Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for October 2

Album of the Week:

Artist: Mal Blum
Album: You Look a Lot Like Me
Quick Description: First album on Don Giovanni from the indie rock singer-songwriter, produced by Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females.
Why You Should Listen: It's unlike anything released as of late; you enjoy up-front vocals and confessional-style songwriting.
Overall Thoughts: This album surprised me in part because I didn't know what to expect, and in part because what I ended up with was something a lot more interesting and enjoyable than I anticipated. You won't find a lot of Screaming Females influence on here, and it's perhaps closer to Courtney Barnett than your standard indie rock women, but this is still a must listen for this week overall. One of the better albums I've heard of late.
Recommendation: Solid release, definitively my favorite of the week.

Artist: Eagles of Death Metal
Album: Zipper Down
Quick Description: Fourth album from the Queens of the Stone Age hair band side project.
Why You Should Listen: You're already into bands like The Darkness or, to a lesser extent, Steel Panther and the like.
Overall Thoughts: Taking this at face value, it's a lot of fun. Taking this for something a little more, this is a pretty inventive album for what it is and actually ends up being fairly musical in ways I don't quite remember prior EODM albums being. I really liked this, and I'll probably listen again even though the joke might get a little old.
Recommendation: If you have any love for this genre, it's worth carving out some time in this crowded week.

Artist: Blitzen Trapper
Album: All Across This Land
Quick Description: Latest album from the indie chameleons.
Why You Should Listen: Blitzen Trapper is one of the more interesting bands recording right now.
Overall Thoughts: "Black River Killer" remains one of my favorite all-time songs, and for good reason - the take on traditional storytelling folk with a modern twist is fun, and, like so much more of what they do, it's completely different from anything else they did on Fuzz. While the band's sound has, to a point, centralized itself a bit, they're still crafting excellent songs and throwing enough curveballs so that every album, at least to me, feels a little like an event. All Across This Land isn't their best album, but it's still a really enjoyable listen from start to finish from a band that knows exactly what they're doing, and that's refreshing in and of itself.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth your time this week.

Artist: Promised Land Sound
Album: For Use and Delight
Quick Description: Second album of psych-Americana from this Nashville band.
Why You Should Listen: You liked the single Ken shared a few weeks back; you're looking for unique takes on classic sounds.
Overall Thoughts: This is a good album. On first listen, I can't tell if it's great, but it's one of those albums that definitely grabbed me and kept my interest for a while, and it's a listen I think is worth spending more time with even though it might turn others off. The way they play with existing musical tropes might be a turnoff for some, but this is an interesting enough listen to keep on one's radar.
Recommendation: Recommended with caveats.

Artist: Kinky Friedman
Album: The Loneliest Man I Ever Met
Quick Description: First album in 40 years from the Texas icon.
Why You Should Listen: It's Kinky Friedman.
Overall Thoughts: In this week's "critic proof" release is the first album of new material in decades from Kinky Friedman. My only commentary is how surprisingly tame it feels, although Friedman himself is a bit of a man outside of his time. If anything, it might make people wish he spent more time on music over the last few decades, as his voice is still as sharp as his wit.
Recommendation: It might not be for you, but if it is, it's worth your time.

Artist: Collective Soul
Album: See What You Started By Continuing
Quick Description: Ninth(!) album from the 1990s alt-rock superstars.
Why You Should Listen: You shouldn't.
Overall Thoughts: There's been no lack of revivals of old acts, or of long term acts keeping on with their stuff long after they leave the cultural zeitgeist. This Collective Soul album is truly the first one that didn't feel at all interesting or a worthwhile contribution to their overall catalog. I have nothing good to say about this.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Artist: Janet Jackson
Album: Unbreakable
Quick Description: First album in seven years fro the R&B icon.
Why You Should Listen: She's important enough to always give it a shot.
Overall Thoughts: In a way, Janet Jackson is really channeling Michael through a lot of it, and it's both unsettling (for obvious reasons) and also kind of unfortunate, since The Weeknd made a much better Michael Jackson album this year. Honestly, this is a far cry from what Janet's done in the past, and she deserves some kudos for trying to reinvent herself and modernize her sound, but this didn't work more than worked. When the best song on the album is the one that features Missy Elliott because of how much it overshadows your work...
Recommendation: An unfortunate pass.

Artist: Allison Weiss
Album: New Love
Quick Description: Latest album by one of my favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Allison Weiss crafts some of the best indie pop rock out there right now.
Overall Thoughts: This album isn't Say What You Mean, let's start there. It's more along the lines of "Remember When" - more mature, more complex, and better musically. Where every song isn't going to get stuck in your head the same way her prior album did on New Love, it's more than made up for with the modern-retro sound right now that's all the rage, and the result is a really solid album that I'm definitely into. An interesting progression, and I can't wait to hear more.
Recommendation: Definitely one of the better releases of this week.

Artist: Electric Six
Album: Bitch, Don't Let Me Die!
Quick Description: Latest album by the always-busy rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Electric Six is usually worth a good laugh or listen at least once. It's beyond that initial hit that's the key.
Overall Thoughts: I mean, I spoke about review-proof music above, and Electric Six is at the stage in their career where they're doing their thing, and it works for them, and it may or may not work for you. This is better than some of their stuff, worse than others, and you're not going to find a "Danger! High Voltage!" here. If you're still interested, it's worth a spin.
Recommendation: You already know if you want to hear this.

Artist: Emily Kinney
Album: This is War
Quick Description: First album of original material from the artist best known for her work on The Walking Dead and Masters of Sex.
Why You Should Listen: Celebrity albums are always interesting; singer-songwriter albums can be fascinating endeavors.
Overall Thoughts: Interest in this album will be correlated almost entirely to her acting, and that's all well and good. It's better than some efforts, but her voice and songwriting style can be a little strange in comparison to what you might expect. I'll give this another shot, but this is a truly different album that might not be for everyone.
Recommendation: Recommended with caveats. Not a must-listen.

Artist: Helvetia
Album: Dromomania
Quick Description: Album from the Built to Spill bass player.
Why You Should Listen: You're a Built to Spill partisan; well-crafted indie rock is your jam.
Overall Thoughts: For me, the minute I realized this was Built to Spill-adjacent, the sound made sense. This is pretty solid from start to finish, which means there's not a ton to say but still a lot to like. In a busy week, it's worth making some time for.
Recommendation: A good album, but don't put it at the top of your list.

Artist: Mercury Rev
Album: The Light in You
Quick Description: First album in six years from the classic indie band.
Why You Should Listen: You still have Deserter's Songs on semi-regular rotation.
Overall Thoughts: Mercury Rev probably gets more traction out of a nearly-20 year old album than any other act, and that's fine. The Light in You is half weird, half great, with the first half being interesting and strange but the second half maybe being some of the best stuff they've put out. The closing track in particular, "Rainy Day Record," has been in my head for days.
Recommendation: Overall, worth listening to, but stick with it if the album isn't catching you from the start.

Artist: Wavves
Album: V
Quick Description: Latest album from the indie punk act.
Why You Should Listen: Wavves is what I consider punk music for people adverse to punk.
Overall Thoughts: Wavves is consistent, perhaps brutally so. There are good songs here, there are songs I could do without. If Wavves is a band you've enjoyed, this is an album you'll also enjoy. If not...
Recommendation: I liked it, and if you're into Wavves you'll like it too.

Artist: Editors
Album: In Dream
Quick Description: Fifth album from the indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Editors has been fairly consistent for a while; you're looking for something different this week.
Overall Thoughts: Editors has come a long way from being Interpol-adjacent, and the moniker actually barely applies these days. Editors is a band kind of crafting their own little niche, and the latest album certainly continues along that trajectory. Unfortunately, the parts are greater than the whole overall, and the result is an album of highlights rather than a cohesive whole like their earlier work.
Recommendation: Worth a listen if you're looking for something else to hear this week.

Artist: The Wood Brothers
Album: Paradise
Quick Description: Fifth album from the Americana act.
Why You Should Listen: When it comes to our folk/roots recommendations, you've been on board.
Overall Thoughts: The Wood Brothers are a band I've heard about for a while but never got around to checking out. That was a mistake, if Paradise is any indication. A great rootsy listen with some nice little quirks, this is a great palate cleanser to a lot of this week and maybe one of the better releases of late in this genre. I'll be going into their back catalog for sure, absolutely a band I need to check out.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth hearing.

Whew, quite the week!

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