The Hunting Party/Warner Bros.
Somewhere along the way, the band Linkin Park became viewed as a formulaic one-trick pony. Pair up Chester Bennington’s throat-
scraping screeches with raucous guitars and drums, occasional scratches and raps from Mike Shinoda, repeat, and call it good. And while this might have been true at the start, the group has evolved into a surprisingly melodic band over the years. The Hunting Party is the latest piece of evidence. Yes, there are plenty of moments where Bennington’s vocal cords sound like they are going to explode, but he switches from grating to gorgeous on a dime on the Helmet-like opener “Keys to the Kingdom.” Driving rockers like “The Summoning” find the band embracing a catchy, heavy metal aesthetic that is as earth-shaking as it is beautiful in its anger. The apocalyptic rocker “Until it’s Gone” is a spine-tingler and when Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello guests on the instrumental track “Drawbar” the hairs on your neck will stand straight up. The Hunting Party is not serious, beautiful, or original—“War” sounds like a modern rock rip off of Metallica’s classic “Whiplash” for example—but it is a striking record.
If you want something truly left-of-center, check out Praying Mantis from Pittsburgh’s psych-folk band Grandpa Egg. It’s a story album about Pellapetisimo the Praying Mantis, Christopher Cricket, a girl named Sally, and a host of other creatures living in a meadow together. The intro to the folk opener “Meadow Song” sets the offbeat tone as Morris admits that “the following story is not exactly coherent,” and ends his monologue by deadpanning, “Good luck.” “Dandelions” is a picturesque, upbeat bluegrass number and “Every Alcove” comes off as folk music out of a spaghetti Western—and all the while, singer-guitarist Morris is a perfect narrator as he guides you through a series of off-the-wall stories with a fragile, nasally voice that lands somewhere between dead serious and bemused. It is a tricky line to walk for an album theme, but on Praying Mantis, it turns out to be a lot of fun.
Similar Skin/Nothing Too Fancy Music
When it comes to innovative, hard-working DIY rock bands, there are few better than Umphrey’s McGee, and Similar Skin, the band’s seventh studio album proves it. From the space rock of “The Linear,” which sounds like the merging of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” and The Police’s “Everything Little Thing She Does is Magic,” to dirty rockers like “Cut the Cable,” the riffs are epic, the drumming is intricate and thunderous, and the music is one hell of a good time. The funky rocker “No Diablo” insists that you move to the beat, and the title track is progressive rock at its finest. Add on the insatiable urge for air guitar on rock tracks like “Educated Guess,” and find a rollicking good time in this new release.