The King and I

Music reviews—local and beyond

Once upon a time, Tony King was my mortal enemy. After he wrote a scathing critique about SN&R on Yelp, I challenged him to a duel. Naturally, he won. But like a true knight, King joined my quest to create a monthly music-review page. The end. Or is it?

The Ancient Sons
The Dark Gospel
No Chance In Hell Records

With a quiet, sprawling aesthetic and lyrics thick with religious reference, Sacramento’s the Ancient Sons are often mentioned in the same breath as Brian Jonestown Massacre. But The Dark Gospel’s country-tinged indie rock is decidedly less modern than BJM (a mellowed version of the Byrds, perhaps?). Songs like “Hang on to Jesus” and “In the Night”—with lush harmony and an airy jangle—are majestic, while Chris Teichman’s vocals reach angelic levels of sweetness but are capable of murky gloom (“The Ghostwriter”). Matt Maxwell’s keys with Mike Farrell’s guitar stand out with expertly placed subtlety, rendering The Dark Gospel, with its deliberate aura of ease, a deceptively complex work of art. (Josh Fernandez)

The War on Drugs
Wagonwheel Blues
Secretly Canadian

Situated between the psych-ward musings of Ariel Pink and the arena-rawk rambling of My Morning Jacket rests the War on Drugs’ Wagonwheel Blues. Opener “Arms Like Boulders” tosses us into the action with songwriter Adam Granduciel sounding like a world-weary carnival barker who’s totally been there, man. “A Needle in Your Eye #16,” a church organ-infused butt-shaker, sounds like electricity on fire, while “Reverse the Charges” and “Coast Reprise” are hazy instrumentals looking for a contemplative film to inhabit. Wagonwheel Blues is one of 2008’s truly epic albums. (Tony King)

Daniel Martin Moore
Stray Age
Sub Pop

For those who find Iron & Wine too loud, Red House Painters overtly frantic or the entire Kranky Records catalogue too high-energy, then maybe the bedroom ruminations of Stray Age by Kentucky’s Daniel Martin Moore will put your ears at ease. Stray Age is a folk-gazer that’s so quiet and subtle, it barely exists. “Stray Age,” “Every Color and Kind” and “In These Hearts” fill the room with nothing more than Moore’s wood-carved vocals and guitar strums. When a full band is employed (“The Old Measure,” “It’s You”), the accompaniment is warm, lush and unobtrusive. Indeed, a great autumn album. (T.K.)

Eagles of Death Metal
Heart On

In this post-irony age, the need to embrace cheesy bullshit is “the new black.” And maybe it’s what inspired Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme to form Eagles of Death Metal with Jesse Hughes (and his mullet). The duo’s third release, Heart On, is a Velveeta-drenched foray deep into Hollywood glam rock. “Anything ’Cept the Truth,” “Cheap Thrills” and “Secret Plans” are guilty-pleasure rockers: You can almost see the lyrics etched into the dashboard of a Firebird. “Now I’m a Fool” is a rarity—a truly great song lost in this album’s faux-machismo neon jungle. All in all, Heart On will make the “dive bar” crowd’s reproductive organs all aflutter. (T.K.)

The Renaissance
Universal Motown

The irony of Q-Tip—a nearly forgotten hip-hop legend—bringing newness to a genre that’s been wearing the same played out clothes for years is not lost. However, The Renaissance offers old-school boom-bap (“Won’t Trade”) and new-school soul (“Gettin’ Up”) with an unheard-of freshness. By freeing himself from A Tribe Called Quest expectations, Q-Tip offers the listener much more artistic fervor than on his previous solo work. Perhaps most importantly: The Renaissance, bookish, intelligent and free of pretentiousness, isn’t simply a collection of songs, it’s a sure sign of an elevated future for American culture. (J.F.)