Wednesday, October 9, 2013

First Listen: New Releases for October 8

This might be the biggest new release week of the fall for me, personally, with a lot of long-awaited albums on the docket. Let's get right to it:

Lorde - Pure Heroine: By now, you've almost certainly heard "Royals" (which I raved about back in August), and 16-year-old Lorde's debut album releases today. What I find interesting about Pure Heroine is how quiet and understated it is. It's not a bad album at all, far from it - instead, it's a lot more stark than you might think given the lush vocals in "Royals." I expected a more mainstream Bjork sound, or perhaps some Portishead-style vocals, and instead it's a little safer (being so young and being a mainstream release, this isn't a surprise). It's worth a listen for sure, if only because it's probably the album of the fall, but temper your expectations.

V V Brown - Samson and Delilah: V V Brown's first album, Travelling Like the Light, was a revelation in many ways for me. "Shark in the Water" was an instant classic, for sure, but the way Brown was able to bounce around genres so easily make it stand out for me on a whole. Seeing a new album on the horizon, I was excited, but Samson and Delilah is a very different album in almost all regards. Dark and brooding, perhaps thematically a concept album at its core, it's a more interesting experience than it is an enjoyable, hooky record. I definitely need more time with it, but it's definitely up there as one of the more interesting releases of the week.

Lindi Ortega - Tin Star: If I could choose a word to describe Lindi Ortega, it's dependable. She's put out three albums in the last three years, all of which were solid rootsy music. She came into my radar with "Little Lie," the first track on her first non=independent album, and each song and album after that has been some of the same well-written, well-executed Americana-style music. Really someone who needs to be part of your regular rotation if you haven't had an opportunity to listen to her yet, as Tin Star is just as solid as everything else that she's done. My one complaint, in all honesty, is that it feels too short.

Turin Brakes - We Were Here: Turin Brakes were one of my favorite bands through their first few albums. "Underdog (Save Me)" is still an all-time favorite song, and they finally toured the United States about 8 years after that album came out. That they never seemed to make it big in the United States has been puzzling to me, but seeing as the first listen of We Were Here sounds like their best album in a long time. It's a throwback of sorts to their earliest work, and has that perfect mix of the more sonically interesting folk music that put them on the map to begin with. Definitely a must listen, absolutely a surprise.

Lissie - Back to Forever: Lissie's Catching a Tiger was one of my favorite albums when it came out, and it feels like it took forever for a proper followup to be released. That time is now, and I have to say that it's absolutely worth the wait. Lissie knows how to write a song like no one else does, and I can't say there's a song on here that I didn't notice while I was listening to it. If there's a downside, it's the protest song "Mountaintop Removal," which is more than a little on the nose and too direct to be effective. A small complaint for what is probably going to end up near the top of my year-end list.

Sleigh Bells - Bitter Rivals: It took three albums, but they finally nailed it. This is not a slap at their debut album or the follow-up, but the formula they had working still needed some help, and it seems like Bitter Rivals does the crunchy noise with the solid hooky melodies better than anything we've heard since "Infinity Guitars." The key problem with Reign of Terror was the reliance on more lush airy tunes, which doesn't work so well with the sound they try to make. Bitter Rivals works because of the aggression factor, because it does what they do well extremely well. Very glad to hear this is as good as I had hoped.

Deap Vally - Sistronix: I first heard "Lies" on an episode of Jools Holland, of all places. They seemed like what I always wish The Dead Weather were: less blues, more rawk. Deap Vally is absolutely borrowing liberally from the White Stripes, and it works really well. It's angsty and angry, it's got a lot of driving guitar, it's pretty much what I was hoping for when I listened to their EP. Definitely check this one out.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr - The Speed of Things: I love this band name, and I loved a handful of their songs from their first EP, but their album left me cold and, to be honest, their second album left me colder. If you're into the whole late-60s psych-folk thing, yeah, this could resonate. This doesn't work for me, though.

Of Montreal - Lousy With Sylvianbriar: Speaking of late-60s psych-folk things, Of Montreal is back with a new album. They've gone all over the place in the last decade, and there's been a lot of dabbling in electronics and such that hasn't really done it for me. Whether it was meant to be or not, Lousy With Sylvianbriar is the most Of Montreal Of Montreal album since, perhaps, the Aldhils Arboretum/Satanic Panic in the Attic era. It's a surprising return to form, and one I'm glad to hear since I very nearly skipped this album entirely on my weekly list. It remains to be seen as to whether this has similar staying power to some of their better albums, but for now, I'm just glad they're back to what I love.

St. Lucia - When the Night: I kind of tore apart the Haim album last week because it felt like faux-nostalgia. Ken and I talked about it later on, and we both felt pretty cold to the album, which makes me wonder if it's less a nostalgia thing and more that the album just wasn't that good. I'm leaning more toward the latter having heard St. Lucia, which is another deliberate throwback piece. This also comes straight out of some of the 1980s excess, but not in the Duran Duran/a-ha way, but more of a Phil Collins or Lionel Richie sort of thing. I don't have a ton of love for that era, either (although I'll never say no to a Phil Collins listen), but I don't know why this feels more sincere than Haim. Maybe it's less produced? Maybe it's the lack of buzz (although I swear I know this band from something). Regardless, chalk this up as one of the more interesting releases this week.

RJD2 - More Is Than Isn't: Chances are, you listen to RJD2 because you like the Mad Men theme. The new album is that same sort of genre-flipping electronica that RJD2 seems to do so well, and it's both impressive in its scope and generally standard. I like it, but it feels like background music more than anything. What RJD2 does is unique within the genre, and yet never fully stands out for me, and this album was unfortunately no different.

Amos Lee - Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song: Amos Lee is another rootsy folk fellow who really dives into it this time around, and it works. It's a little longer than I might like, but there are some really solid songs on here that would probably stand out more if it hadn't been a banner month or so for this genre. I like this a lot, and fear it'll get caught in the shuffle.

Also out this week:

* Electric Six - Mustang
* Cage the Elephant - Melophobia
* William Shatner - Ponder the Mystery

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