Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for September 23

An interesting release week this week:

Album of the Week:

Artist: Beach Slang
Album: A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
Quick Description: Does what it says on the tin.
Why You Should Listen: You didn't know you wanted to hear this until you got the chance.
Overall Thoughts: This had some buzz around it coming in, and I didn't really expect this sort of garagey punk to resonate, but here we are. I can't say there's a ton specifically to point to in this regard, but as a cohesive whole, this was a fast-paced jolt of energy that was definitely the best listen of the week for me. Won't be for everyone, but you should give it a listen.
Recommendation: The best of the week by far.

Artist: Warpaint
Album: Heads Up
Quick Description: Latest album from the buzzworthy indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Their previous album was a revelation in a lot of ways...
Overall Thoughts: ...even if this one misses the mark. It's not bad, but it's so underwhelming given the quality of their self-titled album. There's just nothing here that impresses in a significant way, and that means that there's nothing that stands out. If you like electronic-tinged indie, you might like this a lot more than I did (and this might be more of a grower, to be fair), but I expected this to jump out at me and it just didn't.
Recommendation: Be wary. Might not work for you.

Artist: Billy Bragg and Joe Henry
Album: Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad
Quick Description: High quality folk music.
Why You Should Listen: Billy Bragg should be an automatic for you by now.
Overall Thoughts: This is a pleasant traditional stark listen, which is perfect for the purpose behind this project. The album is simply a great listen with a lot of traditional songs (their version of "Railroad Bill" in particular is a highlight), and the overall result is just solid. Not much else to say except to give this the listen it deserves.
Recommendation: A must-hear this week.

Artist: Skylar Gray
Album: Natural Causes
Quick Description: Jarring dark pop from the singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You're really a fan of her previous work.
Overall Thoughts: I really only checked this out because of my curiosity regarding her artistic transformation, and I can't say I have a lot of positive things to say about this release. I like a lot of the darker pop efforts we're hearing as of late, but this album feels extremely produced and sanitized in a lot of ways. Throw in an Eminem verse early on and the whole thing feels overly convoluted.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: LVL UP
Album: Return to Love
Quick Description: Solid, grunge-style indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: Feels a lot like the indie rock of last decade.
Overall Thoughts: I wish it was louder. That's my only real complaint about this album, an album that harkens back to a lot of the best grunge-worthy indie rock records of the past. There's lots of distortion, lots of droney melody, and just a lot to love from start to finish. Absolutely worth the nostalgia trip.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.

Artist: Slaine
Album: Slaine is Dead
Quick Description: Indie rap from Boston.
Why You Should Listen: Sometimes indie/underground rap is exactly what you need.
Overall Thoughts: I want to highlight this less because it's good (because it is), but also because it's well-produced and has a lot going for it for who is known, to me at least, solely as a local artist. I can't compare it to much else (since my knowledge of non-mainstream rap begins and ends at Doomtree), but readers here who enjoy the hip hop owe it to themselves to give this a shot.
Recommendation: Worth it for the right audience.

Artist: Flock of Dimes
Album: If You See Me, Say Yes
Quick Description: Complex alternative synthy rock music.
Why You Should Listen: Flock of Dimes is like a more mainstream School of Seven Bells.
Overall Thoughts: Basically a Wye Oak side project, Flock of Dimes feels very mainstream and polished while still staying firmly outside of the well-trod path. I think the song "Ida Glow" solidified this for me this week, as it has the 80s synth beat going right alongside a crooked melody that wedges itself into your brain and won't come back out. Of all the albums from this week, this is the one I'm most excited to get back to, so I think that ultimately says a lot.
Recommendation: Not for every listener, but might be your favorite if it works for you.

Artist: Merchandise
Album: A Corpse Wired for Sound
Quick Description: Darkish rock music with an 80s tone to it.
Why You Should Listen: If you listen to the opening track, you'll know why.
Overall Thoughts: My one complaint about this album is that it's ultimately forgettable. I get the vibe Merchandise is going for, and this is a vibe that many people might love, but it was fleeting for me. Songs like "Flower for Sex" definitely have some resonance, but then you get songs like "End of the Week" that try to be a little different and end up sounding like a thousand songs you've heard before. Not a lot of bands are doing this right now, to Merchandise's credit, but I'd like to see them do something more to stand out.
Recommendation: If you like the darker stuff, give this a shot.

Also out this week:

* Devendra Banhart - Ape in Pink Marble (nice, but I don't really get Banhart)
* Marisa Nadler - Bury Your Name (another solid EP release)
* Lee "Scratch" Perry - Must Be Free (this is not good)
* Skinny Girl Diet - Heavy Flow
* The Sword - Low Country

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