Def Leppard / Diamond Star Halos
The sixteen-year-old in me wants Diamond Star Halos to be chock-full of songs as good as Foolin’ and Photograph. The grown-up me, who is actually writing this review, knows just how unfair that this. This is one of the few bands out there, from their original scene, still recording new material and playing stadium shows.
The opener, Take What You Want, is a real pile-driver, and vocalist Joe Elliot sounds strong. Followed by Kick, which almost sounds like a lost Slade track, it’s not hard to get sucked into this record. While harmonies and rhythm guitars are stacked thick, this release is nowhere near the over-produced sound that broke the band in the 80’s.
Goodbye For You, maybe my favorite track here, is a lush ballad adding piano and strings to the mix, as well as a matured choice in chord selection. I especially like the classical guitar solo, which provides a tasty contrast to the big wall of electric guitars that supports the rest of the record. Really great songwriting this time around, in fact, several of these songs bounced around in my noggin for a few days after hearing them. More of this, lads. Please!
Pop Co-Op / Suspension
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that, not only am I already a fan of this band, but I plunk down my own hard-earned dinero to buy their CD’s. These men deserve my patronage, no free promo copies for me, wouldn’t even ask. If you somehow missed their previous releases, 2020’s Factory Settings and 2017’s Four State Solution, they’re your homework assignment.
The airy Suspension opens the disc on an optimistic note, complimenting the ethereal cover art perfectly. Beatles-by-way-of-XTC might sound like an overused compliment, but there you have it. This is smart, lushly-produced music that was created with care. A headphone listen of these tracks is a definite must.
Steve Stoeckel’s bouncy Hofner bass and Stacey Carson’s pumped-up drumming are the jet engine that propels the irritable I Just Love To Watch Her Dance, Run and Hide and Unquestionably I-95. Bruce Gordon’s masterful vocal arrangements are layered with perfection, and are both powerful and gorgeous (Again, break out those headphones, kids). Joel Tinnel’s adept guitars morph accordingly from track to track, providing just what is needed, from chorusy cleans to dirty aggression.
Suspension will undoubtedly land on many a year-end-best list, as it should. CD’s are still available through the mighty Futureman Records, but you can expect that situation to change in the coming months. Get behind these lads!
Claudia Robin Gunn
Every once in awhile, we music critics get a breath of fresh air. We savor it, slowly filling our lungs before a relaxed exhale. We look up to a brilliant blue sky, and wonder why the cottony cloud billows have been gone for so long. Claudia Robin Gunn’s Sing For The Sea – Little Wild Ocean Friends, is that.
Gunn’s latest project is a celebration of the oceans and its inhabitants, which instantly put me in a serene, tropical state of mind. These tunes are expertly under-produced, leaving voice and acoustic guitar to paint brief vignettes that leave the listener wanting more. Baby Blue Whale is immediately memorable, and has been in my head since first listen.
It’s impossible to pick a favorite out of the twenty-four included tracks, though I particularly like Eagle Ray, Inky The Octopus and Sea Sponge Land. For ecology-minded parents, Sing For The Sea is a great way to introduce the wee ones to thinking more globally, while enjoying to first-rate family music that comes from a place of kindness and inclusion. Very well done.
By Dan Pavelich