Thursday, May 14, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for May 13

An interesting week overall. Let the folktacular begin!

Rhett Miller - The Traveler: Rhett Miller of The Old 97s teams up with Decemberists side project Black Prairie for what is a really fun, solid rootsy album. Collaborations can always be hit or miss when it comes to situations like this, and what I like most about this specific album is that you can absolutely hear Miller's influence and Black Prairie's influence meshing throughout. The instrumentation we'd expect remains the same, Rhett Miller's voice doesn't seem out of place, and it doesn't sound too much like either side. A really well-done album, and easily the best release of the week.

Della Mae - Della Mae: Della Mae's third album is a continuation of their interesting take on Americana music. I'm not sure why I'm always surprised when I enjoy their music - it might be that I confuse them with similarly-named acts or that their sound doesn't stand out when you initially hear it, but then you have songs like "For the Sake of My Heart" that just stick to you and don't let go. It's probably not for everyone, but I know it works a lot for me. Definitely recommended.

The Tallest Man on Earth - Dark Bird is Home: I know I remember listening to The Tallest Man on Earth's previous album, and, while I think I liked it, it didn't leave much of a lasting impact. Dark Bird is Home, on first listen, feels like it might be a change of pace in that regard, as it is a pleasant and breezy listen throughout. Kristian Matsson's voice continues to be distinctive and interesting, and the result is an album that really demands some attention. I'm absolutely looking forward to spending more time with this one.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind: In a follow-up to their pretty solid album a couple years ago, The Traveling Kind does not come across as upbeat and interesting as the previous, although Harris's voice continues to be absolutely arresting. I can't say I love this on first listen, and I'm not even sure I'll end up liking it, but the pedigree this comes from is reason enough to give it a shot.

The Weather Station - Loyalty: Man, this album. A really pleasant folk album for sure, but, on first listen, I can't tell you what it is that sets it apart from so many of the other albums like it (especially this week) except that it feels gorgeous. When I listened to this, I felt like I was experiencing something special, and that perception can go a long way. Easily one of the most buzzed-about releases of the week, if not the month, and it's deserving of the praise. Fit this one into your rotation.

Steve Aoki - Neon Future II: Steve Aoki is one of the most in-demand DJs out there right now, and his new album... well, it's not the type of electronic music I typically reach for. The collaborations are interesting, for sure, and this is absolutely club/party music, but my tastes have strayed far enough from this that the album itself otherwise feels a little flat and uninspired. Then again, the guy is making millions DJing, so what do I know?

Patrick Watson - Love Songs for Robots: I saw Ex-Machina over the weekend, which was essentially a story about AI and, in a way, love. Love Songs for Robots doesn't have anything to do with AI or Ex-Machina, nor, on first listen, does it sound like it has anything to do with robots. What it is, however, is another strong effort from Watson, who has really become an expert at this sort of quiet-yet-epic-sounding indie rock that just works for me. Definitely give this a listen, especially if you've been a fan in the past.

Icky Blossoms - Mask: I still don't know how Icky Blossoms fits in on Saddle Creek, but this second album is definitely a quality listen even if it's a step away from the more straightforward indie-electro that their debut did. This feels more rock with electric influences, and when it absolutely works (especially in the early tracks) it's spot on. I enjoyed a lot of this, and not other parts, so this may be better in parts on a whole.

Surfer Blood - 1000 Palms: I'll put it this way - I listened to this Surfer Blood album roughly 2 hours before writing this, and I can't say I remember even a single note from it. That should probably tell you something about this record on a whole, which is unfortunate.

Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All-Stars - Walking on Jindals: Jello Biafra does New Orleans Jazz songs on a live album? I'm on record as not quite understanding Biafra's schtick, so your enjoyment of this will probably be based on how much Jello Biafra you can tolerate.

David Duchovny - Hell or Highwater: Going in on this, I fully expected a bit of a trainwreck. Agent Mulder shouldn't be a musician. And yet, this album? Surprisingly decent! I don't think I'd be as impressed if it weren't for Duchovny's name recognition, so with the understanding that there is some grading on a curve happening here, this is actually a fairly credible sounding rock record. It's pretty derivative, sure, but so are a lot of things. I'm actually recommending listening to this one, as it's one that I'll probably go back to a few times. It's a good listen, I promise.

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