Tuesday, May 16, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for May 12

A much more standard week this week.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Girlpool
Album: Powerplant
Quick Description: Folk rockers turn up the noise a bit.
Why You Should Listen: This is a positive evolution for this duo.
Overall Thoughts: Album of the week this week, even though it’s following a trend of a lot of recent releases I’ve loved. 2017 is quickly turning into the year of woman-led rock music with a message, and Girlpool is lining up for their shot at the throne with this effort, which is bigger and grander sounding than their folk-heavy debut from a couple years ago. Truth be told? I like this version of them more, and I suspect you might as well. Great for fans of their old anti-folk-style stuff as well as those who are looking for the next great indie listen...
Recommendation: ...this is worth some time in your rotation.

Artist: Dharma Bombs
Album: Old Time Romance
Quick Description: Good ol' jazzy tunes.
Why You Should Listen: You miss the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this album, and this feels pure and right. It's very straightforward, it doesn't have any pretense to it, and it's just a great time all around. If you like jassy, old timey music, this is it. Don't even waste more time reading about it, fire it up.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Artist: Modern Mal
Album: The Misanthrope Family Album?
Quick Description: A strange concept record of sorts.
Why You Should Listen: This is definitely the most challenging record of the week.
Overall Thoughts: At times listening to this, I realize that I use the term “retro” a lot, and an album like Modern Mal’s kind of demonstrates how meaningless the word can be sometimes. Modern Mal is both anything but and exactly that – an album that equally reminds you of an entirely different era while also taking its own current spin. It’s a good album on a whole, although those seeking a cohesive, unifying idea musically might be a little flummoxed.
Recommendation: It's good, but might not work for you.

Artist: Alex Napping
Album: Mise en Place
Quick Description: Solid indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: This is one that will fly under your radar if you don't listen now.
Overall Thoughts: A holdover from last week’s deluge, Alex Napping hits that sweet spot for female-fronted indie rock. While this is not to the nearly-life-changing level of recent releases like Diet Cig or Charly Bliss, there are a lot of parts here that make the whole worthwhile. A song like “You Got Me” gave me similar vibes to when I first heard Courtney Barnett, and the whole thing shows a ton of great potential for a band I only heard of in the last 36 hours. Check these guys out and keep them on your radar.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: Harry Styles
Album: Harry Style
Quick Description: One Directioner heads off on his own direction.
Why You Should Listen: You are open-minded enough to give an ex-boy bander a try.
Overall Thoughts: Harry Styles is best known for being one of the heartthrobs from One Dimension. He’s off on his own now, and I was going to ignore this album because, well, it’s a One Direction solo record. A friend said I should listen and pretend it’s Tame Impala, and I gave it a listen – it’s actually quite good. It’s actually really reminiscent of Travis in many spots, which came as a surprise, and I don’t ultimately know how much creative input Styles had into this entire thing, but, to me, he appears to be positioning himself as a 2010s-era Robbie Williams. This is not a bad thing. Overall, this album *will* surprise you if you’re willing to take the plunge.
Recommendation: This is one of the best of the week. No, really.

Artist: Ingrid Michaelson
Album: Alter Egos
Quick Description: A collaborative EP from the singer songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Michaelson or whoever else is on the EP.
Overall Thoughts: Ingrid Michaelson is back with an EP with a little help from her friends. I can’t say there’s a ton to say about this, except that it’s a worthy follow-up of sorts to her recent album. If you’re a fan, there will be a ton to like here already...
Recommendation: ...but this won’t bring anyone new into the fold.

Artist: Dreamcar
Album: Dreamcar
Quick Description: Synthy supergroup!
Why You Should Listen: You're wondering what some of your not-favorite bands from the 1990s are up to.
Overall Thoughts: Dreamcar has members of AFI and No Doubt, so that might end the discussion for a lot of people right there. For me, though, this is a surprisingly capable record. It’s not ska, it’s not really punk, it’s pretty radio-friendly alt-rock on a whole. There’s some value to that, sure, but this is unlikely to whet anyone’s whistle if you’re a regular around these parts.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Paul Weller
Album: A Kind Revolution
Quick Description: Lead singer of The Jam's new solo album.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan, but that's the only reason.
Overall Thoughts: Paul Weller is legendary in many circles, and this latest album probably won’t win him any new converts, but won’t lose them, either. It sounds largely like what I expected, and I can’t say it did a ton for me or that I have much else to say. Classic acts are always hit-or-miss on new efforts, and this one is not terribly different in that regard.
Recommendation: Not recommended.

Artist: Elf Power
Album: Twitching in Time
Quick Description: Elephant Six act has their first new album in some time.
Why You Should Listen: If you were a fan in the early days, this is worth a shot.
Overall Thoughts: I chalked up Elf Power as one of my favorite bands for a long time. Their run from When the Red King Comes to Back to the Web was an underrated indie run that didn’t get nearly enough play, probably because Of Montreal hit it huge during that same run. Still, their more recent output was really iffy to me, to the point where I wasn’t entirely sure I was on board with this one before I even fired it up. The good news is that this is the most Elf Power-y album we’ve gotten in nearly a decade from the band, and it’s a long-awaited return to form that I am so, so glad occurred. I’m in a different stage of my life now than I was when Elf Power was really doing it for me, but this is the type of sound that hits a lot of nostalgic buttons for me, so welcome back.
Recommendation: I loved this album. You might, too.

Artist: Amber Mark
Album: 3:33 AM
Quick Description: New buzzworthy R&B artist.
Why You Should Listen: This is a name you're going to know.
Overall Thoughts: Amber Mark is a buzzworthy name in R&B right now, and this short album/EP definitely demonstrates why. Songs like “Lose My Cool” are instant classics, while there are other songs here that stretch the boundaries and make things a little more interesting. At only 7 songs, it’s merely a taste, but here’s looking forward to more from her soon.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Ellen Allien
Album: Nost
Quick Description: European DJ back with a new album.
Why You Should Listen: It's a traditional throwback of sorts.
Overall Thoughts: Ellen Allien is a European DJ who has always put out interesting electronic music. Her latest is surprising in that it feels very straightforward in ways her more recent efforts, by my recollection, haven’t. This is a good thing, where a sort of back-to-basics modern-sounding electronic record has a lot of value in an era where people don’t seem to care so much about a driving beat and straightforward sampling.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week.

Artist: Sarah P.
Album: Who Am I
Quick Description: More modern electronic music from the lead singer of Keep Shelly in Athens.
Why You Should Listen: A sharp contrast to Ellen Allien.
Overall Thoughts: It is interesting to contrast Sarah P. with Ellen Allien this week. Where Allien is going traditional, Sarah is going modern, and the result is an interesting listen that didn’t totally grab me, but is interesting enough where I want to take more time with it. The album itself is a pretty solid affair, but with the glut of music in this space, it’s going to struggle a bit to stand out on its own unless you already know her existing band.
Recommendation: Liked this, but it won't work for everyone.

Also out this week:

* PWR BTTM - Pageant
* Son Lux - Bones
* Toss Rundgren - White Knight
* The Bob's Burgers Music Album

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