Albums: Pearl Jam, Brian Fallon, Sufjan Stevens and The Chats
PEARL Jam are back with their 11th studio album, their first since 2013's Lightning Bolt – so it's been a long wait for fans. And by their own admission, the making of this has been a "long journey".
Lead guitarist Mike McCready said: "It was emotionally dark and confusing at times, but also an exciting and experimental road map to musical redemption."
Gigaton, featuring an album cover showing a melting ice cap, was worth the wait.
Given the changing landscape of the last few years, the band haven't shied away from referencing things like Trump, who gets a mention in Great Escape as Eddie Vedder sings about finding a place the American President "hadn't f*****d yet".
The 12 tracks make you feel like Pearl Jam have emerged from a musical retreat, and this album is the product.
LOCAL Honey is the third solo album from songwriter Brian Fallon, best known for being in New Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem.
It follows 2016's Painkillers and 2018's Sleepwalkers and satisfyingly tries to be neither of its predecessors.
Despite only featuring eight tracks, you still get full bang for your buck: these eight songs feel more personal than any collection Fallon has ever put together before.
The album title couldn't be more apt given what is happening worldwide and what we are being told right now: stay local, stay home.
This is an important release in this time of global worry and the tracks are filled with anxiety, hope, love and belief.
Several of Fallon's songs on this release have a lullaby quality to them, and I don't think anybody could argue that's not a good thing right now. Stay home with Local Honey.
Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brams
THE Michigan maverick Sufjan Stevens takes yet another unexpected turn with an album made with his stepfather Lowell Brams, who founded the Asthmatic Kitty label to release his first record A Sun Came.
Now Brams is retiring and Aporia – a word with meanings including an irresolvable contradiction as well as a state of puzzlement, appropriate for the unsettling atmosphere – marks his departure.
There are 21 synth-led tracks, mostly instrumental, ranging from 33 seconds to three minutes 35 seconds, with titles such as Ousia, Agathon and Palinodes.
A follow-up to 2008's Music For Insomnia, these ghostly tracks could soundtrack a celluloid dystopian nightmare.
The main cinematic influence is John Carpenter soundtracks, there are echoes of ambient and New Age music and 1970s synth pioneers Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, while some tracks with beats also hint at artists like Nathan Fake.
Best listened to through headphones, Aporia was recorded over many years, but emerges now as a fitting soundtrack to troubling times.
High Risk Behaviour
WITH the entire country in lockdown, High Risk Behaviour by Australian punk-rockers The Chats might just be the album everyone needs right now. The frantic tempos and thrashing guitars are a perfect soundtrack for the newly imposed quarantine, whether you're completing a home workout or angrily doing the dishes.
It doesn't take much brain power to enjoy. The band's 'three-chords-is-one-too-many' approach brings a new meaning to 'easy listening'. It's fast-paced and catchy; half of the 14 songs are less than two minutes – great for those with diminished attention-spans.
It's weirdly nostalgic too – "doing runners" from restaurants and going to the pub for a "good feed" are now activities of yesteryear and will have you pining for your first pint out when all of this blows over.
Even if punk rock isn't your usual go-to, HRB is definitely worth a listen, even if it is to vent some frustration.