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edge staff writer


Sound bites: April albums from Cheap Trick, Eric Church and more

April 20, 2021
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With a veritable boatload of music titles being issued each week from new and established artists alike, I intend to increase the frequency of these review columns to round up some recent and forthcoming standout releases. This week, we have new albums of note in rock, country, alternative, and Americana/roots.

Cheap Trick – “In Another World” (BMG; out now)

There’s something reassuring about a new Cheap Trick record, and there’s no mistaking this one for any other band. The 20th studio album from Rockford, Illinois’ finest opens with its strongest track, “The Summer Looks Good on You,” first released in 2018. Brimming with layered Robin Zander harmonies and punchy Rick Nielsen riffs, it’s seemingly tailor-made for your Route 1A Bar Harbor summer road trips. Other highlights include “Light Up The Fire,” one of the band’s most rowdy tunes to date. The acoustic baroque-pop ballad “So It Goes” is a bittersweet delight, while the closing cover of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” reimagines that scathing track for a new era of uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites.

Eric Church – “Heart” (EMI Nashville; April 16)

This is the first installment of Church’s ambitious three album set “Heart & Soul,” a project undertaken as an experiment after Church secluded himself for a month in a shuttered North Carolina eatery to craft new material. Church challenged himself and his team of collaborators to write and record one new song per day from start to finish, a test that produced Church’s most diverse music yet. “Heart” is out this week, featuring the hit “Stick That in Your Country Song,” a song that tackles some hard truths about how we treat soldiers and teachers. “Heart on Fire” sounds like it could be a huge summer hit for Church, who plans to issue the third album in this series, “Soul,” on April 23, containing an equally strong set of material. The middle album, “&” will be made available exclusively to members of Church’s official fan club, The Church Choir, on April 20. I long ago gave up predicting chart success but this collection deserves to go to the top.

Parker Millsap – “Be Here Instead” (Okrahoma/Thirty Tigers; out now)

Drawn to strong original songwriting? This Oklahoma native is busting with talent as evidenced by the strength of this, his fifth studio album. A multi-instrumentalist, Millsap expanded his sonic palate with 2018’s “Other Arrangements” and he kicks it up a notch here on his most varied set yet. Sounding very much like an artist intent on not repeating himself, Millsap’s tunes here run the gamut from the soulful (“It Was You,” “Rolling,” “Vulnerable,” “Passing Through”) to the tunefully confessional (“The Real Thing”) to the downright raucous (“Dammit”). There’s a strong notion of authenticity in Millsap’s music without a hint of artifice. Like fellow Oklahoman J.J. Cale, Millsap makes it all sound easy, a sign of a true artist.

FITZ – “Head Up High” (Elektra; April 16)

An uplifting solo debut offering from an artist in lockdown-mode, frontman Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz & The Tantrums (“Out of My League,” “Handclap”): “I needed an anthem, my family needed an anthem,” Fitz told People late last year about the title track, an infectious sing-along of perseverance. It sounds like some of the Tantrums may have contributed remotely to tracks like “Spaceman,” an acoustic guitar and brass-infused dance track that celebrates togetherness while warning of the dangers of isolation. Fans concerned that he might have gone solo for good can take comfort in the news that Fitz is currently writing songs for the next Tantrums LP.

The Offspring – “Let the Bad Times Roll” (Concord; April 16)

The first LP in nearly nine years from these melodic punks had an extended gestation period. The Offspring began recording new material in 2013 but saw delays related to relentless touring and a break with Columbia Records that contributed to the group re-recording songs for the next five years. The leisurely schedule also allowed lead vocalist Dexter Holland time to attain his PhD in molecular biology, a degree he’d delayed pursuing when the band became successful. The good news for fans is that “Let the Bad Times Roll” checks all the boxes: hooks galore, excellent production from Bob Rock, and a batch of new tunes that reside comfortably with the band’s best work. Here’s hoping this album will be embraced by CHR/top 40 radio in the way 1998’s “Americana” helped usher a return of guitar-based pop-rock for the format, which needs it now more than ever.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 April 2021 08:52

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