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Tuesday Reviewsday: Will Butler, Blues Traveler and Matthew E. White




Will Butler's
Will Butler's "Anna" off his new album "Policy."
Will Butler (via YouTube)

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Tuesday means it's time for new music on Take Two.

Yes, it's our weekly segment, Tuesday Reviewsday and this time around we've got music journalist Chris Martins and Shirley Halperin, News Director at Billboard Magazine joining A Martinez in the studio with their picks.

Chris Martins

Artist: Will Butler
Album: "Policy"
Songs: "Take My Side," "Anna"
Notes:
This is a voice we've likely all heard, but never in the pole position. It's that of Will Butler, the little brother to Arcade Fire boss Win Butler. They've got a similar voice, but the execution varies pretty drastically. The band's style is beyond grandiose. Their last album "Reflektor" was this hulking mess of loud guitars, Carnival percussion, synthetic textures and orchestral bluster. Even the LP promotional campaign was ridiculous.

Contrast that with the song "Take My Side," off Will's new album. It's like the spare punk-blues of Violent Femmes. It's loose and upbeat, even if the lyrics bear a more pointed cynicism than the sort that lurks around the elder Butler's compositions.

It makes sense if you've ever seen Arcade Fire live. Will quietly lords over his battle station of keys and guitars and things to bang on, until he just explodes. His spastic antics are often tinged with seething aggression, which, not to be unfair, does seem patently "little brother"-like. For "Policy" he looks to the influence of big boys like John Lennon, Magnetic Fields, and Arthur Russell. He also recorded the thing in a mere week in Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios. That minimal approach can definitely be heard in the other song off the album that I'd recommend. It's called "Anna."

Artist: Matthew E. White
Album: "Fresh Blood"
Songs: "Take Care My Baby," "Love Is Deep"
Notes:
I'd like to introduce listeners to Richmond, Virginia's second funkiest son, after D'Angelo of course. Meet Matthew E. White, the dude's an eccentric sensualist who loves singing about Jesus as much as he enjoys cooing about making love.

Listen to the song "Take Care My Baby," for an idea of what I'm talking about.  

This guy is absolutely fascinating. He rocks a big beard and long locks, has a killer baritone, and is a genius in the studio. White works with a ton of musicians to create an orchestral swirl of gospel, funk, rock, and soul. If you heard his 2012 debut, "Big Inner," you already know.

But this one's even more ambitious and more assured. It's also darker in parts. One song considers the suicide of Philip Seymour Hoffman, another takes on sexual abuse by church leaders, and some that sound like romantic tribute are really about breaking up.

But White stays committed to a lush, giving sound. Perhaps it's got something to do with the fact that in high school he interned at Pharrell's Master Sound studio in Virginia Beach. I like to think though, that it's all to do with some strange ability this man has to focus all-encompassing "love" into an aural beam and blast it at our ears. Check out the syrup-rich vocals on "Love Is Deep" and you'll hear what I mean.

Shirley Halperin

Artist: Blues Traveler
Album: "Blow Up the Moon"
Songs: "Vagabond Blues," "Blow Up the Moon"
Notes:
 I’m jumping the gun a bit by choosing this album by Blues Traveler, which isn’t out until April 7, but I thought it appropriate to include on the heels of J.K. Simmons’ Oscar win for best supporting actor in Whiplash which was just released on DVD and VOD.

What’s the connection between a scrappy New Jersey jam band and an Academy Award winning film? Well like Miles Teller’s character in the movie, Blues Traveler frontman John Popper, a master harpist — as in harmonica — and several of his bandmates also studied at Princeton High School under Dr. Anthony Biancosino, the real-life inspiration for Simmons’ character.

But what better way to judge the authenticity of the story than to hear how these graduates have turned out? 

Now, Blues Traveler has been at this a long time, soon to mark 30 years, in fact, so what’s a band to do this far into their career? Collaborate of course! And this album is chock full of them — a different artist on every track, to be exact.
 
Check out the track "Vagabond Blues," which features ska contemporaries Dirty Heads and Rome Ramirez of Sublime.
 
The guest list on this album is all over the place — from Jewel to Hanson to country duo Thompson Square — and the results are likewise mixed, but then there are these bright spots in the most unexpected places, like the sunny title track, "Blow Up the Moon," featuring JC Chasez from 'N Sync.