Tuesday, June 14, 2016

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for June 10

A busy release week, but there's a lot of just kind of mediocre stuff. So let's get on with it, I guess...

Album of the Week:

Artist: Diarrhea Planet
Album: Turn to Gold
Quick Description: Solid sophomore indie punk effort.
Why You Should Listen: The band's name is the worst part of what they do.
Overall Thoughts: Diarrhea Planet's debut caught me off guard as one of the better releases within their genre last go 'round, enough so that seeking out the new album was a priority. They have certainly polished things up a bit, but still have that raw energy and enthusiasm that made their debut so great. Not too loud but still a crunchy punkish effort, it's far and away the best release of the week.
Recommendation: A fun listen, worth your time.

Artist: Darren Hayman
Album: Thankful Villages Volume 1
Quick Description: A series of songs from'inspired by British villages from the Hefner singer/songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Hayman is always interesting, and this is a pretty unique project.
Overall Thoughts: I'm not going to say this works all of the time, and perhaps for many it might not even be some of the time, but this is clearly an interesting labor of love and almost a social documentary project all its own in a sense. If you're looking for a more passive listen, this won't be for you, and the interest might really only be solid for those with an interest in the topic.
Recommendation: An okay niche listen.

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Album: Phone Power
Quick Description: A TMBG collection from their Phone-a-Song project.
Why You Should Listen: You need a TMBG cover of "Bills, Bills, Bills" in your life.
Overall Thoughts: While I recognize that Flood is a pretty great album on a whole, I can't say I've ever truly "got" They Might Be Giants, and collections like this just don't work for me on a whole for this. It sounds like a collection of what I expect the band to sound like, so I assume that's a good thing? Still, the cover of Destiny's Child remains a highlight...
Recommendation: Fans only, most likely.

Artist: Fitz and the Tantrums
Album: Fitz and the Tantrums
Quick Description: Third album from the sometimes-funky sometimes-modern rock band.
Why You Should Listen: Album does an excellent job of meshing the sounds of their first album with the sounds of the second.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't love the second album from this band as much as I really adored their first, mainly because I felt like the change in their sound was super abrupt. The new self-titled affair smooths the edges out a bit and results in something with great songwriting and a great sound on a whole, but without anything that has that immediate hook we've seen in the past. Probably a grower, but this is absolutely one I want to spend more time with.
Recommendation: A solid effort, worth a listen this week.

Artist: Garbage
Album: Strange Little Birds
Quick Description: New album from the 90s alt-rock favorites.
Why You Should Listen: That new Fuel album from a few weeks back didn't quite hit the nostalgia button the right way.
Overall Thoughts: It's tough to call any album like this necessary, but Garbage is a band that makes me happy whenever I hear "Stupid Girl" or "Only Happy When it Rains." This album, to their credit, sounds a lot like their early stuff. Unfortunately, that also means it sounds unnecessarily dated and the production values don't quite help. I won't lie - I was massively disappointed in this, to the point where I don't know if I want to listen again. It just didn't work, and I wanted it to so badly.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Eli Paperboy Reed
Album: My Way Home
Quick Description: Boston-ish performer has a cool, gospel-tinged album.
Why You Should Listen: This is just a fun album celebrating some great music.
Overall Thoughts: If you can't get into "Cut Ya Down," you may not have a soul. That's basically the way I felt about this album from an artist I was convinced was a rapper until, well, three days ago. Regardless, this might not work everyone (including those familiar with his older works), but this might be one of the best releases of this week regardless. Just a really enjoyable listen from top to bottom.
Recommendation: Everyone should give this a shot.

Artist: Wye Oak
Album: Tween
Quick Description: Surprise release from the band.
Why You Should Listen: You're more a fan of Civilian than Shriek.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't really expect Wye Oak to walk back from the more electronic leanings of Shriek, and this album is apparently a collection of songs written between those sessions. With that in mind, this is an absolutely grittier, more challenging listen, and that's not a bad thing at all, but the sort of beauty that I associate with Wye Oak isn't obvious here on first listen given the transitional issues the band was clearly in the throes of, so keep that in mind if you dive in. Certainly, however, one of the more ambitious listens of this week.
Recommendation: Worth a listen this week.

Artist: Ana Egge and the Senti-Mentals
Album: Say That Now
Quick Description: A roots-tinged affair.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something a little more traditional, but can't decide what.
Overall Thoughts: I'll preface this by saying that this isn't bad, it's just a little all over the place. When this album is working, it's really working well, but the big flaw in this as a cohesive listen is how all over the place it is. Sometimes it's more bluegrassy, sometimes it's more traditional country, sometimes the production makes it feel too modern. This inconsistency keeps it from being what it could be, in my mind, and means that you might not get a whole as much as parts from this that you enjoy.
Recommendation: Worth a run through.

Also out this week:

* Colvin and Earle - Colvin and Earle (Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle, does what it says on the tin)

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