Tuesday, April 19, 2016

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for April 15

A busy week of new music, which seems to be typical for the moment! 1 of 2 as has been the case for a while.

Album of the Week

Artist: Sturgill Simpson
Album: A Sailor's Guide to Earth
Quick Description: Latest album from the buzzed-about country act.
Why You Should Listen: If his previous album was his roots breakthrough, this might end up being his mainstream one.
Overall Thoughts: We've, to this point, not been on the Sturgill bandwagon here. It's not that he's not good at what he does, but I haven't personally felt the connection to his work the way a lot of other people have. Metamodern Sounds felt very sterile to me in particular, and I was expecting more of the same from this new album this week, and I didn't get it. His sound is still classic (the cover of "In Bloom" absolutely nails it), but there's a little bit of a layer of something here that I felt was missing before, and it makes it much more interesting. This is an album you're probably going to hear a lot more about, so get in on this one while you can.
Recommendation: A definite must listen for this week, even if it wasn't truly great.

Artist: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Album: PersonA
Quick Description: Latest album from the indie folk act.
Why You Should Listen: You liked more than "Home" and can tolerate some plodding folk tunes.
Overall Thoughts: I can't be kind about this: it isn't good. This is the sort of project one might expect from an act that's trying a lot of ideas and can't quite get them to stick. I've been a fan of Alex Ebert/Edward Sharpe since the Ima Robot days and this is just a hard miss across the board.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Artist: PJ Harvey
Album: The Hope Six Demolition Project
Quick Description: The companion to an art project from an indie/alt-rock favorite.
Why You Should Listen: Even if she hasn't been great for some time, PJ Harvey's output is always a must-listen.
Overall Thoughts: I haven't really truly loved a PJ Harvey album in a decade, and this is more of a concept album than a straightforward rock and roll album, but this both feels like the PJ Harvey I fell in love with 15 years ago and something new and fresh. It's early to say whether any of these songs will hold up on their own, but, for now? A solid listen.
Recommendation: Pretty good, especially if you're a fan.

Artist: Mr. Lif
Album: Don't Look Down
Quick Description: New album from the Boston-based rapper.
Why You Should Listen: I feel like Mr. Lif has been around forever, and he brings a great album here.
Overall Thoughts: Mr. Lif hasn't released an album in a long time, and he offers some solid old school hip-hop here that feels fresh without falling into a lot of the traps we've seen other classic acts deal with. Nothing jumps out at me as a classic on first listen, but the Del the Funky Homosapien collaboration is pretty solid. Overall, if you like rap music, give this a listen.
Recommendation: Pretty great!

Artist: The Hackensaw Boys
Album: Charismo
Quick Description: First album in ten years from the roots group.
Why You Should Listen: The Hackensaw Boys put on a great live show, and their albums are just as fun.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't realize it had been so long since they released music, but a few songs into this one and I realized pretty fast how much I missed them. A solid listen that roots fans here will enjoy, but you should really see them live to get the full experience. A great listen this week.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: The Del McCoury Band
Album: Del and Woody
Quick Description: Del McCoury band puts Woody Guthrie lyrics to music.
Why You Should Listen: Del McCoury is a legend, and the this sort of collaborative effort seems to always go right.
Overall Thoughts: There's a classic country sound here that might not be what everyone is looking for, but in terms of a pretty solid listen on a whole, you could do worse. There's plenty to like here on a whole, but (especially with some of the other roots-based albums out this week) this might get lost in the shuffle. If you're a big fan, bump this up, but...
Recommendation: ...worth a listen only if you're not into other stuff this week.

Artist: Har Mar Superstar
Album: Best Summer Ever
Quick Description: Indie funk/soul chameleon goes early pop.
Why You Should Listen: Har Mar Superstar is always interesting even if this is a little outside of where he normally sits.
Overall Thoughts: I had a lot of trouble with this one, in part because I came to it with some expectations and in part because I'm not sure whether it's good or not. On first listen, it feels like a miss - often muddled, kind of dirty, not where I wanted it to be. Whether it improves on further listens remains to be seen, but with other poppy albums out this week, I don't know if this has a spot.
Recommendation: Maybe for fans only, be wary.

Also out this week:

* Surgical Meth Machine - Surgical Meth Machine
* Cate Le Bon - Crab Day

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