We basically only have a couple weeks of new releases left for the 2016 calendar year, so this week has a few new releases and a few I tripped up on late.
Artist: Various Artists
Album: Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl
Quick Description: A Polyvinyl Records celebration for their 20th birthday.
Why You Should Listen: It's current Polyvinyl artists playing past Polyvinyl songs...
Overall Thoughts: ...and it's predictably hit or miss. As someone who has been loving Polyvinyl stuff for most of their existence, I knew I'd love and hate some of this, and it's great for that sort of fun look back, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone but fans of Polyvinyl's catalog. And the fact that no one covered "Marry Me, Archie" is just criminal.
Recommendation: Fun for fans or those into weird covers.
Artist: Natalie McCool
Album: The Great Unknown
Quick Description: Poppy singer with a weird bent.
Why You Should Listen: You like melodic pop, but with a twist.
Overall Thoughts: I might not have looked twice at this one without it being a short week, and I'm glad I did, because this was a fun listen. I don't know the first thing about Natalie McCool, but I want to know more based on songs like "Magnet" that lodged themselves into my brain rather quickly. This won't be for everyone, but if you're digging what you hear early...
Recommendation: ...it's worth keeping an eye on. I think it's one of the better releases this week.
Artist: The Weeknd
Quick Description: Post-breakthrough album for the R&B/electronic artist.
Why You Should Listen: The Weeknd still has goodwill from his independent releases, even if he's full-on mainstream now.
Overall Thoughts: "Can't Feel My Face" was a jam, for sure, and it appears at this point that we're just trying to capitalize on that, which brings us to Starboy, a moody album that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, and, overall, leaves a lot to be desired. If you loved the last album (and I thought it was great even though I tired of it really quickly), this is going to work for you. If you've already moved on from this sound, though, I fear there won't be much more there for you.
Recommendation: Be wary.
Album: Royal Blues
Quick Description: New indie pop.
Why You Should Listen: It's maybe the most traditional pop record of the week even while being super different.
Overall Thoughts: This came out a couple weeks ago and I completely missed it. I've been a fan of this group for some time, and the new album continues to be a little off-center while still having hooks for days. I think this album won me over for good on the somewhat ridiculous (in a good way) "Save Your Neck," but the whole thing is worth a good listen if you like the electronic/pop stuff.
Recommendation: I loved it, and you might, too.
Artist: Sweet Soubrette
Album: Big Celebrity
Quick Description: Singer-songwriter comes back with a new album.
Why You Should Listen: Sweet Soubrette does some interestingly quirky stuff.
Overall Thoughts: I loved her last album, nearly missed this one and I'm glad I didn't. The quirk is still there, but I'm not finding the same sort of hooky craziness that I loved from her previous album. It remains to be seen whether it comes with time, but I feel like we have a weird set of albums like this one this week, and Sweet Soubrette unfortunately fails to stand out.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, but might be second tier for you.
Artist: Gillian Welch
Album: Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Quick Description: A series of outtakes and alternates from Gillian Welch.
Why You Should Listen: Gillian Welch is one of the best folk singers out there right now.
Overall Thoughts: This is great, first and foremost. What's interesting is that, even in its stripped down, alternate/demo form, these still feel new and fresh. It helps that Gillian Welch, overall, already has that quality to her work, so these alternates don't feel too different even while having a sound to them that just works. Overall, even though it's not new, it might be my favorite listen of the week.
Recommendation: Mandatory in any week, but especially this week.
Also out this week:
* Sally Shapiro - The Collection (a farewell of sorts from one of my favorite modern disco acts)