These albums need a little more time in the oven of perspective. Send along your reviews and/or suggestions for newer records and I may add them here. These are in addition to the Top 1000 Albums.
hope downs | rolling blackouts coastal fever
11.17.18: I am a big The Feelies fan so this record is spot on for me.
Tim Sendra @ Allmusic writes: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's first two EPs introduced a band that knew a thing or two about making jangle pop. With one foot in the six-string chime of the '80s and another planted firmly in the here and now, the Australian quintet crafted plangent songs built around half-sung melodies, spiraling lines, and tempos that had a low-key drive to them. It was a little rough around the edges, a little unfocused at times, but on its debut album from 2018, Hope Downs, the band has tightened things up in just the right ways and come up with something magical. The guys in the band headed off to a remote area of Australia, bunkered down with producer Liam Judson, and refined their sound until it shone like a gem. More than before, the guitars have a spiky bite, the vocals come through clearly, the rhythm section has some kick, and every song feels like a hit. The first three songs, "An Air Conditioned Man," "Talking Straight," and "Mainland," are breathtaking guitar pop, built on the DNA of the Feelies, the Go-Betweens, and R.E.M. but given new life by the emotion the three songwriters and vocalists (Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and Joe White) pour into the words and singing. Not to mention the thrilling interplay of their guitars; none of them are virtuosic, but the parts they play fit together as seamlessly as Lego pieces. The vocals also fit together nicely, sounding just different enough that each song has its own flavor and similar enough that their harmonies blend in a very warm and satisfying way.
freedom's goblin | ty segall
4/13/18: Everything on this almost 75 minute collage-like record is compelling and just plane enjoyable. Paying homage yet staying the right distance so to not trespass into emulating your influences too closely is an art in itself. I believe this Goblin will be well remembered as a real original work. Remarkable. Call me crazy, I'm not sure, but I keep hearing a little Mathew Sweet at points.
Ben Salmon at Paste Music writes: Freedom’s Goblin is that good. And it’s that much. At 19 tracks and 75-ish minutes long, it’s a sure-footed expedition through Segall’s sprawling world of influences and interests, from psych, garage rock, pop and punk to soul, hard funk, heavy metal and beyond. And somehow, despite the run time and the diversity of sounds, Freedom’s Goblin never wanders for long. It’s thrilling, through and through.
That’s a testament not only to the vision of Ty Segall, but to the work he’s put in over the past 10 years, testing new forms and trying new things. So when it’s time to call in the horn section for a boisterous classic-rock jam like album opener “Fanny Dog,” he’s in familiar territory. And when he wants to follow that up with a radiant Beatles-esque ballad like “Rain,” he’s in familiar territory. And when he absolutely must recreate Hot Chocolate’s funk-rock blazer “Every 1’s A Winner” with the funk turned down a notch and the scuzz cranked up…well, that may be uncharted territory. But scuzzin’ things up is what Segall does best.
beyondless | iceage
I really dig this record! I would say this is a sure thing if you like you some Nick Cave and heavier Brit-Pop.
Ryan Leas @ Stereogum: Ever since their first LP, New Brigade, appeared at the beginning of this decade, the Danish quartet Iceage have been buzzed about in particular punk and indie circles. Given they were still basically kids at the time, they’ve also proven themselves to be shape-shifters over the years. From the squalls of distortion that washed over the more aggressive New Brigade and its 2013 followup, You’re Nothing, the band rewrote their own rules on 2014’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love, betraying an affinity for Nick Cave as they delved into a frayed and heavy take on Americana that was still indebted to punk but now with a cinematic scope.
Now, a lot of people loved those albums, and there was plenty to love on all of them. But their latest collection, Beyondless, finds Iceage jumping up to a completely new level. It feels like the long-awaited delivery on the promise this band has always possessed, the moment when they could rise to the next echelon of today’s indie landscape.
I can’t think of many other young artists making rock music that sounds like anything like this right now, and if they’re out there, they aren’t doing it half as well. The easiest way to sum up Beyondless is that the Nick Cave influence is still very much present: It sounds like Cave in his more feral early days attempting to make a Rolling Stones album but being unable to help himself from periodically contorting it into blackened mystic shapes or just straight-up dousing it in gasoline, dropping a match, and dancing amongst the flames. There are various points across Beyondless where Iceage sound alternately swaggering, strung out, shamanistic, drunk, and ferocious.
The guide through all of it is frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt. Possessing a brooding charisma, he’s the type of frontman “they just don’t make anymore,” furiously slurring his way through Beyondless while his hair always falls in that perfectly unkempt way that somehow either looks like it’s constantly wet or he hasn’t showered in days. The nature of his vocal approach has broadened and deepened over the years, and he often sounds like the mad prophet at the center of Beyondless — growling over the album’s more unhinged tracks, drawing his words out like a conjuring in its more ambiguous ones.
IN SpADES | the AFGHAN WHIGS
It's been a number of years since I have heard a new Afghan Whigs album. In Spades has all the big soundscape romantic power of this Cincinnati outfit's Sub Pop 90s releases. Greg Dulli's voice is just as potent and moving as it ever was. In recent years I have had a number of conversations with people under 30 who have no idea who these guys or Twilight Singers (Dulli's other band) are. I hope that changes with In Spades. In Spades is close to being my favorite newer album and it has been in regular rotation in my car for months. Though I wouldn't place it above '96s Black Love (#470) or '93s Gentlemen but It's easily right there with '98s 1965 or '92s Congregation.
Drop what you are doing and put on the forth track "Toy Automatic"... It's as uplifting as a song gets.
Stuart Berman @ Pitchfork writes: Back in the 1990s, the Afghan Whigs were way ahead of the curve on what would become two of the most dominant tropes in 21st-century rock’n’roll: an open embrace of R&B on one hand, and widescreen Springsteen-sized epics on the other. And yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a band today that actually sounds like the Afghan Whigs. Because no band has a frontman quite like Greg Dulli, who possesses such a distinctively raw rasp of a voice and such a particular lyrical POV, the thought of trying to emulate him is probably why artists don’t cover hip-hop songs more often—it feels less like an act of musical homage than intellectual property theft.
FOR SALE: LIVE AT MAXWELLS'S 1986 | THE REPLACEMENTS
The energy from this newly issued record of an often bootlegged live recording from Hoboken NJ, 1986 could power a cargo ship from China. It is here where he can hear how strong their influences we’re to them with punk-sloppy covers from Kiss, T-Rex, The Beatles and Sweet. What is more important to me is to hear, through this recording, the influence The Replacements were to become to others.
Stuart Berman at Pitchfork writes: Even as they found themselves headlining clubs and crashing network soundstages, the Replacements approached live performance with a determined lack of ceremony. Traditional set-list rules—like making a grand introduction, establishing a natural flow, saving the best for last, etc.—got tossed out the window. From the opening rip through “Hayday” onward, the Replacements rifle through their back catalog as if randomly clicking on songs in a jukebox. Four tunes in, they’re already attempting the sort of sloppy covers most bands trot out in the encore (in this case, an aborted one-minute romp through Sweet’s “Fox on the Run”). Less than a half hour in, they’ve already dispensed with their two most emotionally wrenching songs back-to-back, “Unsatisfied” and—in embryonic form—“Can’t Hardly Wait” (with Stinson’s swirling leads subbing in for the horn section that would eventually appear on the Pleased to Meet Me version). And in lieu of rousing stage banter, Westerberg inexplicably shouts out “murder!” periodically, while the overzealous crowd shouts out requests for Big Star covers as if pelting the band with ice.
1992-2001 | ACETONE
It seems this Light In The Attic release perfectly encapsulates this 90s Los Angeles alternative trio's body of work. Righteously moody and sprinkled with a little Gram Parsons and Velvet Underground influence this collection is must from this period.
From Light In The Attic Website: Between 1993 and 2001 the trio released two LPs and an EP on Vernon Yard—a Virgin subsidiary—and two LPs on Vapor, the L.A.-based label founded by Neil Young and manager Elliott Roberts. In that span, they were selected to tour with Oasis, Mazzy Star, The Verve, and Spiritualized. Against a rising tide of post-Nirvana grunge and slipshod indie rock, Acetone tapped into a timeless Southern California groove by fusing elements of psychedelia, surf, and country.
They rehearsed endlessly in an empty bedroom in northeast Los Angeles, recording hours of music onto cassettes that were subsequently stuffed into shoeboxes and left in a shed behind the drummer’s house. Those tapes are being released for the first time in this anthology, which also includes highlights from Acetone’s official releases. Taken together, the songs form a companion soundtrack to Sam Sweet’s book, which maps the character of Los Angeles as a place through the lens of these three unique characters bonded by music.
“I think our music is all about moods and feeling but hopefully it will get as weird as it possibly can,” said Richie Lee in 1997. “We want things to get weird in the way that you could hear an Acetone song and know that no one else in the world could make that kind of music but us.”
a deeper understanding | the war on drugs
This is one album that I am eventually gonna have to find parking for on the main 1000 list. Other than Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool this might be the best album in the last few years. A remarkable achievement that has beautiful echoes of a Daniel Lanois album. Since Adam Granduciel voice sounds a lot like Lanois's I am surprise not to have found mention of this in other reviews. Depicting sounds of the 80s doesn’t always come off with the level of understanding this record has. I am wondering, other than 80s Sprintsteen and Lanois, what else am I hearing…..maybe something like Blue Nile or Dire Straits....I don't know. What does it matter A Deeper Understanding is pure great song crafting.
Jordan Sargent at Spin writes: “They should be gigantic,” major label kingmaker Jimmy Iovine once famously said about The War on Drugs, a band that is actually a single 38-year-old man interpreting the classic rock canon through a lens of blurred moroseness. It feels like a patently absurd statement—there are, like, two popular rock bands (Imagine Dragons and Twenty One Pilots?), who sound nothing like The War on Drugs, and share no conceivable fan base, aside from fathers trying to relate to their children. And yet, listening to Adam Granduciel’s new album A Deeper Understanding, it’s hard not to agree with Iovine. It’s not just that A Deeper Understanding is one of the best rock albums in years, but that the music itself is so expansive and enveloping that it feels like it should be everywhere.
Granduciel has been mining this particular territory for a half-decade, writing and arranging songs that sound like ‘70s FM rock as heard from a boombox left at the bottom of a canyon. As he progressed to his most recent album, 2014’s Lost in the Dream, Granduciel honed a beefed-up sound that shed much of the atmosphere of his earlier work. There were skyrocketing guitar histrionics all over that record—most notably on the exhilarating “An Ocean In Between the Waves”—and a number of clearly delivered, almost stately ballads. You could see a path here for Granduciel to get to the place pictured by Iovine—an even further sanding and buffing of his music, to the point where it was not rock music rendered in the tones of ambient electronica but the real, pure thing.
heartworms | the shins
This is a really really good album. And it brilliantly echos the likes of XTC.
Evan Rytlewski @ Pitchfork writes: We can’t know whether Mercer laid off his bandmates for creative reasons, as he’s judiciously insisted, or if Crandall’s arrest for domestic assault left him no choice. Either way, he no longer has a real band to help him carry the load, and it takes a toll on him. While the Shins’ music hasn’t changed markedly since that purge in 2008, its image has. The press photos tell the whole story. Remember those old pics of colorful indie dudes horsing around? They’ve been replaced by shots of a lone, forlorn middle-aged guy, trying and utterly failing to look like he’s enjoying himself. The songwriters Mercer most looks up to—icons like Morrissey, Ian McCulloch, Lennon and McCartney—were stars born for the stage, but Mercer never shared their comfort with the limelight. In an interview with NME this winter, he relayed these pressures. “It comes at weird moments in life,” he explained. “Like we went for this big meal the other night because the Shins are releasing a new record, and then I realized that it’s just me in the Shins so all those people were there for me.”
That may be why, for his 2012 Shins reboot Port of Morrow, he created a sort of shadow band, inviting guests like Janet Weiss, Joe Plummer, and Eric Johnson to help carry the weight. As if to suggest that the Shins were still a band, Mercer posed in promo photos with his touring lineup. Heartworms, however, is the first album where he fully embraces the reality that he is the Shins. Self-produced and recorded with a smaller cast than its predecessor, it’s the most hermetic LP he’s released since 2001’s Oh, Inverted World, the last album he recorded himself. At times it overtly calls back to that debut. With its psychedelic patter, “Dead Alive” is an almost direct sequel to “One by One All Day,” drawing out that song’s reverb-soaked outro into its own romp, like some kind of self-written fan fiction.
big bad luv | john moreland
Fans of Springsteens Nebraska sound will gravitate to the sound of this great new alt-country album. Armed with a gritty low manly voice Moreland delivers well crafted and honest moving music. Another great example of were country music is flourishing. And another great road trip companion piece.
Big Bad Luv is the fourth solo LP from Americana artist John Moreland, a rusty-voiced troubadour from Oklahoma whose career has been picking up steam since bursting onto the scene with a trio of releases in 2011. Initially emerging out of Tulsa's punk and hardcore scene, Moreland shifted toward alt-country in the mid-2000s and made his name backed first by the Black Gold Band then by his second group, the Dust Bowl Souls, before eventually going solo. He's bounced around with a couple of labels and landed a handful of songs on FX's Sons of Anarchy, but Big Bad Luv marks his debut for revered U.K. alternative label 4AD. With his amiable heartland feel and Springsteen-ian tone, Moreland is a bit of an odd match with the label better known for records by Cocteau Twins and Pixies, but perhaps a change of perspective will bring new fans to his honest American songcraft. Recorded in Little Rock, Arkansas and backed by a band of long-tenured Tulsa players, Moreland produced Big Bad Luv himself before sending it off to studio veteran Tchad Blake (Robert Plant, the Black Keys) to mix. From the crackling barroom energy of "Sallisaw Blues" to more subdued fare like the fingerpicked "No Glory in Regret," he warmly delivers tales of love, sorrow, redemption in the no-frills style he's become known for.
HARMONY OF DIFFERENCE | KAMASI WASHINGTON
Right on par with 2015s mega effort epic scale The Epic Harmony of Different flows seamlessly between styles of jazz. Unlike The Epic, which I think is 3 weeks long, Harmony is but a mere EP. Don’t let that shake you aficionados, the themes here are beautifully composed with sophisticated uplifting moments. Though there is not as much time to let the solos really evolve.
It seems this session has lot of the same collaborators from The Epic, including Thundercat, or Stephen Bruner (see Drunk below) The most moving piece is the closing track “Truth”. At 13:30 it's much longer than the others and the righteous 8 person choir that was throughout The Epic shows up at midpoint. At the end of "Truth" I felt as if I had just watched a brilliant nostalgic Hollywood masterpiece from the golden eras (include the 70s).
I must say, I have been hugely neglectful of jazz artists of the last 40 plus years on this here list. Artist like Joshua Redman, Keith Jarrett, Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Brian Blade, John Scofield and The Vijay Iyer Trio, to name just a speckling of the many, have continued to innovate and create masterful works. And I know listing this great modern jazz record along with Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (above) doesn't really make up for that.
Mark Richardson, Pitchfork: In approach and tone, Harmony feels of a piece with parts of The Epic. “Desire” anchors the suite with its elemental one–two–three bassline, which hints at the iconic motif from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, while “Humility” is driving and jagged, focusing most on Cameron Graves’ spray of piano notes. “Perspective” is a mid-tempo groover in the soft funky vein of Grover Washington Jr. There are elements of ’60s small-group jazz and ’70s R&B; calypso rhythms percolate under tightly arranged ensemble sections and then the structure gives way to thematic improvisations. Throughout, Washington has a particular mode of arranging and layering the horn section (which, along with his tenor, includes Ryan Porter on trombone and Dontae Winslow on trumpet) that’s dreamy and lush, a slowly drifting cloud of healing sound.
Thom Jurek at Allmusic writes on Kamasi's sound: ... John Coltrane, Horace Tapscott's Pan-African People's Arkestra, Azar Lawrence's Prestige period, Donald Byrd's and Eddie Gale's jazz and choir explorations, Pharoah Sanders' pan global experiments, Afro-Latin jazz, spiritual soul, and DJ culture.
carry fire | robert plant
Admittedly I have not kept up with Plant's post Zeppelin works other than 83s The Principle of Moments. And I was a wee lad then. So, in fairness I had to crash coarse the past 2 and a half decades of Robert's releases on the ol' Spotif-a-trolla.
After many days of ingesting his body of work I reached the conclusion that I would place Carry the Fire alongside 2010's Band of Joy and 2005's Mighty Rearranger. The jury is still out rather it surpasses its predecessor 2014s remarkable Lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar with the same backing outfit The Sensational Space Shifters. Carry Fire seems more like a continuation of Lullaby. Which I definately prefer in this case because they have really developed a pleasing sound as again they journey across multiple continents of musical styles.
From Michael Gallucci's review: …Plant has refused to settle into expectations, unlike so many of his contemporaries who cling to their classic-rock pasts like the past 40 years never happened.
Plant, too, is somewhat stuck in a place he's visited before, but at least the familiar-sounding Carry Fire journeys across the globe in search of those sounds. Once again, he surveys everything from American Appalachian music to Eastern rhythms and textures to populate his songs.
the order of time | valerie june
In a pre-release promo mini-doc about Justin Timberlake's new album Man of the Woods JT says, I'll paraphrase, he's going back to the roots and incorporating R&B and country, calling it Americana. I love me some JT but Man of the Woods still just sounds like new pop.
With this here record The Order of Time Valerie June beautifully and authentically combines these genres. Pedal steel & acoustic guitar country (the closing track has fiddles and banjos) and bluesy soul organ, horns and vox flow perfectly together. Mashing up genres is nothing new but I believe only folks that have truly existed in each style can naturally pull this off. Bonnie Raitt has been doing this for nearly four decades.
With pipes that reminds me of Erykah Badu's jazzy voice on top of this mountain of music, Valerie June delivers a perfect companion piece to those introspective moments. The number that really stood out for me was "Two Hearts". I would call The Order of Time true Amerciana.
DRUNK | THUNDERCAT
With quiet storm like fusion reminiscent of Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers, Grover Washington, Hall and Oats or George Duke (post and during Zappa) Drunk is happy smooth sunny California funk filled with bass and keys. Stephen Bruner (Thundercat Man) is a pretty damn competent bassist so fusion is through out Drunk. A particularly phat track is "Them Changes" with Flying Lotus: great Brothers Johnson bass heavy style funk work. Quest artists Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams sure embellish the grooves within. I was really pleased to hear smooth vocal veterans Kenny Logins and Michael McDonald on "Show You the Way", the albums strongest track. Drunk is a very smooth relaxing and at time comical album. Bruner is definately a member of a modern soul sound that I have been really digging. Along with his drummer brother he is part of the amazing ensemble that created Kamasi Washington's behemoth jazz record The Epic as well as Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly with so many other collaborators its fuckin' nuts.
This is one of the best album covers with a look resembling a Grover Washington record of the early 70s. So I would say one downside to Drunk is I would prefer a full 12 inch size cover as opposed to the 10 inch multiple platter release. And more platters mean more gettin' my lazy ass up to flip 'em right?
FROM A ROOM VOL 1 | CHRIS STAPLETON
Carrie Underwood is NOT country. And "real country" is not gone and forgotten. Just listen to this here record. Go on, git! Stapleton nails it in every way here with this straight forward authentic comfort piece. Armed with a rich dust-filled voice resembling the 1970s Outlaws, and Kenny Rogers, Stapleton delivers music that isn't about being award show or singing competition show glitzy shite that, unfortunately, I believe a lot of new pop country music is. Chris Stapleton is authentic music.
The great Steve Earle brought my to attention to Chris Stapleton when he said in a Guardian interview, "The best stuff coming out of Nashville is all by women except for Chris Stapleton," "The guys just wanna sing about getting fucked up. They're just doing hip hop for people who are afraid of black people".
From A Room Volume 1 is but a mule's tail hair better than Volume 2 with the same album cover with reversed colors.
I really enjoyed the beautiful vocal accompaniment by Chris's wife, singer Morgane Hayes-Stapleton.
CITY MUSIC | KEVIN MORBY
DAVID SACKLLAH @ Consequence of Sound writes: There’s a special kind of loneliness that comes along with big cities. Unlike rural, country towns, you’re surrounded by the bustle of millions of others wrapped up in their busy lives. It’s easy to fall into your own routine and ignore the outside world. Being alone in life surrounded by a crowd of others huddled together creates a dissonance unlike anywhere else. This is the backdrop for City Music, Kevin Morby’s fourth solo album and an ode to his former hometown of New York City. A loose concept album that follows a character trying to make his way alone in the city, it marks a clear progression for the former member of Woods and Babies to emerge as a noteworthy artist in his own right.
Morby envisioned City Music as a “companion” piece to last year’s gospel-tinged folk record, Singing Saw, but influenced by Lou Reed and Patti Smith as opposed to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. City Music unfolds with a brisk energy, a distinct counterpoint to the soothing calm of last year’s breakthrough. It’s claustrophobic at times, filled with a bristling anxiety that erupts in key moments. On “Tin Can”, he sings about observing the city from afar as the music builds up momentum for two minutes before he gives a gentle coo as a cue for the song to explode into a raucous jam. He lets loose on “Aboard My Train”, where a winking homage to Dylan’s “Forever Young” flips into a roaring guitar solo, with a sense of playfulness and excitement that suits him well.
Morby is well aware of his history, and if anything, City Music is packed with too many references and winks that it can be distracting. It works on “Flannery”, an interlude where a friend of Morby’s reads aloud a passage from Flannery O’Connor’s novel The Violent Bear It Away, wherein a child entering a large city mistakes the city lights for the fire they were escaping. Morby works in references to Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City and makes album closer “Downtown Lights” a plea for comfort to the character Mother Sister from Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. He covers The Germ’s “Caught in My Eye” and strips the bite from it, making it a tedious ballad. On “1234”, he turns a punchy two-minute burst into an homage to Jim Carroll’s famous “People Who Died” where the names of the Ramones replace Carroll’s friends.
crack up | fleet foxes
I have been unfair to these guys. I think living in Seattle though the 90s and early 2000s in the heyday for the Seattle sound might be the reason. Like the the grunge, punk and indie sound of the time, or not, you gotta admit it had "cojones". Bands like Tad and Soundgarden shot gut-punching frequencies at our souls. In recent years the popular NW sound has become cojone-less. The Decemberist in Portland, and Seatle’s Death Cab For Cutie, Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses are so….non rocking. But why should they be, everything is what it is and times change…I just miss cojones sometimes.
In approaching this hear website I have said to myself, question everything, especially my own preconceived opinions. So I saw this record on Pitchfork with high marks I said to me, really listen to that at least a couple times through.
The main thing I have noticed when listening to these fellas and former bandmate Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) is ECHO. While they may not employ quite as much echo as Phil Spector did in the 60s, it’s still quite prominent. Like with Band of Horse this sound can be effective in achieving mood and ambience to these recordings.
Crack-Up is full of layers of natural strings and vocal harmonies. I love when tracks go from simple paired vocals and acoustic guitar to soaring string section accompanied plateaus. All in all I am glad I decided to question myself. I would say Crack Up is my favorite in Fleet Foxes catalog so far.
a moon shaped pool | radiohead
Like the great Stanley Kubrick Radiohead is far from prolific. Many years may pass between their monumental releases. But when they do show up…wow.
A Moon Shaped Pool has been in regular rotation on my turntable and in my car since it’s release 2 years ago. I am only now writing this in September of 2018. I was intimidated. How could I convey it’s brilliance. How do I write about the complex layered craftsmanship of a Radiohead record. So I decided to keep this simple and short: …Pool is a more somber album than their other albums.
It’s gonna be difficult to place this within the 1000 albums which I will have to at some point. Right now I think I will have to place it in the middle of their body of work. Yes, I believe it might be a better record than The Bends. I know! Blasphemy
Jayson Greene @ Pitchfork: With their ninth studio album, Radiohead move beyond the existential angst that made them music’s preeminent doomsayers, pursuing a more personal—and eternal—form of enlightenment.
Radiohead, who titled their ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool, have a unique grasp on how easily profundity can slip into banality. Their music is obsessed with the point where great truths harden into platitudes, where pure signal meets wretched noise. In the past, Thom Yorke has sharply peppered his lyrics with everyday cliches to suggest a mind consumed by meaningless data, but on the new album, he largely moves beyond cynicism. He is now considering simpler truths in a heretofore-unexplored register: wonder and amazement. “This goes beyond me, beyond you,” he sings on “Daydreaming.” “We are just happy to serve you.” There is no concealed razor under Yorke’s tongue as he offers this thought, or in the pearly music that surrounds him. It sounds for all the world like the most cloistered and isolated soul in modern rock music opening up and admitting a helplessness far more personal than he’s ever dared. Yorke has flirted with surrender before, and on A Moon Shaped Pool, that submission feels nearly complete.
The album is framed by two older pieces of music that act as gateways to the darker, unfamiliar waters within. Opener “Burn the Witch” has been floating around, in some form or another, since Kid A. “This is a low-flying panic attack,” Yorke announces, explicitly linking to the bad old days of air crashes, iron lungs, and wolves at doors. (In fact, several of the song’s lyrics—“avoid all eye contact,” “cheer at the gallows”—first appeared in the album art to 2003’s anti-Bush polemic Hail to the Thief.) Meanwhile, Jonny Greenwood’s brittle modernist string arrangement reinforces the angst, turning the orchestra into a giant pair of gnashing teeth. It’s a vintage splash of Radiohead stomach acid, a cloud of gnats unleashed in your cranial nerves.
It also feels like an exorcism for what follows: a plunge into something scarier than the military industrial complex, or the insidious nature of propaganda, or human nature’s disturbing tendency towards unquestioning obedience. Yorke separated from his partner of 23 years and the mother to his two children last August, and on “Identikit,” he sings “Broken hearts make it rain” and “When I see you messin’ me around, I don’t want to know.”
POST POP DEPRESSION | IGGY POP
I refuse to believe this is Pop's finale. One could not have had a more illustrious and influential career. The combination of Josh Homme's sinister style and Iggy's vocals really works here.
The punk genius confronts the grim reaper with gnarly poetry and sassy garage rock
“I feel like I’m closing up after this,” says 68-year-old Iggy Pop of ‘Post Pop Depression’, his collaboration album with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and LA multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita. Does that mean it’s his last ever release? Well…probably not. But almost certainly, this album marks the closing of the last great chapter in Iggy’s musical life – ‘The Stooges’, ‘The Idiot’, ‘Lust For Life’, ‘The Passenger’ and some of the most iconic performances in rock history – as we know it.
Pop sought out Homme after the two met awkwardly at the Kerrang! Awards some years ago, thinking he’d be a good writing partner and vibesman for his last roll of the dice. The two swapped notes over email for months (poetry, rock’n’roll war stories, demos), before Iggy turned up unannounced on Homme’s lawn, jumped in his car and drove to Rancho De La Luna studio deep in the Californian desert. There, the two aimed to make something brilliant out of nothing, with the depth of Iggy’s Bowie-produced 1977 proto-punk classics ‘The Idiot’ and ‘Lust For Life’, the sonic textures of QOTSA’s ‘Like Clockwork’ and the best backing band America could offer in 2016.
something else | brian jonestown massacre
6/1/18: Holy lord of the psychedelic underworld, Brian Jonestown Massacre released a new album!! And it is right-fuckin-good! I wasted no time slappin this on the ol' Spotif-a-trola once I found out about it's existence but a day ago. Third straight thru listen and I gotta say this easily holds up to their earlier material. I'll be picking up this on vinyl as soon as possible. Nick Devin (below) uses the perfect word for this record, "mesmerising".
Nick Devin writes: I have a Friday morning habit of looking at Spotify and seeing what new releases are out. And this morning, to my surprise, I notice the new Brian Jonestown Massacre album listed. Their album Something Else was supposed to be released on the first of June from what I read online, but here it is, now sitting in my Spotify library next to Parquet Courts and Shawn Mendes. I’m not complaining, I’m keen as fuck.
By 2:00pm I’ve listened to the album thrice. It’s a tight forty minutes of psychedelic bliss. Front man Anton Newcombe is the personification of a rock star; a dying breed in the ever-changing landscape of pop and hip-hop. Taking inspiration from his early albums, which took inspiration from the swinging sixties and the almighty seventies, Newcombe and Co have successfully recreated the sound of yesteryear; the sound that they redefined in the 90s. Hollow organs hold chords and the tambourine shakes back and forth as Newcombe’s simple guitar riffs repeat endlessly, completely mesmerising me. Early rock music was simple, and at the base of The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s music is simplicity. Simple melodies, simple chords and simple harmonies layered upon each other to create euphoric, hypnotising psych rock. There never really was anyone quite like Newcombe and his band, and there still isn’t.
Something Else doesn’t redefine Jonestown. Newcombe knows what works, he’s fucking good at it, and he doesn’t change it. It’s nice to hear new Jonestown music, if only for forty minutes.
tell me how you really feel | courtney barnett
11.24.18: I feel this is as potent as Liz Phair’s ‘93s Exile In Guyville. Not to compare gals to gals but there are definately points where I am reminded of all those perfect Guyville hooks.
I often find when I listen to a record then check it’s reviews I’ll find the artists earlier release has higher ratings. That is the case with this album and Barnett’s ‘15 release Sometimes I sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit. Sorry Allmusic, but this is clearly a better record in every-way.
Laura Snapes @ Pitchfork: The most Courtney Barnett line on Courtney Barnett’s second album is a quote from an online troll. “He said, ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you,’” she recalls, on “Nameless Faceless,” and then offers an uncharacteristically cocksure response in a shruggy sing-song: “But you didn’t.” The anonymous critic’s putdown assumes that Barnett’s witty early EPs and debut album cemented her style, making it ripe for parody. Abandoning social realism and polysyllabic razzle-dazzle, Tell Me How You Really Feel in fact overhauls almost everything we’ve come to expect from Barnett as a writer while vindicating everything she promised of herself on her 2015 debut LP: “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.”
On Tell Me, Barnett repeatedly flails at the question of what a Courtney Barnett line would be anyway: What kind of bargain does a songwriter strike with her audience? “I don’t know a lot about you but/You seem to know a lot about me,” she sings, perturbed, on “Need a Little Time.” What does she have to say and should she even say it? “Indecision rots like a bag of last week’s meat” on a song called “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence.” She vacillates between despair and self-loathing, living on nerves and feelings. Introspection becomes claustrophobia, the kind where you want to unzip your skin, clamber out, and shake your self off like a wet dog. The palpable discomfort could come off as Barnett complaining about her modest fame if her low-key personality didn’t make evident precisely how much she’d abhor that idea. It’s more essential than that: Courtney Barnett is tentative about how to be in the world, full stop.
close but no cigar | delvon lamarr organ trio
4/13/18: Lamarr and company deliver familiarity to the past with this authentic groove jazz debut release. From the album art and the well put together liner notes reminiscent of the great jazz records released before the mid 70s, to the kickin' riffs off the Hammond B and guitar, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio are well aligned with their predecessors.
We’ve certainly heard the groovy organ grinders of the past like Booker T, Richard Groove Holmes, Joey Defrancesco, Lonnie Smith, Larry Young, the more recent Medeski Martin and Wood, and, the king of them all, Jimmy Smith. This isn't a huge departure from that all that groove and that is something I really appreciate here. Bravo to these 3 Seattleites and the folks at Colemine Records for putting this great record together.
Simon Sweetman at Off The Tracks writes: This Seattle-based trio of musicians (Lamarr on the organ, guitarist Jimmy James and drummer David McGraw) keep it greasy as they move through 60s and 70s-sounding funk, blues and groove soul-jazz amalgams. Yes, an easy, obvious reference point is Booker T & The M.G’s. And it’s fair. And good. But there’s also something of the Medeski Martin & wood feel going on too – virtuoso players, a deep pocket, no mistakes and yet through that precision cuts an earthy, organic (if you’ll pardon the pun!) feel…
They’re having fun too. On a little concoction called Al Greenery the trio circles the riff and melody of Green’s Here I Am (Come And Take Me), James adding plenty of the Steve Cropper feel and funk that hovers in and around his sound always.
The opener Concussion, reminds too of when the Charlie Hunter Trio (and his various groups) burst onto the scene. All bright sound-colours as the organ and guitar take turns stabbing in through the spaces between tight kicks on the bass drum, sharp thwacks to the snare.
Little Booker T borrows a bit of the feel and flow of Isaac Hayes’ version of Walk On By, Jimmy James coaxing a very Michael Toles-sounding guitar line.
Cornell Dupree (guitar) and Billy Preston (organ) are further touchstones – particularly their playing with Donny Hathaway and King Curtis.
And if you enjoyed when the Beastie Boys went full-instrumental, or the various Daptone combos – including particularly The Sugarman 3 – then you are going to want to be all over this.
It’s nothing new but that’s probably the best selling point here. Whole worlds being re-explored, tributes galore, and just some sweet, sweet playing. No one individual here is the star and yet they are all capable of star-turns. It’s the alchemy of a great trio at work. Listen to songs like Can I Change My Mind where a sunshine is evoked, radiates through the playing.
U-men (Sub Pop Compilation)
I think it is safe to say that without these post-punk "architects", amongst their 80s peers, what was to become grunge would never have happened.
Imagine the voices of Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison (when he lost his mind onstage), and Captain Beefheart all mashed up. Then you might have a semblance of John Bigley's vocals here in the 80s.
Robert Ham at Pitchfork writes: If Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt had had their way, this would not be the first U-Men release on Sub Pop Records. According to U-Men drummer and co-founder Charlie Ryan, the label did nothing less than beg his group to join their roster. “They’d say, ‘You guys gotta get on our label!” Ryan recalls in the 2011 grunge oral history Everybody Loves Our Town. “And we’d say, “No, I don’t think so.’ Because they wanted it so bad, it was just more fun saying no.”
Such was the reverence that the U-Men cultivated during their eight-year run in the 1980s, and the reason for all the buzz surrounding this 2xCD retrospective, which gathers together everything the band recorded. The quartet was, at the time, considered the first best hope to put Seattle’s punk and underground rock scene on the national map. Their legend has only grown since with Ryan, vocalist John Bigley, guitarist Tom Price, and bassist Jim Tillman representing a crucial link between the untethered garage assault of Seattle’s early rock scene (the Sonics, the Wailers) and the commercial explosion that happened there in the early 1990s.
In any case, the hype was and is warranted. The music compiled on this set is taken from the group’s sole full-length—1988’s Step on a Bug—and a handful of EPs, singles, and compilation appearances. It is brash and serpentine, a quick burning conflagration fueled by the group’s collective love of adversarial punk and post-punk (they named themselves after the title of a Pere Ubu bootleg)
rest | charlotte gainsbourg
Charlotte is the daughter of one of the most beautiful women of the 60s and 70s, Jane Birkin, and the late great french crooner composer Serge Gainsbourg (my #552 and #726). Over the decades she has made her own success as a believably revealing actor. Some of her roles in Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier's films like Nyphomaniac and Antichrist have been quite raw and at times very risqué performances to say the least. Then she shows up in the mega blockbuster Independence Day: Resurgence. I had to check IMDB on that one because I couldn’t believe me own eyes. Most of Rest is sung in French and the spirit of Serge is quite present. I would say if you are a fans of St Vincent (below) you will most definitely dig this release. “Deadly Valentine” and "Sylvia Says" really stood out for me. The entirety of Rest is a really pleasing Euro synth-pop, and beyond, record. On to my 2nd listen…today.
Olivia Horn at Pitchfork writes: For non-Francophones, it might be tempting to brush past the French lyrics that appear on this record, and certainly, there’s a hushed urgency in Gainsbourg’s delivery that maps out her tone. But the songs on Rest are some of the first whose lyrics Gainsbourg has penned on her own, and every word craves attention. She pulls off stunning bilingual wordplay on the album’s title track, co-written and produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo—the English title, “Rest,” evokes eternal rest, while the French variant that Gainsbourg sings, “reste,” means “stay.” Of all the songs on the album, this one was written in closest proximity to Barry’s passing; it sees Gainsbourg simultaneously laying her sister to rest and imploring her to come back.
Gainsbourg’s own half-sister, the photographer Kate Barry, died in late 2013, after falling from a window. Her death was presumed to be a suicide.
NORTHERN PASSAGES | THE SADIES
I think The Sadies might be Canada’s best band, I’m not saying they surpass Arcade Fire…but maybe. I have never thought Canada could claim Neil Young.. especially since he has lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains for almost half a century. I am from Seattle and I have said for years that Hendrix was not ours, he was Londons’.
Going through The Sadies impressive catalog I am thinking that Northern Passages shares the top spot with 2007s New Season.
When you seemlissly blend influences from Flying Burrito Bros and solo Parsons, REM, garage rock and hell, even a little Gordy Lightfoot, then make it truly your own, thats special. When I first heard Northern Passages it was like I was already listening to a classic record on par with The Gilded Palace of Sin.
Mark Deming at Allmusic writes: Toronto's the Sadies must have been in an especially Canadian mood when they were writing and recording their tenth studio album, 2017's Northern Passages. The group has always had a knack for creating a powerful atmosphere in the studio, but many of the best moments on suggest they've been channeling the golden days of '70s Can-Con radio. Echoes of the beautiful but moody sounds of Gordon Lightfoot, the Poppy Family, and the Bells float through these songs. They're most audible on low-key tunes like "Riverview Fog" and "The Good Years," but even when the band cranks up the amps on "Another Season Again" and "There Are No Words," the pins-and-needles feel of the wind across the prairies is somewhere in the background. Brothers Dallas and Travis Good are the multi-instrumental powerhouses in the Sadies (and bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky certainly do their fair share of the heavy lifting), but while the siblings have chops galore, their focus has always been on creating an evocative sound and feel. It's not hard to be impressed with the carefully arranged layers of guitar on "It's Easy (Like Walking)" and "The Noise Museum," where they shape their picking into something truly remarkable. ("It's Easy" also includes a vocal cameo from Kurt Vile.) As usual, the songwriting on Northern Passages is up to the level of the Sadies' instrumental skills, and Dallas Good's production adds just the right balance of mystery and force to the performances. Just like the Aurora Borealis on the front cover, Northern Passages is something mysterious, dark, and beautiful, and it's a further reminder that the Sadies are one of the truly great, original bands of their day.
monolith | hobosexual
I must find out the story behind the warn-in, frayed edge album cover.
Angry Metal Guy Says: To fully appreciate where we’re going, we must understand a few things about Hobosexual. Firstly, they’re not metal, and that isn’t going to kill you. I might though, if you opt to miss out on this slab of goodness based on that detail alone, but let’s try to avoid all that. Secondly, that name. According to the band’s Facebook page, ‘Hobosexual was adopted by Ben and Jeff as a tongue in cheek dictatorial spin on affiliation as antiquated preference, the original and CORRECT GREEK root (a la not disgusting) meaning of the compound word “Hobo-Sexual” being: “One who cares little for their own personal appearance.”’ The Photometers will agree, and that’s just fine. Ben Harwood (guitars, vocals) and Jeff Silva (drums) have been rallying against today’s ADD plagued ego-stroke culture under the Hobosexual moniker since 2009, Monolith being the third installment in the band’s ongoing conceptual rendering of the great cold death of trve true art and individualism, and let me tell you: this thing fucking rocks.
face your fear | curtis harding
While I am reminded of recent soul artists like Raphael Saadiq, Allen Stone, Ms Whinehouse, and the Daptone Records artists performing their take on retro-soul, Harding seems to offer a more modern approach. Harding's sophomore effort here is a real potent record with great accompanied string, vocal, key and horn arrangements that, for me, almost seem as if they are out of a 1960s romance. The journey becomes more modern as Face.. reaches it's pinnacle with three dazzling tracks: "Dream Girl" (almost Jamiroquai sounding), "Welcome To My World" and "Ghost Of You".
Mark Deming at Allmusic writes: Curtis Harding's debut album, 2014's Soul Power, was a strikingly confident work that demonstrated he was one of the smartest and most gifted artists to emerge from the retro-soul scene, a vocalist and songwriter with a respect for the past and a vision of the future. It turns out Harding was just getting started; his second full-length, 2017's Face Your Fear, is an even more ambitious set of material, an exercise in psychedelic soul that feeds from a wide range of sounds and influences while still reflecting the mind and soul of Curtis Harding at every turn. While the production and arrangements on Face Your Fear are clearly informed by classic R&B and funk sounds of the '60s and '70s, along with the trippier edges of psychedelic soul, Harding and his studio collaborators (who include Danger Mouseand Sam Cohen) never seem to be reaching for some sort of Northern soul completists mindset; instead, they use the evocative textures of vintage African-American music as a jumping-off point for Harding's heartfelt, steet-smart tales of love, regret, family, and the pains and joys of everyday life. Harding is a terrific singer who can deliver full-bodied performances in his normal range (check out "Need Your Love" and "Go as You Are" if you need convincing) and also slip into a falsetto that's just the ticket for numbers like "Ghost of You" and "Dream Girl." (He even lets the two play off one another on "Till the End," in which he portrays both halves of a combative couple.) Curtis Harding can write and sing like a soul man with a mind of his own, and here he sounds even more open, expressive, and fearless than he did on his very fine debut. Face Your Fear ups the ante for Harding, bumping him from promising newcomer to major artist, and if you like good songs played and sung with true conviction, you won't want to sleep on this.
GOD'S PROBLEM CHILD | WILLIE NELSON
Not only is this a great new Willie Nelson record, it easily stands with his best work. Yes, this nations favorite grandpa at 84 can make such a rich introspective very relevant piece. I am reminded of the albums that Johnny Cash finished off his long illustrious career with...The resonance and true grit of these old hombres vocal chords is perfect.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine at Allmusic writes: Mortality hangs over God's Problem Child, Willie Nelson's first solo album of original songs since 2014's Band of Brothers. Since that record, Willie lost several friends and he's also been the subject of several death hoaxes, a subject he tackles with a grin on "Still Not Dead," one of seven originals Nelsonco-wrote with his longtime producer, Buddy Cannon. "Still Not Dead" provides a gateway to the rest of God's Problem Child, where Willie looks at the world with a blend of bemusement and melancholy suiting a road warrior who is still going strong in his eighties. Nelson is in better voice than he was in 2016, when he released two tribute LPs, and his band has a relaxed gait that harks back to his classic outlaw records of the '70s but feels mellowed with age. Not that the album moves slowly. "Little House on the Hill" gets things off with a skip and the record regularly returns to a laid-back groove that's often punctuated by blues, honky tonk ballads, and lazy laments. Whenever Nelson looks at his twilight years, it's either with clear eyes or bemusement: he salutes his friends who have crossed over on the lovely "Old Timer" and admits that "It Gets Easier" when you get older because you can let your feelings fade, but he gets a kick that he's still around to experience it all. His sense of humor remains sharp
Look at the cover of this album. That fella is 22 years old! Now listen to the album. That fella is 22 years old! How is this possible.. maybe I am reading misprints. Maybe the dust filled plains of Canadian heartland Saskatchewan mixed with some hard living ages a fella beyond the clock. This striped down debut LP that follows Wall’s 2015 EP is confident, simple and authentic. Listening to Colter Wall makes me want to get behind the wheel and drive across states or provinces then pull into one of those old towns and belly up at the local tavern.
wizard bloody wizard | electric wizard
With a title paying obvious homage to their masters (..of reality) this Dorset UK doom-metal group remains on target. Mix the occult, black light posters, H.P. Lovecraft, horror movies and cannabis in a witches caldron and you might just conjure Electric Wizard.
Mark Deming at Allmusic writes: Are Electric Wizard still the heaviest band in the Universe? Maybe yes, maybe no, but their ongoing commitment to the primordial stomp of their own private world, governed by weed and the Dark Lord, makes the question almost beside the point. Maybe there's another band that brings the Heavy with greater force than Electric Wizard, but they believe in this stuff in a way hardly anyone else does. 2017's Wizard Bloody Wizard presents the band in strong and primal form -- like 2014's Time to Die, this finds them stripping away what little gingerbread their sound had gained since 2000's Dopethroneand focusing on their core influences of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, and unmelodic Led Zeppelin. This music moves forward slowly but relentlessly, like Godzilla making his way to your village to destroy everything in sight
ROCKET | (SANDY) ALEX G
Rocket is as good as the best Indie rock from the last 2 decades - Badly Drawn Boy, Sparklehorse, Modest Mouse, Grandaddy, The Shins, of-course Elliot Smith and throw in a little alt-country Lucinda William. Alex Giannascoli fearlessly glides thru styles of music; lounge jazz, fuzz rock, country fiddles, lonesome somber piano are all tossed in this salad.
The track that stood out for me was “Bobby”; misty mountain fiddles - beautiful paired vocals that sound like Lucinda herself. Very moving.
In years to come I think this record will be remembered like Badly Drawn Boy's Hour of the Bewilderbeast.
Ian Cohen at Pitchfork: In a sense, singer/songwriter Alex Giannascoli is the modern ideal for an indie rock throwback. The frequent comparisons with Elliott Smith or Sparklehorse are legitimate, but mostly regarding his recording process: Every production decision—whether double-tracking vocals or close-mic’ing the guitars—creates the assumption of intimacy, recalling an earlier time when instrumental or monetary limitations necessitated ingenuity. But he records on a laptop rather than a 4-track, and he was an early example of a songwriter leveraging a strong Bandcamp presence into a deal with a high-profile imprint, in his case, Domino. Beach Music, his first album for his new label, was a gorgeous and puzzling release that gained esteem throughout 2015, but it seemed determined to offer continuity with his scruffy early work rather than to serve as any kind of break out. Rocket, a record that first feels oddly soldered together, is in a sense the album that Beach Music wanted to be, the most comprehensive and accessible document of a diffuse catalog.
ETERNALLY EVEN | JIM JAMES
The Frontman for My Morning jacket's solo release purrs like a soulful kitten. Enternally almost sounds like if Al Green's The Belle Album meets later Leonard Cohen. Strong well written melodies drift in a river of lower rhythmic gut punching frequencies. Beautifully repetitive atmospheric keyboard and guitar riffs are almost hypnotic on "The World is Smiling Now", "Here In Spirit" and "True Nature". Really nice bass lines help maintain the pulse throughout this record. I thought highly of Morning Jackets 2015 release Waterfall. Eternally is a very effective effort Mr James and I really look forward to my next jacket some morning..
FLOTUS | LAMBCHOP
I remember this Nashville outfits 2000 release Nixon. Nixon was soulful and loungey with one of my favorite album covers of that era. Flotus is a fairly quiet record full of stratified electronic textures and rhythms. Kurt Wagner's vocals on most of the tracks have the autotune vocal effect, similar to Thom Yorke's vocals on Pulk/Pull Revolving Door (Amnesiac) or many Daft Punk tracks. The way this effect is tuned here produces a real nice soothing effect. "The Hustle" the last 18 minute track evolves, builds and finishes this record perfectly. I love the way the somber piano escorts out this epic piece. It reminds of something from Talk Talk's Laughing Stock. I am really glad to see these fellas are still at it.
damn. | kendrick lamar
I'll keep this short because there isn't anything about this talented young man's original work that hasn't already been said. Adorned with praise and awards I hope Lamar's original sound has shown folks that pop hip hop has become largely stagnant with producers squeezing every drop out of the current sound. Optimistically I believe Kendrick Lamar has helped up the bar.
Last 4th (2017) of July, at a party, I noticed Damn. was on the ol' Spotif-a-trola. The fella playing it said he had been listening to this record on repeat everyday for months. When I said I though Lamar's previous release To Pimp a Butterfly (#484) was even stronger he replied, Damn. I gotta check that one out.
PROCESS | SAMPHA
I like the place that some neo-soul is going. It's more introspective. It's quite. It's intricately layered and smart. Does it make you wanna dance? Not as much. But is that souls mission in the first place... I would say no.
Marcus J Moore at Pitchfork writes: When Sampha Sisay was three years old, his father brought a piano into the family’s Morden, England home. It wasn’t a grand gesture—just a way to get his sons away from the TV. Yet for Sampha, the youngest of five siblings, the instrument became a vessel for his personal growth. It helped enlighten the young boy, offering solace and purpose, commencing a spiritual journey that he’s still navigating. In Sampha’s world, the piano is one of the few things that’s always been there. It’s never gotten sick or faded away from disease. “You would show me I had something some people call a soul,” he sings on “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” a gorgeous ballad and one of many standouts from Process, Sampha’s remarkable debut album.
The song—much like the LP—comes from a deeply meditative place, reflecting the innermost thoughts of a man still coping with heavy loss. His father, Joe, passed away from lung cancer in 1998. His mother, Binty Sisay, died of cancer in September 2015. Throughout the spare electro-soul of Process, you feel his mom’s spirit in the stillness, pushing her son in his quest for understanding. Sampha’s endured his own health struggles as well. He once discovered a lump in his throat while on tour; despite an endoscopy, doctors couldn’t determine a cause. It became a catalyst for the singer to assess his own mortality here. “Sleeping with my worries,” Wgoes the opener “Plastic 100ºC,” “I didn’t really know what that lump was.”
Sampha’s career dates back to 2010 and the release of Sundanza, his first EP. In 2011, Sampha was featured heavily on producer SBTRKT’s debut album; his second EP, Dual, followed in 2013. Sampha played the background from there, turning up on tracks with Drake (“Too Much,” “The Motion”), Kanye West (“Saint Pablo”), Frank Ocean(“Alabama”), and Solange (“Don’t Touch My Hair”). His presence was strong, even if his voice—a gentle, shimmering falsetto—added light touches to the scenery. Despite its delicate texture, Sampha’s inflection hovers perfectly above the music, cracking at certain pitches to convey grief.
SKELETON TREE | NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
This stands up with some of Cave's biggest works. The 2nd cut Rings of Saturn is mesmerizing. Also a very quiet record.
Stuart Berman @ Pitchfork: People die in Nick Cave songs. They get wiped out in floods, zapped in electric chairs, and mowed down en masse in saloon shoot-outs. For Cave, death serves as both a dramatic and rhetorical device—it’s great theater, but it’s also swift justice for those who have done wrong, be it in the eyes of a lover or the Lord. As I once heard him quip in concert: “This next one’s a morality tale… they’re all morality tales, really. It’s what I do.”
But despite amassing a songbook that needs its own morgue, on their 16th album together, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds must contend with something that is not so easily depicted: the sound of mourning. In July 2015, Cave’s 15-year-old son Arthur—one of his twin sons with wife Susie Bick—died when he accidentally fell from a cliff near the family’s current home in Brighton, England. The writing and recording of Skeleton Tree had commenced before the tragic incident, but the album was completed in its aftermath, and its specter hangs over it like a black fog.
This is a record that exists in the headspace and guts of someone who’s endured an unspeakable, inconsolable trauma. And though the songs are not explicitly about Arthur they are uncannily about coming to terms with loss and the realization that things will never be the same again. As if to reinforce Skeleton Tree’s therapeutic quality, the notoriously taciturn Cave opened the studio door to director Andrew Dominik, who documented the album’s completion—in 3D, no less—for the companion film One More Time With Feeling. It’s almost as if by thrusting himself into the spotlight during his darkest hour, Cave was issuing a form of karmic payback, penance for the pain and reckoning he’s inflicted on so many characters in his songs.
YOU WANT IT DARKER | LEONARD COHEN
Bowie left us to ponder his final record before facing his hereafter in January of 2016. Leonard Cohen did same thing nearly a year later crafting this final album while uncertain if he would be able to finish the contents. "Leaving The Table" is particularly profound.
Thank you Leonard. Your influence to so much that we have heard, and will continue to hear, musically and poetically is unmeasurable.
Stacey Anderson at Pitchfork writes: Leonard Cohen's 14th studio album feels like a pristine, piously crafted last testament, the informed conclusion of a lifetime of inquiry.
Tom Moon at NPR Music writes: ...The singing (such as it is) soon follows, and the 82-year-old's somber tone signals that matters of grave import are about to be discussed. He's making an inquiry into the peculiar strain of creeping soul distress, both personal and universal, that he's been diagnosing since at least 1992's The Future.
We lack the precise terminology for this condition, because the dimmer switch doesn't go that low. To Cohen, the particular darkness that defines his 14th studio album is nearly inescapable, and found everywhere. It's in the sad futility behind the image "a million candles burning for the love that never came." And it's in the ambivalent confession, "I struggled with some demons, they were middle-class and tame / I didn't know I had permission to murder and to maim."
It's a thick blanket of grim. And then, after verses soaked in sentimental old-man rue and seemingly personal details, Cohen pivots to a curious "we" for the chorus: "You want it darker ... we kill the flame."
EVERYBODY WORKS | JAY SOM
Judy Berman @ Pitchfork: Bedroom pop is a genre designation that loses meaning by the year—not just as technology creeps closer to erasing any distinction between studio production and home recording, but also as the musicians associated with it develop tastes more varied and less retro than, say, Ariel Pink’s. Twenty-two-year-old Duterte made the fuzzy, dreamy, plaintive aesthetic her own on Turn Into, nine self-recorded tracks she uploaded to Bandcamp on a tipsy whim over a year ago and re-released with Polyvinyl in late 2016, billing the makeshift debut as a collection of “finished and unfinished songs” rather than a proper album. Although she made *Everybody Works *alone in her bedroom studio, its repertoire ranges from folk to funk to chart pop. It’s not a bedroom-pop album because it sounds a certain way, but because it feels so intimate. Most of Duterte’s elaborate songs could be mistaken for full-band compositions, yet her preference for writing and recording in solitude imbues each one with an introspective quality.
HIPPOPOTOMUS | SPARKS
11/19/17: Heroes of the 70s glam era the avant Los Angeles native Mael Brothers (Sparks) released Hippopotamus in 2017 after a decade away. Sparks earlier records throughout the early to mid 70s had a sound somewhere between Queen and Roxy Music with a little Kinks and bubblegum - baroque pop sprinkled on top. This record might have more in common with their late 70s early 80s records produced by the great Giorgio Moroder that were heavily influencial to 80s synth-pop combos like Pet Shop Boys and Erasure.
Sparks album covers are often comical and cinematic like my number 703, 1974s Kimono My House and Propaganda from that same year. Hippopotamus does not disappoint in the album cover department as you can see. Do yourself a favor and check out their album art from 1974 to the late 80s.
VISIONS OF LIFE | WOLF ALICE
This North London quartet nailed it on their 2015 debut My Love Is Cool. After buying this on double-platter vinyl, I am now on my third listen to 2017s Visions of Life. Though not a gigantic leap, Visions.. is a progression from their debut.
I am reminded of some great 90s acts like The Cardigans, Julie Cruise, Slowdive and even a lil Bjork. “Planet Hunter” and the magical opening track “Heavenward” stood out for me. Another great cut “Don’t Delete the Kisses” pairs whisper spoken verses to a gorgeous swirling chorus. “After The Zero Hour” almost sounds as if Grace Slick stepped in on vox. Vocalist Ellie Rowsell has an utterly beautiful voice that reminds me of The Sundays.. again, 90s.
Heather Shares at Allmusic writes: ..While these songs reaffirm that Wolf Alice can pull off almost any style of music, Visions of a Life's most convincing moments build on My Love Is Cool's forays into dream pop. Inspired by a late friend of the band, the aptly named opener "Heavenward" is so gorgeous that it's tempting to want Wolf Alice to concentrate on this side of their music in the future. Similarly, "Planet Hunter" and "St. Purple & Green" are potent reminders of just how well the band does huge moments, while Ellie Roswell's whispers bring intimacy to love's euphoric beginnings on "Don't Delete the Kisses" and its rocky end on "Sky Musings." A reflection of a young band trying out all its possibilities, Visions of a Life is more scattered than My Love Is Cool, but its best songs hint at even more potential.
AROMMANTICISM | MOSES SUMNEY
moody. quiet. original. building. soulful. swirling. sexy. jazz. falsetto. meditative. blue. groove. short.
Jason King at Pitchfork: Sumney’s deep blue songwriting examines the blasé cruelty that defines our swipe-left era. It also reminds us how much same-sex marriage battles have managed to reshift millennials’ interest in normalcy and the pursuit of intimacy in the age of Tinder. Does love need to be desired, much less found? Sumney’s music is woeful, but it’s still erotic and sexy: libidinous tryst-song “Make Out in My Car,” replete with jazz flute, repeats the hook: “I’m not tryna go to bed with you/I just wanna make out in my car.” Aromanticism envisions a loveless universe by way of sensuous musicianship: I suspect some couples will probably fall deeper in love while bumping and grinding to these songs. The exquisite production is atmospheric and bold: There’s lots of negative space, and you can’t help but dig the dreamlike harmonies and the curiously-EQ’d neo-classical strings. And Sumney’s gossamer falsetto, equal parts Smokey Robinson and Thom Yorke, is the album’s fertile throughline. Aromanticism’s quietude and calm sensitivity deliver a musical detoxification from the exhausting stream of information that now constitutes a normal day of news.
capacity | big thief
I’m not sure what the average hipster attention span on albums is these days. I’m thinking it’s a month. Honestly at this age, I am proud to say, I couldn't possibly give less a fuck about what’s hip and what’s not. I usually end up really discovering an album after its been relegated to the, “that’s so 6 months ago bin”.
A good record exists forever. So let’s get into Capacity, a record filled with stunningly beautiful subdued melodies. The quiet “Coma” and Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville like “Mythological Beauty” are the kind of tracks that I end up replaying at least 3 times. I love discovering records like this as much as I did in the 90s. Haunting and intimate Capacity can take the listener on a journey that, at times, reveals trauma then, at time reveals light. I really thought 2016s Masterpiece was a strong effort. Capacity surpasses it.
Quinn Moreland at Allmusic writes: There are times on Capacity where the intimacy becomes almost unbearable. When these moments occur, the band’s melodies serve as buoys to cling to for comfort. “Watering” and “Coma” tell of a traumatic assault and the character’s eventual awakening from the ensuing haze. There’s so much darkness contained in the former’s illustration of a poisonous, carnal relation, but Krivchenia’s drumbeat is there to offer the reminder of a heartbeat and sharp guitars jolt the subject out of dissociation. Though Lenker, Meek, and Oleartchik each attended a lauded Berklee College of Music program at some point in their life, Big Thief’s blend of intricate folk rock pulls more from ecstatic expression than academic practice. They are each technical musicians, but their songs are foregrounded with melody and emotion rather than fussy prowess. The first half of “Coma” is as isolated as the title suggests, just Lenker’s murmur and a guitar. As soon as the narrator builds the strength to wade into her new, changed world, the band arrives as her docent.
across the multiverse | dent may
Tell me this album cover doesn’t look like it was lifted off a late 70s early 80s pulp novel. The music within this airbrushed like sleve didn’t surprise me. What I mean to say is the album art and the contents within are spot on. The sound reminds me of later 70s early 80s ELO mixed with a little Beach Boys and some yacht rock… Speaking of yacht rock, I’m even hearing a little Rupert Holmes.
Tim Sendra at Allmusic writes: The songs are all shot through with West Coast sunshine; even the most melancholy of them have warmth emanating from their centers. Partially, it's the lush arrangements that account for this, but really, May's winsome, winning vocals are the beating heart of the album. He's got a nice boy-next-door quality going on -- if the boy next door sounded like he passed his time singing duets with Muppets -- but he can also break a heart when he needs to. Tracks like "Take Me to Heaven" and "Don't Let Them" might have very shiny surfaces, but they have depth, too. The entire album has a surprising depth; even in its lightest moments -- like on the strutting "I'm Gonna Live Forever Until I'm Dead," which sounds like an outtake from The Point -- there's a sense that May is playing for real stakes, small as they are. The combination of frothy tunes and real feels is a deadly one, and May makes it work again and again.
MASSEDUCATION | ST VINCENT
I would put Masseducation next to, but not above, 2011s Strange Mercy and 2007s Marry Me. Filled with strong provoking lyrics and catchy Eurythmics-like synth goodness this release definately holds up after multiple listening sessions.
Brittany Spanos at Rolling Stone writes: "The void is back and unblinking," Annie Clark sings with icy vulnerability above a tendril of a synth note that floats in waves beneath Masseduction's opening song "Hang on Me." On Clark's fifth studio album as St. Vincent, the virtuosic indie-rock singer and guitarist dives further into the void, obliterating herself with sex, drugs and power. This album, a partnership with top pop whisperer Jack Antonoff, is a masterpiece of confrontational intimacy, and Clark lays herself bare as only a woman who has seen her life suddenly become tabloid fodder can.
Clark is no stranger to evoking the visceral. Her twisty, distorted 2014 self-titled LP was a tight, colorful leap forward, much showier than her intimate 2011 breakthrough, Strange Mercy. St. Vincent was released around the time the deeply private Clark began a high-profile relationship with super model and tabloid fixture Cara Delevingne.
UNPEELED | CAGE THE ELEPHANT
As we know all artists emulate others of the past and present. What has made artist like Tom Waits so great is for many decades Tom has drawn influence from way farther back with old folk and blues of Howlin’ Wolf and Leadbelly and maybe a raspy Russian folk singer. What I like about Cage the Elephant is they seem to emulate early 70s T-Rex and even the 60s Kinks, Monkees, Seeds, Animals...(vocalist Matt Shultz definately has an Eric Burdon thing going on). Even though some of the youngins out there may not be aware of some of these influences, it adds more potency to their mix.
Unpeeled is an acoustic live album. Though to me it sounds a little like a studio album with an overdubbed audience. I mean that as a compliment in that it is spot on and tight. Unless they're being trixty. Listening to Cage the..'s other records I think I like these versions better than the studio releases.
And Unpeeled comes complete with album art that resembles something from a 60s Polanski film.
A KIND REVOLUTION | PAUL WELLER
Barry Nicolson @ NME: It’s 40 years since Paul Weller first sang about “the young idea” on The Jam‘s 1977 track ‘In The City’, but as he approaches 60, the passage of time has become a far more potent muse than the fires
of youth. Weller began work on ‘A Kind Revolution’, his 25th studio album (with The Jam, Style Council and as a solo artist), almost immediately after completing his last one, 2015’s ‘Saturns Pattern’, and apparently has a follow-up written and ready to go, continuing the remarkable late-career renaissance he’s had for the last decade or so. He’s at an age where he’d be forgiven for resting on his laurels with one eye on his legacy, but Weller himself remains focused on the next great song he hasn’t written yet.
On that front, ‘A Kind Revolution’ adds a few more to the arsenal. The gravelly R&B stomp of opening track ‘Woo Sé Mama’ is a peacock-suited nod to Dr John, while ‘Long Long Road’ finds him in familiar blue-eyed balladeering mode. Yet ‘A Kind Revolution’ never stays in one place long enough to be pigeonholed as one thing or the other. For proof of that, you need look no further than his choice of guest stars – perhaps only Weller could coax Robert Wyatt out of retirement for the jazzy ‘She Moves With The Fayre’, then rope in Boy George for the pulsating disco-funk of ‘One Tear’.
HOT THOUGHTS | SPOON
It was quite difficult to choose the two albums I allotted Spoon within the Top 1000 (#575 and #909). If I could grant Spoon 5 spots I could easily do it. This Austin based post-punk unit releases sonically interesting and original records every time. I would place Hot Thoughts around 4th or 5th place in their illustrious body of work.
From Will Hermes Rolling Stone review: With Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann on board, the set is as lushly trippy as it is rhythmically hyped, apropos a band named for a song by psychedelic Seventies beat scientists Can. "We come to mesmerize," Daniel chants over the floatation-tank vibraphone funk of "Pink Up" (a slogan for the next Women’s March?). Berlin-era Bowie is a clear touchstone: see "First Caress," Sharon Van Etten swirling somewhere in the mix and "Can I Sit Next to You," with its Arabic-scented synth flourishes. Dub breaks, Giorgio Moroder disco pulses and post-rock abstractions bubble up and recede. But Daniel, still a brilliantly ruthless editor, keeps things taut and antsy, even on the closer "Us," a five-minute ambient free-jazz space-out that gives you time to grab another drink, hit repeat and dive back into the groove.
I haven't heard this English group for more than 20 years. When I haven't heard something in that long it's usually because I've lost touch. But in this case it's because they have not released anything since '95s Pygmalion. I remember listening to them along side the likes of Curve and Lush.
Their new self titled album is as lush (pun intended) and atmospheric as they're earlier efforts. If you like this, '93s Souvlaki is the same great low key ponderous music ...like Mojave 3 or Cocteau Twins. Like anything, for me, I got to be in the mood for it. Today is dark and rainy, so I'm in.
nightmare logic | power trip
Hailing from within the Bible belt, Dallas, Power Trip definately has some material to dissent from.
The heavy metal lure was sunk into my young teenage cheek in the early 80s. In recent decades I have not been as drawn to the sounds of metal thrash especially the bands with monster-like inaudible vocals. Occasionally I come across records such as Nightmare Logic and I think, genre-schmenre this just plane kicks ass. I am no metal-head aficionado but I would say this is the best of its kind. It’s precise without being lifeless. Steady without being redundant. Simply put Nightmare Logic is confident unapologetic heavy-fuckin metal! And you can hear the lyrics.
Pitchfork review by Zoe Camp: Thrash has always been a goofy genre with a morbid sense of humor: a direct consequence of the genre’s primordial days in the Reagan era, when trolling the silent majority doubled as a pre-eminent past-time and a form of protest. Like their peers Iron Reagan and Skeletonwitch, Power Trip view the impending apocalypse as a cause for celebration, powered by schadenfreude. Evangelical Christians are treated to particularly hilarious roastings. “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe),” the album’s best song, sees Gale calling the bluff of all those Bible-Belters who’d so passionately pleaded for the arrival of the man upstairs, only to come face-to-face with the titular killer-for-hire when the End of Days finally arrives. “You’ve prayed for so long, and now you have your chance/The executioner’s here, and he’s sharpening his axe!”
IN BETWEEN | THE FEELIES
Marc Master's spot on review below calls In Between a spiritual sequel to '86s Good Earth, my second favorite The Feelies album, with a similar album cover layout.
Marc Masters at Pitchfork writes: In 2011, when the Feelies released their first album in 20 years, it came with hints of indecision. It was called *Here Before—*possibly as in “been there, done that”—and began with the lyric “Is it too late to do it again?/Or should we wait another 10?” The music certainly sounded confident, in the breezy but determined style that the New Jersey quintet patented around the time of their second album, 1986’s The Good Earth. But you could forgive diehards for wanting clearer signs that the Feelies were back to stay.
With this new Feelies album, there remains no explicitly outlined future for the band. But the record is called In Between—presumably there’s more to come—and it offers hope in titles such as “Stay the Course” and “Time Will Tell,” and in lines like, “Take your time, not going anywhere.” Beyond these small signs, there are increased levels of musical commitment and design. The record is more purposefully-sequenced than its predecessor, with tracks that build on each other through subtle motifs. In press materials, guitarist and singer Glenn Mercer describes the record as “laid back,” and he’s right. But it’s as precise and efficient as it is casual and comfortable.
In its best moments, In Between sounds both mellow and intense in ways only the Feelies can pull off. That’s helped along by the increased prominence of acoustic guitar compared to Here Before (making the album a kind of spiritual sequel to The Good Earth). Acoustic guitars naturally exude calm, but Mercer and Bill Million imbue them with a sharpness. The quick strums in the pithy “Turn Back Time” and aforementioned swayer “Stay the Course” both soothe and energize. Acoustics even tighten the otherwise placid ballad “Make It Clear.”
NOTHING FEELS NATURAL | PRIESTS
An assumption was made by this writer when seeing this album cover. Must be like the Pixies. Having listened through a few times I would say this post punk D.C. band certainly have Pixiesque elements. There are sounds from Joy Division amongst others sprinkled in this salad of influence. Nothing Feels Natural is a real compelling album all the way through.
Allmusic: The creative leap that Priests make from the Bodies and Control and Money and Power EP to their first full-length Nothing Feels Natural is reflected in the titles of both works: Bodies spelled out society's ills with literal (and literate) rants, but this time, Priests use a more poetic, existential approach to express these frustrations. When nothing feels right, change is a natural response, and the band uses the space afforded by a full-fledged album to introduce more sounds and moods to its music. Nothing Feel Natural's first two tracks show just how wide Priests' scope is: On "Appropriate," they attack that most stifling of words with a scathing rant that questions consumerism and identity before falling into shambles and returning, phoenix-like, with the help of saxophonist Luke Stewart's feverish free jazz wailing. Then they follow their most apocalyptic song yet with one of their catchiest: "JJ"'s full-throated guitar-pop disses an ex via their favorite brand of cigarettes. Along with these rapid-fire changes, Priests also refine the insistent, claustrophobic sounds of Bodies and Control and Money and Powerwithout losing any firepower on songs like "Puff," "Pink White House," and the hip-shaking dance-punk of "Suck," where lyrics like "Please don't make me be someone with no sympathy" reaffirm that in Priests' world, bold doesn't mean simplistic. It makes sense that a D.C. punk band created a furious and eclectic response to the state of the world in the late 2010s -- and considering that the album was released the week President Donald Trump took office, its timing was almost too perfect. While Nothing Feels Natural speaks for an underground that won't be silenced, it also speaks to the human condition, whether on "Nicki"'s vampiric post-punk or the jittery no wave of "No Big Bang," which spans mania and self-doubt in drummer Daniele Daniele's riveting monologue. Challenging times can result in beauty as well as anger, and Priests express a prettier -- but just as vital -- side on inward-looking songs such as "Leila 20" and the gorgeously haunting title track, which finds Katie Alice Greer and the rest of the band hitting new heights of eloquence. Here and on the rest of Nothing Feels Natural, the hunger, vitality, and intelligence coursing through these songs feel timeless as well as timely.
THE FAR FIELD | FUTURE ISLANDS
Greg Cochrane @ NME: For ‘The Far Field’, Future Islands’ fifth album, the Baltimore trio find themselves in an unfamiliar position. For the first time in their 11-year career, they are making new music knowing a lot of people would hear it.
That hasn’t been the case before. Until their TV performance on the Late Show With David Letterman just over three years ago, they were an underground concern – a band who’d sweated through 800 shows and collected a small but loyal legion of followers. They even made their 2014 breakthrough album ‘Singles’ without a label to release it. Letterman was their shop-window moment. Overnight, when their performance of ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ went viral, a wider world was introduced to frontman Samuel T Herring’s intense stage persona. In case you’re wondering, he does slap his own face and thump his chest like that every night.
After that, almost everything changed. And yet, in some respects, on ‘The Far Field’ not that much has changed. Musically, they haven’t meddled with the formula they’ve been nurturing for a decade. The songs are built around Gerrit Welmers’ rippling synths and William Cashion’s propulsive basslines. And Herring’s still determined to plough all of his rawest emotions into the lyrics.
They recently told NME it feels to them like a “driving album”, one best enjoyed turned up on the open highway. That’s most obvious on ‘Beauty Of The Road’, lead single ‘Ran’ and ‘Through The Roses’ (Herring’s most vulnerable, honest moment here). Other tracks are less instant. Largely, this is a set of songs that seep, creep and grow in strength, like opener ‘Aladdin’, ‘Time On Her Side’ and ‘Cave’.
NEAR TO THE WILD HEART OF LIFE | JAPANDROIDS
While being an amazing cosmopolitan and visually stunning city, over the decades, Vancouver has not produced the number of musical acts that it's Yank neighbors to the south has. In the recent decade plus the volume of solid Van City acts has stepped up on the indie side of things with the likes of the New Pornographers and Neko Case, Detroyer and this duo, Japandroids.
The Japandroid's sound has echos of Hüsker Dü and Sonic Youth. Like other guitar/drum duos the Black Keyes and Whites Stripes, Nippon-droids have a stripped down raw sound. At times their vocals remind me of fellow Canadian well populated group Broken Social Scene.
I really liked their breakout record 2009s Post Nothing and the 2012 follow up Celebration Rock. Both of these discs are full of youth energy and velocity.
Near to the Wild Heart of Life has a more mature produced sound than its predecessors. Not a bad thing as their sound has become more solo Bob Mould than Hüsker Dü. For a 2 piece act they sure produce a full layered sound with well effected power guitar, stacked vocals and studio trickery here. Ultimately an uplifting record full of driving guitar and soaring vocals Near to the... is quite good and I will forgive the "millennial whoops" in 2 the opening tracks and that it lacks the grit of the previous records.
Check out "Arc Of Bar" and a nice building thunder tom tune "True Love and a Free Life of Free Will".
WHITEOUT CONDITIONS | THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
You know what would be cool. If the West country highly populated Canadian super group, these guys, had an all out slap-fight brawl with the East country highly populated Canadian super group Arcade Fire.
This has all the great hooks of any New Pornographers album. And, sorry East Coast, I think this is a stronger album than Everything Now. While not quite the effort of '05s Twin Cinema I would say it easily stands in the top 3 in their body of work.
Stacey Anderson @ Pitchfork: Coming-of-age movies from the 1980s are joyous, singular quests of the ego. This explains their largely teen viewership—it helps to have archetypes to parse while determining your own identity. It can be comforting to hit the prom by proxy in a Pepto-pink tulle puff, or step into the shoes of a glib slacker as he leads a parade through downtown Chicago; it’s means to a self-actualized end.
So it’s notable that, as the New Pornographers inch ever-closer to the sound of a John Hughes soundtrack, they prove to be almost apologetically devoid of vanity themselves. (They still shrug off that they’re a “supergroup” despite A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and Dan Bejar’s considerable individual fame.) Whiteout Conditions packs the most blanket pep of the power-pop group’s seven albums, dense with that particular new wave brand of electronic two-for-one—insistent, tinny arpeggio synths pinpricking rich, sweeping base chords. The album also largely discards lead vocals in favor of closely blended harmonies, the type that practically huddle in their team spirit. This, plus a singularly bright and skipping tempo, creates an almost forcibly energetic mix—but like any 1980s production worth its salt, it betrays a deeper well of desolation. The color white may reflect light, but it doesn’t absorb it.
The balancing act is most apparent in the presence of the default lead Pornographer, Newman, a man who’s earned both a chuckle and our deepest condolences for sticking to this band name for nearly two decades. On Whiteout Conditions’ title track, his high, hardy vocals nudge out ahead of the busy synths and chipper drums to recall a depressive episode; he recounts days spent falling into a resentful hermitude, turning from windowpanes, before clawing his way back toward the light (a sunny day literally helps kick him out of inertia). The tale gets most grim in the chorus, but pivots on the natural buoyancy of Case’s voice. She makes its bitter pill lyric “The sky will come for you once/Sit tight until it’s done” peal like a tourism brochure tagline.
LITTLE FICTIONS | ELBOW
Joel Radin of Seattle writes: This album is so pretty it blows away the imagination. A blend of Peter Gabriel and The Blue Nile, this album has a very distinguished Northern UK sound. It sounds as if they may be from Scotland, but they are a definite English band. The rhythm of this album keeps you alert, while the bass and the melodies want to lull you to sleep like a parent singing a lullaby. The first two songs are the key to this album, but as you keep on making your way through this amazing masterpiece of an album, you will find that the whole album will keep you listening in a dream state that will take you to some amazing melodic and imaginary places. This album is as pretty and mentally visual as the Red Rose of Lancashire where the roots of this band were born.
11 STORIES OF PAIN & GLORY | DROPKICK MURPHYS
I guess It's called Celtic Punk and it is Saint Patrick's day '17 as I write this so right perfect huh. The Dropkick Murphys hail from Quincy, Massachusetts, a suburb South of South Boston. You don't have to be from Ireland to be an Irish band. If you were to disagree, well then, dem are fightin' wards....
You might re-call their tune, "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" fittingly used in a montage scene from Scorsese's 2006 Academy Award winning film The Departed.
This album has all the energy of 2005s The Warriors Code that has "Shipping.." on it. Picture Social Distortion with added bagpipes, tin whistles and fiddles employed in traditional Irish music and you might just have the Murphys sound. And like with The Real Mckenzies I rather like this combo. With 20 years at it one could say the Dropkick Murphys have established this sound well....Now I can go drink Bushmill's Irish and fight.
WE GOT IT FROM HERE...THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE | A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
A long final effort from perhaps hip hops greatest acts is chalk-full of guest artists and some amazing Q-Tip riffs.
Kris Ex at Pitchfork writes: A Tribe Called Quest’s sixth (and final) album was a rumor for 18 years. It’s here, and against many odds, it reinvigorates the group’s discography without resting on nostalgia.
Since their 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, A Tribe Called Quest have been forward-thinking, presenting their albums as full-length meditations on sound and society. They didn’t break new ground as much as they dug deeper into the lands beneath their feet, turning stones and cultivating fertile soil, unearthing the past and tending the roots, with album-length suites centered around loose conceits—the light diary of *Instinctive Travels, *the aural dive into drums, bass, and downbeats of 1991’s The Low End Theory, the pan-African flight of 1993’s Midnight Marauders, the dysfunction of hip-hop’s materialism on 1996’s Beats, Rhymes and Life, and the yearning sadness of 1998’s The Love Movement. The latter strived to serve as a healing elixir and balm for what was, up until recently, the swan song for one of the greatest acts that hip-hop has ever produced.
WILDFLOWERS | THE AVALANCHES
Driving around one day listening to Seattle's amazing station KEXP I came across "Because I'm Me". I almost got in a wreck pulling over to Shazam search this magically inventive cut that brilliantly wraps a sample from early 70s girl soul group Honey Cone's cut "Want Ads" behind 6 Boys In Trouble recording "Why Can't I Get It Too". 6 Boys In Trouble was a group of 11 and 12 year old African American boys that lived in New York City public housing during the 1950s that recorded themselves on home-made percussive instruments with their singing and spoken-word on top.
Wiki Says: Wildflower is the second studio album recorded by Australian electronic music group the Avalanches. It was first released for streaming on Apple Music on 1 July 2016, and saw a full release a week later on 8 July. It was issued through Modular Recordings, Astralwerks, XL Recordings, and EMI. Production of the album was led by Robbie Chater with assistance from Tony Di Blasi and lasted nearly 16 years, commencing shortly after the release of their debut album, Since I Left You, in November 2000 and not concluding until March 2016. The album features multiple guest collaborators providing vocals and live instrumentation across its 21 tracks. Wildflower also features extensive sampling, especially from 1960s psychedelic music, and relates to the era through themes of counterculture and anti-establishment. Chater described the album's structure as a road trip from a hyperrealistic urban environment to somewhere remote and far away while on LSD. Full article