shark sandwich 101 - album reviews - feature

Album Reviews – Sleater-Kinney – Ride – and more!

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SHARK SANDWICH – Fast Album Reviews for Those on the Go

August 16, 2019 – Vol. 101

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Music reviews come in all sizes, but you’re busy and do not have time for flowery language… or sentences, really.

Spinal Tap gave the world the greatest album review of all time:

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Welcome to our “Shark Sandwich” — razor-sharp reviews that sum up an album in five sentences or less.

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Ikebe Shakedown – Kings Left Behind

Instrumental music often gets ghettoized into “background, filler noise” status, but Ikebe Shakedown isn’t going to stand for that lazy categorization. It is instrumental, sure, but the music is so vibrant, funky, and danceable that it all but demands you freestyle some lyrics while you are jamming to Kings Left Behind. With the absence of a singer, the band invites the listener into the music, and if you can’t think fast enough to put together your own lyrics in real time, you certainly can dance. The nimble rhythm, reverb-y guitars, and soulful (and sometimes “western” flavored) horns make for an engaging listen, and Ikebe Shakedown wants you along on the journey.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Key Track: “The Witness”

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Snoh Aalegra – Ugh, Those Feels Again

Snoh Aalegra’s Ugh, Those Feels Again is a great title, made better by the fact that her 2017 debut was called Feels. Aalegra’s music draws from a deep bench of masters like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Portishead, Prince, and certainly not least, Sade (also in album cover photography), and when she adds in her own emotions, or yes, feels, the resulting soundscape can be breathtaking. Perfect for a night in with that special someone, or a late night pining for that special someone, this album can scratch a lot of life’s itches. She can be your emotional foil–never working against you, but lifting you up with her own experiences.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Key Track: “Peace”

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Off With Their Heads – Be Good

“Acceptance” is the final stage of grief, and Minneapolis punk stalwarts (now by way of Chicago), Off With Their Heads, have produced an entire album dedicated to getting over the anger and depression of life and just moving on. OWTH still rages through it, though. The guitars are the equivalent of a pool cue to the shins, the drums a right pummeling, and the vocals are a pained bark at the moon. With songs like “No Love,” “You Will Die,” and “Death,” it seems like the band is okay with the way life is inexorably moving. It’s not going to win any awards for positivity, but sometimes negativity is realism and it punches you in the face until you accept it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 whistles

Key Track: “Let it All”

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Ride – This is Not a Safe Place

It’s no secret that shoegaze is the best subset of rock & roll ever, and that makes Ride’s return a few years ago that much sweeter. Shoegaze, with its dreamy gauze, ultimately sounds like looking backwards (to me) even when it was a new things in the 80s, so This is Not a Safe Place works on two levels: looking backward musically as well as the 80s/90s nostalgia. The music is chunky and rings like a train in a tunnel, the vocals sigh along with the din, and all in all when it works it works (“Clouds of Saint Marie” is perfect). The album might be a few minutes too long, but repeated listens could easily change my mind on that. Put This is Not a Safe Place on the turntable, turn the lights down low, and recall all of the freaky drugs you avoided (or didn’t) back in the day.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 whistles

Key Track: “Clouds of Saint Marie”

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Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold

To call Sleater-Kinney’s latest a “departure” is possibly the biggest understatement of the week. The Center Won’t Hold is a thrilling experiment, and once you get over some of the new tricks the S-K you have always adored is still there. It is skronky, broken, defiant, and a lot more challenging (and possibly less immediately satisfying) than an ultra-loud political punk explosion would have been. Instead, this album is more subtly about personal relationships coming apart at the seams, fitting 2019 to a “T.” The tension and dread of our times is dissected on The Center Won’t Hold, and no easy solutions are offered.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Key Track: “Can I Go On” (For fun, click here)

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All artists are available on iTunesAmazonGooglePlay, and wherever else better music is sold, streamed, downloaded, or performed on tour.

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NewsWhistle music contributor Chad Werner is “ahead of the curve, behind the times.” You can contact this rock n’ roll sphinx at chad@newswhistle.com (e-mail) or @scooternotmoped (Twitter).

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Lead-In Image – Composite

  • Album and sleeve – Courtesy of  imagefactory / Shutterstock.com
  • Main album cover – Courtesy of Blablo101 / Shutterstock.com
  • Album collage – Off With Their Heads – Epitaph; Ikebe Shakedown – Colemine Records; Sleater-Kinney – Mom & Pop Music; Ride – Wichita Records; and Snoh Aalegra – Artium Recordings.