LP Release Tuesday: September 20th, 2011

By Joseph Giannone 2011-09-21 06:18:00
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For this week’s installment of LP Release Tuesday, fans of Opeth will see this once technical death metal band change its sound entirely. On their latest outing Heritage, the band throws away their former technical death metal sound for a deep record of progressive rock and jazz fusion. Yea, we were surprised too. Opeth isn’t the only band releasing an album this week that changes things up. The always fantastic Tony Bennett is showing fans his second foray into duets, appropriately called, Duets II. Tony’s new record also features the last known performance of the late Amy Winehouse, among other surprises. Post-Hardcore outfit Thrice is releasing a new album this week after three years of absence, and indie rock group Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are attaining their indie cred with yet another record garnering “that” sound. This week looks good folks, and let’s starts it off with an artist most of us know. Here’s this week’s LP releases:

LP Release Tuesday
5) Tori Amos Night of Hunters
Even if you don’t know her, Tori Amos is the singer-songwriter who set the trend for those famous, girl powered rock bands that everyone’s talking about now. Amos was rocking it out way before groups like Lykke Li, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, and Florence + The Machine took the stage in the past five years. All too often audiences forget about her powerful presence, but it’s about that time again that we remember why she’s famous in the first place, even though her sound has changed considerably since her start in the early 90’s.

Her new album Night of Hunters, like Opeth’s Heritage, has taken a radical shift in the previous stylings she once was known for. Instead of Amos’ whimsical chamber pop, this time around we see her expanding into classical territory as she describes, “a 21st century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years.” Four hundred years is correct, because the album features songs that cascade listeners with harps, cellos, horns, violins, and every other orchestral instrument under the sun. It's Beethoven meets Tori Amos. What more could you ask for?

LP Release Tuesday
4) Thrice Major/Minor
Thrice is a band that doesn’t take no for an answer. Meaning, their music is in your face, no holds barred, and any other metaphor of unbridled intensity you can think of. The indie community likes to consider Thrice as an untouched entity that the “man” hasn’t gotten hold of yet, like the other indie act on this list, because its music hasn’t been altered by corporate suits. Sure, their sound has definitely changed quite a bit since their first outing Identity Crisis, all the way back in 2001, but the intensity is still there.

Major/Minor sees the group delving deeper into their post-rock tendencies, making for another experimental album that fleshes away from past efforts. Already receiving rave reviews from outlets like Absolute Punk, Alternative Press and Blare, these favorable reviews have definitely been helped by the band's willingness to change their style over the years. Whether or not you feel that Thrice has become more accessible, or just better songwriters, there’s surely one thing that’s clear-- the band has taken off onto new heights and isn't stopping anytime soon.

LP Release Tuesday
3) Tony Bennett Duets II
For years Tony Bennett has been that leading entertainer whose music has touched millions. Even though the man is 85 years old, his songs span generations of listeners. That’s quite an impressive hat to wear, but only a man with the voice, charisma and stage presence like Tony Bennett is worthy of that title. Bennett has released well over 70 albums since the star of his career and it seems like he is not planning to stop anytime soon, which is one of the reasons why he is loved by audiences young and old. Another factor that plays into why Bennett is known by my generation and many others before is the fact that he’s continued to collaborate with some of the most famous names in show business today. By making appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Simpsons, Muppets Tonight, or singing side by side with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Flavor Flav, Bennett has kept busy keeping his name relevant.

Now with Duets II coming out this week, consider this his 10th revival. Singing with Lady Gaga, John Mayer, Faith Hill, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson and Carrie Underwood among others, Bennett is quickly throwing himself into pop culture again. Another major breakthrough for this record, as we pointed out last month, is that this is also the last recording Amy Winehouse made before her untimely demise. All I have to say is that I’m glad Amy had her last performance with Tony Bennett, a man whose career spanning over fifty years, has touched millions of lives.

LP Release Tuesday
2) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Hysterical
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is a prominent group that, like Thrice, has kept its soft bodied indie rock out of the hands of the corporate machine. This doesn’t matter to me at all though, because instead of turning up on the “man’s” doorstep, I care more about whether or not the band stays either gets a little better with each record or tries something new. Many hipsters want Clap Your Hands to stay away from the move towards a larger fan base through expensive exposure that only a major label can provide, but the only way they can still survive is by churning out good music that’s bound to gain a larger fan base. Even though they aren’t like other indie bands in the limelight, David Bowie and David Byrne have both been spotted at this Brooklyn, New York quintet’s shows. So does this mean they’re gaining more popularity? Maybe so.

It’s now been four years since their last effort Some Loud Thunder, and Hysterical has finally made its way out. On their first album in four years, the band continues on the path of simplistic indie rock that most casual music fans won’t be able to get into, but have also expanded into some new territory. Prolific indie producer John Congleton takes the reins on this outing, guiding the boys through this album's sonic sound by taking them to a whole new level of creativity that will surely keep fans wanting more.

LP Release Tuesday
1) Opeth Heritage
There are many things to be said about Opeth. Whether or not it’s bad, good, or indifferent, audiences tend to have an opinion of the group, even if they’ve never listened to their music. For a long time I’d never heard of them, and I know many are with me, but this doesn’t mean they’re not famous, because they are. What turns many away from them is the description of their sound as “technical death metal.” What is “technical death metal,” you ask? Well, it’s a form of death metal, obviously, that features heavy riffs, extremely fast tempos and growling vocals. Not many people tend to gravitate towards music that features “growling vocals.” To shake things up though, instead of looking towards the past on their latest record Heritage, Opeth sounds off to the future. On the LP, the Swedish group explores 1970’s jazz fusion, progressive rock and Black Sabbath’s coined hard rock by taking a leave of absence from the growling vocals and extreme instrumentation they were once famous for.

Metal fans, like indie hipsters, might see this as the group seeking to attract a wider audience, but I see this as Opeth's chance to further themselves away from this tired genre. Instead of continuing with technical death metal sounds, which they’ve done since their debut album Orchid in 1995, band leader Mikael Åkerfeldt has taken his group to an entirely different music hall, where the acoustics are better than anything they’ve entered previously. As Mikael stated in an interview, “It will be our 10th album/observation. I dig it; we all do. In fact, it feels like I've been building up to write for and participate on an album like this since I was 19.” It’s amazing that after twenty one years of creating death metal, Opeth is finally taking this major leap of faith that’s throwing them away from the proven sound that’s made them lots of money. But, I guess it’s time for change and it’s certainly welcome.

I’m not saying that their previous albums have been worthless, even though I am not a fan of metal, but I will say that this foray into jazz fusion and progressive rock will help them garner that truly remarkable recognition they’ve been working for since their inception. Being a “technical death metal” band does have its drawbacks, but now Opeth has finally taken their musical abilities to new heights and will subsequently see new fans emerge who will take in everything they have to offer.

That is the most wonderful thing about music in general, though. Most groups make their name by simply releasing the same style of music over and over again throughout their tenure. Yet, it’s those who make certain leaps of faith that make the process of art, worthwhile. Variety is the spice of life.
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