Tuesday, May 10, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for May 6

Of course, anti-Spotify band Radiohead has a new album out. Since paying $13 for a digital album feels like a fool's errand in 2016, we'll cover that when it becomes more widely available, but for now, "Burn the Witch" is my favorite Radiohead song in a decade and "Daydreaming" is not.

Album of the Week

Artist: Shit Robot
Album: What Follows
Quick Description: A great, classic-sounding electronic album.
Why You Should Listen: It's really the opposite of the band's name.
Overall Thoughts: As a human being trying to curse less in daily life, this brings me to my favorite album this week by Shit Robot. I won't lie - the only reason I went to listen to this was because the band's name made me giggle, and when I found out how much I really liked this album, well... I understand this won't be for everyone, but if you have any sort of soft spot for mid-1990s European techno music, you want to give this one a spin.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.

Artist: Jimbo Mathus
Album: Band of Storms
Quick Description: Latest solo album from the Squirrel Nut Zipper.
Why You Should Listen: More rock than nut.
Overall Thoughts: I still like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Jimbo Mathus's solo work has been hit or miss for me overall, but this latest album is a quick hit of some great rootsy rock music that basically works. Not a ton to say about it except that it's a solid, short listen.
Recommendation: Worth your time if you're into it.

Artist: Psychic Temple
Album: III
Quick Description: Genre-straddlign album from Sufjan Stevens's label.
Why You Should Listen: It's basically impossible for you not to find something to like on this album.
Overall Thoughts: Sometimes it's folk, sometimes it's rock, sometimes it feels modern, sometimes it feels classic. While this sometimes means it has an uneven tendency, the better thing about this is that it's fairly consistently good throughout. While I may have preferred a more cohesive sound, that's okay - this is great and a highlight of the week. Worth a listen just to hear what they'll pull out of their hats.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Julianna Barwick
Album: Will
Quick Description: Strange, ethereal soundscapes.
Why You Should Listen: It's not for everyone, but Barwick is interesting in a lot of ways and deserves some of your time.
Overall Thoughts: I get that what she does is kind of strange, and it's not really mainstream in any sense of the word, but this is also a slightly different feel than the album I fell for with her, Nepenthe. That difference makes this a more interesting and better listen, but it's certainly not any more accessible, and that's okay. If you like a weird, different challenge, then fire this one up.
Recommendation: A great listen, but not for everyone.

Artist: Cyndi Lauper
Album: Detour
Quick Description: Pop legend goes country.
Why You Should Listen: Um...
Overall Thoughts: This feels like someone playing country and not doing so well with it. I guess if you really like Cyndi Lauper, that's one thing, but even as a curiosity piece this kind of is just... not good. Skip this for your own good.
Recommendation: Really a tragedy of an album.

Artist: Homeboy Sandman
Album: Kindness for Weakness
Quick Description: More independent rap music with a classic feel.
Why You Should Listen: Great rap music that's under the radar given some recent releases are worth your time.
Overall Thoughts: As I said last week about Aesop Rock, I don't have a ton to say about this album. Ranking the two, they both have pluses and minuses but this might be more accessible? I don't know, but this is still a great listen on a whole and one I recommend.
Recommendation: Great rap album this week.

Artist: James McCartney
Album: The Blackberry Train
Quick Description: Rock album from Paul McCartney's son.
Why You Should Listen: The lineage is reason enough, but this is a solid mainstream rock album.
Overall Thoughts: I think the most interesting thing about this album is the fact that it doesn't really take many chances. A fairly solid listen from start to finish, this does feel like a friendly adult alternative listen, and that's all well and good. If you're a Beatles maniac, try it, but the fact that this is just a well done album means there's a lot out there recently that's more worth the time.
Recommendation: A good listen, but shouldn't be at the top of your list.

Artist: White Lung
Album: Paradise
Quick Description: Loud epic punk rock.
Why You Should Listen: Loud and awesome music unlike anything else out this week.
Overall Thoughts: If this album has one flaw, it's that it might be a little too polished. Less punk and more modern, fast-paced rock, this is still a really great and interesting album by the established Canadian punk rockers, so at the very least this is worth your time if you're looking for something noisier than what's typically offered here.
Recommendation: A great listen, but might not work for everyone.

Artist: Mountain Heart
Album: Blue Skies
Quick Description: Rootsy goodness.
Why You Should Listen: The only real Americana album featured this week, it's good on its own or as a Cyndi Lauper palate cleanser.
Overall Thoughts: It's hard to call Mountain Heart traditional when they do a lot of interesting things on blue Skies, branching their sound out a bit and making a few interesting sound choices here. The result is an album that is great even if it doesn't stand out among some of the other releases this week. If you're jonesing for some good roots music, by all means, but if you're looking at a lot from this week, this shouldn't be the top choice.
Recommendation: A solid listen, but not a priority.

Artist: Chris Cohen
Album: As If Apart
Quick Description: Musically interesting indie rock record.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of some of the more esoteric Elephant 6 stuff from the early aughts.
Overall Thoughts: This would fit right in next to Of Montreal or The Marshmallow Coast if it were 2002. It's 2016, though, and that means this album feels more like something straight out of time rather than an album with a modern flair. It's an interesting, often challenging listen, with shades of psych rock and Tame Impala, but I can see this turning off other listeners rather quickly.
Recommendation: I liked it, but you'll know quickly if you won't.

Also out this week:

* The Virginmarys - Divides
* Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Things That We Are Made Of

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