Listen Up!: Jack Johnson, Tori Amos, Foo Fighters, Wilder Daze, Superfruit

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday September 22, 2017

The rock band Foo Fighters release their ninth studio album, "Concrete and Gold," eight tracks by producer Greg Kurstin. Tori Amos releases "Native Invader," an "intense feast of melody, protest, tenderness and pain" inspired by a summer 2016 road trip to North Carolina's Smoky Mountains to reconnect with her mother's family. Superfruit, the pet project of Pentatonix founders Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying, releases the second part of their two-part debut studio album, "Future Friends." Singer Jack Johnson records his seventh studio album "All the Light Above It Too" at his Hawaii-based Mango Tree Studio, handling most of the instrumentation himself, as he did when he first began releasing his four-track recordings 17 years ago. And indie pop artist Wilder Daze has released his debut record, "Golden Hour," with a hot single "Tie-Dye," inspired by the tragic shooting at Orlando's PULSE Nightclub last year.

"Concrete and Gold" (Foo Fighters)

The rock band Foo Fighters release their ninth studio album, "Concrete and Gold," 11 tracks by producer Greg Kurstin. Critics are already saying it's their most impressive in years. It kicks off with "T-Shirt," Dave Grohl's short but powerful ode to rock, with a lot of funk to boot. In the drum-heavy "Run" the hounds are on the chase, and Grohl asks you to "run for your life with me." It starts slow, but quickly becomes a real head-banger.

Peppery snares open the hard-rocking and funky "Make It Right," that sounds like Led Zeppelin even in its lyrics: "Hop on the train to nowhere baby, don't you wanna hitch a ride?"

They pound it hard in "The Sky Is a Neighborhood," singing about how "heaven is a big bang now/ gotta get to sleep somehow."

The repetitive strumming of "La Dee Da" makes it sounds almost like a Ramones cut, with the nonsense lyrics "Psychic Television and Death in June / Jim Jones painting in a blue bedroom" with Alison Mosshart on backing vocals.

"Dirty Water" with its acoustic guitar opening is as close to a ballad as they get, as Grohl calls himself "a natural disaster." Their swinging cut "Arrows" has classic Foo Fighter sound, as does "The Line." "Happy Every After (Zero Hour)" is an ode of sorts to The Beatles "Blackbird," with similar instrumentation and the persistent question, "where is your Shangri-la now... there ain't no superheroes now."

Grohl teams up with Paul McCartney on drums in "Sunday Rain," with Taylor Hawkins on vocals. Oddly, it has more of a moony, Pink Floyd sound rather than a Beatles vibe. Grohl said that due to McCartney's drumming panache, earlier takes of this track came in at 18 minutes long. Luckily, the album version is shorter.

They end the album with the title track, a slow, sinister song full of yowling electric guitars, which is to say, typical Grohl. Overall, "Concrete and Gold" sounds a lot like Foo Fighters. And a lot like a lot of other amazing bands' influence at work. Somehow in the end, it all makes sense.
(RCA Records/Roswell Records)

"Native Invader" (Tori Amos)

Tori Amos releases her 15th studio album, "Native Invader," an "intense feast of melody, protest, tenderness and pain." She said the album was inspired by a summer 2016 road trip to North Carolina's Smoky Mountains to reconnect with her mother's family. But later that winter, her mother, Maryellen Amos, suffered a stroke that left her unable to speak. Amos released tracks including "Cloud Riders," "Up the Creek" and "Reindeer King."

She kicks things off with "Reindeer King," singing how "your mind has been divided from your soul / Now you say you are that stranger on your shore." The Reindeer King promises in the chorus to "get you back to you." It's clear from Amos' first strains that her voice is just as strong and capable of pulling at your heartstrings than ever it was before.

The litany of sadness continues in "Wings," as Amos sings about a man who is hiding his pain, "'Just water under the bridge' you say." Her refrain is "sometimes big boys, they need to cry." It's a bit of a departure for Amos, who has been candid about her own sexual abuse, and works with RAINN, the anti-sexual violence organization. She gets political in "Broken Arrow" as she sings of the plight of Native Americans, promising, "I won't be silenced or frozen out / By those who must account / In our Senate and in the House." The drumrolls and chorus are very catchy.

The brassy guitar cut "Cloud Riders" has a story to tell about Annie and her bass guitar riding out the storm, and the shooting star at 4:22 a.m. Her "Up the Creek" is a twangy song about climate change deniers, with the fast and catchy chorus, "Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise."

"You feel betrayed; I feel played by our so-called friends / Not the friends we should have made," she laments in the slower "Breakaway," a callback to her earlier sound.

Her "Wildwood" is a cryptic story-song that is lush with vegetal imagery of oaks, alders, willow groves, ivy, and "a labyrinth with little green corn shoots now in abundance."

She sings about "satiny luscious chocolate" in her "Chocolate Song" and about immigrants in "Bang," with its lyrics taken right out of the Periodic Table of Elements. "Climb" is a sad song about molestation that has her climbing over the wall in her Sunday dress to feed the koi in the pond, but ending up praying to Saint Veronica for help.

In "Bats" she's got three candles in the window for Undine of the Sea, and sings about her 'computer bat friend' "Benjamin" and how "those pimps in Washington are selling the rape of America."

In the piano cut "Mary's Eyes" she asks the death midwife to bring her back to life, and follows it with another sad piano dirge about everything "falling down all around us" with the message to "turn that frown upside down."

Amos wraps up a soul-draining and politically poignant album with "Russia," a song that asks, "Is Stalin on your shoulder?" Amos kicked off a world tour in Europe in September, and heads to North America on October 24.
(Decca Records)

"Future Friends - Part Two" (Superfruit)

Superfruit, the duo of Pentatonix founding members Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying launched in August 2013, teamed up to release "Future Friends," combining their previously released Part One and Part Two portions of the 16-track album. All tracks were co-written by Superfruit, except "Fantasy."

EDGE reviewed the seven tracks of "Future Friends - Part One" in July, and called it "a dance party celebration in the making." Their hit single "Imaginary Parties" had them going "to imaginary parties in our make-believe Ferrari / Baby let's get fresh, I know we know how!"

Now, in the second section of this album, they unveil an additional nine tracks that will get you moving. Deep percussion and electronica opens "How You Feeling?" with female vocals by Inara George singing, "How you feeling? Heartbroken and jonesing for a nicotine rush like a sad and lonely lush, alright?" It's bouncy and invigorating.

In "Hurry Up" it's 4 a.m. and she's drunk again, but she's never been in love, and wants to be, so "talk to me, come to me, hurry up." Grassi sings out in "Deny U," "Bittersweet I know, so bittersweet... try but I can't deny you." The electronica distortion and snap tracks make it a catchy track, despite the slower instrumental pacing. The snaps continue in the next track, "Goodbye From Lonely," a song that has Grassi wondering "Did you fall out of love? I wish that you'd told me."

Superfruit sounds a lot like Wham! mashed up with The Sugar Hill Gang in "GUY," a song that has them wishing they could synthesize the perfect guy, who's "six feet tall and super strong" with "a nice car, a CEO, and almost just as smart as me."

The guys sing out in "Fantasy" about being hypnotized by a lover who leaves them speechless. There's a short rap break by Amber Liu. In "Keep Me Coming," the torture and teasing are ceaseless, you keep her second-guessing and tear her into pieces, but above all, you "keep me coming back for more." Inara George is back and is giving her "Everything," for you in a sweet, sentimental cut.

The album wraps up with "Future Friends (Brian Robert Jones Choir Remix)," a different take on the dance cut about loving, letting go, and friendship. It's not hard to imagine that a special two-part album by such well-established musicians could be good. But take a listen and find out just how good it can be.
(RCA Records)

"All the Light Above It Too" (Jack Johnson)

Singer Jack Johnson records his seventh studio album "All the Light Above It Too" at his Hawaii-based Mango Tree Studio, handling most of the instrumentation himself, as he did when he first began releasing his four-track recordings 17 years ago. Said Johnson, "This album shares what has been on my mind during the past year or so. A year in which I sailed through the North Atlantic Gyre for a documentary about plastic pollution in the ocean. A year in which Trump was elected as the President of the United States. A year in which I camped, surged, got stitches, explored, dreamed, shared time and endless conversations with family and friends... all of which inspired these songs."

Johnson twangs into things with "Subplots," a guitar cut with impressively introspective lyrics, as Johnson sings about cutting through the Gordian Knot saying, "Give me a red pen, I will simplify your story." It's an upbeat strummer, as he sings about "all the light under the sun / and all the light above it, too."

His "You Can't Control It" isn't a cautious song that has a father telling his son, "Understand one thing: if and when you drink from this vast ocean, you can't control it." He gets the quiver of a cowboy guitar in "Sunsets For Somebody Else," a lil' doggie of a tune with lyrics like, "Your eyes look lonely in your face / I see you looking just out of frame / What is pulling you there?"

"My Mind Is For Sale" is all about President Trump's mentality, as someone "who wants to divide people with walls instead of uniting people." Over a calypso beat, Johnson sings, "I heard the six or seven words he likes to use / are always in bad taste" with the chorus, "I don't care for your paranoid 'us against them' walls / I don't care for your careless 'me first, gimme gimme' appetite at all."

His cut "Daybreaks" is a melancholy piece with complex fingerpicking, and keeps a sliding backbeat going over a stream of rhyme time like, "A box of books, a book of rocks/ one for the birds, one for the knots" in "Big Sur."

His "Love Song #16" imagines his wife as a little girl an ocean away, who was "already listening to The Pixies." Then, later, he sings, "When you were teaching geometry we were both living off of your salary / I want to thank you for not kicking me out." It will bring tears to your eyes despite your best attempts to be stolid.

"Is One Moon Enough?" is another twangy cowboy cut that has the moon acting as a metaphor for everything he wants, just out of reach. It's got an excellent finger-picked ending, and Johnson said it was inspired by busting his nose on his surfboard, resulting in stitches.

His "Gather" is a very cogs-and-screws type tune that plods through and urges you to "take it too far."

Johnson ends an excellent 10 tracks with "Fragments of the Sea," a slow tune about change and the secrets that we keep. Johnson and his band just hit the road in July for the West Coast leg of their tour, and are now heading to North Carolina, Georgia and Florida for September and October dates, before hitting Peru, Brazil and Chile, then Australia.
(Brushfire Records)

"Golden Hour" (Wilder Daze)

Indie pop artist Wilder Daze has released his debut record, "Golden Hour," with a hot single "Tie-Dye," inspired by the tragic shooting at Orlando's PULSE Nightclub last year. He timed the album's release with the first day of fall, because, he said, its spirit perfectly aligns with the story the album tells.

The 12-song album tells the tale of Wilder moving from a troubled childhood in the suburbs of Washington, DC, to New York in his late teens, with the dream of becoming a star. He kicks things off with the pop crooner, "Sip on a Sunset," about leaving the past behind to find a better future, as he sings, "I'm embracing changes."

His "Blush" has a bouncy beat as he begs, "come on and lock me down, let me feel the weight of your love." He sings deeply in "Polaroids in Paris," starting out with the familiar, "Summertime and the living is..." He's looking for someone to share his love, and he'll wait to feel your hand in his.

"Summer of Love" is a piece his wrote about having an affair in Brazil while on the rebound from a broken heart, as he sings, "That summer of love was everything... I remember you running with me, forever wild and free."

He's "Better Off" without you in one of the album's catchiest cuts, and swings in the dance club his "24hr Lover." He's in town on holiday, but if you want him, he might stay. He wants to get messed up on that love that gets him high in "Fuck Me Up," and goes deep into a dark place in "God Help Me."

The sinister-sounding "Hourglass" has him singing about time running out: "Only one thing that nobody knows: I'm living life by an hourglass." He slows things down for the track "Tangerine Dreams," about traveling in his 'space car,' and ends the album with the title track "Golden Hour," a song about finding the light at the end of the long tunnel of love, and emerging from post-breakup depression.

Said Wilder, "Once I realized that writing and singing was what I really loved, I felt more and more like rebelling against how people saw me, against my nature."
(Wilder Daze)

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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