Bittersweet and blue sky ballads
Blue Sky Days/Self-released
Singer-songwriter Jamie Bendell’s latest EP Blue Sky Days throws fans a bit of a curve ball. Ditching the upbeat acoustic pop of previous releases, Bendell plumbs more solemn subjects and broadens her musical repertoire to include Americana and folk music. The title track wrestles gamely with questions about finding your place in the world while holding onto hope of blue sky days with almost religious reverence, and “Late Night” has her lamenting, “I’m drinking too much/Or I’m not drinking enough.” The country-esque “Hope” and toe-tapping, mid-tempo “Only Way They’ll Listen” venture back into Bendell’s wheelhouse with strong, slightly quirky melodies and rhythms, and “Not Too Young” balances both the serious and the light with an upbeat pop rock sound. Bendell has matured significantly since her last release and Blue Sky Days is fine proof.
Emperors of Wyoming
Emperors of Wyoming/Proper Records
Butch Vig has been associated with a number of alternative bands over the years, having produced Nirvana’s legendary Nevermind and the Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish, in addition to spending time as part of Garbage. His latest band is a complete one-eighty from all of that. Emperors of Wyoming is an alt-country band whose debut is filled with Americana sounds, Spaghetti Western tinges, and even some Tom Petty-ish pop rock, and while the results aren’t always good, it gets points for trying. “The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye” is a nice start as it employs a mid-tempo pop rock rhythm while lead singer Phil Davis waxes philosophical about the temporary nature of this life. “Never Got Over You” is another decent number that transcends the mopey vibe that songs of this ilk commonly have, and there’s a nice guitar solo near the end to liven things up. Lead singer Phil Davis’ vocals, sadly, are not very dynamic, but they get the job done.
Signed and Sealed in Blood/Born & Bred Records
As one of the tracks on their latest album states, Boston’s favorite Celtic punk rock sons The Dropkick Murphys are back and they’re looking for trouble. Signed and Sealed in Blood is loaded with the kind of energy, passion and raucous chants that have been somewhat muted on the past couple of releases. As the lads revel in the things they value most—friendship, loyalty and living life to the fullest—you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement, especially on rollicking rock numbers like “The Battle Rages On.” The gang’s punk rock verve and swagger are on full display in “Out on the Town,” the ballad “Rose Tattoo” explodes into an epic party song halfway through, and if you can keep up with the blistering pace of “Burn” you’re likely to exhaust yourself. When the band slows it down a little on its unusual take on the Christmas season, “The Season’s Upon Us,” you can’t help but laugh and cringe all at once, however Blood stands out as the band’s strongest release in a long while.