If there was an award for atmosphere, Brad Armstrong's new release, Empire, would be a shoe-in. From the opening cricket chirps, sounding like a ghostly patch of road, we know we're not in for an easy ride. Armstrong is best known for his work in the band 13ghosts and, more recently, his joining the Dexateens. Empire combines both of these influences, giving us a heavy, gothic album that is light enough to have a song featured on Nashville ("Them Old Crows")but weird enough to feature a song about someone wanking to their high school crush ("School Bus.")
What strikes me most about Empire is its sense of urgency. These songs have to exist, and they have to be heard. They represent the yearning, regret, and frustration that is the very lifeblood of rock'n'roll. Through the album, Armstrong serves as our Virgil, guiding us through this welter of confusing emotions with a confident performance. At the end, he drops us off on that same lonely patch of road, but we can't help feeling a little wiser, knowing we don't bear our burdens alone.
Brad Armstrong -- NoiseTrade, Purchase from Cornelius Chapel Records, Purchase on iTunes