Tuesday, May 23, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for 19 May

A busy release week, but also a busy weekend for me, so this is somewhat truncated. Still, some real highlights:

Album of the Week:

Artist: !!!
Album: Shake the Shudder
Quick Description: Latest from the dance-rockers.
Why You Should Listen: !!! is always amazing, and they've really hit their stride as a band.
Overall Thoughts: It's rare for an album to both be album of the week and for me not to have a lot to say about it, but here is the new !!!, and they've got a pretty solid sound going at this point. They're not weird anymore, and they kind of have a great type of sound that doesn't take a ton of risks anymore. So, while we don't get legendary tracks like "Pardon My Freedom," we do get songs that hook you in immediately like "Dancing is the Best Revenge." !!! are a band out of time in a way - I'm into it.
Recommendation: Always wonderful, and this is a must-listen like all of their stuff.

Artist: Cayetana
Album: New Kind of Normal
Quick Description: Hook-happy indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: This is the latest in a line of great albums out in this space recently.
Overall Thoughts: My album of the week because apparently I’m predictable enough to hear a female-fronted indie rock act and fall in love all over again. This has been a banner year for woman artists, I think, and between this, Diet Cig, Charly Bliss, Dude York, and the revival of Juliana Hatfield, we’ve got a veritable bumper crop of solid music that harkens back to a great time in music. Cayetana isn’t mimicking the Hatfields and Veruca Salts of the 1990s, but instead has a bit of a cleaner, less fuzzy Weezer vibe on a lot of this album. The result is some tight songwriting and some tunes that I caught myself singing along to some of the songs even as I hit my first rotation through the tracks. It’s that catchy and good. Whether this will stick with me for weeks like Charly Bliss and Diet Cig have so far remains to be seen, but for now, this is my favorite album of the moment, and would be my favorite of the week had this come out last Friday and not a few weeks ago.
Recommendation: A stellar release.

Artist: Stevie Parker
Album: The Cure
Quick Description: British singer's debut album.
Why You Should Listen: You like pleasant voices with some modern, mid-term instrumentation.
Overall Thoughts: Stevie Parker isn't going to blow you away with her voice or any theatrics, but there's something intriguing and interesting about this album that hooked me right in. It's a very modern album, but it's not so much poppy as it is radio-friendly for a more discerning audience. As the pop listener here, this isn't hitting me in the same place that others do, but this is right in line with albums from Frances and Wet that I've liked recently. It might not be for you, but if it is, you'll love it.
Recommendation: Worth a listen this week.

Artist: Pokey LaFarge
Album: Manic Revelations
Quick Description: Latest from the rootsy favorite.
Why You Should Listen: Pokey LaFarge sets his own retro path, and it's always worth a listen.
Overall Thoughts: I enjoy Pokey LaFarge, and he's an interesting character musically. I know Ken's a bigger fan than I, but this happens every time - LaFarge puts out a solid album, I listen a few times, and I move on. Then a new album comes out, and I remember why I like him all over again. This latest album feels like LaFarge in his prime, and it works on a lot of levels. I just don't know why he's not as buzzworthy as, say, Langhorne Slim. It's baffling. Maybe this will be the breakthrough he deserves.
Recommendation: A solid release.

Artist: Jade Jackson
Album: Gilded
Quick Description: A rootsy debut.
Why You Should Listen: Jade Jackson's debut shows a lot of promise.
Overall Thoughts: A friend turned me onto Jade Jackson, and “Aden” is a song that hooked me in to stay. I talk a lot about trying to find the act that will fill the Kathleen Edwards-shaped hole in my heart, and Jade Jackson comes close – the synthesis of emotional rock music and roots influences is tighter here than in a lot of albums in this space, but the album’s only flaw is a significant one – there’s an urgency in some of the songs that don’t carry over to a lot of others, resulting in a bit of a slower pace. In a way, it does remind me of Edwards’s first album, Failer, in that the more faster-paced songs stole the show, but the pacing here is what keeps this album from being more like a great Edwards/Lydia Loveless record. I am being more negative than I should be here, because this is a solid album. I finished it up just wishing it was a little more on first listen, and I’m thinking that future listens may uncover some stuff I missed.
Recommendation: Definitely worth your time this week.

Artist: The Builders and the Butchers
Album: The Spark
Quick Description: Latest from the not-quite-folkies.
Why You Should Listen: This band has been consistently good for a long time.
Overall Thoughts: I have no clue when I first got into this band. It might have been an old Turntable.FM room that played something, or a shot in the dark from eMusic or something like that, but either way, I’ve always liked them. This new album is the first in some time from them, and they are bringing the heat. This album is a lot stronger, louder, and more immediate than their previous efforts, and to their benefit. It’s a tone that fits them, and the distinct vocals combined with the musicianship makes for a solid listen.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Deb Talan
Album: Lucky Girl
Quick Description: New solo album from half of The Weepies.
Why You Should Listen: Deb Talan has a gorgeous voice and the music here is great.
Overall Thoughts: The female voice of The Weepies offers her first solo album in well over a decade. It will surprise no one that this largely sounds like a Weepies record with a slightly different feel to it. And that’s fine – it absolutely works, and there are some great gems on this album that I already feel like I want to go back to. This is just a great listen, and considering how relatively rarely we get music from either of the Weepies, alone or together...
Recommendation: ...this is a welcome listen.

Artist: Daddy Issues
Album: Deep Dream
Quick Description:
Why You Should Listen:
Overall Thoughts: A few songs of theirs have been bouncing around in various playlists for some time for me, and this album is a great continuation of what we’ve heard from a short EP and some of the lead singles. Yes, the comparisons to Charly Bliss and Diet Cig apply here as well, but it’s pretty hard to avoid those comps and the result might be one where this is lost in the shuffle. It shouldn't be, but that's where we're at. Solid melodic indie rock, though.
Recommendation: Don't sleep on this, though.

Artist: The Mountain Goats
Album: Goths
Quick Description: The latest Mountain Goats album is a little weird, even for them.
Why You Should Listen: Even a bad Mountain Goats album is worth a shot?
Overall Thoughts: I didn't like this. I'll just put that out there. Yeah, we're a long way from the "I record on cassettes" days, but this album is noteworthy due to the lack of guitars and the seeming lack of any real edge on first listen. I don't quite know what John Darnielle was trying to accomplish here except that I know it didn't excite me at all. I'll give it another shot, but in a week full of hits...
Recommendation: ...this was a miss.

Also out this week:

* Do Make Say Think - Stubborn Persistent Illusions (this is great, but not a lot else to say about it)
* Wavves - You're Welcome (also solid)
* Fastball - Step Into Light
* Low Cut Connie - Dirty Pictures
* CLUSTERSUN - Surfacing to Breathe
* Erasure - World Be Gone
* Helium - Ends With And

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