Tuesday, March 28, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for March 24

Lots to get to today...

Album of the Week:

Artist: Desperate Journalist
Album: Grow Up
Quick Description: Poppy post punk.
Why You Should Listen: You still have some Doc Martens in the closet and want to party.
Overall Thoughts: My favorite listen of the week from a band I did not know at all prior to this release, the best way I can describe them is Bully/Wolf Alice merged with Savages to give a fairly unique post-punkish sound that still has some solid poppy elements. A lot of releases this week and few truly grabbed me the way this one did. I sent it to Ken to listen to very early on in my listen, and this might be one of those weird dark horse albums that stays in my rotation for a while. Well done.
Recommendation: Best of the week.

Artist: Luke Reed
Album: Won't Be There
Quick Description: Indie poppish singer-songwriter stuff.
Why You Should Listen: You need that album to usher in the spring/summer months.
Overall Thoughts: A member of Bent Shapes, this is a more summery indie-pop album than you might expect. Lots of jangly guitars and soft vocals pepper this album, and it results in a pretty solid side project album even though it lacks the sort of immediacy you might be anticipating, especially given what Bent Shapes often tosses out there.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Pontiak
Album: Dialetik of Ignorance
Quick Description: Genre-mashing rock music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something later.
Overall Thoughts: I heard about this later in the weekend as a sort of hard-psych hybrid act. I can’t speak so much to their sound, as it’s something that’s unique in its own way, but I can’t 100% guarantee that it’s something that would grab most listeners. I’ll need to spend more time with it to see the results, but in a busy week…
Recommendation: Good, but might not be for everyone.

Artist: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors
Album: Souvenir
Quick Description: Latest from the folk rock favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Drew Holcomb is consistently great.
Overall Thoughts: Drew Holcomb had one of my favorite songs of 2015 in “Here We Go,” so to say that this album was highly anticipated for me would be an understatement. This new album is a continued progression in the sort of soft country/folk thing this group is so good at, and it’s got its share of catchy songs as well. Holcomb is really creating a solid niche for himself that I hope translates into broader success, especially in the wake of the mainstream success that bands such as The Avett Brothers and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats are enjoying.
Recommendation: Definitely find time for this one.

Artist: The Jesus and Mary Chain
Album: Damage and Joy
Quick Description: Comeback album from the legendary act.
Why You Should Listen: They're too important to the canon not to.
Overall Thoughts: I admit that I don’t know this band at all. This is a comeback album of theirs after a many year layoff, and I think it was midway through that I said “wow, they sound a lot like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” before quickly remembering that everyone called them a J&MC ripoff. I asked Ken what he thought, and he essentially said it was a J&MC album, but slower. So there you have it.
Recommendation: Might be a fans-only thing.

Artist: Spiral Stairs
Album: Doris and the Daggers
Quick Description: New album from the Pavement side project.
Why You Should Listen: Spiral Stairs has often been more interesting than Pavement.
Overall Thoughts: The moniker of one of Pavement’s founding members, Spiral Stairs hasn’t released new material in a while. This new album reminds me again why I’ve enjoyed this/Preston School of Industry more than Pavement/Malkmus on a whole, as there’s just the right mix of weird and wonderful on this album to bridge the divide. It’s been a long time since I listened to Spiral Stairs, so I can’t say that I can truly compare this to previous efforts, but I can say that my first listen was a surprisingly welcome one.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week.

Artist: Samantha Crain
Album: You Had Me At Goodbye
Quick Description: Latest from the folk singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Samantha Crain is typically consistent.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve really, really enjoyed Samantha Crain for close to a decade now. She’s always done that country-tinged folk thing amazingly well, which is why this new album feels like such a strange and unnecessary departure. While her traditionalist sound still resonates, there’s a lot of extra production and instrumentation on this one that shines through on the initial listen and kind of took me out of the listen a bit. Plus, it ends up feeling more than a little uneven at the end of the day, so the whole thing feels like a rare miss. I’ll need to give it more time, but if you don’t have the capacity to fit this in…
Recommendation: Feels like a miss.

Artist: Craig Finn
Album: We All Want the Same Thing
Quick Description: Solo album #2 from the Hold Steady lead.
Why You Should Listen: Craig Finn is sort of an indie institution.
Overall Thoughts: Craig Finn is best known as the singer-songwriter behind The Hold Steady. This is his second solo album, and I’ll just say it – his solo work has never impressed me the way a lot of the output from The Hold Steady does. This new solo album is more of the same in that regard – a little meandery, a little unconventional, has some moments but never feels like a cohesive whole. I think I gave his last solo album only a few listens, and I don’t see myself spending a lot more time with this one, either.
Recommendation: I didn't like this, but you might if you're really into The Hold Steady.

Artist: Kelly Lee Owens
Album: Kelly Lee Owens
Quick Description: Debut full-length from an electronic artist.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy stilted electronic music.
Overall Thoughts: Kelly Lee Owens gets the prize for the one mid-to-high profile electronic release this week, and it’s pretty great (and was nearly my album of the week). Definitely leans on trance elements and is certainly outside of the typical/norm, but that’s also what makes it pretty great. This is the first album I really went back to after going through the releases and I’m really impressed by what we have here. If you like electronic music with some challenges to it, this is 100% worth your time this week.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Artist: PINS
Album: Bad Thing
Quick Description: Solid punkish EP.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for a quick hit of something different.
Overall Thoughts: A short EP that features Iggy Pop providing this punk-style band with some added credibility. This was a great taste of a band that I had no previous knowledge of, and in terms of doing the trick of wanting to get me to dive into the back catalog, it succeeds. Absolutely worth some time.
Recommendation: A solid, fast listen.

Artist: Sera Cahoone
Album: From Where I Started
Quick Description: Underrated folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something that's just great from beginning to end.
Overall Thoughts: Sera Cahoone, perhaps better known as part of Band of Horses, is another one of those folk acts that gets caught in the overall glut of folky female singer-songwriters who do something special and get lost in the shuffle. I have really, really, really liked everything I’ve heard from her, but at no point have I ever heard her spoken about beyond the side project or in the same breath as some other up-and-comers. It’s a shame, because this album is as gorgeous as any other she’s put out to this point, and even this week, it’s lined up behind Samantha Crain and Drew Holcomb, never mind anything else coming out soon or recently. But don’t sleep on this. She might be someone who quickly becomes a favorite of yours.
Recommendation: Another must-listen this week.

Artist: Steel Panther
Album: Lower the Bar
Quick Description: Latest from the faux-metal favorites.
Why You Should Listen: You know exactly what you're getting.
Overall Thoughts: Steel Panther does dirty metal again. The joke is still stale, the musicality still spot-on. You’ll know if you want to listen to this before you fire it up, but if you’re not sure, just go pull up Powerslut instead.
Recommendation: Meh.

Artist: Rabbit!
Album: The Golden Carrot EP
Quick Description: Indie pop band is back after an extended hiatus.
Why You Should Listen: You want to be happier in life.
Overall Thoughts: Rabbit! is one of my favorite indie pop bands from almost a decade ago at this point. They had an amazing debut, a solid follow-up, their lead singer looked like Richard Alpert from Lost, and then the band fell off the face of the planet. I don’t know what happened, but recently their Twitter account started stirring and a new EP hit the landscape. I’m not going to say that this EP carries the same weight or magic that their prior efforts have up to this point, but considering the layoff? Considering that they’re seemingly repositioning themselves as even more family-friendly than they had prior? I’m not going to complain about a band that might end up being a gateway drug to indie music for my four year old, not at all. Overall?
Recommendation: A welcome return for this band.

Also out this week

* Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - The French Press
* Trementina - 810

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