bleak and desolate world of introspection. Strings and co-writer Jon Weisberg have the listener turning the lens on themselves, asking, “Where is the world headed, are we doing enough, is it too late to try to fix the darkness we see?”

Powerfully emotional and beautifully designed songs like “Must Be Seven” and “Enough To Leave” give this album meaning while tripped out explorations like “Guitar Peace” and the deep-rooted sounding traditionals like “Hollow Heart” and “Freedom” make it complete. With Home, the bluegrass and jam communities are given yet another staggering volume of great material that will undoubtedly be transformed into seriously outlandish live journeys by a 27-year-old guy from Lansing, Michigan.

The jam scene has been starved for something like this as long as it’s existed—a bluegrass band that’s more than capable on their instruments, comes out with consistently good songs, and delivers deep and explosive jams. Seeing the recent breakneck burst of Strings’ popularity is somewhat bittersweet for fans. 

The secret is out now and we couldn’t be happier for Billy and his amazingly talented band: 

check him out.

and here is one of the best covers of a bob dylan song ive heard. Paul




Neil's Choices:


Mgla Exercises In Futility

  • Mgła

-Exercises in Futility

Mgła are the exemplars of Polish black metal. They play melodic black metal that isn't immediate in its beauty, though a dark elegance does surface. Groza, which they released in 2008, was a promising debut, and on 2012's With Hearts Toward None they began to come into their own in terms of composition and lyrics. Exercises in Futility, their third full-length, improves upon Hearts' template, with guitarist/vocalist Mikołaj "M." Żentara and drummer Maciej "Darkside" Kowalski delivering their most spirited performances to date. It doesn't just set the standard for black metal in their home country, it's one of the finest black metal albums this year.

As its title implies, Futility is focused on a pessimistic, defeatist worldview. The opening line is "The great truth is there isn't one," a tone-setter if there ever was one. If we're to believe them, Mgła would prefer to be in hell shouting at the devil, not the purgatory of life. As M. laments on "II": "I wish it was classic fire and brimstone/ But clearly there is a very special plan/ Paved with havoc and shattered virtues/ As if there were any other paths." Futility's lyrics are a cut above basic sadboy depressive tropes, especially in a section of "V" masked as an ode to the working class: "Blessed be the tailors, the masks are cut to fit/ Blessed be the woodworkers, the crosses and the gallows/ Blessed be the forgers of iron, and the spikes and the barbwire/ Blessed be the stone cutters, it took a quarry to bury the dreams."

They're lyrics don't offer much hope, but M.'s guitar work suggests anything but failure: his playing draws from metal's wells of depression as well as the affirmative lights that can coexist with it. Mgła are the true heirs to Dissection's style of black metal; the melodies are huge without dipping into the saccharine. Even when M. gets into his nastiest playing, it never feels like he's wading in the tar pits of despair for despair's sake.

Mgła also balance their bursts of nihilistic euphoria with mid-paced sections that show discipline without sacrificing majesty. "II" uses this contrast as a springboard—the slower melody naturally builds into the brighter, faster vortex where hypnotism is a means of getting towards something bigger, not an end unto itself. "V" is another master study in these shifts—the slower sections are their darkest grooves, and when they race off, they run farther and faster than anything on the record. You imagine the duo would hate to be compared to post-rock, but both post-rock and black metal also-rans could stand to learn a lot about dynamics from them. Mgła's emphasis on the mid-paced is one testament to Celtic Frost's continued influence on black metal; it also lets the beauty of the riffs exfoliate, and those who got into black metal for its prettier, more accessible side would find much to appreciate here.

M.'s riffwork puts Mgła above most black metal groups, but it's Darkside's drumming that launches them into a class of their own. His cymbal work is key, bringing with it a formidable delicacy. "II" begins with a drum fill that serves as Darkside's own mini-suite, with the rides and crashes pinging louder than his tom fills. Maybe it's because we're not used to hearing cymbals used so prominently that they resonate this much; Darkside sees his kit as an extension of M.'s melodic prowess and not just an anger-management tool. Where most black metal drummers focus the most energy on bass drums or snares, he transfers that intensity towards guiding cymbals into a nervous dance. On "V", M.'s ecstatic melody becomes a light of rapture with Darkside's touch, elevating what's already seemingly in the heavens. Across Futility, he brings detail you'd expect from a solo project headed by drum-focused multi-instrumentalists like Leviathan or Panopticon.

It's rare to see two players so clearly meant for each other, and Mgła's accomplished performance on Futility transforms the lyrical content into a call to action. Great metal can harness strength from hopelessness; turning that strength into art is a blustering triumph. "The great truth is there isn't one" may be a swift roundhouse, but it's one that it will sober you up to find your own purpose. And on "IV", M. howls "Every empire/ Every nation/ Every tribe/ Thought it would end/ In a bit more decent way," a sentiment that can be applied to more than the collapse of states; it's the radical acceptance that there is no such thing as a clean break. No, Futility doesn't sell you the promise of a better world taken like gummy vitamins. But by offering no promises, it does open you up to take control for yourself, and what's more positive than that?