Brief book keeping before vacation.
Eric Church – Chief (EMI, 2011)
Though this North Carolinian’s third album recently passed the two-year mark, damn near half the track list still receives modest radio play, which leads me to believe he may just be the whiskey-guzzling country music Jesus he wishes would arrive. Though his break-out success can be chalked up to his twangy as fuck bravado, or his rowdy as hell charisma, or his cornball-free bouts of sensitivity, methinks it’s his sharp songwriting, which fully blossomed after two albums of growing pains. Hear how the hefty crunch and chest thumping openers sit comfortably next to teen-lite anthems and sad-eyed ballads which name check Springsteen and Jesus (again) respectively. Though he lets the Mr. Tough Guy act ride for too long – a side effect of the macho-centric Nashville industry – his sharp wordplay and expert brevity remind you there’s businessman’s attire behind those aviators. GRADE: A-
Gorillaz – Demon Days (Virgin, 2005)
Their self-titled debut was intended to be a high concept lark but turned into an oddball fluke as soon as “Clint Eastwood” crossed over. Having accidentally struck gold stateside and gained the autonomy from Blur he always wished for, Damon Albarn got wise and ditched the soupy experimentalism of dub culture, got serious and wrote paranoid pop songs about a world on the brink. In a decade which saw Top 40 juice up the escapism, these cartoons faced reality – capturing the fear, hopelessness and apathy of a post 9/11 world. Though the subject matter leans heavy handed and bleak, the lyrics rarely preach, and Albarn’s morose melodies prove hypnotizing in spurts. But aside from the auteur polishing his arty physique, the real muscle comes from Danger Mouse (a capable producer who has since cooled in notoriety), who lends a facelift to the music via his furbished beats and colorful sonic palette. Who else keeps the whole affair from being a dreary bore? A solid core of guest stars including MF Doom, Neneh Cherry, De La Soul and Dennis Hopper. GRADE: A-