“Blue Hearts” is Bob Mould’s latest release. (Daniel DeSlover/Sipa USA/TNS) For this week, I have reviews of one of Bob Mould’s best, most passionate albums of his stellar 40-year career, new albums from a pair of acts that have been making waves in other countries in Steffen Morrison and Pillow Queens, and the impressive return of Naomi Hamilton.
Even before the pandemic forced Mould to cut short touring behind his 2019 album, “Sunshine Rock,” he had begun writing new songs. And with America falling deeper into crisis, the alt-rock icon kept writing and now we have “Blue Hearts,” a bracing effort that’s as dark as “Sunshine Rock” was, by Mould’s standards, sunny. Mould was clearly tuned into the turmoil and uncertainty around him, and he shows both rage and compassion throughout “Blue Hearts.” In “America In Crisis,” Mould, who is gay, compares the early 1980s when the federal government did little to fight AIDS to the Trump administration’s inaction on COVID-19. On “Heart on My Sleeve,” Mould blasts climate change deniers, noting that the west is on fire and the Southeast is sinking into the sea. He calls out the hypocrisy he sees in evangelicals and the far right in “Forecast of Rain,” asking “This love thy neighbor thing, does it apply to all mankind?/Or only those who fit neatly inside Your narrow lines?” Mould’s blunt lyrics are matched by a furious musical assault. But as hard as this thoughtful album rocks, Mould’s melodic sensibilities still shine through on virtually every song, with “When You Left,” “Forecast of Rain,” “Password To My Soul” and “Baby Needs a Cookie” among the musical standouts on this consistently strong album. Long may you rage on, Mr. Mould. The Spyrals: “Same Old Line” On this eight-song release, the Spyrals mix acoustic folk with gritty and fuzzed-up electric guitars and a rhythm section that could anchor a steamship. “Same Old Line” is predominantly made up of deliberate rockers, including “Bleed,” “There’s A Feeling” and “In Your Room,” that sound more than a little like Neil Young & Crazy Horse in the “Rust Never Sleeps” era (but with less distortion). These Spyrals’ songs, though, are solid enough that you won’t report the Spyrals for copyright violations. And other songs, such as “Goodbye,” “Don’t Turn Me Down” and the title track expand the album’s range and hint at a future for the Spyrals that may feature more of an original sound. Jealous Of The Birds: “Peninsula” “Parma Violets,” the 2016 debut album from Jealous of Birds, the solo project of Naomi Hamilton, put her on the “artist-to-watch” radar. Now, two EPs later, comes “Peninsula,” a full-length album on which Hamilton shows a talent for putting twists into her songs that make them feel like they’re traveling down slightly different paths than the typical pop song. In “Shiloh Chandra” the song takes an unexpected pause after the second verse that sets up a melodic and near-wordless vocal part that functions as a chorus. On “Pendulum,” a nifty bassline and jazzy cadence open what is otherwise a lush mid-tempo ballad on an unusual note. Other songs, including “Pulaski Skyway” and “Always Going” work simply because of their beauty and smart arrangements, while Hamilton shows she can rock on “To The Rind,” “Hadron Collider” and “Young Neanderthal.” It’s uncommon for a young artist to emerge sounding fully formed and putting a different slant on pop music. But that’s what Hamilton is doing, and it will be fascinating to see what musical adventures come next.
After releasing a pair of EPs in 2016 and 2018 respectively, this all-female Irish band is back […]