The Darkness have a new record, "Last Of Our Kind," due on June 2nd. Their last record "Hot Cakes" still gets very heavy rotation in my house. This was a record that seemed to be made for me. Miraculous hard rock riffs, enough hooks to snag a flounder, all with that Sparks and Bowie flamboyancy and harmonies Freddie Mercury would die (again) for. But "Last Of Our Kind," at least after one focused pass, falls short. It's more of the same, so that's a plus, but the material just didn't move me the way "Hot Cakes" moved me, especially this track:
Paul Weller has a new record, "Saturns Pattern." His 2008 and 2010 releases "22 Dreams" and "Wake Up The Nation," respectively, had some of the best music of his long career. But Weller lost me for a bit with 2012's unlistenable "Sonic Kicks." I am happy to say, Paul Weller has found his mojo for "Saturns Pattern." The songs have more structure and the melodies are stronger and feel less like some tossed off experiments. There are hints of rhythm and blues, a bit of pop psychedelia and more than enough moments that will remind you of solo Paul McCartney. Here's the whole shebang.
Bruce Handy wrote a terrific piece for Vanity Fair about some singer-songwriters he refers to as "Joni's Girls"- Laura Marling, who has recently released her fourth record and who I have loved since her debut, Australia's Courtney Barnett, who has been hyped to Mars and back, Jessica Pratt, who makes Nick Drake sound like Tom Jones, and Natalie Prass, my favorite of the last three, whose self-titled record dabbles in a bit of Memphis country and soul that would make Dan Penn proud. (She is from Nashville. I know.)
I couldn't make it through all of Jessica Pratt's record, which made me twitch. I was loving Courtney Barnett. The opening track "Elevator Operator" knocked me out, feeling a bit like a great lost track from the classic NY punk days of the late 70s, but then, as usual, I was bored by the 5th or 6th track, as it began to sound like more style than substance, though I can absolutely see the appeal. Barnett can write. I just don't like the sound of the record.
With Natalie Prass, I had the opposite feeling. I love the sound of the record but the songs bored me. Still, it would be wrong of me to just dismiss Prass. There is some truly great music here and I look forward to her next record.