Friday, November 15, 2013

First Listen: New Releases for November 12

A lot to get to, and a delay at that? No wasting time!

Lady Gaga - Artpop: Lady Gaga has transformed from pop princess to strange cultural touchstone to some sort of avant garde performance art project. Artpop, when taken in the context of her increased interest in a lot of the sort of postmodern, outsider art, is an interesting listen if only because it's so weird in the context of top 40 pop music. I say "interesting" because the album itself isn't really good musically, and I say this as someone who was a fan of her first two albums. This isn't to say there aren't highlights ("Manicure," "Donatella," "Dope") but if you're expecting a "Telephone" or "Poker Face," you're going to be disappointed. On the other hand, I'm probably the only one who would be reading this site and saying "hm, I think I want to know more about the new Lady Gaga album," so maybe I'll just move on...

Tindersticks - Across Six Leap Years: Tindersticks has been a band in the background of a lot of stuff I listen to, and this was probably my first purposeful exposure to them. It's not for me - it's loungey, slow stuff that doesn't really grab me at all. I can see who might like this (and if that minor description excites you, you'll likely dig this), but it really hasn't impacted me at all.

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Under the Covers Volume 3: I'm a sucker for a good covers album, and a while back Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs put out an album of their versions of their favorite songs from the 1960s. It's one of my favorite cover albums ever. Volume 2 took on the 1970s and wasn't as great, but still had some solid highlights. Volume 3 is all about the 1980s, which is interesting given that both Hoffs and Sweet had their heyday in this era. None of these are necessarily hitting me as great versions, unfortunately - "Free Fallin'" is interesting, and it's always weird to hear groups take on R.E.M. songs (and Sweet was in a band with Michael Stipe's sister for a time, which makes for a weird aside), but on a whole, the idea of 80s songs without the overproduced gloss just doesn't always work for me. More a curiosity than a solid listen for me.

Los Campesinos! - No Blues: Los Campesinos! is not the most accessible band with some indie success. "You! Me! Dancing!" was a high point, and I feel like I'm always waiting for another song like it that doesn't come. It's definitely a more interesting album than I've heard as of late, but I'm not sure how much patience I'll have for it, either. Good for fans, for sure.

Cate le Bon - Mug Museum: Cate le Bon was another random Amie Street pickup for me for her album Me Oh My, and I really enjoyed the follow-up. This album turns the weirdness dial up a bit, exchanging accessible melodies over interesting instrumentation for more complicated song structures. Some of it I really loved on first listen, some not as much. This one is one I'll be giving a longer shot in the short term, for sure, but those who are expecting similarities to her earlier albums might be disappointed.

Also out this week:

* Trampled by Turtles - Live at First Avenue (a decent, if inessential, listen)
* Various Artists - Songs for Slim (includes tracks from Jeff Tweedy, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, etc)

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