Spinning All The Records — February 2020

Spinning All The Records is a brand new feature on Country Perspective that is a monthly overview of all the albums reviewed in the previous month on Country Perspective to give any readers, new and old, a quick look at what I covered and to catch anything you missed. In addition I take a look ahead at what I want to cover, upcoming album releases that catch my eye and a throwback album recommendation. So without further ado…

Looking back on February 2020, it was a surprisingly great month of high-quality releases. While the Tame Impala and John Moreland albums did not surprise me in the least with being great, the releases from Khruangbin & Leon Bridges, Tennis, and Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats really caught me off-guard with how great they were and proved themselves to be some of the best music you’ll hear in 2020. I did not expect to give this many high grades so soon and I mention this because something I didn’t like about myself in the past with this blog was so many 9s and 10s being given. But when I give them now I assure you that I put a lot more thought behind it. And I definitely welcome this influx of high grades, as the music is pretty damn good. If 2020 can continue to have months like this, we’re in for one hell of a year of music.

(Click on the album titles to read the full review)

Tenille Arts — Love, Heartbreak, Everything in Between

Love, Heartbreak, & Everything in Between is a good showing from Tenille Arts. The songwriting is really smart and shines at times and the production of Kline, Grand Vogelfanger and Adam Wheeler shows they know how to pull off a great pop country sound. A couple of unnecessary cuts, some average songwriting moments and a few small cases of getting carried away with the production bring this album down enough to prevent it from being a great album. But if you’re a fan of pop country I still recommend checking out Tenille Arts, as she shows a lot of promise and talent on Love, Heartbreak, & Everything in Between.

Pet Shop Boys — Hotspot

The highs the Pet Shop Boys deliver on Hotspot are really fun and are definitely memorable, while the lows are completely forgettable. It’s a bit of a roller coaster listen, but if you’re a fan of synth pop it’s worth listening to it a few times and picking out your favorite songs to go back to. But the album taken as a whole is just decent and leaves more consistency and cohesiveness to be desired.

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges — Texas Sun

Texas Sun is a truly brilliant little collection of music. As I said in the beginning, man I wish this was a full album instead of an EP. Khruangbin and Leon Bridges go together so well and come together to create a vibrant and colorful set of songs. It’s a true homage to the many sounds of Texas music that is fresh and invigorating. Do yourself a favor and listen to this exciting EP.

The Cadillac Three — COUNTRY FUZZ

Fun is a word I repeat over and over in this review. And it’s for good reason: that’s the ultimate appeal of The Cadillac Three and their album COUNTRY FUZZ. It’s entertaining country rock that aims to help you have a good time and forget your worries. The lyrics aren’t deep, and they aren’t meant to be; they’re meant to singalong with and have fun. So while this album may not be one for the record books or album of the year lists, it is an album that entertains and it’s exactly what you’re looking for when you just want to listen to something with loud guitars and big hooks.

Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats — UNLOCKED

Curry brings so much aggressive passion and rawness in his voice, along with his choice of diction in his delivery makes what would be an average banger into something that’s truly memorable. And this big reason is why UNLOCKED is the first great hip-hop album I’ve heard in 2020. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of ZUU (an album I’m ashamed I omitted from my best of 2019 list), this is yet another high-quality project from Denzel Curry (and another great one from Kenny Beats too).

Tennis — Swimmer

With Swimmer, Tennis delivers an excellent album about love. It’s quickly became one of my favorite love albums. And this isn’t rash hyperbole on my end. I’m being serious when I say that this album truly delivers a heartfelt, genuine and truly touching take on true love. Love albums and love song are an absolute dime-a-dozen. They’re churned out every day. Most only focus on the surface level of love and the flip-side with heartbreak. What they don’t ever seem to focus on are the little things, the nitty gritty of relationships that aren’t easy to convey in an informative and interesting way. But that takes brilliant songwriting with equally high-quality production that aids it. Tennis delivers this.

Tame Impala — The Slow Rush

The Slow Rush is another great album from Tame Impala without a doubt. But it’s also hard not to see this album is a few missteps away from equaling the brilliance of Currents. It lacks focus in a few spots and there’s one song that just isn’t needed. But this is also a bit nitpicking admittedly. The production from Parker is once again deeply rich and textured, engulfing you with it’s fantastic details. And the songwriting mostly hits. So ultimately I can say this is one of the best albums you’ll hear in 2020.

John Moreland — LP5

LP5 is another fantastic album from John Moreland. He’s always been a great songwriter since his first album, but it’s the recognition to grow and experiment with his sound starting with his last album that’s taken him to a whole new level in my mind. Too many singer-songwriter artists think they have to stick to a stripped-down, folk-y sound for their lyrics to be taken seriously. At the same time, drum machines are dismissed as “not real instruments” used by pop stars. Well with LP5, Moreland proves both these claims to be moot.

Looking Ahead to March 2020…

As of this moment, there’s a few albums I’m heavily considering reviewing that were released in February. Those would be the new albums from Nathaniel Rateliff, The Steeldrivers and Hailey Whitters. As far as other releases I may have not covered, they simply didn’t catch my eye enough to review them or I feel I didn’t have enough thoughts for a review. But I most likely did listen to it (I listen to a lot more albums than I review), so feel free to hit me up in the comments and ask me about those, as I’m happy to answer with my thoughts on them. I want this monthly post to serve as not only a monthly review, but a place to cover anything “in the cracks” so to speak.

As far as upcoming new releases in March 2020, there’s definitely a few I want to highlight that catch my eye more than others. I’m curious to hear the new live album from Cream, Goodbye Tour – Live 1968, coming out on March 6. Usually I don’t like to review live albums, but I wanted to throw this out there for those into classic rock. Caitlyn Smith will be dropping her new album Supernova on March 13. I loved the previous album Starfire and this new one appears to be pushing the sonic envelope even more, so I’m excited about that one. The enigmatic Jay Electronica is rumored to be finally dropping a new album on March 18. We’ll see, as you can never be sure with him.

The Weeknd just recently announced a release date for his new album After Hours. So far I’ve enjoyed the singles I’ve heard from it and for the most part I liked the previous album Starboy, but I found that album to be a bit too long for my liking. I’m glad to see this one is four songs shorter. This will be dropping on March 20. Finally, Ingrid Andress will be releasing her debut album Lady Like on March 27. I find her voice and style of pop country to be promising. Her songwriting comes off as both catchy and sharp (the song “Both” in particular impresses me). So I’m curious to hear what she brings to the table with her album.

A Throwback Album I’ve Been Listening To That I Recommend

Travis Tritt’s Country Club

If you want some fun and “drive” in your country, Travis Tritt and this album in particular are a great place to start. It’s amazing to me how underrated Tritt is when looking back at 90s country, as he undoubtedly released some of the best. This album in particular showed you could make a stone-cold country album that still incorporates elements from other genres. Most importantly, Tritt just has the “it” voice for country music.

Album Review — Tenille Arts’ ‘Love, Heartbreak, & Everything in Between’

I have to be honest that I wasn’t very familiar with Tenille Arts before coming across her new album. But after listening to Arts’ sophomore album Love, Heartbreak, & Everything in Between, I’m glad I gave her music a chance because the young Canadian country artist shows a ton of potential on this album. Opening song and lead single “Somebody Like That” is a bouncy and catchy love anthem that sets a great tone for the album. Arts is unashamedly pop country and this is great because if you’re going to do this sound, you have to commit to it. What I also enjoy about this song is it’s confidence, as Arts asserts the kind of love she’s looking for and refusing to settle for less.

“Slow It Down” is a waltzing love ballad about learning to slow things down in a relationship and enjoying all the little moments in it. It also has an appropriately simmering feel to match the theme of the song too. It’s a really solid track. “Wild Love” is another love song, this one falling a bit short for me compared to “Slow It Down.” This song’s biggest fault is the unnecessary synth that lingers in the background, as I find it distracting and taking away from the melody. Otherwise it’s another quality love song from Arts. “Butterfly Effect” is another case of a bit too much production for my liking, as the guts of this track would have been a perfect balance. And usually I don’t say this, as I’m a sucker for sappy love songs, but I find the lyrics to be too saccharine for my taste.

“I Hate This” is one of my favorites on this album, as the lyrics perfectly show the internal struggle of wanting someone who doesn’t want you in the same way back. It also shows not only the emotions of the situation well, but pulls off the simple storytelling to show how the person got into this situation of being tangled up between reality and their feelings. If I were in charge of making hits, this song would be one. “Nothing to See Here” is another greatly written song (penned by Arts and Whitney Duncan), this one about being haunted by the memories of people and sights in a small town. Yet Arts says there’s nothing in the town to see, writing it off as just another town. It’s this contrasting dichotomy that Arts plays against each other so well that makes this song so good.

“Another Life” is another home run from Arts. The song is about imagining the life that could have been with a past love and aching for something that will probably never be. It’s lyrics and piano-driven melody give it a seriously devastating feel of letting opportunity slip right through your fingers and struggling to reconcile with the situation. To top it off Arts delivers a passionate and impactful vocal performance, showing she can absolutely belt it when it’s necessary. “Right Guy Wrong Time” is a song that I would have left off the album, as it’s a less interesting take on other themes that are explored much better on the album (lost love, heartbreak, what if). Not to mention it’s a bit too sleepy feeling for my taste.

“Call You Names” is about Arts recalling the relationship with her mother up until now. She remembers calling her controlling and mean when she was a teenager and looking forward to being out on her own. Now she’s an adult, always calling her, realizing how important she is in her life. It’s a nice song about growing up and seeing your parents for who they really are, even if it’s a bit predictable. “Missing You” is about getting over an ex and realizing you no longer miss them. The hook of this song is great (“The only thing missing is me missing you”) and I like how the song focuses more on self-happiness rather than petty revenge, giving it a more positive, uplifting tone (too many of these songs devolve into a “winning” the breakup angle).

“Wouldn’t You Like to Know” is a flat-out fun singalong about daring someone to fall for you. The lyrics are a fantastic mix of temptation, mystery and adventurousness, a credit to writers Arts, Alex Kline and Allison Cruz. The instrumentation is also great, blending roaring guitars, pounding drums and a touch of organ to create a really infectious melody. “Everybody Knows Everybody” closes out the album and it’s a fine song about enjoying the small town atmosphere of knowing everyone after growing up in it and being sick of it. I say it’s just fine because it’s a theme that’s done to death in country music, although I give Arts credit for giving an accurate portrayal of the gossipy nature of small towns. It’s a song where I can take it or leave it. I think “Wouldn’t You Like to Know” would have been a better closer.

Love, Heartbreak, & Everything in Between is a good showing from Tenille Arts. The songwriting is really smart and shines at times and the production of Kline, Grand Vogelfanger and Adam Wheeler shows they know how to pull off a great pop country sound. A couple of unnecessary cuts, some average songwriting moments and a few small cases of getting carried away with the production bring this album down enough to prevent it from being a great album. But if you’re a fan of pop country I still recommend checking out Tenille Arts, as she shows a lot of promise and talent on Love, Heartbreak, & Everything in Between.

Grade: 7/10