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Album Review: Billy Currington – Enjoy Yourself

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There are only a handful of country singers who have matched Billy Currington’s chart consistency over the past decade. Since his debut song “Walk A Little Straighter” was released in 2003, eight of Currington’s 10 singles have made it into the Top 10 on Billboard’s country chart.

Need an artist to compare that accomplishment to? How about none other than country’s current darling Blake Shelton, who also has eight Top 10s during that period.

Consistent is an apt description of Currington’s fourth album, titled Enjoy Yourself. Currington, whose current hit declares that he’s “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer,” is also pretty good at delivering an easygoing groove. His relaxed delivery on songs like “Perfect Day” and “Enjoy Yourself” positions him as one of country’s most likable and most accessible singers, while his penchant for wry, sometimes self-depreciating humor often gives his music an ever so slight hint of edginess.

Enjoy Yourself finds Currington tapping in to more of that humor than ever before, and as such the album hits a mark just a hair left of the center. Certainly, this effort isn’t so adventurous that he’ll be seen as Nashville’s newest bad boy, but the slightly more liberal tact he takes here pays dividends.

On both “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” and “Like My Dog,” he half-jokingly wears the hat of hillbilly slacker: “He never says I wish you made more money/He always thinks that pull my finger’s funny,” he sings on the latter, which paints an equally funny and poignant portrait of a deliciously dysfunctional relationship. When Currington declares, matter-of-factly, “He don’t get mad at me and throw a major fit/When I say his sister is a bitch,” it’s one of the year’s most unexpected—and most refreshing moments.

Produced by Carson Chamberlain (band leader and steel guitar player for Keith Whitley), the record also takes a few musical twists and turns. The title track boasts some of Chamberlain’s signature steel licks (though played by Paul Franklin), and sounds a bit like a throwback to mid-80s George Strait, while “Love Done Gone” features a wicked cool horn section that augments and underscores the song’s hook.

In the infamous Shania Twain duet “Party For Two,” Currington sang about “looking sexy in your socks.” While Enjoy Yourself is unlikely to knock your socks off—nothing here really stands out as especially memorable or resonant—there’s plenty here that’s sexy, thanks to Currington’s smooth-but-salty Georgia drawl and a demonstrated willingness to buck some of the format’s sonic norms.

As such, it’s a record that’s more than the sum of its parts. And, while it lacks much in the way of blockbuster material, Currington infuses these average and above songs with charisma and even, at times, a bit of charm.

Jim Malec is a journalist whose work has appeared in American Songwriter, Country Weekly, Denver Westword and others. He is the founder of American Noise and former Managing Editor of The 9513.

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Yelle – Safari Disco Club

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When Yelle arrived on the scene in 2006, it was with “Je Veux Te Voir,” an attitude-packed and hilariously vulgar diss track directed toward rapper Cuizinier for his misogynistic views. The 2007 debut album, Pop Up, spawned two more minor hits with “A Cause des Garçons” and “Ce Jeu.” The French trio, led by singer Julie Budet, established themselves as purveyors of summery electropop. Then, they all but disappeared.

To a certain extent, Yelle have kept busy since their first album, remixing Katy Perry’s “Hot ‘n’ Cold” and appearing on the Kennedy track “John and Yoko,” as well as covering “Who’s That Girl?” by Robyn. However, in such a fast-paced music environment, no one can afford to take four years between albums unless the result is something that could universally be considered a masterpiece. Yelle’s sophomore release, Safari Disco Club, is a good effort that falls short of legendary status.

They’ve grown out of the youthful spirit of Pop Up, though “C’est Pas Une Vie” packs a bright punch, while “Que Veux-Tu” and “Unillusion” make good use of ’80s pop references. Songs like “Chimie Physique” and “La Musique” are much more mature in tone than anything Yelle have released before. There’s also more actual singing from Budet, rather than the sing-rapping previously employed. Safari Disco Club showcases a more developed act, but it doesn’t sound like four years’ worth of growth. The more subdued approach makes sense, but the songs aren’t as engaging as established fans might expect.

The dance scene has changed drastically since Yelle’s debut. This isn’t to say that producers GrandMarnier and Tepr should have gone for a dubstep approach—it wouldn’t suit Budet’s voice, though “S’Eteint le Soleil” has hints of grimey bass—but in an environment where the fresh-faced Londoner Katy B is poised for a takeover, it’s difficult to see where Yelle’s role is now.

The album sounds solid, with plenty of agile synths to spare, but it’s difficult to see what role it plays; it’s not exactly more of the same, but it may as well be. Safari Disco Club is worth a listen, but it fails to assert itself as something that demands listeners’ attention.

https://youtu.be/c53iVBzdBiY

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

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In the five years since Canadian chamber-rock band Broken Social Scene released its last album, lead Scenester Kevin Drew has ably stepped into indie-stardom, nurturing mass-anticipation for the collective’s upcoming opus.

Enter Forgiveness Rock Record. With the Toronto outfit choosing to explore every bit of the space that their physical largesse affords, the wait has been worth it—even if the album requires a bit of stamina in order to fully grasp the triumph.

Perhaps the group—composed of a fluid membership that often numbers well into double digits—is finally becoming exactly what it is they were likely always going to be: a dramatic, sweeping and engrossing baroque-rock troupe. Besides, it’s not often that a group that has featured a melodica in the past acts as though it’s a power-pop trio, which many of their earlier songs have suggested.

While a lack of sonic cohesion does make itself evident, as the result of a mixed bag of styles that can often distract rather than attract, the significant and unifying thread of Kevin Drew’s Jeff Tweedy-esque, achy vocals equip the entire proceedings with immense heart. Some sort of binding agent is necessary, however, due to the divergent styles showcased. By showing off their skills in Post-rock (“Meet Me in the Basement”), bombastic, arena-anthems (“World Sick”), playful prog (“Chase Scene”) and effective melody making (“Texico Bitches”), it’s quite clear that this is a group that is more comfortable stretching their musical legs than the average listener will likely be sinking their teeth into this album.

Given the amount of time between records, not only is Forgiveness Rock Record an example of good things coming to those who wait, but also, to those who also don’t mind putting forth a little effort to gain great reward.

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Album Reviews

EP Review: Dan Fisk — Bruises from the Backseat

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When an album’s liner notes list multiple banjo players on the same song, you know it’s going to be an enjoyable listen. Dan Fisk has two banjo pickers on“Life and Limb,”  from his new solo EP, but that’s not the only thing he’s got going for him on Bruises from the Backseat (out 6/28).

Fisk (an upstate New Yorker who’s spent the past decade in Virginia), has a radio-ready, slightly raspy voice and solid songwriting skills. Album opener “A Thousand Love Songs” is the highlight of the disc, and had it been released fifteen years ago when Vertical Horizon and Matchbox 20 were flying up the charts, Fisk would probably be blowing his nose with $20 bills right now.

The EP’s sole cover is a version of Paul Simon’s “Stranded in a Limousine,” which features fellow area singer-songwriter Ted Garber on harmonica. It feels a little out of place among the more mellow tracks on the record, but it’s definitely a fun listen.

Bruises from the Backseat is a promising solo release from Fisk. Let’s hope a full-length record is next.

Listen If You Like: Duncan Sheik, The Wallflowers, Joe Pug, Jason Mraz

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