Steve Earle & The Dukes
, Ghosts of West Virginia
(New West Records) – Earle’s spent more time acting than singing of late, making his releases somewhat spotty. But he’s on a mission here, honoring the 29 victims of the 2010 explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine. Earle empathizes with coal-mining Trumpsters while unleashing fury at the energy barons. That’s most crystallized in “It’s About Blood,” where the miners’ names are read out, but also seeps into the quietest tune, “If I Could See Your Face Again,” with vocals by The Masterson’s Eleanor Whitmore. Some may quibble at a 29-minute album, but Earle packs a lot of heat into that brief time.
, Notes on a Conditional Form
(Dirty Hit/Interscope) – Matty Healy tends to be histrionic and pompous, and nowhere is this more true than in The 1975’s new 80-minute opus, which opens with a five-minute apocalyptic speech by Greta Thunberg. What’s surprising is that Healy largely manages to make these songs work. Tunes like “Jesus Christ 2005” should be bloated, but aren’t. Healy might be far too diva-like in live appearances, but with The 1975 relegated to at-home performance for now, this album just might pass for a masterpiece.