You should be listening to albums.
In the world of playlists and Pandora, streams and singles, it’s easy to take your music a la carte and only dip your toe into an artist’s offering. That works occasionally and is an unavoidable habit, but a lot of music is meant to be enjoyed as the completed puzzle and not just one jigsaw piece.
This week is a great example with a few albums that sound so much better as a complete work than they would in a single serving. A concept album from Dr. Dog needs to be enjoyed as such, and the latest music of Elton John paints a much fuller picture when enjoyed in its entirety.
Just something to consider as you exercise your ears on today’s New Music Friday. Here’s a few highlights from this week’s new releases.
Dr. Dog – The Psychedelic Swamp
Philadelphia’s Dr.Dog is fuzzed out and fun on their latest The Psychedelic Swamp. After a polished and more radio-ready outing in 2013 with B-Room, the boys are back to sink into a conceptual marsh of music that shows just enough trippy garnish to keep it weird yet not distract for their pop prowess. Although occasionally bogged down by the album’s theme of sinking into an actual bog, Dr. Dog shines with shades of The Beatles and The Monkees’ Head era.
There’s a whole backstory associated with this album about corresponding with another dimension via a cassette tape, one which Dr. Dog decoded into “the greatest pop album of all time”. That tale unfolded in a show done for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival last year. No matter what dimension they’re in, Dr. Dog has found a strange new path paved with the melodies and harmony that have always made them great.
Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night
The gang is all back with Sir Elton John, and so is the jangly carnival piano of his 70’s sound. On Wonderful Crazy Night, producer T-Bone Burnett and lyricist Bernie Taupin help push the 68-year-old John into “Honkey Cat” rhythms that we haven’t seen out of this rock royalty in a bit. John wears it well and seems to be having fun in a mature update to those classic days. “The view’s a whole lot better the second time around” he sings on “Looking Up”.
It’s a nice change of pace for Elton, who filled his last album (2013’s The Diving Board) with sparse and serious piano. Everything is fuller and funkier on Wonderful Crazy Night, but he still does sweet and tender in top form on songs like “Blue Wonderful” – one of the best of the album – and “A Good Heart”.
Wiz Khalifa – Khalifa
Fresh off a twitter fight to end all twitter fights courtesy of Kanye West, Wiz returns with Khalifa today. As always Khalifa stays blunted, but is packed with a lot of ambition for such a weed enthusiast.
“All you need is a foundation to stand on. And you can build it, then the limit is the sky” he raps on the song “Elevation”. Right on, that’s positive and uplifting. He continues, “until then I’m with my **** getting high.” Ahh, there it is.
There’s plenty rolled up in Khalifa, including some crooning on “Call Waiting” and a few strong assists from Juicy J and Travi$ Scott.
Also out this week is the debut from Country star Charles Kelley, who’s got guest stars like he’s on Cash Money Records. Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, and Stevie Nicks all stop by on The Driver. Plus LION BABE makes their jittery elctro-R&B debut with Begin.