It is hard to deny that The Strokes were one of the bands that defined the sound of the noughts, and part of that definition, alongside Albert Hammond Jnr's guitar, was the voice of Julian Casablancas. In his first solo departure, that voice remains the constant, but the musical palette grows to include 80s synths (think Human League), 70s prog and some Strokes-like tunes (and a strange country departure). At only 8
songs, this is a short album, full of what must have seemed like guilty pleasures within the band framework. Among those 8 songs, there are two absolute crackers in opener Out Of The Blue, and Glass. Had the rest of the album emerged fully fledged from a new artist, this would have been hailed as a remarkably diverse and excellent set, but it is impossible not to judge it with a Strokes mindset. Phrazes For The Young would attract a different audience than The Strokes, and it is to its credit that it would be attractive to that audience.
ACE rating 9/10
Grant-Lee Phillips has been the same kind of stalwart of adult alternative US music as now-label-mates Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock and John Doe - turning out wonderful records without ever setting the world on fire. Little Moon sees him become a clearly happy father, moving him away from previously more brooding material. His rich baritone voice can still soar - on songs like Good Morning Happiness (a song that could so easily have tipped into schmaltz) and It Ain't The Same Old Cold War Harry, the bouncy horns compliment the mood perfectly. Elsewhere the optimism does provide a strong uplift, and the music is at the more Wallflowers end of the Grant-Lee Phillips spectrum. Little Moon is a strong addition to the canon, and as good an entry point as any. There will be many who will fall deeply in love with Grant-Lee Phillips on the strength of albums just like this one.
ACE rating 8/10
Never Give Up On Your Hallucinations
Alive Records is one of the coolest labels on the planet, and its artists, including The Black Keys, Outrageous Cherry and Buffalo Killers, keep the sludgy dirty rock feel of early 70s hard rock, add a dash of blues and then stop caring exactly what you think and just make a noise. That vibe is illustrated perfectly on this sampler album by a band like Radio Moscow who take the blues standard I Just Want To Make Love To You and turn it into some kind of hip hop rock/ Santana fest that would make a dead man dance. Elsewhere, Brimstone Howl, Black Diamond Heavies, Trainwreck Riders, Left Lane Cruiser and The Black Keys add tracks that suggest that Alive may never make a big pile of money, but someone is going to have an awful lot of fun (and Jack Daniels) along the way. Not a trace of subtlety or an ounce of reserve in this excellent album.
ACE rating 8/10