Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Listen: New Releases for August 20

Biggest new release week since the blog started, and biggest new release week in recent memory, so let's just get to it.

Braids - Flourish // Perish: A confession to start out: when I saw this release listed in this week's albums, I got excited as I thought this was something new from indie rock band Braid. It's not. Braids, instead, is an electronic outfit from Canada that has put out a surprising album that I really, really loved on my first listen. It's got a stark coldness to it that is difficult to achieve, and actually kind of gave me an "Aphex Twin if Aphex Twin was trying to make accessible music" vibe. If this sort of thing interests you at all, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. It's really one of the more interesting recent releases.

Travis - Where You Stand: A "hey, remember us" album like none other. Travis hasn't released anything in around five years, and while their most recent album was a return to form after having some questionable releases in the mid-2000s, Where You Stand is interesting more in its overall "yeah, we're here" existence than anything else. While "Warning Sign" certainly jumps out as a highlight, the album seems to be content in embracing the band's more quiet moments. They're far from a Bends-era Radiohead/Morning Glory-era Oasis retread anymore, but it's difficult to find anything special about the album early on.

Tim Easton - Not Cool: I first heard of Tim Easton when Jay Bennett and Edward Burch opened for him when The Palace at 4am was out. He was an interesting rootsy rocker then, and he's continued along that line now with Not Cool, an album with an older feel to it than most of the rest of what I've heard from him. Nothing stands out, but I can imagine pulling this one out a lot for a while.

A$AP Ferg - Trap Lord: When it comes to the A$AP mob, you're going to get something fairly specific. I tend to like A$AP Rocky's stuff (his album could be in my top 10 this year), and Ferg's is interesting in a different way. It doesn't have the same catchy songs that Rocky has, but it's a different feel across the board. This one is likely to be a grower for me if it catches me at all.

Superchunk - I Hate Music: Superchunk is one of those bands that is like a warm fuzzy blanket. I like what I hear, you know what to expect, and there's the occasional song that jumps out at you. I Hate Music would only be made better if they'd get it up on Spotify already.

Mark Kozelek and Desertshore - Mark Kozelek and Desertshore: A pretty stark, confessional album from the lead singer of Sun Kil Moon and a band that includes members of Kozelek's other band, Red House Painters. It's good, but has a very sad tone to it, especially in the song where he mourns the loss of Magnolia Electric Co.'s Jason Molina. Still very good, looking forward to spending more time with it.

The Goldberg Sisters - Stranger Morning: The Goldberg Sisters are, now I have learned, the musical project of actor Adam Goldberg, a classic "that guy." The album is a little more interesting with that nugget of information, but, on a whole, it's more a slow, sometimes-but-not-always interesting alternative rock piece. Nothing about it screams exciting, which might be the point.

The Greencards - Sweetheart of the Sun: Fun fact - I only got into the Greencards in an attempt to try and listen to some music from the Greenhorns, who have the two members of The Raconteurs that aren't Jack White or Brendan Benson. This is a bluegrass band that doesn't excite me the way, say, Punch Brothers do, but it's still very pleasant to listen to and I consider them one of my more favorite bluegrass-style groups. It's been a while since I've heard something new from them, so this is a solid return for me.

Earl Sweatshirt - Doris: On one side we have the A$AP mob, on the other the Odd Future collective. Earl Sweatshirt releases Doris this week and, like the Tyler, the Creator album from earlier this year, I find it to be extremely inaccessable and just a little too weird for my tastes. I get why some people like this, and I get why I don't (when my preferences go more Childish Gambino/Kanye West), but I don't even know what to say about this. Is there a such thing as stoner rap? If so, is this it?

Laura Veirs - Warp and Weft: Warp and Weft is Laura Veirs's ninth album, and first for adults since 2010's July Flame. While the sound is closer to her work on Carbon Glacier than on July Flame, it still comes across as more mature and less stilted (a quality I loved in Veirs's early work). As with all her albums, one listen doesn't come close to helping get to where it's going, and this is a fascinating release in its lack of overall immediacy combined with many of the sounds coming from it. It's different than what I expected to hear from her as of late, that's for sure.

Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe: I didn't know about Julianna Barwick until recently, but the ethereal atmosphere of her new album gives me a lot of fond reminders of Sigur Ros's ( ). It's definitely worthwhile as a background album, but it also works well for more detailed listening with the way she continually loops her vocals into different soundscapes. Definitely the most different thing I've heard this week.

Sarah Neufield - Hero Brother: This album hit my radar solely because Neufield is (one of?) the violinist(s?) for Arcade Fire, and is a solo effort. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it's basically an instrumental violin piece with some interesting things going on. More a curiosity than anything else, it's pretty good for what it is.

Also out today is Zola Jesus's Versions, which is not available anywhere I can find to stream, but is a live reworking of some of her songs.

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