City of Salt
This album from Club Thunderbolt, a Windsor band, was recorded at High Bias Recordings in Detroit and mastered in Toronto, making the record a true cross-border affair. A few Detroit musicians popped in to play horns too. You’d think, then, there would be plenty of imagination on offer — that these songs would see a melding of intercity love with talent reaching new heights; alas, that’s not the case.
When the opening track kicks in, the vocals feigning angst in the worst, most radio-friendly sort of way, you hope that it’s just a blip and that the band is getting warmed up. Then “Eyeliner” starts and it’s worse. It’s like Godsmack started listening to ’90s Brit pop bands like Pulp and the Beautiful South — and decided to play down the chunky riffs in favor of gentle strumming. But the overgrowled vocals remain and the lyrics sound like they were written on a junior high notebook.—Brett Callwood
Tower of Power
Hipper Than Hip: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow
Real Gone Music
Take a good good look at that album cover art. If a male band can get away with white tiger print heels, then it truly is hipper than hip. This live album, recorded for broadcast on WLIR-FM in ’74, features the talents of its most famous lead singer, Lenny Williams. Still, much of the music on offer here is instrumental, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s going to be as dry as a bone. That’s not the case, thanks to the outside-the-box thinking of the musicians who incorporate keyboards into the sound, resulting in one that is nontraditional. Jazz, R&B and classic rock cook down together into an exciting, compelling soup. “This Time It’s Real” could be a Motown hit, while “Squib Cakes” is a progressive jam that manages to maintain the listener’s attention. —Brett Callwood
When the first track on Youth, “Shapeless,” kicks in, it’s hard to keep your mind from jumping back to thoughts of the ’80s. The tune recalls the score to a million movies from that decade, or at least it does before the vocals come in. The synths definitely lends a nostalgic feel to the music, but the contemporary edge comes courtesy of the polish. This Nashville-based quintet isn’t afraid to wallow in the past, though, and the big hooks are present in every song. Hell, “Colour” could be a Phil Collins song. Somehow, though, they get away with it. That very current Arcade Fire-esque stadium hipness is here, which helps these very poppy songs sound all the more epic. By track three, “Thunder Clatter,” you’ll be tapping your feet and perhaps even singing along. There’s nothing complex here, and many of the tunes could end up on commercials. We mean that as a compliment. —Brett Callwood