The Tragically Hip / We Are The Same / Universal
The eleventh and latest release by the Tragically Hip, We Are The Same, doesn’t feature a “title track”. Instead, the name seems to have been lifted from the lyrics of “Now The Struggle Has a Name.” But, if forced to choose a song title that bears appropriate and significant meaning for the entire body of work, the best-suited song would probably be “The Depression Suite.” This track, which at nine-and-a-half minutes is probably the longest on any Hip album to date, also has a name that sums up the majority of the album rather well. “Depression” because the majority of We Are The Same focuses on the down-beat. “Suite” because – pardon the pun – the album is still freaking sweet. Even though most songs stand at a distance from the Hip’s old bluesy-rock days, they still know how to write hits and Rob Baker can still shred.
Listen To: “The Last Recluse”, “Love Is A First”
The Hold Steady / A Positive Rage / Universal
During the opening seconds of A Positive Rage, The Hold Steady’s frontman Craig Finn lets everyone concerned know that the incredible concert that follows is being recorded for a live album. The album, which captures them at the close of a lengthy tour promoting their 2006 album Boys and Girls in America, also happens to capture them at their very best instrumentally. Franz Nicolay, backup vocals and keyboards, puts on an increasingly mesmerizing talent clinic in every song. Drumming and guitars are ultra-tight and strong in the mix but it’s Nicolay’s playing that work the best at complementing Craig Finn’s Springsteen-worthy vocals. Though it’s only an audio document of the concert, Finn’s chemistry with the crowd and command of the stage are evident through the confidence exuding from each syllable-packed verse.
Listen To: “Chips Ahoy!”, “Massive Nights”