Strand of Oaks
(Dead Oceans, ***½ stars)
The backstory of Eraserland, the seventh Strand of Oaks album from Philly’s Tim Showalter, involves an existential crisis, a songwriting trip to the Jersey Shore, and a call to action from Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket. The results are excellent. Recorded in Louisville, Ky., with most of MMJ as backing band, Eraserland is somber and rollicking, angsty and triumphant, earnest and joyful. Showalter has always been an introspective songwriter, and much of the album finds him thinking about his role as a musician and a music fan.
The album begins in doubt: “I don’t feel it anymore,” is the stark opening line of “Weird Ways.” But when the full band kicks in with an MMJ-like wall of guitars after 90 seconds, the doubts are gone. Eraserland has some of Showalter’s tautest songwriting (the Springsteen-esque “Ruby”) but also a pensive nine-minute ballad (“Forever Chords,” with some Neil Young echoes) and a few psychedelic freakouts (“Moon Landing,” with Jason Isbell on wild guitar). “I gotta get my s- together before I’m 40,” Showalter, who’s in his late 30s, pleads on “Keys.” Mission accomplished, musically at least. — Steve Klinge
Strand of Oaks begins their tour on Wednesday, April 10, at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. $15. 570-826-1100, kirbycenter.org.
Also, Friday, May 10, at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. $18. 215-232-2300, utphilly.com.
The Chemical Brothers
Back in the mad, bad 1990s, Manchester, England’s Chemical Brothers — Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons — crafted a brand of electronic music infused with big, block-rocking beats that borrowed as much from hip-hop as from Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Not only did they start an indie-electro movement that would include UNKLE (whose first new album in two years is out next week), the Prodigy (RIP singer Keith Flint), and Fatboy Slim, they made hits that oozed into pop’s mainstream, especially as their once-tough tones grew cleaner and less raw.
No Geography is a return to their original unbridled, grungy funk, with zero big-name guest appearances and a density and aggression that’s been missing from their sound since the start of the 2000s. Using vintage electronic and sequence-based equipment, but sticking with the melodicism they’ve developed over the last three decades, tracks such as “Got to Keep On” and “Free Yourself” are noisy, bass-booming anthems rich with dynamic layers and creaky textures. “Bango” sounds like its title. The wobbly “MAH” is loose, rubber-band funk that could make you seasick, yet you won’t want to stop moving. “Eve of Destruction” is both effervescent and apocalyptic, while freeing your mind in order for your rump to follow. You can’t ask for more when it comes to the Chemical Brothers’ brand of frenetic dance music. — A.D. Amorosi
On the Line
(Warner Bros. ***½)