Our favorite things this week after the election include new music from Drive-By Truckers, Pink Floyd, and Bryson Tiller.
The Drive-By Truckers’ recent albums resembled the output of a mid-career contemporary novelist—well-observed, well-crafted, but slightly dour with differences between them that meant more to the Truckers than their audience. Yesterday I turned to their new album, American Band, to feel some righteous anger, and the album marks a broadening of the band’s stake and focus—one tipped by the album title. Perhaps it comes from singer Patterson Hood relocating to Portland and the band working more spontaneously in the studio, but the songs feel lighter, with 30 percent less kudzu growing around the songs’ perimeters.
On American Band, the Truckers sound urgent again and, as usual, able to cut to the heart of stories about small people and their fraught relationships to power. “Ramon Casiano” tells the story of border agent Harlon Carter who parlayed his own lawlessness into founding the NRA, and “Surrender Under Protest” sees the behind-the-scenes story behind so many racial tensions in 2016:
Does the color really matter?
On the face you blame for failure
On the shamin' for a battle's losing cause
If the victims and aggressors
Just remain each others others
And the instigators never fight their own
Unfortunately, hearing someone speak truth to power Wednesday felt like a cruel taunt after the truth meant nothing when Donald Trump was elected. When the election hangover fades, I’ll return to American Band, but yesterday I instead immersed myself in Pink Floyd’s Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967-1972. Even the elven LSD pop of the Syd Barrett-era Floyd has a comfortably numb quality. Cre/ation is the start to what looks like an audio appendix series to the Pink Floyd catalogue, and appropriate to its time frame—pre-Piper at the Gates of Dawn through Atom Heart Mother—it documents the band evolving from makers of strange little British pop songs to Magellans charting the melancholy oceans of the mind.
I’m pro-Syd weirdness and the pastoral folk, but much of disc one could be a part of a British Nuggets comp. You can clearly hear a band trying to figure out what to be when its singer and songwriter is too crazy to continue, so while a lot of Cre/ation is enjoyable, it’s rarely signature. One track from the Zabriskie Point soundtrack is the first draft for “Us and Them,” and the live “Embryo” on disc two presents what would become David Gilmour’s trademark lead guitar, along with taped sound effects that are as unsettling as any the band would use despite their seeming joyfulness. “Atom Heart Mother” would become one of Pink Floyd’s least-loved suites, but the live version here without the strings and choir on the studio version has the earthiness and occasional muscularity that kept Pink Floyd’s best music from drifting off to a grumpy galaxy. (Alex Rawls)
Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, Bryson Tiller took the hip-hop and R&B world by storm last year with the release of his debut studio album Trapsoul. This album is aptly titled, and radio hits "Don't" and "Exchange" boosted him into the mainstream. His work even got the attention of Drake, who offered Tiller a record deal with OVO Records (which he turned down). When nothing followed his release of “Self Righteous” for months, fans began to grow impatient with Tiller, saying on social media that he had left them hanging for too long. Last month, he released “Let Me Explain” a year after Trapsoul, and it has all of the ingredients that make a Bryson Tiller song work.
Producer Phonix starts with a simple beat that features high-hats (love them or hate them) in a "boom boom tiss” pattern throughout the song. Over it, Tiller addresses his lover, trying to confess after screwing up in some ambiguous way. He’s not particularly insightful, but the plain-spoken clarity with which he lays out his inner monologue sounds genuine and credible: "No, I don't deserve you / the shit I never told you / There's too many things / I can't look you in the face." The track sounds similarly raw, much like the rest of his body of work. Tiller lets his voice and the lyrics speak for themselves, and paired with his small-town upbringing, he comes across as humble and likeable. This new release has, expectedly, sparked talks about a sophomore album. (Ryan Knight)