Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for August 12

I'm hoping this week is evidence that we're out of the summer slump!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Ruby the RabbitFoot
Album: Divorce Party
Quick Description: New album from folkie-turned-pop artist.
Why You Should Listen: A shift in sound works out really well.
Overall Thoughts: We first got a hint of Ruby the RabbitFoot's change in approach with her cover of Madonna's "Take a Bow" from last year, and I found the early songs released from this to be a little jarring. But hearing the album in full, I was feeling like this is sort of like what we might expect Madonna to sound like if she were just starting out now (and that's before getting to album highlight "Wild Cherry Chapstick," which opens with a declaration from Ruby where she admits to having a "sex dream about your brother"). This is a really solid listen and one I'm really looking forward to spending a lot more time with, it's a fun one. Might be jarring for those seeking more of the folk stuff that we all fell for a few years back, but this felt like a natural transition to me.
Recommendation: Absolutely the best of the week.

Artist: Kelsey Waldon
Album: I've Got a Way
Quick Description: Traditional twangy country music.
Why You Should Listen: Waldon's a throwback of the best variety.
Overall Thoughts: Both Ken and I are in love with Margo Price's album this year, but I wonder if Kelsey Waldon would be getting more attention if she didn't exist, because this is some solid, traditional stuff on a whole. I really enjoyed this listen and it fits right in with what seems to be a trend bubbling under the Americana landscape as of late. Perfect for fans of classic country, but also those who have dipped their toes into the Kasey Musgraves/Margo Price/Sturgill Simpson waters.
Recommendation: I consider it a must listen.

Artist: Atmosphere
Album: Fishing Blues
Quick Description: Quality independent rap.
Why You Should Listen: Anything associated with Doomtree is worth a listen at this point.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over to me, and I was digging it, and I look the group up and find they're associated with Doomtree, so I'm sold. This is fairly straightforward rap, plenty of pretty solid storytelling throughout, and if you like rap with an older-school flavor, you should give this a spin.
Recommendation: Definitely an enjoyable listen this week.

Artist: Young the Giant
Album: Home of the Strange
Quick Description: Latest album from the modern rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Young the Giant is consistently good, and this album continues in this vein.
Overall Thoughts: I wouldn't ever call Young the Giant my favorite band or a favorite band, but at this point I think they need to be put in the conversation as one of the better current rock acts out there. The consistency in their releases continues with Home of the Strange, which both feels like a step forward and distinctly like their old stuff at the same time. "Amerika" sets the tone early and the rest of the album continues along that vein, which is ultimately all we can ask. Just a good listen overall, and a perfect album for mainstream rock fans.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week, especially if you like straightforward alternative rock.

Artist: Jeff the Brotherhood
Album: Zone
Quick Description: New album from the indie alt-rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Jeff the Brotherhood has a lot of banked goodwill...
Overall Thoughts: ...but this might have exhausted it. After how great their album from a few years ago was, this is the second album in a row that ultimately feels less like a solid album and more like a bit of a chore. Much of this album plods along, lacking a lot of interesting things to grab your attention early on, and then it's over. Just a disappointing listen from a band I liked a lot. I just want more "Black Cherry Pie."
Recommendation: Skip this one, there are better rock albums out this week.

Artist: Of Montreal
Album: Innocence Reaches
Quick Description: Latest offering from the prolific Elephant 6 act.
Why You Should Listen: This is the best Of Montreal album in close to a decade.
Overall Thoughts: Of Montreal hit it surprisingly big with The Sunlandic Twins back in 2005, and the follow-up, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer was a real solid album as well. Since then, for whatever reason, Kevin Barnes hasn't really nailed down what he wants the project to be. They were always the weird-yet-accessible indie psych arm of the E6 Collective, but the dancing with electronic elements that brought them some extra ears really distorted how a number of their albums went. Innocence Reaches feels a lot like what I feel their best album, Satanic Panic in the Attic, was - some strong poppy songwriting with enough electronic elements to feel modern and interesting. The songwriting is still delightfully strange and stilted, and not every song works (but that's always been true of the group and is just as much a testament of how prolific Barnes is as a songwriter), but whether this is meant to evoke the earlier times or not, it absolutely does. For me, I find it to be a welcome surprise.
Recommendation: Definitely worth a listen this week, especially if you were ever a fan.

Artist: Evening Bell
Album: Dying Stars
Quick Description: Some folkish/noirish music out of Seattle.
Why You Should Listen: This is an interesting, yet accessible listen.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over to me with simply the note "this is for you." He wasn't wrong, this scratches a few itches of mine, and I think I was in for good at "Tail Light," which has a dark brooding sensibility to it. The whole album is along these lines and just feels right throughout. If you like a lot of our favorite stuff in the more folky avenue, you would probably dig this.
Recommendation: A recommended listen this week.

Artist: Blind Pilot
Album: And Then Like Lions
Quick Description: First album in a while from the folk rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Blind Pilot knows what they're doing, and this is a solid folk rock album.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say a whole lot about this except that this is an album that is evocative of Travis for me in a lot of ways, and feels very comfortable. I recommend not because it's the best album of the week, but more because of how consistently good it is at what it does. If the opening track doesn't catch you, I don't know what else to say. This is good.
Recommendation: A solid release this week.

Also out this week:

* Savior Adore - The Love That Remains
* Kindling - Everywhere Else (band from Northampton, MA)

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