Coldplay, "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends"
Yeah, I like the longer title and thanks to a friend in the UK, I got a UK version of the album which is (as far as I can tell) identical to what will be released on Tuesday. The album is getting a lot of attention, deservedly, and the early comparisons are to U2's "The Joshua Tree." With Brian Eno producing, there are some notable similarities, especially in structure. Coldplay's Chris Martin goes for the dramatic moments like no one since Bono and he does it well on this album. It's much more instrumental than I expected, nearly atmospheric at times and certainly more cinematic in scope than previous albums. It's an evolution of sound, not revolution, despite the cover. The title track is as big and poppy as anything they've done, while first single "Violet Hill" holds up well despite not sounding like a conventional pop single. On first (and second) listen, it's a good not great album, but like "Joshua" I think it will grow on me. It's certainly not a failure and I'll admit my expectations were sky high. I'd give this a B+ now but I wouldn't be surprised if this made the year-end Top Ten.
Back Door Slam, "Roll Away/EP"
The album may have come out last year, but with a new push starting at SXSW, this young Manx band is finally garnering some notice. From the first notes of "Come Home," the talent of Davy Knowles is apparent. He plays guitar like a master, evoking everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan while singing like a bluesy Paul Weller. The songs range from very good to great and the consistency is stunning from a band this young. "Heavy On My Mind" could be a Cream song while "It'll All Come Around" evokes the late Jeff Healey. I haven't been this excited since hearing Healey for the first time or maybe Shannon Curfman a decade ago. At just 20, Knowles is headed for something amazing and shows that with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang "aging", that there's a new generation of blues heroes coming up in the iPod age. A new EP with versions of Hendrix's "Red House" and a raging version of John Hiatt's "Riding With The King" is available at iTunes.
My Morning Jacket, "Evil Urges"
MMJ was the band I just didn't 'get' for a while. I was late to the party, but at least I didn't miss the good stuff. From "It Still Moves" and "Z", I finally heard what everyone else seemed to have heard earlier - a talented band with a vision that escapes most. With his latest album, Jim James and his crew have made not just a step, but a leap forward. They may have almost abandoned the jam-band in a silo vibe, grabbing up influences as varied as Motown, The Flaming Lips (seriously - "Thank You Too" would be a Wayne Coyne megahit), Prince, and Radiohead for an album that's just ... overwhelming. It's really of a piece and deserves listening to in line, as the artists laid it out. That commitment gets some reward, letting it wash over you, shock you with "Highly Suspicious", dance along with the poppy "I'm Amazed" and floating through the last 15 minutes, a two song tour de force. Your friends might not get this album, but just like I did, if they'll give it a shot, they'll come around. This is genius music.