Once again, muso reader-writer Lucho Payne delivers us from musical boredom with four new albums to fit all (rockin') tastes. From The Temper Trap, Powderfinger, Alestorm and Them Crooked Vultures, he will not lead us astray. Just into shopping temptation.
All shiny and new, Melbourne's The Temper Trap have certainly made a massive impression with their debut album, Conditions. Released in October and tipped by the BBC as the sound of 2009, the album has received much praise and several music-biz awards. The single Sweet Dispositions has been a world-wide hit - a track particularly loved by the people who choose the music for adverts and TV programmes (very effective on the recent Sky Sports ad featuring Jose Mourinho).
The music itself is sharp, tight, punchy modern-sounding pop-rock. Which sounds fine, but then you have to add in the vocals of lead singer Dougie Mandagi, and his vocal style is quite unusual. It's very melodic but often high enough up in the falsetto region to make men quiver slightly. At times it's a bit like the Scissor Sisters on a night-out with the Mick Hucknall. Personally I prefer the tracks such as Down River where the high-up stuff is not so prominent.
But if you like modern radio-friendly rock with a pulsating kick to it and you're not put off by the falsetto vocals, then this album is for you.
Sticking with the Australian theme, Brisbane's Powderfinger have announced that they have reached the end of the road, and that their seventh album, Golden Rule, will be their last. Powderfinger's brand of thoughtful melodic rock has been hugely successful - with classics such as My Happiness and Waiting for the Sun - breaking them into the US and making them one of Australia's biggest recording artists.
There's some good stuff on Golden Rule, particularly All of The Dreamers, Sail the Wildest Stretch, Iberian Dreams. This album is far better than you might expect from a band who are calling it a day. If you're not familiar with Powderfinger and fancy trying out a previous album, give Odyssey Number Five a whirl.
Golden Rule was released in late 2009 and the Sunsets Tour - now a farewell tour - was announced for the UK in April 2010. However, the UK dates were postponed due to the pesky Icelandic volcano, and they will now take place in June 2010. The farewell gigs will be emotional times for the legions of Powderfinger fans, and if you're quick you can catch them for one last time at the Brixton Academy in June.
They are Scottish, they sing sea-shanties, their guitars are loud and thrashy. Yes, it's everybody's favourite genre: Scottish Pirate Metal! Black Sails at Midnight is Alestorm's second album (following on from Captain Morgan's Revenge), and with tracks such as Wolves of the Sea, Keelhauled and Pirate Song, I think you can see a theme building.
Although this sounds slightly unfeasible, there is a formula here that works well, and can get your foot stomping as you sing-along whilst waving your grog in the air. Where it works best - as in Keelhauled - is the combination of a traditional sailor's fiddle melody with some heavy surf-crashing-on-cliffs guitar, thumping bass and drums along with a rousing chorus: "Keelhaul that filthy landlubber, send him down to the depths below...with a bottle of rum and a yo-ho-ho."
A limited genre perhaps - but good fun nevertheless. Yaaar!
Hot on the heels of the supergroup The Dead Weather, here we have another one. Maybe Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) got together and decided all they needed was a super-famous bass player and they were off. How about the guy out of Led Zeppelin? Yeah, John Paul Jones - he'll do nicely - and the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures was born.
Obviously this combination of individuals will have many rock fans drooling with excitement. But what sort of music would come out of it? Intrigued, I was very keen to hear this album and on the first few listens, I found that it sounded very much like music by Queens of the Stone Age. However, as always with music like this, many listens are required.
The heavy blues influence from Led Zeppelin becomes more noticeable after several more plays, and while Josh Homme's vocals and guitar sounds dictate the overall feel to the music, there are many pleasing undertones. The punchy irresistible riff to Gunman is very Led Zep. As is the heavy blues-style of No One Loves Me Neither Do I. Elephants kicks along in a similar style to Led Zep's "Been a long time since I rock and rolled". Meanwhile, Scumbag Blues is very Clapton/Cream (yikes - more falsetto).
So deep, dark rock with a hint of kick-ass swagger. Excellent...