Past, present and future
Old rockers, country stars and new kids on the block
GRAFFITI U Keith Urban Capitol/Universal www.getmusic.com.au
Keith Urban’s new release Graffiti U has the Australianbred artist again stretching the boundaries, more than any other current artist labelled as country. Urban reportedly came up with the Graffiti U title due to the 15 new tracks’ varying musical styles. Up-tempo opener ‘Coming Home’ features guest vocals from pop artist Julia Michaels, with Urban on anything with six strings and Canadian producer J. R. Rotem handling everything else. There’s a reggae flavour to ‘My Wave’, with songwriter and singer Shy Carter adding a rap midstream. Up-and-coming country pop artist Kassi Ashton brings her vocals to motoring track ‘Drop Top’, there’s a trademark Urban guitar solo on ‘Steal My Thunder’, and he recognises the women in his life on ‘Female’, written after the Harvey Weinstein abuse allegations. Brilliant.
FOREIGNER WITH THE 21ST CENTURY ORCHESTRA AND CHOIR Foreigner Earmusic/Sony Music
Rock band Foreigner, which started out in 1976, recorded this live album with the 21st Century Orchestra and Choir in May last year. The album (it’s also available as a DVD) opens with an orchestral overture before Foreigner launches into classic hits such as ‘Cold As Ice’, ‘Double Vision’, ‘Juke Box Hero’ and ‘Feels Like The First Time’. The orchestra performs an extended intro to the hardrocking anthem ‘Urgent’, and the string section and choir are well suited to the power ballads ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ and ‘I Want To Know What Love
Is’. Foreigner devotees may be put off by the fact that guitarist Mick Jones is the only original member of the band remaining, although current frontman Kelly Hansen’s vocals are not unlike those of original singer Lou Gramm. Foreigner and the 18-piece 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Choir will tour Australia this October.
EMPIRE William Crighton ABC/Universal www.abcmusic.com.au
Empire is the second album for Aussie singersongwriter William Crighton. His self-titled debut in 2016 attracted attention, providing the launching pad for a Canadian tour and two appearances at this year’s Byron Bay BluesFest. Crighton mixes it up on Empire, although ‘Happiness’ is a great example of his earthy vocals and bluesrock sound. ‘Rejoice’ is a throwback to the sound of ’80s punk; the bass line on ‘Devils Tongue’ wouldn’t be out of place on a B-52s’ album; while Crighton delivers a despairing vocal on the grungy ‘Let Love Come First’. He lowers the mood and the tempo on ‘Mr Brown’, a track that has drawn similarities to The Beatles at their most abstract. He brings out the ukulele on the quieter ‘Sadness’, and the album closes with a fiery take of Eric Bogle’s ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’.
CAN’T WAKE UP Shakey Graves Dualtone/Cooking Vinyl www.cookingvinylaustralia.com
Previously categorised as an “Americana” artist, Texas singersongwriter Shakey Graves (real name Alejandro Rose-Garcia) has stepped well outside that genre with Can’t Wake Up. These 13 new tracks highlight RoseGarcia’s quirky traits, presented in a poprock style. ‘Kids These Days’ is a wordy take on boyhood frustrations, ‘Cops and Robbers’ follows the theme of “crime … it’s a young man’s game”, while honorary band member Rayland Baxter guests on the Beatle-ish ‘Mansion Door’. Rose-Garcia gets whimsical on the palindrome-named ‘Aibohphobia’, a term apparently invented for those afraid of palindromes! One of the album’s best is ‘Climb On The Cross’, an understated song about defiance, while the airy ‘Backseat Driver’ is like Beck meets the Beatles. With tight harmonies throughout, Can’t Wake Up is inventive, but its dreamy sound may be too light for some.
FREE YOURSELF UP Lake Street Dive Nonesuch/Warner www.nonesuch.com
Four-piece band Lake Street Dive, from Massachusetts, are known for traversing the genres of rock, blues and soul, as with this second album Free Yourself Up. The band itself is a 50-50 male-female split – vocalist Rachael Price, bassist Bridget Kearney, guitarist-trumpeter Michael “McDuck” Olson and drummer Michael Calabrese. The first single, ‘Good Kisser’ is a “woman-scorned” postbreakup rock song, although there’s a feistier attitude on ‘Dude’, where Price rocks it up as she objects to being left at home while her partner is out on the town. There’s a blues sound to ‘Red Light Kisses’ and soul on the big band-styled ‘Baby Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts’. The band throws in a couple of emotive ballads – ‘I Can Change’ and ‘Musta Been Something’ – and suitably winds up with the uplifting ‘Hang On’.
GENERAL BITTERNESS AND INNER-CITY MOONSHINE
Near Enough Records – www.nearenoughrecords.com
Following the release of a self-titled EP in 2015, Brisbane rock trio Dirty Hearts has come out firing with debut album General Bitterness and Inner-City Moonshine. The band (singer-guitarist Matt Doe, bass player T-Man and drummer Groovey Avalon) offered a teaser with the pub-rock track ‘Sand-Lea’ in March this year, but it’s ‘Dead Eyed Girls’ that shows off the band’s talents, with Doe’s forceful vocals and guitar riffs recalling the sound of ’70s rock outfits UFO and Blue Oyster Cult. Dirty Hearts maintains the momentum with second single ‘New Way Of Walking’. While those two tracks are the album’s standouts, there are more gems to be discovered, including the mid-placed grinding rock track ‘Be Right There’ and the riff-heavy ‘All About Us’. Dirty Hearts throws in a surprise with the despairing waltz-timed ballad ‘Mary’, again showcasing Doe’s fretboard expertise.