New Music: July 2023. Audience members at concert, cast in dark blue light. Four album cover image and corresponding text describing the artist to the immediate left of each image.

Album Reviews: July 2023

The Record / Boygenius

Three hands reaching upward against the backdrop of the sky

The collaborative trio of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus developed a strong kinship as each began to blossom in their respective careers during the latter half of the 2010s. The Record (produced by the group and Catherine Marks) follows their 2018 debut EP. This new project truly is an album of love songs—the deep love that the closest, like-hearted friends can have with one another. In many ways, the songs are earnestly sweet, but others, such as “We’re in Love” or “Revolution 0,” interrogate relationships and ponder distant (and likely disparate) futures. The songs here really speak to the power of being seen and felt by chosen family, and what may result when you aren’t. The Record is an album that will, almost instantly, imbed itself deeply into the hearts of fans of the group and its individual musicians. Ideally, they are all thriving in their tribes, and now have a corresponding suite of theme songs. Other standouts: “Cool About It” and “Not Strong Enough.”

The Layers / Julian Lage
Blue Note

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Beloved jazz guitarist Julian Lage offers a companion piece to last year’s “View with a Room.” Lage states that The Layers has all the “musical seeds of the preceding album,” but that it has a life of its own. It is a largely sparse, acoustic affair, lined with Lage’s trademark improvisatory delivery. This era (his time on the legendary Blue Note label) has been wonderfully fruitful for the artist, and he seems to be stepping assuredly into his rightful place alongside guitar masters such as Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and others. Frisell himself guests on the album, along with Lage’s rhythm section (drummer Dave King and Jorge Roeder on bass). Blissfully brief, the album features six tracks, including highlights “Double Southpaw,” “Missing Voices” and the title track.

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But Here We Are / Foo Fighters

Almost completely pure white background with very light gray flourishes in the center; also very hard to distinguish text in the lower right corner--likely the album title

It’s a haunting realization that the Dave Grohl-led Foo Fighters likely would not exist if not for the still-stinging loss of Kurt Cobain, alternative rock’s own Kepler’s Supernova (read Grohl’s memoir, The Storyteller, for more on that). Informing But Here We Are are the sudden transitions of the band’s beloved powerhouse drummer Taylor Hawkins, as well as Grohl’s mother just a few months later. It is downright shocking (and impressive) that the band was able to convene relatively quickly and so cohesively to deliver what is arguably their strongest album since 2005’s double opus In Your Honor. Fans may not be able to help but compare and contrast this project with the uncharted territory Grohl endured in 1994. Thankfully, he didn’t have to go it alone as he did initially with FF’s solo debut. He has the benefit of being much more mature and more grounded and has the emotional (and technical) support of longtime bandmates Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, along with ex-Wallflower Rami Jaffee, who joined in 2017. Legendary drummer Josh Freese joined earlier this year. There is no shortage of impassioned bangers, but here are three: “Rescued,” “Nothing at All” and the title track.

Different Game / The Zombies
Cooking Vinyl

Outdoor image of a black tour van in the process of being towed, with six people looking on, likely band members, etc.

The Zombies certainly have an interesting history, ending their initial run prior to the release of what is arguably their most popular song, the evergreen “Time of The Season,” released in March 1968. It would prove to be their swan song for decades. Principle members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone soon set out different paths, Blunstone launching a moderately successful solo career, and Argent putting together a decidedly more rocking band that took his last name. Most notably, the duo paired up again under their own names in the dawn of the 2000s, which led to a official Zombies reunion a few years later. This iteration of the group has existed much longer than the band’s first wave. Different Game is their fourth (and strongest) LP since reconvening. Longtime fans will find much to enjoy here (like on the title track), as the band works to meet expectations and provide a bit of what they offered during their 60s output, but also experiment and trying a more soulful, blues-tinged approach that feels authentic. Seasoned fans will love the jazzy chords that make a great pairing to the lyrics. It’s great to see a legendary outfit like The Zombies keep things mostly in-house in terms of songwriting and production, versus inviting younger, often name-brand producers and songwriters take the reins and offer up potentially misguided takes of who The Zombies are, a strategy that can often miss more than it hits, historically. Other great moments include closer “The Sun Will Rise Again,” “Merry-Go-Round” and “I Want to Fly.”

DF: 7/23