Katy Perry, Chuck Berry & London Grammer Witness The Best Albums Of The Week - June 9
Thu, 08 Jun 2017 11:56:00
Another week, another set of releases as artists jostle for position to get the jump on entering the charts and your summer soundtrack playlists.
Critically acclaimed newcomers return to make good on promise as London Grammar slowly develop a sound that is as interesting as it is compelling. Chuck Berry's posthumous release lands like a letter from an old and trusted friend. Phoenix keep things European and bring a breezy sense of internationalism to the party, while Rancid rock as loud as ever, intent on causing trouble. Meanwhile, a certain Ms. Perry brings a new batch of songs that arrive with one eye on the top of the pop charts and one eye on the dance floor.
So, without further ado, let's have a chat about the ARTISTdirect albums of the week...
London Grammar — "Truth Is A Beautiful Thing" — Ministry of Sound
Returning with their sophomore effort, London Grammar, the band who secured critical and commercial success with their debut, If You Wait, deliver a longer, and ambitious collection of tunes that bravely push a little further than expectation. When a debut experiences the kind of success which sees Brit Award nominations and double-platinum sales it's going to be hard for a band to break the mold and venture into the unknown. The risk of undoing all the good work that has established London Grammar as 'ones to watch' was clearly evident on this new album. However, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing delivers on the promise with moments of beauty, and lyrical honesty that make good on the title of the collection. This may not be the perfect album, but it's certainly the perfect album for London Grammar's second installment, and it's likely to command a higher level of respect and success than it's predecessor. Beating your personal best is a good measure of growth.
Chuck Berry — "Chuck" — Dualtone Records
Released posthumously, Chuck Berry's final album of original material is almost above review. This is an album of merits and moments that sit in a standard of their own. Berry, who passed away in March, was an artist who truly paved the way for an entire culture of artists, musicians and writers. His influence made the work of artists like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, and Janis Joplin possible. Without Chuck Berry blazing the trail the musical landscape would be a barren place. This album then, is much less about looking forward and way more focussed on the final 'now' of an artist who plants a self-titled emblem into the world, closing off a canon of work that spawned countless world-changing artists.
Phoenix — "Ti Amo" — Glassnote
Lust, desire, love and innocence are the themes of Phoenix's sixth studio album. Latin beats, European flavored synths and an 'idealized version' of Italian sounds populate the album that is as infectious as fans could hope for. There's a self-consciousness to the tunes, and at times the tongue-in-cheek approach to delivering the good does slow down delivery, but the work of Phoenix is disarmingly charming, it's breezy and it's well balanced, so stutters don't impede progress. Ti Amo will provide the soundtrack of the summer for many listens, and for few it will linger much longer as being one of the best albums of type released this year. It's great stuff.
Rancid — "Trouble Maker" — Epitaph Records
Arising from the blue-collar swamps of California, Rancid return with their ninth studio album. Reuniting with Epitaph Records founder Brett Gurewitz who took control in the producer's seat, the band look and feel a little older — and the sounds here have an extra handful of gravel to match the louder scales and less refined energy. All of these elements reinject the kind of vitality that diehard fans are going to hold aloft as why the band remains at the top of their minds when it comes to rabble-rousing, and well, trouble-makers.
Katy Perry — "Witness" — Capitol Records
First there came the glitter balls, then came the rumors of Migos eating Ms. Perry, and a collaboration which set the internet alight. Now the California Girl is back with the fifth studio album of her career. Odd that other musicians will receive coverage on their progress and shape-shifting abilities, whereas Perry, who has also evolved way beyond her anticipated trajectory, seldom receives credit for adapting to the landscape. Still very much pop, Witness builds on Perry's strengths but slowly adds elements, like Migos, that bring a spike to the Kool Aid — a kind of adult-ing and making explicit of things that were previously inferred and childlike. Here, Perry straddles her own status, and on "Power" she claims her authority as a Goddess — what once may have been a silly aside, and playful posturing, is gaining credibility as the singer adds layers of substance to songs to produce easy, powerful pop tracks that are going to reshape the dance floors of the summer. If you understand Perry as an artist interested in single sales, you'll understand that Witness is a batch of singles, accompanied by some filler tracks that stand up well against previous batches, and will stand above other pretenders to the pure pop throne.
—The ARTISTdirect Staff