Thursday, August 28, 2014

Americana and a foray away from Hollywood

album reviews

Band: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Album: Hypnotic Eye

It has been almost four decades since Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers entered the music scene, and it’s no mean feat that the partnership is still going strong. Now the group has added 11 more songs to their already impressive catalogue with the release of their thirteenth studio album, Hypnotic Eye.

Put together with the intent of creating “a straight hard-rockin’ record”, Hypnotic Eye is consistently solid without being flashy. The album offers snarling sentiments amidst gritty guitars, jangling cymbals, and reliable percussions, creating a concoction of rock that often takes its cues from jazz and blues.

The songs – all of which have been written and composed by Tom Petty (with the exception of ‘Fault Lines’, which includes contributions by guitarist Mike Campbell) – rely on melodies that satisfy but rarely enter the catchy earworm territory. Reflective lyrics power the tracks, touching on topics like chasing dreams (‘American Dream Plan B’), power and politics (‘Power Drunk’, ‘Burnt Out Town’), and aging (‘Full Grown Boy’, ‘Sins Of My Youth’). Sometimes Petty’s vocals seem a tad too weary, but this characteristic also adds edge to the sound while complementing the subject matter.

Hypnotic Eye isn’t propelled by commercial ambition; it is clear that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made this record because they wanted to. The overall template remains more or less the same, and the result might not be as immediate as some of their best known pop hits, but this slice of Americana is sure to please fans of vintage rock.

Highlights: ‘Fault Lines’, ‘Red River’, ‘Forgotten Man’
Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Artist: Michael Cera
Album: true that

The quiet release of Michael Cera’s debut album might have caught us by surprise, but anyone who has been keeping an eye on the actor’s career won’t be shocked by his foray into music. When he hasn’t been busy being typecast as an awkward wallflower in movies (where he has occasionally found himself in the vicinity of musical instruments), Cera has played bass with indie supergroup Mister Heavenly and even contributed mandolin and backing vocals to a song on Weezer’s Hurley.

The actor has now uploaded true that, his first full-length sonic outing, to Bandcamp, where it can be streamed for free (or purchased for $7). His homespun release (which was brought to the world’s attention after Jonah Hill tweeted about its existence) offers an eclectic collection of folksy lo-fi experimentation. Unassuming and intimate in its delivery, the record features 18 tracks, some of which play like fragments, others take the shape of fully formed instrumentals, while a few feature his wispy vocals. Standouts include the warm cover of singer-songwriter Blaze Foley’s ‘Clay Pigeons’ as well as the vibrant, synth-ridden instrumental ‘2048’ and the buoyant, piano-driven ‘Of A Thursday’.

The musicianship may not be seasoned and he might need to develop a little more confidence in himself as a vocalist, but at its best, the album brings some of indie’s finest staples (like Belle & Sebastian and Modest Mouse) to mind. Unbridled by expectations, Cera has whipped up some raw, interesting sounds that, just like the characters he often plays, are charmingly quirky.

Highlights: ‘Clay Pigeons’, ‘Of A Thursday’, ‘ohNadine (you were in my dream)’
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 28th August, 2014 *

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