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CD of The Week

Week of 9/18/17

    The National - Sleep Well Beast (4AD)

    One of the most interesting parts of reviewing albums is reading other reviews and seeing how other scribes' thoughts match with your own. To say I am intimate with the work of The National is an understatement. I take this music to heart, hang on every not they commit to tape. It's been four years since Trouble Will Find Me was released until the debut of their newest album Sleep Well Beast. The long wait has ended and what we have here is a tome that can be viewed in many different way with the same end feeling. That feeling is, "damn, this is a great record!"

    The touchstone of The National is the downbeat perceived darkness of their subject matter matched by razor-sharp instrumental passages. One thing that shows though on this record, and has been noted by many a critic, is the experimental textures throughout the album. Notes of Radiohead, Four Tet, and Sigur Ros' finest works peek into the songs met by Matt Berninger's deep introspection on family, death, and our modern political landscape. "Born to Beg," "Empire Line," and "I'll Still Destroy You" can walk you down this glitchy path.

    Another way of looking at the record is the most classically sounding songs that could fit into any of The National's LPs. "Guilty Party" could have been on Boxer, "Turtleneck" could have been a double A-side
    for "Mr. November."

    All this brings out the cornerstone of a review I read comparing The National to their one time tour-mates R.E.M. The author said Sleep Well Beast shows the consistency of Automatic for The People meeting the
    experimentation that frames the brilliance of Monster. With every spin of Sleep Well Beast, all I can say is "AMEN!"

    The National return to Philadelphia for a very sold out show at The Kimmel Center on December 4th.
    Review by Jersey Dan

    Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold (Roswell / RCA)

    Foo Fighters have returned with their ninth studio album, Concrete and Gold, an 11-song, anthemic and psychedelic trip into experimental and political storytelling.

    The album began its writing process with Dave Grohl feeling "out of practice" from writing following his infamous broken leg. He admits the album has many lyrics that are politically inspired, now faced with thoughts and decisions about things he'd never had to think about. While politically charged, the album finds a way to approach it cautiously from a humanistic point of view.

    Concrete and Gold opens with "T-Shirt," a short song opening with a reverb-laden Grohl singing "I don't want to be king / I just want to sing a love song" over a solo acoustic guitar. It abruptly explodes into the full ensemble with vocal harmonies almost paying homage to Queen. The lyric "You get what you deserve" sets the tone for the rest of the musical journey to follow. Lead single "Run" blends new and old Foo, with melodies that hearken back to In Your Honor while still taking an edgier take on modern rock. "The Sky is a Neighborhood" makes artistic use of space, partly through Grohl's vocals.

    Grohl pulls from various influences on the record. "Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)" is virtually a direct homage to The Beatles' "Blackbird" by featuring an arpeggiated acoustic guitar joined by vocals, but then adds other instruments as the song plays on. "Where is your Shangri-La now?" the song asks, continuing by proclaiming, "There ain't no superheroes now. There ain't no superheroes, they're underground."

    Foo Fighters welcomed a slew of guest musicians on the record. "Sunday Rain" is sung by the Foos' own drummer Taylor Hawkins and brings in Sir Paul McCartney to fill his spot behind the drums. It takes many melodic twists like a Paul-led Beatles tune and boasts a well-executed blues riff integrated into the entire song.

    The Kills' Alison Mosshart sings on "La Dee Da" and "The Sky is a Neighborhood." Justin Timberlake adds backing vocals to "Make it Right," while Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman sings on the title track- a collaboration that stems from a chance meeting in a parking lot. "Concrete and Gold" plays like a modern Pink Floyd song featuring heavy and lethargic guitars with ethereal and drawn-out vocal harmonies.

    Few bands can still find ways to push their own boundaries after two decades. Foo Fighters continue to incorporate their signature sound while continuing to evolve. Concrete and Gold is no exception and satisfies musical cravings you never knew you had.
    Review by Dan Baker

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