Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hurray for the Riff Raff - "Rican Beach"

Photo by Sarrah Danziger
Hurray for the Riff Raff has established themselves (herself?) as one of the top artists for a modern take on laid back traditional folk. Based on their new song, the upcoming album might be shattering that expectation. "Rican Beach" is a huge departure. The next album, The Navigator, is kind of a concept album that altogether tells the story of a street kid named Navita. The new song fully embraces a Latin sound and has this groove throughout with just the hint of a punk edge. It's not exactly as heavy as Downtown Boys, but in comparison to her previous work, this is as close as Alynda Segerra has come to full blown punk.

You can watch the lyric video for "Rican Beach" below. The new Hurray for the Riff Raff album, The Navigator, will be out March 10 on ATO Records. You can pre-order a copy at PledgeMusic. For more information on Hurray for the Riff Raff, check out their website.

Ken's Top 10 of 2016 - #8: Mothers - When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired

Another album that came out way back in February that stuck with me all year was the debut from Mothers, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired. One of my most anticipated releases of 2016 based solely on the strength of the song "Too Small for Eyes," the rest of the album lived up to the hype I had created in my mind. The true power of the album is Kristine Leschper's voice, which is equal parts beautiful and discordant, fragile and powerful. "Too Small for Eyes" borders on twee, sounding like a folk song being played on a dying, broken music box. "It Hurts Until it Doesn't" is a bit more rocking and is more what indie used to be instead of what is considered indie now. "Nesting Behavior" is an incredibly delicate song that might be the most terrifying lullaby ever. "Lockjaw" simmers throughout its entire 5:00 length and builds to a crescendo that never quite comes. Right when you expect and want it to break wide open, it comes into itself even more, which is just about perfect. Mothers are the rare band that would be equally at home at both the Newport Folk Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival. 

Jeff's Top 10 of 2016 - #8: Ruby the RabbitFoot - Divorce Party

My #8 album this year is Ruby the RabbitFoot's Divorce Party.

When this came out, it felt like a massive departure. We loved her previous album, New as Dew, and the expectation of another solid folky singer-songwriter album was put into question when her cover of Madonna's "Take a Bow" landed, but was completely dashed when "Nicola La" came out ahead of the album. I was skeptical, but wow, this ended up being one of the albums I played the most this year. There's a cool off-center pop sensibility to it while still having the sort of stark, transparent lyrical feel we come to expect from folk music.

I know this got some good blog buzz, and I hope this means bigger things for her in the long term. Still, it's one of the best of this year and has a couple of my favorite songs for 2016 as well. Check it out.

Recommended: "Nicola La," "Wild Cherry Chapstick," "I Hate You."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ken's Top 10 of 2016 - #9: Marlon Williams - S/T

Marlon Williams is part of this odd (but fantastic) wave of Americana coming out of Australia and New Zealand. His debut solo album came out way back in February and it's been in my regular rotation ever since. While there is a ton of country/folk albums out these days, what really makes Williams stand out is his voice. He could easily be one of the new crooners that pop up on The Voice or American Idol, but instead he's playing small clubs doing the singer-songwriter thing. There are the more upbeat songs like the album opener, "Hello Miss Lonesome" and the second song "After All," but the true standout is the moody "Dark Child." Williams is best when he's crooning a dark, melancholy tale. Plus, the indie rock style feedback that is just hinted at in the background comes out in full force towards the end. "Strange Things" is the closest thing the album comes to a traditional country song with it's haunting chorus. No one is currently doing the Americana thing like Marlon Williams. For a genre based in tradition for decades, hearing a voice this unique is a rare gift.

Jeff's Top 10 of 2016 - #9: The Prettiots - Funs Cool

Sometimes an album (and even a song) comes along that both speaks to you on a pretty solid level while also hitting just the right nostalgia buttons all at once. Thus Funs Cool, the debut album from The Prettiots. It's unlike anything else that sniffed the blogosphere this year while both harkening back to the anti-folk of a decade ago.

It was "Suicide Hotline" that got me hooked. I had a fairly dark start of the new year, and I'm not saying that I needed a song to literally talk me off the ledge, but a song that was described by the songwriter as a letter to her therapist about how she was feeling definitely worked for me, especially with its literary references and clearly self-depreciating attitude. It became a highly-anticipated album, and the whole thing is the same way. "Boys (That I Dated in High School)" is hilarious, "18 Wheeler" appropriately dark, and so on.

Overall, the result is an album that stayed on repeat for me for some time. I share it with people, and I think it's too weird for the mainstream, but too wonderful for me to ignore. Revisiting it in the last couple weeks, it holds up insanely well, too. Just a great album this year, and one you should take some time with if you haven't already.

Recommended: "Suicide Hotline," "Boys (That I Dated in High School)," "Skulls."

First Listen: New Releases for December 2

This might be the last big new release week for a while, so let's dive right in!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Childish Gambino
Album: "Awaken, My Love!"
Quick Description: Donald Glover puts aside the nerd rap in favor of a funky pastiche.
Why You Should Listen: Donald Glover is a must watch/listen/read no matter what.
Overall Thoughts: Looking at this solely as a Childish Gambino project, it's hard not to see it as a strange diversion from what's worked. But if we look at this from Donald Glover as an artist, following his leaving Community and through the amazing FX show Atlanta, it's hard not to see this as one of those sort of essential pieces that needs more time to be unpacked. It's clear he's going for a message, similar to other R&B acts this year, but it's hard not to hear some old style funk as a message in and of itself about Glover's artistry on its own. This won't work for everyone, I understand that, but...
Recommendation: ...this is maybe the most essential recent listen.

Artist: Various Artists
Album: The Hamilton Mixtape
Quick Description: Celebratory mix of alternate/cover takes of tracks from the musical.
Why You Should Listen: You aren't one of the three people left not bitten by the Hamilton bug.
Overall Thoughts: It's impossible to listen to this and appreciate it without a full love for the musical. It's a great musical, maybe the best modern one in ages, but the enjoyment of this will track with your love of the musical. My wife is into this, I'm pretty much set with the version of "My Shot." So I'm not saying don't listen. I'm just saying this is for a specific audience.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, but might not be for you.

Artist: Peter Doherty
Album: The Hamburg Demonstrations
Quick Description: Babyshambers/Libertines solo album.
Why You Should Listen: Shows a more serious side.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say I'm much of a fan of anything Doherty does, but seeing his name pop up this week made it worth a listen and I'm impressed. The word "mature" comes to mind (which is almost certainly related to Doherty's personal troubles) and, while I can't say any song jumps out at me, it ends up being a really good showing. Surprisingly impressive!
Recommendation: Also worth a listen if you're into it.

Artist: Lady Lamb
Album: Tender Warriors Club
Quick Description: A quick, stripped-down EP reminiscent of her early work.
Why You Should Listen: Lady Lamb is a must-listen.
Overall Thoughts: We don't hide our love for Lady Lamb around these parts. Ken's a bigger fan than I am, but we've both loved the direction she's gone since her early start. This EP, however, is some of the best work she's put out in ages. Mostly acoustic/stripped down, very singer-songwritery, but just beautiful from start to finish. I wish there was more, or this would be a strong late contender for one of the best releases of the year for me.
Recommendation: A must listen, one of the best releases of the year.

Artist: Weezy Ford
Album: Bobbypin Graveyard
Quick Description: Sallie Ford's sister does Sallie Ford better than Sallie Ford?
Why You Should Listen: Some solid indie rock in EP form.
Overall Thoughts: Another album I wish there was more of, Weezy Ford offers a great debut EP. Ken covered it in more detail earlier this week, but I can't disagree with much of what he said. The sooner we get a full length, the better.
Recommendation: Another great release this week.

Three more albums came out this week that were okay, but still deserve some mention:

* I Like Trains - A Divorce Before Marriage (solid, sometimes slow, post-rock)
* Soviet Soviet - Endless (Okay-but-derivative indie rock)
* Grace VanderWall - Perfectly Imperfect (Promising debut EP of a poppy singer-songwriter)

Also out this week:

* Smoke DZA ans Pete Rock - Don't Smoke Rock
* Public Service Broadcasting - Live at Brixton
* Scissorfight - Chaos Country

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ken's Top 10 of 2016 - #10: Weakened Friends - Crushed

2016 has been a pretty rough year for everyone, but luckily it's been a great year for music. This has been such a particularly great year that I've been agonizing over my top 10 this year more than others. In such a great year, I wouldn't normally include an EP in my top 10, but Crushed by Weakened Friends is too great not to include. For a band that only formed last year, they've had a great year topped off with a mini-tour with a reunited Letters to Cleo. It was a perfect pairing for such a 90s influenced band. Weakened Friends have this amazing indie rock meets power pop punk sound. "95" is one of the most perfect songs of the year. "She's so Cool." truly shows their great pop chops with some of the best "Whoah oh oh"s you'll ever hear, and yes, that's important. "Blankets" might be the hidden gem of the EP in it's almost power ballad sound, but a sped up power ballad. Crushed might have landed higher up in my top 10 of 2016 if it was just a little longer. But, for a 6 song, 20 minute release, it's virtually perfect.

Jeff's Top 10 of 2016 - #10a/b: Field Mouse - Episodic/The Casket Girls - The Night Machines

Because sometimes you swap them a dozen times over the course of your final rankings and decide they're both worthy.

For Field Mouse, Hold Still Life was my favorite album of 2014, and the band continues to be a favorite of ours around these parts. The Casket Girls are definitely a band I've come to love at all, with True Love Kills the Fairy Tale a favorite of mine from 2014 even if it didn't make my top ten. With their new albums, we have two bands on two different trajectories, both making for great listens, but for different reasons.

With The Casket Girls, The Night Machines is largely more of the same. It's a solid listen from top to bottom with a great share of dark indie pop, but also just haunting melodies throughout. Field Mouse, in comparison, abandons a lot of the moodier, shoegazey style in favor of a more up-front indie rock affair. In both cases, they end up being addictive listens, both in terms of general musical quality but also in terms of the direction both acts are headed.

Most interestingly, The Casket Girls are doing what is the most unique, but maybe the less marketable. In that sense, I might like The Night Machines more, but Field Mouse just speaks to me on a really visceral level that I can't ultimately escape from. These are both albums I feel like everyone should be enjoying, and yet I don't know if they'll make a ton of end of year lists. They should. And I look forward to what both of these bands are going to put out there in the future.

Recommended for Field Mouse: "The Mirror," "Beacon," "The Order of Things"
Recommended for The Casket Girls: "24 Hours," "Tears of a Clown," "Virginia Beach"

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Freebie: Eli Paperboy Reed & Nikki Lane

The same day we dust off Forgotten Fridays we bring you two fantastic releases for Friday Freebie. The first is a live EP from Boston's (well, formerly Boston) favorite neo-soul dynamo Eli Paperboy Reed. Reed's been at it since before the current soul revival, and it seems like he should get a lot more recognition on the national level than he actually does. As much as I've always enjoyed his albums, I've always heard that he is an artist that you need to see live. Somehow I've never made it to one of his shows, but after hearing this EP I'll definitely be getting out to see him next time he comes home. If you want proof of how amazing he is live, just check out the opening track "Hold Out" and remember that it's just a recording and you're not actually there live. To get your copy of of Live at Union Pool, head over to NoiseTrade. For more information on Eli Paperboy Reed, check out his website.

Also from NoiseTrade this week (seriously, you need to join their mailing list) is some free music from Nikki Lane. Nikki Lane's free offering is part of my favorite trend in music. Not only is she giving away "Highway Queen," the first single from her upcoming album (which is also named Highway Queen), she's also decided to throw in 2014's pretty excellent All or Nothin' in its entirety for free. Jeff gave the album high praise back when it was released, and if you missed it then, you can get it now for free. As Jeff mentioned, she gets lumped in with the outlaw country artists, but she's more throwback country in that way that Margo Price is. If you prefer your country to not include product endorsements for specific trucks or beer brands, Nikki Lane will be for you. Normally these NoiseTrade free releases are a handful of songs, so when they're giving away an entire album, especially one this acclaimed, you need to jump on it while it's available. You can get your copy at NoiseTrade. Make sure you pre-order Highway Queen, due out on February 17, at PledgeMusic. For more on Nikki Lane, check out her website.

Forgotten Fridays: Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved

Forgotten Fridays is an occasional feature here at If It’s Too Loud... where we go back and find the lost records of our glory days. We played these on our college radio shows, put them on countless mix tapes, and then forgot they existed. Once a week we go back and remind you, and help decide if they were any good.

Last week while doing some Black Friday shopping (for myself) at a used record store, I came across Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved in the discount CD bin. I hadn't even thought about this album for about 20 years, so I figured I'd give it another listen.

Now, to be fair, I've always hated Kiss. While I gained an appreciation for classic rock bands in my 30s that I hated in my 20s (Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC), the same can't be said for Kiss. Released in 1994, Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved now stands as a bizarre slice of 1994. The mid-90s was a time of bizarre tribute and compilation albums, and this might stand out as one of the weirdest. It doesn't really keep a main theme throughout and seems to be open to everyone. Lenny Kravitz does "Deuce," and if you can imagine what that sounds like you're probably dead on. No surprises there. Anthrax, with singer John Bush, do a great version of "She" that captures their 90s John Bush led sound. The Gin Blossoms doing "Christine Sixteen" is the biggest trainwreck in this trainwreck of a compilation. Two of the most pleasant surprises are Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Rock and Roll All Night" and Garth Brooks' "Hard Luck Woman." Both succeed in taking well known songs and making them completely their own while still being obvious covers. This might be the first time I listened to the Garth Brooks song all the way through, as doing so would have violated my high school/early college pledge to hate all country.

Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved also features four Boston (or at least Massachusetts) bands. Extreme (who I never would have guessed were doing anything in 1994) do "Strutter," and Extreme covering Kiss makes perfect sense. The Lemonheads donated their version of "Plaster Caster" which originally appeared on 1988's Creator, which might be cheating. But it's also one of my favorite Lemonheads' covers, which is saying quite a bit as Evan loves doing covers. Two absolute highlights of the album are Dinosaur Jr's version of "Goin' Blind," which is virtually unrecognizable as a Kiss cover, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' "Detroit Rock City." The former comes across as a legit Dino Jr song, and given their 80s hairband love, it's not surprising that there's no audible shred of tongue in cheek in this version. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones do a more core than ska version of "Detroit Rock City" which goes right along with the metal/hard rock covers they were doing at the time.

Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved somehow went gold even though it couldn't have appealed to Kiss fans and spread itself over a bunch of genres. It's not available on Spotify, and only a handful of songs are on YouTube. You can pick up a copy on CD for as low as 26 cents on Amazon. It might be worth it just for the novelty alone.