By Jake Shenker
This is definitely the summer of ’90s alt-rock comeback records, and here’s yet another new release I didn’t expect to see. This week’s Big Shiny Tunes-style nostalgia is coupled with piano-rock guru Christopher O’Riley, who has thankfully included some ’90s rock on his record and given me this beautiful tie-in. Enjoy.
Here’s what’s new this week:
Third Eye Blind – Ursa Major (Sony RED)
It’s impossible to approach the first new album in six years from an arguably one-hit-wonder band without bias, so let me be the first to say it: Third Eye Blind’s new album surprised the shit out of me. I always dug the singles that ruled the airwaves in the ’90s, but I can’t say I ever bothered to listen to an entire 3eb album before Ursa Major. I was expecting the kind of pain not experienced since Rob Thomas’ latest disc — my favourite coffee coaster — but Stephan Jenkins and company have managed to impress with an album that is not only consistent with their classic ’90s alt-rock sound, but also fresh and evolved. “Sharp Knife,” with its softly driving military snare rolls, layers of clean palm-muted guitar, and climactically loud chorus, is pop perfection; the heavy-toned guitars and perfect vocal hooks of album opener “Can You Take Me” are reminiscent of early Everclear, but with the clean production offered by 21st century technology. I doubt Ursa Major will make anyone’s top-whatever lists, but Third Eye Blind deserve credit for an admirable return from obscurity.
Christopher O’Riley – Out of My Hands (Mesa Bluemoon)
If you haven’t heard of Christopher O’Riley, you’ve been missing out. The pianist is acclaimed for his unique solo-piano arrangements of rock tunes, and has released tribute albums devoted to the music of Nick Drake, Radiohead, and Elliott Smith. Out of My Hands, O’Riley’s newest release, is more diverse, covering twelve rock tunes from different artists. His arrangements vary from the heavy-handed, dense chord blocks on Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” to the light arpeggiated tinkling on Radiohead’s “All I Need,” but O’Riley’s talent ensures that no matter how convoluted a song might appear, the melody and intended harmony is always crystal clear. Out of My Hands covers songs by Pink Floyd, Tori Amos, Tears For Fears, R.E.M., The Smiths and more, guaranteeing something interesting for almost any listener. Whether you love piano music or you’re simply curious, give this one a listen — it’s worth it.