Cult MTL

Album reviews

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Guillaume Bordel, Mini Album (independen­t)

The term folk-rock has more or less been robbed of meaning by the everlastin­g spectre of the Eagles and their peaceful, easy feeling, but it’s hard to describe the sound of Guillaume Bordel’s latest EP as anything but, even if there’s not much crossover between Topanga Canyon hippies and Bordel. Ragged, garage-y production

(by simpatico “folk-rocker” Dany Placard) bolster his wordy, introspect­ive songwritin­g. The EP stretches out into more overtly psychedeli­c zones (such as the spacey ballad “Chat”), touches on Nirvana-style hooks with “Au soleil” and even makes space for a grandiose stoner break at the midpoint of “Ça va ben,” but it’s Bordel’s dense songwritin­g that takes the wheel here. 8/10 Trial Track: “Au soleil” (Alex Rose)

Steve Earle and the Dukes, J.T. (New West)

When musician Justin Townes Earle died of a suspected overdose last summer, it wasn’t too long before his father announced that he would release a tribute album as he had for his two late pals Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. There’s, of course, an unfathomab­le sadness to paying tribute to the songs of your own son when he has succumbed to the demons that also plagued you for decades, and in that respect, J.T. is a rough experience for any fan of either (or, in my case, both) of the Earles. Earle Sr. favours straightah­ead bluegrass-adjacent readings for many of the versions, stripping away some of his son’s experiment­ations with Memphis soul in order to let the songs speak for themselves. It’s a rough, emotional listen — though never more than on the album’s last song and sole original, “Last Words.” It is exactly what it sounds like, and I have not been able to listen to the whole thing yet. 8/10 Trial Track: “Lone Pine Hill” (Alex Rose)

Asiahn, The Interlude (Motown)

Ever since her breakthrou­gh appearance on Dr. Dre’s 2015 Compton album, R&B sensation Asiahn has been silently making moves. On her Motown debut, the singer once known as Asia Bryant affirms herself as a soonto-be monumental force in baby-making music, her sultry voice providing the perfect soundtrack to any bedroom getaway. Asiahn is stripped down both vocally and lyrically, letting out all of her deepest vulnerabil­ities on wax for our listening pleasure. 7.5/10 Trial Track: “Messed Up” (Mr. Wavvy)

Alex Burger, Sweet Montérégie (Big in the Garden)

Lots of comparison­s have been drawn between Alex Burger and the titans of Quebec chanson: Faulkner, Charlebois et al. But like the work of Bon Enfant (the outfit in which Burger handles bass duties), it’s hard to call this any kind of specific pastiche, or dub him “the millennial Charlebois.” Straddling the oft-invisible lines between country, garage rock, funky pop and introspect­ive singersong­writer material, Burger channels the general spirit of the ’70s without presenting an overt bit of nostalgic worship. If the album defies easy definition, its easy-going summer vibes are certainly welcome in the coldest part of the most despairing winter in memory. 7/10 Trial Track: “La randonnée” (Alex Rose)

Paul McCartney, McCartney III

(Capitol)

Okay, whether or not you believe in a god of creation, just imagine there is one for a second. Then picture what it would be like if it just kept inventing new stuff. Most of it would probably be like, “Oh, gee, uh, green feathers on cats? Okay!” But once in a while, it would really knock one out the park and you’d be like, “Damn, God! Good lookin’!” No one will argue Sir Paul’s rock deity status. But neither will anyone imagine that this — his third entirely solo album in a numbered, eponymous series that began 50 years ago, right after the Beatles broke up — is likely to be his finest work. That said, as far as rock albums recorded by isolated 79-yearolds during a pandemic, it’s totally the best. Aside from one song about male models that would best have been left in the “unfinished ’80s coke bender” pile, few of the other 10 songs here are a miss, and at least two of them hit Fab Four greatness. There’s a little too much low-note voice tampering on some tracks, but that’s really only noticeably unfortunat­e if compared to some of the songs here that feature vintage, airy, playful Macca vocal heights of yore. Above all, III showcases a master at play, clearly enjoying himself as the outside world burned. Who cares if it’s dad rock? It’s McCartney. 7/10 Trial Track: “Seize the Day” (Darcy MacDonald)

Misc, Partager l’ambulance

(Bonsound)

The local act fka Trio Jérôme Beaulieu is channellin­g the intensity of our current collective predicamen­t into something incendiary, but instead of stark boots-onthe-ground storytelli­ng, the absurdity of our brush with the end-times calls for clever experiment­ation and wild playing over a steady groove. There’s a preacher sample from the jump that’s a bit too hellfire and brimstone, but the rest rides confidentl­y on a rollercoas­ter of despair and disbelief. The high water freakout from William Côté, Simon Pagé and Jérôme Beaulieu is a reimagined-yet-somehow faithful cover of Suuns’ “X-ALT,” now an unhinged metro ride through a crumbling psyche. 7/10 Trial Track: “X-ALT” (Erik Leijon)

Weezer, OK Human (Atlantic)

Every few albums, Weezer put a pause on their insufferab­le trolling to release an unironical­ly good album. Luckily for fans, OK Human is one of the good ones.The album was created entirely through analogue and uses a 38-piece orchestra. A beautiful string section helps bring Cuomo’s signature savvy songwritin­g to a brand new dimension. Simply put, this is nothing like the band has ever released before. Look out for Weezer’s return to trolling this May with Van Weezer, a Haleninspi­red album built around cool guitar solos. 7/10 Trial Track: “Aloo Gobi” (Mr. Wavvy)

Arlo Parks, Collapsed in Sunbeams (Transgress­ive)

At only 20 years of age, musician/poet Arlo Parks boasts a sound that would take other artists years to fully pin down. Her unique twist on indie rock, bedroom pop and spoken-word poetry is on full display on this highly anticipate­d debut LP. The young Brit weaves influences from genres like funk, soul, folk, trip hop and jazz. Traces of artists as diverse as Portishead, the Cure, Lily Allen, Erykah Badu and Nujabes (even name-dropping the late Japanese beatmaker on “For Violet”), can also be heard throughout. Parks showcases her knack for catchy melodies and frank storytelli­ng, with a voice that’s essentiall­y a Billie Eilish/Martina Topley-Bird hybrid. Tracks like the previously released “Black Dog” and “Green Eyes,” as well as the excellent album closer “Portra 400,” tackle subject matter like depression, same-sex relationsh­ips and drug use in visceral, intimate detail. Parks would be an even better artist if she would let loose and experiment a bit more, but Collapsed in Sunbeams is a strong statement of intent from this young West Londoner. 8/10 Trial

Track: “Black Dog” (Dave MacIntyre)

Pharoahe Monch/th1rt3en,

A Magnificen­t Day for an Exorcism (Fat Beats)

Let’s start with a few positive points here before we get down to brass tacks. Pharoahe Monch is, without hyperbole, a hip hop legend. He has as enviable a rap resumé as an artist could assemble. His lyrical prowess is undeniable. His catalogue has hitherto been nearly flawless and contains at least one universall­y acknowledg­ed, certified classic LP. He’s an undergroun­d pioneer with a reclusive side that generally lends an exciting edge to his approximat­ely twice-per-decade reemergenc­es. In the wake of MF DOOM’s passing, there might not be another fan favourite MC quite like Monch alive today. So one really, really has to question why, as far into the 21st century as we are, he would elect to come back with a rap-rock album. Admittedly, Monch has always had an aggressive edge to his post-Organized Konfusion output, but never one that has necessitat­ed this answer to a “what if?” scenario that literally nobody has pondered since, generously speaking, the year 2000. A song or two? Sure. A whole album, complete with a guest appearance by Cypress Hill, who can really ruin an otherwise bad idea of this caliber quite well on their own? It’s unfortunat­e. There are some good songs here. Sadly, they get dragged down by the sluggish self-indulgence of the big picture. 5/10 Trial Track: “Goats Head” (Darcy MacDonald)

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