Signed and Sealed in Blood/Born & Bred
While we’re still just under two months until St. Patrick’s Day, it’s never too early to start getting into the Irish spirit.
If you need some Celtic-themed music to help you get into the right frame of mind, might I suggest the latest by the Boston-based Dropkick Murphys.
For those who might not be familiar with the band, its song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” was prominently featured in the Academy Award-winning Martin Scorsese film “The Departed,” and the band’s annual St. Paddy’s Day shows in its hometown are legendary.
One part Celtic, one part punk, all about intensity, Dropkick Murphys doesn’t seem to have a mellow setting, and that tradition continues on the band’s latest release, “Signed and Sealed in Blood.” See, even the titles of its albums are intense.
From the opening track, “The Boys Are Back,” it’s clear that once again Dropkick Murphys is here to play and sing you into submission.
These are the sort of whiskey-soaked songs that you imagine the clientele of an Irish pub singing at the tops of their lungs.
Standout tracks on the new album include “Prisoner’s Song,” “Burn” and “Jimmy Collins’ Wake.”
Particularly good is “Rose Tattoo,” which is sure to become a Dropkick Murphys classic.
The latter half of the album seems to lose a little steam, beginning after the inclusion of a Christmas song, “The Season’s Upon Us,” which is odd for an album with a January release.
Still, there’s enough good stuff here to make you hanker for a pint of Guinness.
Key Tracks: “Prisoner’s Song,” “Rose Tattoo,” “Jimmy Collins’ Wake”
When rapper A$AP Rocky reportedly signed a $3 million deal in 2011, there obviously were more than a few folks watching him closely to see if the resulting music warranted such a lucrative deal.
The resulting mixtape, “LiveLoveA$AP,” silenced anyone critical of Rocky’s skills. But when his latest effort, “LongLiveA$AP,” was delayed several times last year, rumors started emerging that perhaps A$AP had used up all his A-list material on his debut.
Now that the sophomore release finally is available, we are able to hear that apparently Rocky still has plenty of fuel left in his creative tank.
And while he continually delves into the same misogynistic themes that 90 percent of rap artists seem to favor, once you get past that, you can begin to appreciate his smooth delivery.
It also helps that A$AP brings in some impressive friends to guest on several tracks.
Santigold’s lovely vocals enhance “Hell,” while DJ sensation Skrillex pumps up “Wild for the Night.”
Elsewhere on the album, standout tracks include “Goldie” and “I Come Apart,” the latter of which features the otherworldly vocals of Florence Welch.
It’s an ambitious hip-hop release from an artist who seems destined to separate himself from the current crop of cookie-cutter rap artists out there.
Key Tracks: “Goldie,” “Hell,” “I Come Apart”
Camper Van Beethoven
La Costa Perdida/429
Before he fronted the popular ’90s band Cracker, singer-songwriter David Lowery did the same thing in the ’80s in Camper Van Beethoven.
While CVB rarely gets the props it deserves for basically helping create alternative/college rock along with acts like R.E.M. and The Pixies, Lowery’s first band nonetheless still has its own small but faithful group of fans that goes to see it.
Since reuniting in 1999 after nearly a decade of inactivity, CVB has released just two full-length studio albums: 2004’s “New Roman Times” and a complete cover of the Fleetwood Mac double album “Tusk.”
Lowery frequently has mounted tours that feature both CVB and Cracker, and that might explain why CVB’s latest studio effort, “La Costa Perdida,” sounds a lot like a cross between the two bands.
To be fair, one always has been able to hear a bit of CVB in every Cracker release, but tracks such as “Come Down the Coast” and “Northern California Girls” would have sounded right at home on a Cracker album like “The Golden Age.”
For longtime fans, though, the ones who came up listening to such CVB tunes as “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” there are plenty of loose and semi-experimental tracks, including “Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out” and the minute-long “Aged in Wood.”
The album also includes demos for four CVB songs as a bonus.
Key Tracks: “Come Down the Coast,” “Some Day Our Love Will Sell Us Out,” “La Costa Perdida”
By Devin Grant