Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases for October 14

And the rest!

Artist: Moby and The Void Pacific Choir
Album: These Systems Are Failing
Quick Description: New album/project from Moby
Why You Should Listen: Moby used to make some fairly essential stuff, and this is a return to interesting form.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like Moby kind of ruined his brand in a way with Play, which was a good album, for sure, but was such a departure from his early work (Animal Rights being the noted exception) that it seemed to set him on a weird trajectory in the longer term. These Systems Are Failing has a bit of a noise/industrial feel to it and thus doesn't feel like a recent Moby album, but still feels like an older one in terms of structure and interest. This was a favorite of mine this week, and I would highly recommend that, if you just saw the name Moby and scrolled on by, to give this a shot.
Recommendation: A really great listen this week.

Artist: Conor Oberst
Album: Ruminations
Quick Description: Lo-fi, stripped down songs from the Bright Eyes singer.
Why You Should Listen: Conor Oberst has become a more interesting musician in the last decade, and this is a very stark departure.
Overall Thoughts: Oberst has had a rough few years, with some family issues as well as a fabricated claim against him, and it's hard not to hear the emptiness that this album has with these issues in mind. I'll be honest - as a musical endeavor, this didn't connect with me at all, but my favorite moments with Oberst/Bright Eyes are his more straightforward stuff (like "Four Winds") as opposed to the emo folk of "The Calendar Hung Itself." This feels more like the latter informed by the former, so I'm not sure if I'm into it, but this might work for others.
Recommendation: Might be a fans-only project.

Artist: L'Orange and Mr Lif
Album: The Life and Death of Scenery
Quick Description: A short hip hop EP collaboration.
Why You Should Listen: Two talented people in the hip-hop scene working together? Of course you need to hear this.
Overall Thoughts: While I don't know if this is something I'd listen to again, this is an interesting, sort of science fictiony tale told over a 22 minute hip hop EP. The production is great, Mr Lif is great, and the result is an interesting but perhaps inessential listen.
Recommendation: Worth a listen or two.

Artist: JoJo
Album: Mad Love
Quick Description: First album in a decade from the pop singer.
Why You Should Listen: You have some sort of affinity/memory of JoJo.
Overall Thoughts: We're hitting a bit of a pop renaissance of sorts right now, so the return of JoJo is a welcome surprise in theory. The problem here is that the game has been upped so much in recent years that an album like this comes along and, without much to drive it forward, it ends up falling flat and sounding a little old and uninspired. The production feels lifeless and the best song on the album might be a bonus track on the extended edition. That's never a good sign. When Britney Spears can legitimately offer one of the best pop albums of the year, we can expect more from JoJo.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Joseph Hein
Album: AM Gold
Quick Description: A soft rock listen.
Why You Should Listen: This feels like a throwback in an era of throwbacks...
Overall Thoughts: ... but I don't know a lot that sound quite like this. I know this is definitely a reference to a musical act I can't quite finger, and that's fine. Someone who recognizes the musical reference might get more out of this, but, for me, this was just a pleasant listen that works on a basic level. The songs are nice, everything is smooth and clear, and it's a nice album for some short escapism.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a listen.

Artist: Ablebody
Album: Adult Contemporaries
Quick Description: Another throwback, this one doing what it says on the tin.
Why You Should Listen: It feels like a really overwrought 80s album.
Overall Thoughts: The vocals are what do it for me, but the overall sort of off-center instrumentation really sells it for me overall. I don't have a ton to say here except that it sounds very old and familiar, and you'll know how you feel by the time the leadoff track ends.
Recommendation: Not for everyone, but if you like this sort of thing...

Artist: Jonny Fritz
Album: Sweet Creep
Quick Description: Classic roots music from an accomplished musician.
Why You Should Listen: Fritz is really good at what he does, but the added bonus of his tongue being firmly in cheek sets him apart.
Overall Thoughts: In a week of throwbacks, it's tempting to say he's aping the classic country sound, but he does bounce around in Americana genres throughout Sweet Creep, and to attempt to pigeonhole Fritz would be a disservice. Focusing on the music alone, this is a really fun, laid back listen with some humor and some classic tropes all rolled into one. Even if it's not your favorite this week, it's going to be a memorable one.
Recommendation: Definitely worth your time.

Also out this week:

* The Orb - COW/Chill Out, World (album is indeed very chilled out)
* Two Door Cinema Club - Gameshow (felt very uninspired)

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