Bruce Cockburn - Life Short Call Now
There are a lot of politically driven musicians in rock music, but there are very few who really make me feel the issues are really personal to them rather than just being hot-button topics they can use to garner more attention for themselves.
Cockburn is one of those rare instances and it's because he writes the songs as stories rather than talking down to listeners or imploring listeners to take action. Instead, Cockburn invites listeners into his songs with intricate details and observations, sometimes wry, sometimes shocking, but always thought-provoking, and he keeps them coming back because he never paints the entire picture for them, either — you gotta come back and fill in the details yourself.
That's why I'm always excited to see another Cockburn album of new music listed — that, and his fantastic guitar skills (and always amazing band — this time he is augmented on some album tracks by an orchestra.)
Golden Smog - Another Fine Day:
Wilco is supposedly working on a new album right now, but you wouldn't know it by looking at leader Jeff Tweedy's discography. Just a few months back he released Born Again In The USA with Loose Fur (comprised of fellow Wilco-ite Glenn Kotche and producer Jim O'Rourke) and now he's got this project, the fourth album by alt-country collective Golden Smog, on which he contributes playing to six tracks and writing to two.
Also features Gary Louris of the Jayhawks and Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum.
Helmet - Monochrome:
After 2004's disastrously bad comeback album, Size Matters, I'm not really sure there's much of a market for Helmet. This album should fare slightly better — the band brought engineer Wharton Teirs back into the fold (as producer this time) to capture some of the old magic and, in a way, they did.
Monochrome harkens back to the chugging stop-start rhythms that attracted us to them in the first place. What's missing is just need — do we really need more of this when they did it so perfectly on Strap It On and Meantime? The biggest issue is the most prominent one. Page Hamilton's vocals are not what they used to be. Instead of the bark we instead get a pinched, nasal whine. It's distracting and ultimately the exact opposite image that Helmet should be projecting.