Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for January 1 and January 8

Combining a few weeks due to the slow release start. I will likely do the same for the next two weeks as well.

Album of the Week:

Artist: David Bowie
Album: Blackstar
Quick Description: Final album by the rock icon.
Why You Should Listen: David Bowie is a must listen anyway, but as the final bow in his career, it takes on a little more weight.
Overall Thoughts: I listened to this on Friday and texted Ken that the album was strange, but we expect strange from Bowie. It's got some jazz infusion, it's a quiet album while still having some strength and purpose to it. I didn't love The Next Day, and Bowie has always been hit or miss anyway, but it's hard to consider this album on its merits alone now that we basically know that this was a farewell to those of us who had the honor of listening to him. I saw David Bowie live about a decade ago and he was an absolutely wonderful performer, and, while I don't have the sort of love for Bowie that a lot of my friends do, the world absolutely feels a little darker without his being part of it. This is the type of album I wish all my favorite artists could say goodbye with.
Recommendation: As if I could choose anything else, but in terms of something deserving on its own merits, it still qualifies.

Artist: Lost Film
Album: Temporary EP
Quick Description: Dreamy folk-pop.
Why You Should Listen: The folks at The Native Sound continue to offer quality, listenable music, and this is no different.
Overall Thoughts: This is a little more stripped down than perhaps I'm looking for, but as a four-song EP, it's just the type of nice quick hit I was actually happy to hear when it came in on the first of the year.
Recommendation: Definitely worth a listen for the new year.

Artist: Villagers
Album: Where Have You Been All My Life
Quick Description: A live-ish reworking of old Villagers tunes.
Why You Should Listen: Hearing some old songs in a new light is always fun if you're familiar with these songs, but even if you don't know the songs, some are really beautiful.
Overall Thoughts: I had heard their second album last year but didn't have anything to say about them. The songs are equally familiar and different on this recording. Sometimes it's a little haunting, other times optimistic, but I really like this on a whole. There are a number of solid highlights here worth finding, and it's great that this could probably be recommended even in a busier release week.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Hinds
Album: Leave Me Alone
Quick Description: Is garage pop a thing?
Why You Should Listen: You like gritty pop rock; female-fronted bands are your thing.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say this is perfect, or even great. But it's great at times, with a lot of high points, and when it's on it's absolutely on. It's an interesting listen for a debut from four young Spanish women and will absolutely appeal to a lot of people who like the grungier side of things.
Recommendation: Might not be for everyone, but an interesting listen nonetheless.

Artist: The Grascals
Album: and then there's this...
Quick Description: A new album from an award-winning bluegrass act.
Why You Should Listen: Traditional bluegrass is rarely bad.
Overall Thoughts: For someone who considers himself a bluegrass fan, I'm surprised this is not a group I was aware of, especially given the awards they've won and such. This is a very straightforward, traditional bluegrass record, and that's perfectly fine. I really enjoyed it even though it might not be something with a lot of lasting power for me, but it's always great to find a new gem.
Recommendation: Essential listen for bluegrass fans this week.

Artist: The Duke of Norfolk
Album: Three Days From the Wolf Month
Quick Description: An at-folk musical adventure.
Why You Should Listen: You like the atmospheric and the difficult at times.
Overall Thoughts: This is definitely the weirdest of the releases this week, and even then, it's a fairly centered effort. Vast in spite of its acoustic instrumentation, it definitely feels Scottish in some ways and is something I did like even if it's one I need more time with. It definitely has the opportunity to be a grower.
Recommendation: Take some time with this one.

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