Artist: The xx
Album: I See You
Quick Description: Long-awaited third album from the minimalist electronic act.
Why You Should Listen: The xx has always been essential, and this might be their best yet.
Overall Thoughts: My first thought on listening to this was that it felt departure-like. The album still has its minimalist tendencies, but with some different sounds and tones it feels new and fresh while still having the same overall vibe. I figured I'd like this, but I kept being impressed throughout my first listen, and this is absolutely something I'll be revisiting as soon as possible.
Recommendation: A must-listen for any music fan this week.
Artist: The Flaming Lips
Album: Oczy Mlody
Quick Description: Latest album by the always-getting-weirder alt-rock group.
Why You Should Listen: Even when they fail, it's an interesting failure.
Overall Thoughts: The Flaming Lips haven't been ones to play the expectation game, and when I saw this on the release docket, I couldn't help but think how they were poised for a second breakthrough with Yoshimi and The Soft Bulletin however long ago. Then they got super weird, and I wasn't into it, but Oxzy, while far from what we'd call "mainstream," is a less strange, more chill affair. Any other band, we'd call this an adventure into ambient soundscapes, but for the Lips, this is something more. There might be deeper meaning, there might just be better drugs, but I found this album to be improved from their output in the last decade. Whether this implies songs we'll be able to groove to again or anything like that, who knows, but this album is absolutely a) not for everyone and b) maybe the most interesting release this week.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, whether it's for you or not.
Artist: Sanna Hansson and the Swatchmen
Album: Bye Bye Strawberry Pie
Quick Description: Theatrical indie pop reminiscent of April Smith and the Great Picture Show.
Why You Should Listen: You like well-crafted songs with some flair to them.
Overall Thoughts: I liked this EP quite a bit. The songs are sharp and hooky and have a lot going for them. There's an over-the-top theatrical part to it that doesn't always work, but the style is more than okay and works in this sort of format. As an EP, this is great. I would love to see where this group is going with a full album, though.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, plenty to like here.
Artist: The Band of Heathens
Quick Description: Americana act's anticipated new album.
Why You Should Listen: Band of Heathens are sneaky good, and I always forget that until they have a new album.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoy Band of Heathens. They consistently impress me in the way they approach their music and how different they feel even while walking a well-worn path. Duende is the band locked in, doing what they do so well and it's just a pleasant listen from start to finish. The issue is less that this isn't a quality record and more that it runs the danger of being overlooked being the time of year and how busy this week is. Don't make that mistake.
Recommendation: A must-listen this week.
Artist: The Regrettes
Album: Feel Your Feelings Fool!
Quick Description: Fun pop-punk debut.
Why You Should Listen: If you dig The Coathangers but wish they were a little on the lighter side, this is for you.
Overall Thoughts: Very nearly my album of the week, this was an album I was waiting on ever since a song of theirs popped up on Discover Weekly for me. It's fun, female-led punk rock, and it might be a little too glossy for some, but for someone like me who loves this sort of stuff? Sign me up. Just a great listen this week.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week. Give this a listen.
Artist: The Infamous Stringdusters
Album: Laws of Gravity
Quick Description: The prolific Americana act comes back with another great listen.
Why You Should Listen: The Stringdusters remain an underrated group in the bluegrass sphere.
Overall Thoughts: If you've been following this genre, you know the quality you're getting here. If you're new, this is a perfectly fine entrypoint for the band, as it's a definite return to form for the band and represents a good deal of what they can do. If you like Americana, you owe it to yourself to listen.
Recommendation: An obvious pick.
Artist: Nonstop to Cairo
Album: Dabble Heavy
Quick Description: Some solid Long Island ska.
Why You Should Listen: If you haven't listened to ska since it was okay to enjoy Sublime, this isn't a bad place to dive back in.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this one over to me and it wasn't previously on my radar. I went through a ska phase during the Reel Big Fish/Less Than Jake era in the mid-1990s, and I can't say I've kept up even though certain songs tend to break through my consciousness. This album was a nice nostalgia trip for me, and while I wouldn't call it a perfect record, it has a lot going for it. It feels new and modern while still holding the same ska notes, which is important for a genre not known for breaking out of its own boundaries. This won't be for everyone...
Recommendation: ...but for ska fans, give it a listen.
Quick Description: New electronica from an acclaimed artist.
Why You Should Listen: SOHN's debut was well-received.
Overall Thoughts: This was a week where I liked most everything that came out. Graded on a scale, this is near the bottom, frankly, but at no fault of the album, which is a solid electronic album that ultimately does nothing to stand out on its own. Perhaps too quiet, perhaps overshadowed by other releases, perhaps it's just relying too much on how the first album went, but, on a whole, this is inessential.
Recommendation: If you have a lot to listen to this week, skip it.
Also out this week:
* Brandon Can't Dance - Graveyard of Good Times
* Irma Vep - No Handshake Blues
* Soul Scratch - Pushing Fire (solid soul/funk)
* Chavez - Cockfighters (first new release in decades)
* Of Montreal - Rune Husk (a weird, kind of low-energy EP)