New Music Mondays: Dolly Parton, Plain White T’s and More!

Another stacked week of New Music Mondays, this one a little lighter than the last few. However, there is still plenty of metal to sink your teeth into, I assure you! Let’s check it all out!

Dolly Parton: Rockstar

The second album in two weeks with the same title, and the second time someone who typically doesn’t do rock is dipping their toes into the genre. Having checked out at least one of the songs off the album, though, and seeing the extensive list of rock royalty guesting on it, I’m hoping that the Queen of Country knocks it out of the park, here. I mean, 30 (!) songs across nearly two and a half hours, there must be something good in here somewhere, right…?

The opener and title track outlines why this album came to be; Dolly wanting to be a rockstar in her youth. Obviously the genre was much different in its infancy than it is now, but the track does a good job at channelling an old sound but polishing it up. Next up is lead single ‘World on Fire’, which has been out for AGES. My god, this album has been a long time coming. It’s a lot more Fleetwood Mac in terms of style, that folkier sound. It’s fine. The same can be said for ‘My Blues Tears’.

Kid Rock taking a step back from his cringy pro-Trump rap rock and back into his country shoes is very fun in ‘Either Or’. ‘Bygones’ injects a bit of metal into the proceedings and features the metal god Rob Halford himself. It’s very much like a subdued Priest song. ‘I Dreamed of Elvis’ is an upbeat rock ‘n’ roll track that features plenty of people from the King’s past and nods to his career.

That’s it. That’s all the original music on here. 30 tracks and 24 of them are covers. Some of them are good, like Dolly and her close friend Linda Perry performing her song ‘What’s Up?’ together. Others, like Rolling Stones’ anthem ‘Satisfaction’ and features both P!nk and Brandi Carlile, aren’t great. The highlight cover is either Bob Segar’s ‘Night Moves’ or ‘Open Arms’ with the man himself, Steve Perry. However, there is a lot of average-at-best on here.

Overall, it’s just too damn long. I completely understand what Dolly was going for here, but my god, even half this album’s length would have been enough! A double album, one half originals and one half covers, would have been more than sufficient. Instead we’re left with a lot of filler that makes this a real slog to listen to at times. It’s clear she had fun, and her distinctive voice made it all still sound very Dolly. And the original stuff is great. Maybe more of that and less covers that sound identical to the originals because she also had the original vocalist on the track too. 5/10

Plain White T’s: Self-Titled

Jade: I must say, I was super excited when I heard this album was coming. Was a big fan of the 2006 album Every Second Counts and the 2010 album Wonders of the Younger. I do think it’s a bit odd that they have waited until their 9th Album for a Self-Titled Album, but each to their own.

I must say the from the first few tracks nothing has really caught me. The first track that caught me that I enjoyed and took me back to 2010 was ‘You Plus Me’, it definitely lent more into the more alternative rock that I remember. They have definitely lent more into Indie now than what I remember. I absolutely loved ‘Fired Up’, it gave me Dinosaur Pile-Up vibes.

The next few tracks are very stripped back, very indie rock, not bad at all, but nothing special in my opinion. ‘Happy’ was another track that caught my attention, but after the first verse and chorus I don’t feel like I needed the rest. I had the same thought with ‘Reg Flags’. The album finished strong with ‘Spaghetti Tattoo’, this was very much the Plain White T’s I know and love and maybe my favourite, maybe they were more indie than I used to think!?

What I will say is, it’s so nice to have that little bit of nostalgia and listen to one of the bands that go me into the rock scene. I don’t know if it’s a case of just always craving a dirty breakdown, but the tracks just sounded very repetitive and dare I say it got a bit boring. This was definitely an album where I could pick out maybe 4 songs to add to my playlist and forget about the rest. I do however feel like it would be great to see live with the atmosphere of the fans. 4/10

Cabrakaän: Aztlán

We’ve already covered this awesome album! Check it out here!

Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Dirt on my Diamonds, Vol. 1

The Louisiana blues guitarist/vocalist is back with his first new solo release since 2019. The whole album sounds exactly how you’d expect it too, if you’re a fan. And, if you aren’t, it sounds exactly what you’d expect from a blues guitarist and singer based in Louisiana. It’s got that big band feel with the organ and horns accompanying the traditional rock instruments, and all drips with a feeling of swagger, alcohol and fun. Kenny himself is a fantastic writer, vocalist and guitar player, and gets to showcase all three through every track on this short release. Tracks like ‘Sweet & Low’ and ‘Bad Intentions’ are huge highlights. My only hope is that Vol. 2 comes out sooner rather than later, as this is a fun album and I wish it was longer than eight tracks! 7.5/10

Raised By Haze: Touch the Sky

The Italian prog quartet’s debut album is honestly something special. From the moment the vocals come in on opener ‘First Side’, combining the heavy tones with incredibly technical drumming and riffing and an almost ethereal feel overall, I was hooked. It feels like a combination of Tool, Queensryche and then almost Ruth Lyon vocally. It’s a fantastic opening track that feels simple yet outlines the sounds and themes of the album perfectly.

Then you have more indie, almost funky tracks like ‘Burn it Up’, ‘Prediction’ and ‘Feeling Myself’. The latter almost has a blues energy to it with the organ, and is a huge highlight of the album. But tracks like ‘God Ki’ still bring back that heaviness to them too which I loved about the opener. While I do prefer the heavier stuff on the album, some of the more indie or slower stuff was amazing too. And I think if anything the band won me round to them because of their talent and writing style, where others may not have. The epic title track is also a huge highlight for me.

Not all of this is for me, but as an album as a whole, it’s fantastic. it’s constantly interesting, seamlessly flowing through multiple different genres, and to listen to in full is a real experience. I most likely wouldn’t listen to the tracks individually that much aside a couple, but as a whole album I’ll definitely be sticking it on again soon! 8/10

The Nearlies: Fresh Memories

The French/Finnish band are the first I’ve seen coin the term ‘ghost rock’. However, with the release of this second album, I honestly cannot think of a more perfect genre descriptor. Just check out the opening track, ‘Oh Aurora’. It somehow sounds both evil and ethereal in equal measure. It’s like old-school punk but with a Halloween theme, is about all I can describe it as! And it’s pretty great, both the song and the album as a whole!

It’s not all my sort of thing, but tracks like ‘Loneliest Times’, ‘Steamy Stones’ and ‘Revelations’ are also big highlights of the album. It’s like more chilled out punk music, but with an interesting, haunting edge to it. None of it would feel out place in a Tarantino movie, it all has that slight surfer-rock energy and sound to it, too. It also reminds me just a little of Dire Straits, that kind of early, old school rock. That may be the vocals, though!

It definitely won’t be for everyone, but I actually believe the album as a whole is better than any of its tracks on their own. It’s definitely something to stick on if you wanna relax or have on in the background when busy doing other stuff. It feels like party music, honestly, in the best way. 7.5/10

Racetraitor: Creation and the Timeless Order of Things

I am very confused here. I’d never heard of the band before, so hearing the intro of the opening track, seeing the artwork and name of the album etc, I thought, ‘oh cool, we’re getting some like tribal, traditional black metal stuff’. But, when looking them up and finding not only was a bunch of white folk from Chicago, but that I recognised the drummer from Fall Out Boy, I was thrown off completely. Especially when Wiki described the band as ‘hardcore punk’ and ‘metalcore’. I wouldn’t have guessed any of this from just listening.

As for the music itself, it’s not my thing at all. It reminds me a bit of KEN Mode’s latest two-part album, so in that regard I at least get the genre comparisons. You can check out for yourself how much I wasn’t into those albums here. It’s a shame, too, as the opening track kinda got me excited for another fun black metal variant. Everything after that just felt like a wall of boring noise, to me.

After researching around the band, I at least appreciate the message behind their music. Anything to speak out against racism is fine in my book. But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy the music. And, unfortunately, it seems like this will be the band’s last album. I know it will have it’s fans and if you enjoy it, awesome. But for me, it gets a 3/10. Sorry.

Plaguemace: Reptilian Warlords

Another debut album, this time from the Danish death metal band. Y’all know how much I love a bit of death metal by now, and this is up there with some of the very best in the genre currently. The riffing is incredible throughout, and the screams are powerful and incredible. It definitely gives off early Cannibal Corpse vibes, but with better production. Honestly, for a heavy band, the production is actually a big highlight of the album. I also love that for the most part, the band are balls to the wall, in and out in mere minutes. It means that when they do take their time on the nearly nine minute ‘Venomous Ambrosia’, it is all the more impactful.

The aforementioned track is a huge highlight of the album, and actually one of my favourite songs in the genre this year. ‘Rhythmic Demise’ and the title track are also both fantastic tracks. However, if you’re into the heavy, you’ll probably love all of this. It’s a really solid album, with the only potential blip being ‘ Cavedweller’s Solliloquy’. I get the intention, but the combined spoken word/growl just made me laugh a little. However, as a whole it’s awesome, and I can see this debut skyrocketing the band in the death metal scene! 7.5/10

Madness: Theatre of the Absurd Presents C’est la Vie

Jade: Madness is a childhood memory unlocked for me. My whole family knew every word to every song. This is the band that I associate Ska to and will always love them. I haven’t listened to anything they have released since their 2012 Album Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da. So, I’m actually really curious to see what sort of thing they are doing now.

Straight from the ‘Prologue: Mr Beckett Sir..’ into ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ it’s really moody and there is almost an essence of Oliver the musical. I love the theatrical vibe they are giving. ‘Baby Burglar’ takes me straight back to what I know and love from Madness. Still moody, and a whole lot more brass, not quite ready to dance yet though.

Now we are into ‘Act one: Surrounded on all sides..’. ‘C’est La Vie’ is great, exactly what you’d expect when you think of Madness. Super groovy, which follows for the next few tracks. ‘Round We Go’, which is the only track under ‘Act Two: The damsel in distress’ of the album, is a completely different vibe. It’s really upbeat and cheery and very catchy, but when you listen to the lyrics it’s actually a bit sad.

The tracks in ‘Act Three: The situation deteriorates..’ feel a lot more dreamy. Especially ‘Beginners 101’. It really soothing with the underlying gloomy feeling that has been throughout the whole Album. Really impressive Saxophone solo. ‘Is Anybody Out There’. It’s a bit heavier, a bit moodier. Suggs has a lot more attitude in his vocals. This is also the case for the following track ‘The Law According to Dr. kippah’, but it has a more theatrical feel to it again, a bit more synthy. The ‘Epilogue: And so Ladies and Gentlemen..’ kicks off a lot more upbeat with ‘Run For Your Life’. The drums, the brass and even the lyrics are much faster and complex than previous tracks. ‘Set Me Free (Let Me Be)’ is very stripped back, almost smooth Jazz. The Brass instrumentals are soooo good! We finish with ‘In My Street’ which is so old school Madness, funky, groovy, moody with this repeating theatrical feel.

I absolutely love the whole concept of breaking the Album up in Acts. I has really made me crave Madness the Musical! I think is definitely something they could pull off. Suggs still sounds great. I really hope they tour with this album; I’d love to see it brought to life. I know I may get hate for this, but this is what I wish all Ska sounded like, but that’s just me. The only thing I will say, is maybe it didn’t need to be quite so long. There were a couple of songs that were a little similar and just didn’t draw me in. But still a great album nevertheless. 8.5/10

Miara: Hungering Inside

Another death metal band putting out their debut album this week, but this time from Italy and a little more melodic. Honestly, it’s exactly what you’d expect from the genre, and it’s fucking fantastic. It gives off big Children of Bodom vibes, which I love. Between the great riffing, great screams, big, choruses and overall epic feel, it’s clear how much the late Alexi Laiho inspired the band. I know there will definitely be those out there that cry foul to the fact that there are cleaner vocals on here and that it’s not ‘true death metal’, but it’s fucking awesome so I choose to ignore them.

The opener sets the perfect tone for the album, showing off everything great about their sound. It’s a definite highlight of the album. Then you have the more early 2000s metalcore ‘The Gate of Hell’, the balls-to-the-wall ‘Fit Into the Mold’ and the slower ballad, ‘Trying’. There’s plenty of variety going on throughout, and there’s an awful lot to love!

It’s not an utterly perfect album. In this writer’s humble opinion, there isn’t that one huge track that sets them above their peers. That one song to catapult them into the mainstream. The closest is the closer, ‘Honesty is a Dream’. However, as an album overall, this is incredible, and as a debut album it’s off-the-charts good. I’ll be listening to this for a long time to come, and cannot wait to hear where the band go from here! 9/10

Hyperia: The Serpent’s Cycle

The Canadian thrash outfit’s fourth album in five years is finally here, and it picks up right where Silhouettes of Horror left off. Lightening-fast pace, insane guitaring and drumming, and some of the best solos in the game today. I love the old-school feel to it all, too. The vocals are on the more hardcore/punk side, and it has such a chaotic energy throughout.

It’s a really great album if you’re into your thrash. Having said all of that… I HATE writing about the genre. I love thrash, and this is a very good thrash album. But outside of saying that and giving you a selection of my favourite tracks, what else can I say about it? It’s fast; it’s heavy. It’s thrash, of course it fucking is.

So, yeah. Check out ‘Prophet of Decay’ and ‘Eye for an Eye’. And go see this live if you wanna go get beat to death in a pit and have the best night. 8/10, great stuff!

The Refreshments: A Stiff One

More bluesy rock ‘n’ roll, this time much more old-school, from the Swedish legends. It’s like I’ve been transported back in time 60 years, honestly. And it’s a lot of fun. Right from the opening track, ‘Travellin’ Light’, I just want to be sat in a dark, smoky club, sipping on a martini. And honestly, I had no idea Sweden had such a market for this sort of sound, which is great to hear!

Tracks like ‘Mama Rosa’, ‘Mary Jean’ and ‘No Mojo’ are all big highlights. However, the whole album is great. It’s just fun, and it’s impossible to listen to it without a smile on your face. It’s the perfect blend of old school rock music, be that Status Quo or Buddy Holly. I’ll definitely be listening to this album again. 8/10