Tuesday, April 18, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for April 14

A short week, likely due to the Easter holiday.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Lillie Mae
Album: Forever and Then Some
Quick Description: Your new favorite Third Man roots record.
Why You Should Listen: You love good rootsy music with a raw feel to them.
Overall Thoughts: Lillie Mae was on my radar due to some sort of Spotify mix. If you see her picture on her album covers, you’re greeted with a very specific expectation of a sort of pop sensibility, with her very modern look and such, but what you get instead is an amazingly solid set of country/roots tunes. I spent most of the album both surprised at its quality and really enjoying what I was hearing, and there might not be a bad song in the bunch. Lillie Mae, unsurprisingly, is signed to Third Man Records, and that probably explains why everything works so well here. She might be the 2017 version of Margo Price, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Recommendation: Best release of the week.

Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: DAMN.
Quick Description: Latest from one of the most popular rappers currently making music.
Why You Should Listen: Even if it's not your style, he demands attention.
Overall Thoughts: My favorite Kendrick Lamar song is “Backseat Freestyle,” so I don’t pretend to know a lot about what makes Kendrick Lamar great or anything like that. If I’m being honest, he’s never been my top choice. When To Pimp a Butterfly came out, I noted that it felt as epic as people thought it was, and that I couldn’t pass much in the way of judgement on it. DAMN. is a much better, much more interesting album to me, but my feelings are the same – Lamar is writing and performing in a way that’s beyond my understanding, and that’s fine. Those who are in the know appear to see this as a really, really great album and I’m happy to defer.
Recommendation: For me, I’ll be listening to it again and seeing if I can crack the code, so to speak.

Artist: Inhalt
Album: Part Time Punks Sessions
Quick Description: Enigmatic post... something.
Why You Should Listen: This is a fun and different release this week.
Overall Thoughts: nothing about the title of this album or the name of this group or even the way the opening song goes prepares you for what’s coming on this listen. I absolutely enjoyed this listen, although I don’t have a ton to say about it – it’s got a post-punk feel even if the sound isn’t quite there, and the music itself absolutely borrows from countless bands before them while still feeling unique. The enigma in this album might ultimately be a lot of the draw.
Recommendation: I’m on board.

Artist: Little Dragon
Album: Season High
Quick Description: European pop goodness.
Why You Should Listen: This isn't what you think, and that's a good thing.
Overall Thoughts: A European pop group, Little Dragon crafts off-center pop music that balances both a mainstream aesthetic and the more off-centered style that a lot of independent pop acts try to accomplish. As someone who has really embraced pop music in the last few years, I admit to this being a bit of a mixed bag on a whole, but there is more than enough here for me to be intrigued by and seek more of this out.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Tinie Tempah
Album: Youth
Quick Description: New rap album from an underrated artist.
Why You Should Listen: ...it's probably better than Kendrick's...
Overall Thoughts: There are two “big” rap albums out this week (assuming Kendrick Lamar doesn’t drop a sequel to DAMN. between when I write this and when I post this), and this is the other one. While Kendrick Lamar is currently operating on an entirely different level than everyone else, Tinie Tempah’s new album is ultimately more my speed. More traditional structures with some interesting choices throughout, Tinie Tempah’s a name I’ve heard quite a bit but never in the real conversation. While it’s a shame that this will get overshadowed by the big rap release of the moment...
Recommendation: ...it’s worthy of your time.

Artist: Chris Shiflett
Album: West Coast Town
Quick Description: Foo Fighters guitarist goes country.
Why You Should Listen: For what's basically a vanity project, this is great!
Overall Thoughts: This is not going to win any awards, nor is it going to blow anyone's mind, but in terms of a really above-average, competent listen in the country space. If you're walking into it thinking it'll be Foo-like, it's really not. But there's not much else to say. Would be worthy of your time in a busy week, but is a solid listen now as well.
Recommendation: Give it a listen.

Also out this week:

* Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Yo Yo Ma - Bach Trios
* Fox Academy - Saint Molly

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