Nick Rubin



Album reviews: James Elkington, TOPS, Rips, Beach Fossils, The Strypes

Album reviews: James Elkington, TOPS, Rips, Beach Fossils, The Strypes

James Elkington Wintres Woma (Paradise of Bachelors) When bashful guitar hero Steve Gunn played the Tea Bazaar in fall 2014, a lot of the crowd ended up buzzing about sous guitarist James Elkington, whose electric and lap steel provided endlessly dazzling settings and accents. On Wintres Woma, his solo debut, Elkington sticks to acoustic guitar […]

Album reviews: Dan Auerbach, Crescent, St. Etienne and Phoenix

Album reviews: Dan Auerbach, Crescent, St. Etienne and Phoenix

Dan Auerbach Waiting on a Song (Nonesuch) Gotta confess, The Black Keys always felt like a put-on, but Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach is starting to win me over. Last year he produced The Pretenders’ Alone, which was a pleasant surprise, and it’s possible that Auerbach’s other production gigs (Dr. John, Lana Del Rey, Ray LaMontagne) […]

Album reviews: Justin Townes Earle, Lil Yachty, Woods, Kevin Morby and Blondie

Album reviews: Justin Townes Earle, Lil Yachty, Woods, Kevin Morby and Blondie

Justin Townes Earle Kids in the Street (New West) Being Steve Earle’s son and Townes Van Zandt’s namesake unfairly provokes expectations of preternatural songwriting gifts. Happily, on Kids in the Street, oft-troubled Justin Townes Earle lives up to his lineage. It kicks off with the Stones-y stomp of “Champagne Corolla”—the band sounds great, horns nestling […]

Album reviews: Juana Molina, Penguin Café and Kweku Collins

Album reviews: Juana Molina, Penguin Café and Kweku Collins

Juana Molina Halo (Crammed Discs) Starting with her enchanting Segundo album, Juana Molina has cultivated such an indelible style that it might seem confusing if she deviated. Her music comprises repetitive acoustic guitar patterns, wavery keyboard tones, rubbery bass figures and rhythm tracks from homemade sources like hand claps and ticking clocks—and then, there’s Molina’s […]

Album reviews: Kendrick Lamar, Laetitia Sadier and Karriem Riggins

Album reviews: Kendrick Lamar, Laetitia Sadier and Karriem Riggins

Kendrick Lamar DAMN. (Aftermath) After the world-beating To Pimp a Butterfly and the casual but satisfying demo album untitled unmastered., anything Kendrick Lamar put out in 2017 would have drawn scrutiny; signs of falling off would have been magnified—even a sequel to Butterfly could have been slammed as predictable, lazy. DAMN. is neither. Released on […]

Album reviews: Thundercat, Eden Ahbez and Laura Marling

Album reviews: Thundercat, Eden Ahbez and Laura Marling

Thundercat Drunk (Brainfeeder) Thundercat (né Stephen Bruner) is a top-shelf guest artist, having loaned his six-string bass and falsetto to Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus. With his solo albums, Thundercat has also carved out and completely inhabited his own patch of land, creating something distinct and stable within pop’s ever-shifting world. The opening […]

Album reviews: Novella, Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau and Chicano Batman

Album reviews: Novella, Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau and Chicano Batman

Novella Change of State (Sinderlyn) Perilous are the genres doggedly loyal to form in some way, like the blues or reggae. Just follow the chord progression, or chunk the guitar in a characteristic rhythm—and voilà: doing it. But what percentage of overall attempts to make reggae music have been horrific? Ninety? Novella courts disaster on […]

Album reviews: Spiral Stairs, Alison Krauss and The xx

Album reviews: Spiral Stairs, Alison Krauss and The xx

Spiral Stairs Doris and the Daggers (Domino) After eight years, Scott Kannberg, aka Spiral Stairs, sounds rested and rejuvenated. Doris and the Daggers kicks off with “Dance (Cry Wolf),” a flashing ’80s glam jam. When Kannberg’s baritone comes in like a countrified Ian Curtis, it’s a little startling, and on the chorus he sounds like […]

Album reviews: Neil Young, Ty Segall and Tift Merritt

Album reviews: Neil Young, Ty Segall and Tift Merritt

Neil Young Peace Trail (Reprise) Despite his 1980s stylistic wanderings, Neil Young is one of rock’s great dependables. His output is perpetual (Peace Trail is his eighth album in 10 years); his voice eternally a thin warble; his grooves bump along like a wagon. When every record carries such strong and specific flavors, it gets […]

Album reviews: Rebel Kind, The Rolling Stones and Proper Ornaments

Album reviews: Rebel Kind, The Rolling Stones and Proper Ornaments

Rebel Kind Just For Fools (Urinal Cake) The band name and green-black-yellow-red color scheme may suggest reggae, but Rebel Kind is straight lo-fi from the fertile indie scene of Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor. The band is led by guitarist/singer Autumn Wetli, one-time drummer for Bad Indians, and includes bassist Shelley Salant (Swimsuit, Tyvek) and drummer/keyboardist Amber Fellows […]

Album reviews: Real Numbers, Flower Girl and Goat

Album reviews: Real Numbers, Flower Girl and Goat

Real Numbers Wordless Wonder (Three Dimensional) Minneapolis’ Real Numbers declares its twee intentions from the first moments of “Frank Infatuation,” the leadoff track on Wordless Wonder. Brisk, strummy guitar chords make a bed for a bouncy, melodic bass before drums rush in along with a rudimentary but game-as-hell lead guitar line. Singer Eli Hansen enters […]

Album reviews: Big Star, Sun Ra and NRBQ

Album reviews: Big Star, Sun Ra and NRBQ

Big Star Complete Third (Omnivore) A legendary band’s most legendary turn. After Big Star’s brilliant 1972 debut, #1 Record, stiffed, co-leader Chris Bell quit, leaving Alex Chilton as the band’s main mover for its 1974 follow-up, the sparkling Radio City—which also stiffed. Both albums are power-pop classics, routinely included in best-ever lists, but for many […]

Album Reviews: Cluster, Robbie Robertson and Punk 45: Les Punks

Album Reviews: Cluster, Robbie Robertson and Punk 45: Les Punks

Cluster Kollektion 06: Cluster 1971-1981 (Bureau B) In the ’70s, Cluster’s Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were part of Germany’s glorious outpouring of synth-based instrumental rock, simultaneously extending ’60s experimentalism and pointing forward not only to the golden age of synthpop, but to bands like Stereolab, Tortoise and Boards of Canada. Cluster’s psychedelic soft bulletins […]

Album Reviews: Sting, David Crosby, The Pretenders

Album Reviews: Sting, David Crosby, The Pretenders

Sting 57th & 9th (Interscope) Listening to 57th & 9th is like joining your pretentious, albeit charismatic, uncle in his drawing room for a dram of some unfamiliar cordial. Uncle Gordon’s in a yearning mood: for belief; for artistic potency and the burn of adulation; for fallen geniuses and lost lovers. He was, indisputably, a […]

Album reviews: Lambchop, Shagwuf, MV & EE

Album reviews: Lambchop, Shagwuf, MV & EE

Lambchop FLOTUS (Merge) Kurt Wagner might deserve this year’s indie Lifetime Achievement Award. While recording as Lambchop for more than 20 years, he has ably covered a waterfront of styles, from string-laden alt-country to hipster soul and mellow indie-pop. To boot, he’s given us a bounty of wry titles like “Cigaretiquette” and “The Petrified Florist,” […]

Album reviews: Wilco, The Limiñanas, Vulfpeck

Album reviews: Wilco, The Limiñanas, Vulfpeck

Wilco Schmilco (dBpm) Wilco has always been a welcome sight, but I’ve never particularly invested much in Jeff Tweedy and his buds—Wilco’s ninth album, Star Wars, came out last year and I totally missed it. So here’s the 10th, and I’m feeling like a fool and a pushover, because Schmilco’s a total pleasure. Tweedy’s voice […]

Album reviews: Devendra Banhart, Ryley Walker, Gonjasufi

Album reviews: Devendra Banhart, Ryley Walker, Gonjasufi

Devendra Banhart Ape in Pink Marble (Nonesuch) Devendra Banhart seems like a good idea. Handsome, talented and raised in Venezuela and Los Angeles by free-spirited parents, Banhart dropped out of art school at 19 to busk on streets, and subsequently came to the attention of Swans’ Michael Gira, who released Banhart’s home recordings to wide […]

Album reviews: Amber Arcades, EZTV and Ultimate Painting

Album reviews: Amber Arcades, EZTV and Ultimate Painting

Amber Arcades Fading Lines (Heavenly) A stereotypical indie-rocker might work as a barista or telemarketer; Utrecht songwriter Annelotte de Graaf is a legal aide for the international war crimes tribunal and the Dutch immigration office. As such, you could expect Fading Lines, her debut as Amber Arcades, to be full of ponderous downers, but it’s […]

Album reviews: Keeping it surreal

Album reviews: Keeping it surreal

Frank Ocean Blonde (Boys Don’t Cry) In the midst of all the think pieces analyzing Blonde as an event, it seems worth restating the bottom line: Frank Ocean is a brilliant songwriter, musician and producer, and Blonde is overflowing with sonic and compositional gifts; it’s almost embarrassing. So when I played this for my dad […]