It’s been great to see the extended second act in the career of veteran British pop master Nick Lowe, who’s been involved in making timeless music as a singer, a sideman, and a producer for more than four decades with nary a misstep or bad look. He’s aged with impressive grace, and at 67 he continues to produce strong work that feels neither geriatric nor desperate. (I was recently reminded how bad an idea it is for senior citizen rockers to try to act like they’re still in their 20s when I accidentally saw a bit of the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander looked like a leathery-skinned retiree who’d spent too much time in the sun in Fort Lauderdale.)
In the late 70s and early 80s, Lowe played in the British band Rockpile, a chapter in his history that’s underappreciated today. Rockpile, which also included Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, and Terry Williams, were a kind of all-star pub rock group, and their sole album under that name arrived shortly before they broke up. That 1980 record, Seconds of Pleasure, still sounds as fresh, energetic, and hooky as ever—the original songs (half the material) nailed the band’s adoration for Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and other early soul and rock ‘n’ roll paragons. Any of the album’s dozen tracks would be a worthy choice for today’s 12 O’Clock Track, but I’m going with “When I Write the Book,” a crisply rendered midtempo rocker sung with typical clear-eyed cool by Lowe amid sharply strummed acoustic guitars, deft organ stabs and swells, and the no-nonsense stomp of drummer Williams. If this song isn’t pop perfection, I don’t know what is.
Ochion Jewell Quartet, Volk (no label)
Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day IV (Songlines)
Orrin Evans, The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions)
Alina Ibragimova, Ysaÿe: Sonatas for Violin (Hyperion)
Jacob Garchik, Ye Olde (Yestereve)