Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Quarterly Report: Even More Albums We Missed So Far

As releases are slow to hit Spotify, or if we just miss an album here and there, it's always fun to take a look back at what we missed. Here are some from the last few months:

Self - Super Fake Nice: Of the bands that sort of drifted off and that I didn't expect to hear from again, Self might have topped the list. This seven song, super short EP sounds like Self, which is, at least to start, exactly what I'd want. While songs like "Hey, Hipster" are a little grating, it's more than made up for with "Runaway" and "Splitting Atoms," and, well, the rest of the EP. Here's to hoping we have more Self music to look forward to.

Wussy - Attica: Wussy sounds like that classic 1990s alt rock band you loved. Yeah, you know - that one. Attica is their fifth release and it straddles that line of polish and more indie sensibility very well. The louder songs, on a whole, are better than the quieter ones, but this album has a lot of solid moments behind it. Worth a listen.

Mirel Wagner - When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day: There are any number of people doing the dark, stark folk thing, so it's probably pretty difficult to break through the noise. Mirel Wagner, in signing with Sub Pop, certainly tries, and while there are some standouts in this album, it ultimately doesn't sit at the heights of the opening track, "1, 2, 3, 4." I can see pulling this out when I need this specific mood, but beyond that, I simply wanted more.

L. C. Cooke - The Complete SAR Records Recordings: There's an alternate universe out there where soul/R&B singer Sam Cooke is unknown and his brother, L. C., is the famous one. The Complete SAR Records Recordings is an adventure of sorts into that universe, where we get L. C.'s takes on some songs that were set to be released 50 years ago but were ultimately shelved following Sam's death. It's a really solid album - you can hear a lot of Sam in L. C.'s voice - and it is enjoyable both as a collection of good songs and as a question about what could have been. Definitely worth a listen.

Allison Weiss - Remember When: Allison Weiss, who released one of my favorite albums of last year, returns with an EP that continues the strong songwriting and performing that her album from last year demonstrated. A couple strong songs, a solid cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend," and you end up with a good EP that sets the table for what comes next. A great listen.

Wunder Wunder - Everything Infinite: Wunder Wunder's sound reminds me a lot of Temples from a while back - the sound is a true throwback with a lot of 1970s psych rock peppered with some modern flair. Kicking right off with the title track, the album pretty much keeps going full-steam ahead the rest of the way. Very much a summer album in many regards, and I like it more and more with every listen. Definitely recommended.

Movement - Movement: There isn't enough electronic sexy jazzy/soul music out there, and I'm glad Movement is here to fill that gap. It is an awkward EP in some respects, but extremely compelling regardless, a quick hit of six songs that straddle multiple genres seemingly without much effort. I'm really interested to hear what a full length from them might sound like. Check this one out.

Look Again To The Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited: With the lineup on this tribute album including The Milk Carton Kids, Emmylou Harris, and Gillian Welch, I really wanted to love this compilation. Instead, it appears that everyone opted to indulge their super rootsy side and the album instead feels a little more like a drag than a tribute. There's certainly some things to like here, but I confess to really wishing that this was a lot shorter as I listened. Not sure I can recommend.

Cassie Ramone - The Time Has Come: Cassie Ramone, former singer of Vivian Girls, releases her first album, a short, lo-fi, eight song affair that really only sounds like Vivian Girls in terms of production value and, perhaps more damningly, provides little incentive to really want to stick with it. I really didn't care much for wht's going on here, but fans of lo-fi and/or shoegazey stuff, or hardcore Vivian Girls fans, might find something here to like.

King Buzzo - This Machine Kills Artists: As I have no frame of reference for The Melvins, I'm in no spot to review this on any real merits. Ken saw King Buzzo on his solo tour, so you might want to refer to that as a starting point.

SZA - Z: SZA's release Z is very chameleonlike in many ways. Perhaps marketed as an R&B album, it has a bit of an electro/dance flavor, it features a number of popular rappers, and it's, overall, a pretty solid release even if it's difficult to pigeonhole. While I know it won't appeal to everyone, it might have parts you'll love. At the very least, "Julia" is a strong contender to be a favorite song of the year for me.

Beck Song Reader: A couple years ago, Beck released an album without recording it, instead offering the sheet music up as a way to allow people to interpret and hear the songs their own way. This compilation has a number of artists taking on those songs, often in their own style. While I'd honestly rather hear Beck's versions, there are some winners in here to go along with some efforts that are really hit or miss. Worth listening, I guess, but I wouldn't necessarily assume you're missing much.

Nickel Creek - A Dotted Line: This album took forever to get on Spotify, but it was truly worth the wait. Their first album in a long time, the members have clearly brought back a lot of what they've picked up during their hiatus and brought it to the table. While "21st of May" and "Destination" are obvious winners, a shoutout has to go to "Hayloft," which is a pretty great, rollicking number in its own right. Glad this finally ended up on Spotify.

Squarepusher xZMachines - Music for Robots: This is an EP of an experiment with of Squarepusher and some robots he had perform his music. It sounds like The Bad Plus on acid, which I suppose might be the point, and it's an interesting listen although it might not be what I'd call an enjoyable one. It's absolutely worth a listen in any regard, but this is one that you need to know the idea behind before going in.

The Color and Sound - Peace of Mind: Boston-based band The Color and Sound came out with a great new EP that has a ton of solid moments going for it. I feel like they're a bit of a mix between Of Mice and Men and Freelance Whales, and it works. You'll know if you like it within the first few seconds of "Cigarettes," and I think we're going to see great things for this band in the future. Highly recommended.

Front Country - Sake of the Sound: I didn't realize how much I was looking for a new, traditional-sounding roots/bluegrass record until Ken sent me Front Country's album. It's not forging new ground, but it really deserves to be in the same conversation as many of the modern, traditional artists out there right now. Another band that deserves a wide audience, give this one a listen.

Ought - More Than Any Other Day: If you're anything like me, you have an idea in your head as to what post-punk sounds like, and Ought fills that role very nicely. It's a good, somewhat complicated album that has survived multiple listens for me while I'm still trying to figure it out. That's usually a good sign, so it's worth giving this one a shot.

Shovels and Rope - Swimmin' Time: A confession: I've never loved Shovels and Rope in part because I've felt like it's kept Cary Ann Hearst from doing the solo stuff I love so much. With that out there, the new Shovels and Rope album is a really good time from start to finish. Some great rootsy rock, a number of really catchy songs (I love "Coping Mechanism" in particular), and it's easily a favorite of recent times. Don't be dumb like me.

Eno and Hyde - High Life/Someday World: Brian Eno and Karl Hyde (from Underworld) collaborated on two different albums this year, and they're both pretty solid from a musical standpoint. From this perspective, the album doesn't really sound like what I'd expect from either Eno or Hyde, but that expectation provided me with some fresh ears for both listens. It's a solid set of releases, but if you're looking for better electronic stuff, we've had a few good weeks recently.

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