Jeff Walker’s July Music Review: Raconteurs, Black Keys, Thom Yorke, Mattson 2, Joe Henderson

A roundup of some of our favorite new album releases

Raconteurs “Help Us Stranger” (Third Man/Warner). Summer has gotten off to a solid start with a couple of rock records from veteran indie acts. Eleven years since their last release, the Raconteurs return with their third album. This fully-realized four piece was originally a release valve from The White Stripes. Now a solid established band in their own right, Jack White, Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler have created a classic rock album that stretches from loud to quiet and back to loud again. There are several strong tracks on this release, mostly styled after 1960s and ’70s classic rock containing signature crisp riffs and tight harmonies. They’ve even thrown in a Donovan cover “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness).” Standout tracks are “Only Child,” “Sunday Driver,” “Thoughts and Prayers,” and “Now That You’re Gone.”

The Black Keys “Let’s Rock” (Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch). The second big summer rock record comes from The Black Keys. This is their first new record in five years (the biggest gap in their career) and the first since “Turn Blue.” The Black Keys solidified their current “big sound” using additional touring musicians with their sixth album “Brothers.” Both Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach have also become sought-after producers over the last several years and have both released solo material. Not really experiencing any band mid-life crisis, The Black Keys have stuck to producing solid material. This album delivers on a level that we’ve all come to expect. Standout tracks are “Shine a Little Light,” “Lo/Hi,” and “Tell Me Lies.”

Thom Yorke “Anima” (XL Recordings). This is Thom Yorke’s third solo album and he continues on his songwriting journey through techno-dystopia. It is his most ambitious solo record yet. On these new tracks he connects between societal turmoil and internal monologue. It is the darkest and tenderest music he has released outside of Radiohead to date. In his own words, “it’s the product of an extended period of anxiety.” He and long-time collaborator/Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich have crafted an ambitious collection of songs. Standout tracks are “Traffic,” “Not the News,” and “Dawn Chorus.”

Mattson 2 “Paradise” (Company Records). On the brighter side of this month’s featured albums, identical twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson have released their eighth record as a guitar and drum duo. Their collaborative sense of melody and intuitive flow fills the entire record. They have even added their own vocals for the first time, after previously releasing a collaboration with Toro y Moi (Chaz Bundik) a few years ago. The record shines with reverb-soaked guitars, solid drumming, and glimmers of California sunshine using deceptively simple sounding riffs and refrains. These guys are clearly hanging out on the right side of jazz fusion. Standout tracks are “Naima’s Dream,” “Wavelength,” and “Paradise.”

Joe Henderson “State of the Tenor, Live at The Village Vanguard, Vol. 2” (Tone Poet/Blue Note). My final record of the month comes from jazz great Joe Henderson. This is what could be considered a follow-up to his Blue Note release “State of the Tenor: Live at The Village Vanguard, Vol. 1.” Material on Vol. 2 has not been released before and is simply magisterial. It has been released as a special edition limited pressing vinyl as part of Blue Note’s Tone Poet series. The recording is from 1985 capturing a series of shows with Ron Carter (bass) and Al Foster (drums). Known for his husky growling tone with soulful sophistication, Henderson was at the peak of his creative powers during this period. He is at top form in saxophone improvisation. Ron Carter and Al Foster create a gently undulating rhythmic backdrop to all of these absolutely stellar tracks.  This record is a must for any jazz fan. Standout tracks are Thelonious Monks’ “Boo Boo’s Birthday,” Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl” and Henderson’s original composition “Y Ya La Quiero.”

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