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CATCHING UP 6.0: Butch Walker, Carly Rae Jepsen, Banks & Steelz, Britney Spears, Delain

Lately, new release day has been so ho-hum.  The things I like tend to just creep out, sometimes on new release Friday, other times on the old new release Tuesday schedule…. Or on some arbitrary day of the week.  But today there are lots of solid releases out.

The first is Butch Walker’s latest offering, Stay Gold, which is a reference to The Outsiders, in case you were wondering.  I wonder if they still show that in high school English classes?  Or if they even read the book?  The album kicks off with “Stay Gold,” which one assumes is intended for the Greasers, since good ol’ Ponyboy gets a shout out.  I imagine you must be pretty confused if you’ve never read The Outsiders or seen the movie.  So, let’s talk about some of the other songs on the album, shall we?  Insofar as the overall vibe goes, it’s like a cross between The Spade and Peachtree Battle.  You can barely tell it’s the same dude who released the Ryan Adams produced Afraid of Ghosts a year or so ago.  The big difference is the production.  Because, let’s face it, Ryan Adams did Afraid of Ghosts a disservice.  Some of the songs sounded OK, but the title track has so much reverb and sounds so muddled that I couldn’t understand half the lyrics.  It was only when I found a version of it performed live in studio on Youtube that I could understand it clearly.  So, I ripped that and replaced the album version with it on my Afraid of Ghosts playlist.  There were other songs that sounded muddled, too.  One thing about Butch is that these days he does his best production when producing other artists.  Stay Gold sounds fine, but the production is very stripped back, a far cry from the Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco albums he did a few years ago.  Speaking of which, both of those bands should have had Butch produce them again on their most recent albums because they pretty much suck compared to the ones he produced.  Especially the new Panic! At The Disco.  I know it’s proving hugely successful and the vinyl has been in Newbury Comics’ Top 20 Vinyl Releases chart ever since the record came out, but I don’t care for it.  The previous one had Butch as an unofficial member, playing instruments, co-writing and producing it with Brandon Urie.  Now, well, Butch is gone and I don’t think Urie is very good left to his own devices.  OK, so I’m rambling.  The bottom line?  There isn’t a bad song on Stay Gold and it’s time you join what we fans call “the cult of Butch.”

Today Carly Rae Jepsen has released Emotion Side B.  I don’t know if these are new recordings or if they were leftover tracks from the Emotion sessions.  I would think it’s the latter, given the title.  In any case, it’s damn good.  It’s funny how the album “Call Me Maybe” was on was piss poor, but Emotion is one of the best pop albums of the past couple of years, easily.  So, it should come as no surprise that Emotion Side B is spectacular.  She just might prove to be her generation’s Princess of Pop.  Of course, Kylie Minogue will always be the princess of pop for my generation, but I will admit that Carly’s Emotion, and Emotion Side B, are superior to Kylie’s last album, Kiss Me Once.

Also out today is Banks & Steelz, the collaborative album of Interpol’s Paul Banks and Wu Tang’s RZA.  I think they should’ve called it Banks & RZA to make sure people know who Steelz is, but RZA isn’t the first rapper to give himself a new name.  Maybe Steelz is a pseudonym RZA is using because this is so different from his normal output?  Regardless, their songs here are top notch.  With most of them RZA raps the verses and Banks sings the choruses.  It’s quite the winning formula.  If that doesn’t sound interesting, you should at least check out “Wild Season” featuring Florence Welch (aka Florence + The Machine).

Britney Spears’ new album Glory is out today, too.  I’m not sure what to say about it though.  It’s not immediately catchy like her first four albums, but I am liking it more with each listen.  So, it just might prove to be one of her best once it grows on you, kind of like how Blackout didn’t seem especially good at first but ultimately proved to be a fan favorite and an album many of her fans cite as a favorite.  One thing is for certain, it’s much better than Britney’s last album, which had a few good songs and a ton of shitty ones.

Delain has a new album out today, too.  It’s called Moonbathers. They’re a really great metal band that has a female lead vocalist who sings beautiful, clean vocals and a death metal co-vocalist who growls like a rabid wolf.  The contrast between the two is what makes their songs so interesting.  Sometimes I wish they’d release versions of their albums with the clean vocals only, but they’re worth listening to even if you’re not crazy about death metal.  Personally, I like death metal.  I have to be in the mood for it though.  So, it would just be nice to have a clean vocals only edition of the album to listen to when I’m not in the mood for it.  Ultimately, Moonbathers will wind up topping a lot of critics’ best metal albums of 2016 list.

My apologies to those of you who don’t have Spotify.  If you don’t, you really should.  Even if you don’t plan on paying for it and still buy new music, it’s worth having so that you can try new things before you buy.  I didn’t like the whole idea of streaming when it first came out, but eventually I downloaded it and I’ve come to love it.  I hate that they don’t pay the musicians enough money, but it doesn’t stop me from sampling new things with it.  Besides, even the musicians who’ve spoken negatively about how they get paid have told me they listen to it anyway.  So, if artists who are getting screwed by them still use the service then I should think you can justify it, too.

If it’s not obvious, I wrote this edition of Catching Up while under the influence of a lot of caffeine, hence it being somewhat less, um, coherent than the previous editions.  I’ll try not to be so caffeinated when I write the next one.

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Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

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