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The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rise Against - Endgame: B-

For better or worse, Rise Against have always evolved as a band with every album they’ve released. Revolutions Per Minute focused the feral hardcore punk of the group’s debut, The Unraveling, into one of the 2000’s first punk classics. Siren Song of the Counterculture was an uneven venture into the realm of mainstream punk. The Sufferer & The Witness was the group’s magnum opus, perfectly balancing the hardcore tendencies of their first albums with their knack for throat-shredding choruses that they had developed somewhat on Siren Song. Appeal to Reason was an expansion of that sound, borrowing more of the visceral fear from Revolutions into a rousing clarion call that got surprisingly close to matching the quality of Sufferer. Endgame, Rise Against’s first album in three years, does not feature any evolution of the group’s sound. Instead, it is a retread of the elements of Appeal to Reason put into songs that aren’t nearly as affecting or catchy. Instead of rousing, the group comes off as burnt out and tired, the first time where I can bring up the term, “lazy” for anything the group has ever released.

The band’s lethargy is made apparent from Endgame’s choruses to frontman Tim McIlrath’s vocal performance. Throughout the album, McIlrath attempts to replicate the haphazard wail that made Appeal to Reason so special, but, for the first time, he sounds strained and exhausted, as if he hadn’t bothered to change his vocal style as he had done with his group’s last five albums, which turns out to be a very unfortunate decision. His fatigue comes off in his lyrics as well. “Storm the gates / Raise the flags / It’s just the same old story,” he sings in “A Gentleman’s Coup,” as if he’s lost faith in the rebelliousness that defined the group on songs like “Re-Education (Through Labor)” and “Prayer of the Refuge.” In “This Is Letting Go,” he all but admits defeat, spelling out the formula for the band’s sound by singing, “This is the part where the needle skips and the chorus plays like a sink that drips,” which only brings up images of meaningless repetition that can be extrapolated to just about every song on Endgame. “Once upon a time I could take anything,” he sighs on the same track, succumbing to the disappointments that have become a requisite of the state of things in recent years.

Elsewhere, Endgame’s sonic arrangements sound like their treading the water that Appeal to Reason left for them. The bass-driven verses of “Make It Stop (September’s Children)” sound like ripoffs of “Long Forgotten Sons” and the framework of “Disparity By Design,” right down to the guitar solo that opens the verses is a blatant bite of “Kotov Syndrome.” The band’s boredom in their craft is also apparent in the random experiments they attempt sporadically in Endgame. McIlrath’s voice sounds out of place over the palm-muted hard rock attempt, “Midnight Hands,” a song much more suited for Dark Horse-era Nickelback than anything hard-edged Rise Against has written in the past. You can tell a band is aimless when they write a hollow bluesy waltz (AFI, Muse), and “Broken Mirrors” is just that track. And whoever thought that putting a children’s choir over “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” guitars was a good idea liked Siren Song of the Counter Culture WAY too much.

Overall, Endgame comes off more obligatory than anything else, a collection of Appeal to Reason never-were’s that the band thought they should record after touring under their last album for so long. With a few exceptions, the album isn’t terribly bad, but the lack of originality in all its songs does not bode well for what the group’s going to come out with in the new decade. If Rise Against they can just tack on some “HEY!”’s to some duds and make an anthem, they are sorely mistaken, and Endgame proves pretty well that you just can’t half-ass post-recessional teenage angst.


Travis Barker - Give the Drummer Some: B

Give the Drummer Some, the debut album by Blink-182 drummer, Travis Barker, has a lot of surprises, one of which is not the fact that Blink-182 drummer, Travis Barker, has made a hip-hop album. The guy’s been knocking elbows with rap types since 2007, when he made a “rock” remix of Flo Rida’s “Low” and has been expanding his contact network ever since with more remixes of increasingly higher profile artists, his tour with the late DJ AM and his performance on Lil Wayne’s 2010 shit sandwich, The Rebirth. With the Blink-182 tour completed and there being a lull until their reunion album comes out, Give the Drummer Some was the logical extent to which Barker was going to take all the connections he’d made in order to pass the time.

What’s most surprising about the album is that most of it is not a Rebirth re-hash. Songs like “Beat Goes On” and the opener, “Can a Drummer Get Some” (which actually features Lil’ Wayne), are laughable genre-hybrids, but a lot of the album leans toward traditional hip hop, Barker often ceding airtime from his live drums to artificial beats that are not just accompanied with synthesized guitars playing four-note riffs. “If You Want To” pops with pocket brass and live drums, “Cool Head” broods on an ominous bassline and “Devil’s Got a Hold” is such pitch-perfect late-90’s/early-00’s grit, it starves for an Eminem verse.

What’s also surprising about Give the Drummer Some is how very extensive Barker’s network of friends is and how good he is at building a beat around them that suits their personalities. The album’s most surprising cameos are Lupe Fiasco on “If You Want To” and RZA and Raekwon on “Carry It,” but Barker doesn’t attempt to force either to rap over the faux-rock that made the guy famous in this field. In fact, the beat of “If You Want To” sounds more like traditional Lupe Fiasco than the guy’s latest album, Lasers. The beat of “Cool Head” fits Kid Cudi’s drawl excellently, even if the guy’s actual verses are just as face-palm worthy as anything off The Legend of Mr. Rager (“So menstrual psychology / Tamponic” Are you fucking kidding me?). “Let’s Go” has the why-hasn’t-this-happened-before appeal of having fast-talkers Busta Rhymes and Twista in the same song. Yelawolf’s the newest in this lineage, and his verse is really good, adhering to the straightforward flow he implemented on his debut with no cringeworthy lines to be heard.

Give the Drummer Some is not without its fair share of messes, Ludacris’s irrelevance-confirming verse in “Knockin’” and Tim Armstrong’s painfully awkward hook in “Saturday Night” coming immediately to mind. Overall, the performances of all the artists ranges from adequate to pretty good, and it’s a pleasant surprise to say that this is the best thing to come out of the Barker cannon in nearly a decade (And yes I’m counting Meet the Barkers. Remember that shit?) While not as good as most of the Blink-182 discography, Give the Drummer Some is a solid release with some legitimately good highlights. If anything, it’s a testament to the versatility of a member of one of the most wrongly castigated artists of the ‘90’s and a justification for all the shameful diversions Barker’s gone on in the past.


Egyptrixx - Bible Eyes: B+

Bible Eyes is an album that’s slow to start. Not that the proper debut from this Toronto dubstep artist doesn’t immediately establish the guy’s lurching style within the album’s first track, but the first couple songs of Bible Eyes do not leave particularly strong first impressions. Bible Eyes is one of the few albums that I can say radically improves as it progresses.

“Start From the Beginning” and the title track establish Egyptrixx’s style, but exhibit them in a way that exposes their flaws. “Start From the Beginning,” while bolstered from interesting-sounding cymbals and a booming bass, becomes old very quickly, as Egyptrixx (real name: David Patsutka) finds solace in repetition and provides it with very little variation, making the track feel a lot longer than three minutes. “Bible Eyes” is more promising, beginning with a traditional dancefloor-ready thump, but what makes it unique is what also brings it down in quality. Within a minute, a dissonant synth line fades in and increases in volume to a blare as it progresses. Unfortunately, from that point on, the song is almost all repetition, Egyptrixx sticking to that line that starts out intriguing, but ends up downright annoying. At six minutes, it’s a hulking mass of discord, and it could very well justify taking oneself out of the album, entirely.

But it’s surprising how well Egyptrixx recovers from this point on. “Chrysalis Records” deservedly flaunts its presence of verses and choruses that have proven difficult with other electronic artists. While not necessarily a must in those terms, a competent dabbling into song writing can be an indication of the versatility of the musician. “Chrysalis” mixes the traditional modes of pop with the less flexible dubstep well while incorporating a singing voice, creating a product reminiscent of the songs with vocals on Guido’s dubstep debut, Anidea. It is clear at this point that Egyptrixx possesses a unique bag of tricks, but needs a little more practice arranging them into a palatable product.

And from there, the record only gets better. Egyptrixx incorporates his distinct cacophonous synths on “Naples,” but softens them with reverb so that they are less grating and are more appropriate for the rest of the song’s more danceable context. “Rook’s Theme” and “Recital (A Version)” are bona fide ragers, the former led by a warped pan flute melody and the latter a waifish vocalist away from being the best song School of Seven Bells never wrote. While both utilize repetition (“Recital (A Version)” is over seven minutes long), they’re both based around damn good foundations, reaching a pleasant equilibrium in which the beat could go on forever and party people would never mind it.

The second half of Bible Eyes leans towards the ruminative. “Fugi Club” and “Recital (B Version)” both feature off-kilter vocals (I keep imagining the voice in the former being Peter Lorre’s Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon) and “Liberation Front” and “Barely” explore more of Egytrixx’s disjointed melodies, but never so far off as to become deleterious, as in the case of the title track. Yes, it would appear that, as “Liberation Front” fades out after seven minutes of never getting boring to conclude Bible Eyes, Egyptrixx has more than made up for the buffoonery he observed in those first couple tracks.

The closest contemporary Egyptrixx has is probably the London dubstep duo, Mount Kimbie. However, while both do have a penchant for oblique samples (To go back to “Liberation Front,” much of its track time is spent revolving around what sounds like someone chopping and screwing an IED explosion), Bible Eyes is not merely dorm room funk, but an album that could actually make some people lose their shit on a dancefloor. While, again, that’s not exclusively criterion for good electronic music, do you think I’m not going to count that aspect of Bible Eyes in Egyptrixx’s favor? I’d be lying if I said I didn't.


Couldawouldashoulda: March 2011

Hey guys. Here’s the first of a series of segments I want to do for Check Your Mode. When we see the lists of the top 20 or 50 albums of a given year, we may also see something called the “Honorable Mentions” section, a place to note albums that were great, but not quite great enough to make it to the final cut. Seeing that I had quite a few “couldawouldashoulda”’s in my greatest fifty albums list last year, (about fifty more to be exact), I decided to have a monthly showcase of five albums that just barely fell out of the running for being in my top fifty albums of the year. Of course, initially, the Couldawouldashoulda’s will not be particularly good, but, as we near the end of the year, my guess is you’ll see some pretty contended releases pop up in this section, of which, of course, there may be plenty of debate.

In No Particular Order…

Amplifier – The Octopus

Original Review Here

The sophomore release from this British prog rock group is nothing if not ambitious. At nearly two hours, The Octopus has a vague concept involving the eponymous cephalopod and houses songs that frequently exceed the 8-minute mark. However, its songs are not loaded with the superfluous genre experiments and masturbatory guitar solos that one has come to expect from albums like these. In fact, the songs of The Octopus are surprisingly straightforward and tempered. But, alas, a ten-minute piano ballad is still a ten-minute piano ballad, and it isn’t long before the album begins to seriously sag. On a track-by-track basis, The Octopus is bearable, but as a dense whole, it’s far too much waiting for very little payoff. While not quite on the same dreadful level of Judas Priest’s concept album, Nostradamus, The Octopus does very little favors in digesting an album that is both too long and too boring; one of the most potently disparaging combinations in music.

Wanda Jackson – The Party Ain’t Over

Anyone expecting another Van Lear Rose was sorely disappointed. Hell, anyone expecting another Consolers of the Lonely was disappointed. Jack White’s 2011 musical clock-in was an unfortunate musical accommodation for a singer who, admittedly, did not have much of a strong voice to begin with. Amidst White’s trademark fuzz and a rather intrusive horn section, Wanda Jackson sounds uncomfortable throughout The Party Ain’t Over, awkwardly shuffling through the blues (“Thunder on the Mountain”), bosa nova (“Rum and Coca-Cola”) and Amy Whinehouse covers (“You Know I’m No Good”). This isn’t the worst thing that White’s put his name to (The Stripes’ tactless genre stretch, Get Behind Me Satan, is a tad worse), but it’s a genuine surprise to see someone as talented as he finding so many ways to tamper with an album that could have been pretty good despite its innate weaknesses.

Minks – By the Hedge

As background music, it’s pretty innocuous, but when closely inspected… it’s still pretty innocuous. Which I guess is fine, but I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t have the time to listen to the kind of nebulous shoegaze that I could find in the records of far more talented bands. Sure nothing on By the Hedge is outright offensive and “Indian Ocean” is a very pretty instrumental, but I’m seeing the forest for the trees here and all I’m seeing are the sprouts of what could be passable shrubberies.

Rise Against – Endgame

This is an unfortunate way to break this to all you Rise Against fans out there, because my review for this album has yet to be posted, but Endgame, the sixth album from Illinois punks Rise Against, is the band’s worst. The good news, though, is there is a reason for this, and it is for lack of trying. When Rise Against experiments, at least something good comes out of it (the good tracks from The Unraveling and Siren Song of the Counterculture), but Endgame finds the group treading some serious water, trying to scrap up the remnants of the near-perfect Appeal to Reason and coming up with something crass and uninspired. Rise Against sound rudderless on the album, something that I can imagine would be incumbent upon a band coming off two fantastic releases. I just hope the group can shape up for the new decade, because their type of firebrand punk rock is still a necessity in these increasingly trying times.

Social Distortion – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

Original Review Here

And speaking of underwhelming punk stalwarts, what was Social Distortion doing in the seven years since they released an album? By the sound of Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, it was a steady diet of lollipops, rainbows and Teletubbies reruns, because Social Distortion sound downright peppy on their newest release. A choir? Optimism? Last time I checked, I was a lazy, smelly, unemployable loser with nothing to hope for but a pair of jeans and a beer when I’m twenty-one, not the fucking light of the Earth Mike Ness pretends to purport me to be. Although, overall, pretty decent, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes is a startling turn for a group that laid such a large claim to making passive rebellion sound genuine.


Lupe Fiasco - Lasers: B+

On October 15th, 2009, fans held a rally in front of Atlantic Records headquarters to spur the label to release Lupe Fiasco’s third album, whose release date had been pushed back for nearly two years. Surprisingly, Atlantic complied, resolving to release Lasers in early 2011. That news was a huge boon to Lupe Fiasco fans that were tired of waiting for his follow-up to 2007’s The Cool, and was a testament to the power of audiences to influence the often enigmatic policies of labels. However, when I heard this news, I was incredibly disheartened. The fact that Atlantic and, to a certain extent, Fiasco, had to have fans organize in their front yard in order to release Lasers signaled to me that, for one reason or another, either or both parties did not feel that the album was ready to be released to the public. So I approached Lasers with quite a bit of trepidation, seeing it as an album that either was not quite up to snuff for an artist who has proven himself to be one of rap’s formative geniuses through his first two albums or was just not the right sound he was comfortable with releasing.

Ostensibly, the delay of release for the album could be due to both. Lasers sounds nothing like a Lupe Fiasco album. It is loaded with modern hip-hop signifiers such as Euro-pop textures and Auto-tuned choruses. Its backdrops sound more like that of the next Taio Cruz album than the follow-up from a guy whose two best singles on his first album were about skateboarding and robots. The trite vocal manipulations and rinkydink synths in “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now” sound like the hollow reggaeton Pit Bull would rap over, and the compressed guitars of “State Run Radio” approach Rebirth levels of clumsiness. Gone are the frequent Fiasco collaborator Matthew Santos and any reference to the supposed trilogy that Lasers was supposed to bookend. Lasers reeks of studio intervention (how the Hell else would Trey Songz appear on this thing?) and it sounds like the biggest outlier Fiasco could have released at this point in his career. With all this said, one can understand why the man and the label would be uncomfortable with releasing it.

However, if I were a musical ideologue, I could say the same for almost half the releases I’ve reviewed in the past year and dismiss them all. Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” was a last-minute songwriting request from Vertigo to have another single and the reworking of “Love Reign O’er Me” to fit a single sounds better than the original version that appears on The Who’s Quadrophenia. Sometimes, the amoral habits of labels can result in something good, and Lasers, to a certain extent, is a reflection of this.

Although the scenery of Lasers is completely different from anything the man has released in the past, the Lupe who is conflicted on the state of both hip-hop and his worldview is still very much intact. Where, on past works like “Hurt Me Soul,” these conflicts would rage within a song, Lasers is more emotionally polarized from track to track, to almost a comical degree. “Words I Never Said” is the most vitriolic screed Fiasco has ever gone on, the man reeling off heavily pessimistic one-liners, one after another. Where Big Boi, another rapper whose most recent release was dogged by delay, opened his album with this bit of off-handed criticism, “Then who you voting for Republican or Democrat / Take no second doesn’t matter cuz that’s how they stole the last one,” Fiasco blows him out of the negativity water by opening his album by seething, “Limbaugh is a racist / Glenn Beck is a racist / Gaza Strip was getting bombed / Obama didn’t say shit / That’s why I ain’t votin’ for him / Next one either / I’m part of the problem / My problem is I’m peaceful.” Props to Lupe for having the gall to open the second track of his album with, “I really think the War on Terror is a bunch of bullshit.” It’s definitely is an attention grabber, even if the track, itself, comes off a little too preachy.

Elsewhere, Lupe is a lot more hopeful, as on “The Show Goes On,” (Yeah yeah the world is yours / I was once that little boy / Terrified of the world / Now I’m on that world tour”) but it isn’t long before he bogs down again in the next track, “Beautiful Lasers (2Ways),” wallowing in self-depreciation like Kid Cudi hijacked his lyric book. Fiasco has always been a great rapper, but I’ve always been more enamored by the beats on his albums, so I’m more likely to forgive him for not having as many memorable lines on Lasers than on The Cool or Food & Liquor.

Especially considering, (and here’s the part where I really piss off the Lupe Fiasco fans still reading), I think Lasers is a better album than The Cool. Where the highs of the latter far surpass that of Lasers, Fiasco’s newest isn’t bogged down by transitional filler to suit a storyline, every one of its tracks memorable and, at the very least, fun. “The Show Goes On” interpolates Modest Mouse’s “Float On” into a communal toast that Rihanna may have set a trend for with her “I’ll Drink to That.” “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now” sounds like Taio Cruz, granted, but more like the shameless hands-in-air party fare of “Dynamite,” and “All Black Everything” is cute and clever in imagining a world where slavery never existed (“The Rat Pack was a cool group of black men / That inspired five white guys called The Jacksons”).

However, considering the tongue-lashing he has received from both critics and fans, it’s doubtful that Fiasco will attempt an album as blatantly commercial as Lasers ever again. However, keep in mind that the album is not the cacophony that many others have made it out to be. Lasers is an admirable attempt by Fiasco to move away from constantly repping the underground. If anything, it solidifies his talents as a rapper, as it shows that he can be smart and clever while pretending to be a genre-defying pop star, even if it’s just going to be for one album.


Tim Hecker - Ravedeath: 1972: B+

Maybe I just don’t get it. All I’ve read about Ravedeath, 1972 indicates that it’s an album that is supposed to soundtrack a dystopian wasteland, fraught with despair and forgotten sounds. However, when I listen to Ravedeath, 1972, rarely do I hear anything particularly negative. I find the songs cool, I ruminate over the washes of ambience that Hecker crafts for this fifty-minute product, but barely do I perceive the arrangements to resemble cacophony. “No Drums,” true to its name, is docile and unassuming. The three “In the Fog” tracks are swashes of major chords played through undecipherable instruments. “Analog Paralysis 1978” ends with vague guitar finickry and slight pitter-patter and “Studio Suicide 1978” begins with what sounds like the New York Philharmonic warming up from an echo-y broom closet adjacent to the amphitheater. While these sounds are fascinating, rarely are they vicious. At worst, they are ominous, as in the “In the Air” series that concludes the album, but, even then, the last of them ends on a solitary piano that drifts off into the distance, signaling to me not disintegration but a hope for a better future. Like I’ve said before, Ravedeath 1972 and most ambient works are what you perceive them to be. The album’s great fodder for pondering your life, and, based on your own proclivities, Hecker’s songs can either affirm or disavow it. The album forebodes at times, but that does not mean it has to be depressing.


Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!: B

Please refer for reference

So slow, so boring, so average, so British. Not bad, but I guess if I sang a melody in an echo chamber over and over again, it wouldn’t sound so bad either, would it?


The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh: B+

Smart Flesh, The Low Anthem’s fourth album, is very good, but, as it progresses, one gets the impression that it could be much better. The strengths of the band are apparent from the onset. Singer Ben Knox Miller has a quiet storm of a voice, fixing your gaze to his words whenever they are emitted from his lips. At times, his tone resembles that of James Taylor, at others Cat Stevens and Blitzen Trapper’s Eric Early. The frailty in his voice is flexible to the words he speaks. He sounds like Bob Dylan in “Boeing 737” and “Matter of Time” sounds like what would happen if Heath Ledger’s Joker wrote a tender love song. His soft voice brings attention to his lyrics, which can be entertaining through either depreciating quips (“First she shot me with whisky then chased me with gin”) or well-founded rhetorical portraits, as in the album highlight, “Burn.”

However, Miller’s vocal performance is just about all that’s interesting about Smart Flesh. With the exception of the presence of clarinets in songs like “Ghost Warrior Blues” and “Wire,” the album deals into the stereotypical folksy sound: acoustic guitars that just keep strumming, organs that play sweeping chords and banjo that’s only there to give the illusion of authenticity. I cannot name a time when the music is anything less than solid, but Miller’s humor and candor deserve a much better setting than one that just strives for average. The result isn’t necessarily an album that sounds bad, but the lack of musical ambition drags down songs that don’t have such a pronounced lyrical presence like “Hey, All You Hippies!”

So Smart Flesh is a success, but it’s too unnecessarily top-heavy. Mediocre instrumentation does not make for a bad album, but the anonymity of the arrangements can make one nod off in boredom and miss the greater skill that Miller observes. For however good his voice is, it’s very quiet and thus demanding of your full attention. The Low Anthem need to learn that it is possible for folk to be original and, though Smart Flesh is an admirable release, more like it will start to sound like wasted talent.


Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories): B+ / Charles Bradley - No Time For Dreaming: B+

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Election season has begun, and President Obama has initiated his campaign for a second term in 2012. That means we can now start the conversation of what the man’s done for our country, whether we should trust him to lead for another four years, and whether he is worth our vote. For me, it’s the beginning of an unfortunate time, because I don’t think I will be comfortable casting a ballot for either of the sides from which I will be ultimately made to choose. We all know Obama sailed into the oval office on a wave of change, and the music immediately following his election reflected that virile surge of hope (Pearl Jam’s gloriously uncharacteristic optimist anthem, “The Fixer” comes readily to mind). But now, as it becomes an increasingly dreary task to parse out what has been made better in America under his first term, it is no surprise that music being released is beginning to echo the economic, social and political futility that exists now more than ever. It was in the start of the decade when this mentality started to take shape in music, and, in 2011, there is no escaping it. Although Hayes Carll is a country singer from Houston, Texas and Charles Bradley is a soul singer from Poughkeepsie, New York, the new albums from both typify this mounting negativity reflective of the state of the country.

Throughout KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories), Hayes Carll comes off as the true postmodern country singer. His voice is sloppy and unhinged and his lyrics are flippant, making the pain and hardship described in most of his songs far more endearing than anything Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift or even Jamey Johnson could write. In the title track, “KMAG YOYO,” Carll chronicles a hilariously fabricated series of events that unfold after he signs up for the army (Arms dealing, space travel. You’d have to hear it to believe it) and “Another Like You” pairs him with a lovable lass that’s just as deranged as he (--“Shouldn’t you be purging?” --“Well you’re probably still a virgin.” --“I can’t believe you’re not on The View.”). KMAG YOYO is an endlessly quotable album, apparent whether Carll is chiding love or politics. His finest moment, though, comes toward the album’s end, when he depicts a recessional holiday with devastating specificity on “Grateful For Christmas.” It’s a tear-jerking ode to imperfection, and, even if KMAG YOYO has some significant filler in between such highlights, it’s still nice to hear some country that’s clever and genuinely relatable for a change.

Charles Bradley toiled on the musical circuit for decades before Daptone Records picked him up a few years ago and finally gave him the platform for a debut album. Bradley, now 62, hefts all those years of disappointment onto that record, No Time For Dreaming. The first line on the album is indicative of its tone. “This world is going up in flames / And nobody wanna take the blame,” he rebukes amidst the retro instrumentation of the Daptones, No Time For Dreaming’s backup band. Often, Bradley’s fervent pleas sound on the verge of tears, a sentiment that is supported by the expressive instrumentation of trumpet player Dave Guy and saxophonist Leon Michaels. Together, they create the nostalgic soul not dissimilar to the work The Daptones have done with Sharon Jones, but, like her music, it’s hard to imagine the new-world perspective of No Time for Dreaming fitting in with the soul music of the 1960’s. The devastating sadness that often boils over in songs like “How Long” and “Heartaches and Pain” are wholly unique to Bradley, and the way he inhabits them makes for an overwhelming performance that rivals that of Otis Redding, a clear influence here. In “Why Is It So Hard,” Bradley tells the story of how he got to this point in his life, how he moved to Brooklyn from Florida and then to Poughkeepsie to escape his many stresses, bookending his verses by crying, “Why is it so hard to make it in America?” One would hope that the existence of No Time for Dreaming is an indication that things are looking up for Bradley. His voice and songwriting ability are somewhat of lost treasures, and it’s better late than never that we get to hear the genius this guy has been ceaselessly peddling for most of his life.