Tuesday, July 21, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for July 17

Filled with surprises and whimsy!

Album of the Week

Artist: Jason Isbell
Album: Something More Than Free
Quick Description: Jason Isbell's (formerly of the Drive-By Truckers) latest solo offering
Why You Should Listen: Jason Isbell has a modern alt-country/roots sound with a classic country sensibility, and the two match up better on this album than anything he's worked on previously.
Overall Thoughts: This is my album of the week for a reason. It's a little less polished, a little more raw, and it just works. Feels like an important, killer album by someone who is really hitting his stride musically.
Recommendation: A wholehearted required listen this week.

Artist: Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell
Album: Sing Into My Mouth
Quick Description: An album of covers from Iron & Wine and Band of Horses's Ben Bridwell.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy cover songs and softly-sung folk music; you think the world needs more Talking Heads covers.
Overall Thoughts: It takes a lot for me to dislike cover albums, so with that in mind this is a good-to-sometimes-great album of covers by two people who have a lot of reverence both for each other and the source material.
Recommendation: Worth a listen for sure, you'll know if it will work for you very quickly.

Artist: Samantha Crain
Album: Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
Quick Description: Another excellent folkish record from Samantha Crain, who has yet to release anything underwhelming.
Why You Should Listen: Crain is an underrated folk/roots talent; you have a thing for musicians with arresting vocal talents.
Overall Thoughts: Crain hasn't done me wrong yet, and the downside to Crain is that she's not doing dark folk or wearing her sexuality on her sleeve or doing anything significant to get noticed beyond letting the music speak for itself. That's worth noting in and of itself, but it means you might miss this one.
Recommendation: Don't miss this one, plain and simple.

Artist: The Bird & The Bee
Album: Recreational Love
Quick Description: An airy retro-pop album by a band that hasn't released original material in six years.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy retro-pop; Inara George hasn't faulted you yet; production values matter to you.
Overall Thoughts: I'm a big fan of this group, and, on first listen, Recreational Love feels like a misstep. It's almost as if they're too caught up in their own thing at this point, and that perhaps the six year lapse is reflective of too much tinkering. I reserve the right to change my mind, but I wanted to love this and it didn't work.
Recommendation: Be careful, but this might just be for super-fans.

Artist: The Chemical Brothers
Album: Born in the Echoes
Quick Description: Leading electronic act releases their eighth album.
Why You Should Listen: You have kept up with The Chemical Brothers but wish their pre-Dig Your Own Hole stuff was still the rage (the rave?).
Overall Thoughts: A massive step back. Not only does this not sound modern, but it sounds like early Chemical Brothers through a distorted lens, and it just doesn't seem to work. A total slog.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Wilco
Album: Star Wars
Quick Description: Wilco's surprise free album.
Why You Should Listen: You like Wilco and free things. You like free things but don't always like Wilco. You don't like free things or Wilco, but like good alt-rock.
Overall Thoughts: This is the most un-Wilco record in a long time, and that is almost a welcome thing. It seems like the band decided to just have a little fun, and it really shows. A solid album.
Recommendation: A worthy listen and, even if you're not a Spotify user, the album is free so it's worth a shot.

Artist: Ratatat
Album: Magnifique
Quick Description: Instrumental rock you can groove to.
Why You Should Listen: You like instrumental indie rock that isn't metal or dark; you've liked previous Ratatat efforts.
Overall Thoughts: I get that this isn't for everyone, but it's actually a fairly high quality listen on a whole. I remember when "Wildcat" was all over Sirius radio, and I didn't care much for it, but this album was a very pleasant surprise.
Recommendation: Worth a shot. You'll know by the second song whether this is something you'd enjoy.

Artist: Tame Impala
Album: Currents
Quick Description: Latest, buzzed-about album from the indie psych-rock artist.
Why You Should Listen: You like old psych-rock with a modern twist; you miss The Elephant Six Collective but also wished they took themselves more seriously.
Overall Thoughts: Tame Impala is difficult for me because I want to love what happens here and it always feels a little too much. Tame Impala shows real talent and serious songwriting chops, but you have to have a tolerance for what is being done here, and I know I don't always have it.
Recommendation: Listen, but be wary. This is probably the most buzzworthy album of the month of July.

Artist: White Reaper
Album: White Reaper Does it Again
Quick Description: Debut album by punk rockers on Polyvinyl.
Why You Should Listen: You don't think this week's new release slate is loud enough; you can't get enough of punk music that you aren't sure as to its place on the irony scale; you wish you were 10 years younger than you are.
Overall Thoughts: This is a weird album for me, and I guess I liked it? It's just a strange listen in the context of this week as well as the post-punk that's been around lately and the stuff I've loved recently (like Chumped). It's also somewhat weird that this is on Polyvinyl, but I suppose that lends it some extra cred? I don't know.
Recommendation: Man, I don't know. It's good, it's worth a listen, but you might not even want it this week.

Artist: Public Enemy
Album: Man Plans God Laughs
Quick Description: Legendary rap group Public Enemy is back with their first album in seemingly forever.
Why You Should Listen: Because it's Public Enemy.
Overall Thoughts: Arguably, Public Enemy should be more relevant than ever, and yet this album doesn't come across as urgent or modern, and I think that's ultimately a shame. Especially in an era where Wu Tang is tearing it up, this album just feels really out of place regardless of any messages that may exist within. A misstep I honestly didn't expect.
Recommendation: In a week without a key rap/hip-hop release, and given that it's Public Enemy, give it a listen, but don't stay with it longer than you think you should.

Artist: Kingsley Flood
Album: To the Wolves
Quick Description: Blog favorite band with another quick-hit EP.
Why You Should Listen: You like what we post here; you like music local to the Boston area
Overall Thoughts: Kingsley Flood is increasingly bringing it on every release. They're quickly becoming one of those underrated gems that people aren't discovering fast enough. While this EP doesn't have anything quite as catchy as "Set Me Off," you're still looking at four really well-crafted, roots-tinged songs.
Recommendation: Even if you haven't liked what they've put out so far, this is a quick hit of an EP that's worth a few minutes of your time.

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