Tuesday, February 9, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for February 5

A pretty loaded new release week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: The Prettiots
Album: Funs Cool
Quick Description: Biting anti-folk debut album.
Why You Should Listen: You miss The Moldy Peaches but wish they had been wittier.
Overall Thoughts: I fell in love with "Suicide Hotline" a while back, and I listed this as one of my most anticipated albums of this year. I thought it was coming out in April, but here we are with a great debut that is witty and interesting and has some of the catchiest songs we're likely to hear this year. Conceptually, this is just a confessional winner and seems like it hits upon the whole "jaded millennial" theme pretty well (especially in the final track, which is less a song than a treatise of sorts). Overall? A must listen and an early contender for a favorite of mine from this year if my immediate enjoyment is any indication.
Recommendation: Simply the best album released in 2016 so far. A must listen.

Artist: Dressy Bessy
Album: Kingsized
Quick Description: Latest album by the indie rock/Elephant Six stalwarts after nearly 8 years away.
Why You Should Listen: You need more indie pop in your life.
Overall Thoughts: While I'm always happy to have a new Dressy Bessy album in my life, the nearly 8 years away has changed the songwriting and vocal stylings a bit. While Electified was a shift of sorts, this is just a different feel overall that actually ends up working. Right away, "Lady Liberty" hits and you get a good grasp as to where we're going, and the album really doesn't let up. While I'm generally partial to anything Elephant Six-related, this was such a fun return that I can't ignore it.
Recommendation: A strong recommendation this week.

Artist: Field Music
Album: Commontime
Quick Description: Latest album from indie/alt veterans.
Why You Should Listen: Field Music might not always be great, but they're always interesting.
Overall Thoughts: I haven't loved everything Field Music has done, but this ended up being a surprising, interesting release with a lot going for it. Commontime is not a straightforward album, but it's one that kept my interest in a way other albums often don't, and that sort of engagement in music is rare for me. I look forward to spending more time with it, and this should be on your radar.
Recommendation: Arguably the most interesting release of the week.

Artist: The Infamous Stringdusters
Album: Ladies & Gentlemen
Quick Description: Lovely traditional roots music.
Why You Should Listen: At worst, this is one of the only Americana albums out this week, but it's so good with so many guest vocalists that it's worth more than that.
Overall Thoughts: The strength in this album is twofold. One, the Stringdusters do what they do exceptionally well anyway, and I feel as if they're not included in the conversation nearly enough. Two, they rely on a number of guest singers, ranging from Joan Osborne to Aoife O'Donovan, to allow for songs that all sound similar and with a different mood and feel. It gives an already solid album some weight and complexity it would have otherwise lacked, and the result is a really enjoyable listen. Certainly find time for this one.
Recommendation: A solid roots effort that should make your rotation.

Artist: Magic Shoppe
Album: Interstellar Car Crash
Quick Description: Quick psych rock indie EP from a Boston band.
Why You Should Listen: It's not a long time investment and you'll be looking for more when it's over.
Overall Thoughts: My only complaint is that this is only four songs long. This is arguably expertly constructed from start to finish, and, if you're into the sort of modern psych-rock that's out there, you should give this one a listen. I can't wait for what's next.
Recommendation: Add this to your list this week.

Artist: Dori Freeman
Album: Dori Freeman
Quick Description: A rootsy debut from a 24-year-old singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: New roots voices are always welcome, and Freeman is one to watch.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over simply saying that I would love this. While I didn't love it, a lot of this is very promising and has a lot going for it on a debut. It may be a little too mainstream-leaning and polished in many regards, and Freeman is not a virtuoso like Sarah Jarosz or Sierra Hull nor does she have a distinctive voice like Aoife O'Donovan, so I'm hoping that future efforts carve a bit of a spot for her on a whole. Still, this is a solid album - just not the must-listen I would have hoped for.
Recommendation: If you have room for another Americana album, toss this one in the mix.

Artist: Rayland Baxter
Album: SOHO
Quick Description: An EP of some alternate takes from his debut album.
Why You Should Listen: A short EP of some songs from his great debut is a no-brainer.
Overall Thoughts: Rayland Baxter is a favorite of ours here, so SOHO is something we dove at. Solid reworkings of songs we already love, this is something that's great for fans of his and might be an interesting entry point for those who missed the boat the first time around.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: The Cult
Album: Hidden City
Quick Description: Latest album from the 30 year rock veterans.
Why You Should Listen: You like hard rock and you like The Cult.
Overall Thoughts: I'm not someone who knows The Cult. Listening to this album, on one hand, sounds like a bunch of aging rockers doing their thing. And yet. And yet it's still a compelling listen, and, once you can look past some of the stereotypical excesses and such, there are some songs like "Avalanche of Light" that just work. This won't be for everyone, and you'll probably know pretty fast whether you're part of that everyone, but kudos to The Cult for a solid album.
Recommendation: Not for everyone, but maybe for you.

Artist: The London Suede
Album: Night Thoughts
Quick Description: Latest album by the popular British rock band.
Why You Should Listen: You need a British rock fix.
Overall Thoughts: Honestly, I've always found The London Suede to be a little dull in many regards. When songs like "Hit Me" hit my radar, I was into it, but I'm always finding myself hoping for more from them. This album ultimately feels like a missed opportunity in many regards, as nothing significantly stands out and there's not a ton here that was memorable.
Recommendation: In a busy week, you can afford to miss this one.

Artist: Dr. Dog
Album: The Psychedelic Swamp
Quick Description: A reworking of their 2001 debut album.
Why You Should Listen: Dr. Dog is popular enough in certain circles where this is more than just a curiosity.
Overall Thoughts: I'll be honest - Dr. Dog has never quite done it for me. I don't know what it is about them that fails to grab me, but it's always been a miss. I listened to this before I realized that this was a retread of their debut, and perhaps it's just their older, earlier stuff I love? Still, a fun listen both for new and old fans alike, I think.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Cross Record
Album: Wabi-Sabi
Quick Description: An indie rock album that straddles a few different musical moods.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy interesting, different indie rock.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know how to describe this fully on first listen, except that I really enjoyed this album. Sometimes it felt experimental, sometimes it's Chelsea Wolfe-dark, sometimes it's just something else entirely. It's a pretty fascinating listen overall, and one I look forward to spending more time with.
Recommendation: A hesitant yes, lots to like here.

Artist: Nap Eyes
Album: Thought Rock Fish Scale
Quick Description: Second album by this laid back rock outfit.
Why You Should Listen: You miss Pavement.
Overall Thoughts: The Pavement comparison isn't totally apt, but it's the best way I can describe this band that does a sort of lazy, hazy rock music that will grab you at times just to let you go when you least expect it. You'll get an idea with "Mixer" as to where this is going and whether it's for you.
Recommendation: Not essential, but still interesting.

Also out this week:

* Lucinda Williams - The Ghost of Highway 20
* Alan Cumming - Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs (for Alan Cumming fans only)
* Hey Marseilles - Hey Marseilles (don't make the same mistake I did in thinking this was Hey Mercedes, it's not)
* DIIV - Is the Is Are (this is not an interesting album)

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