Tuesday, July 18, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for June 14

Album of the Week:

Artist: Waxahatchee
Album: Out in the Storm
Quick Description: Latest from the indie singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Katie Crutchfield has improved with every album under the Waxahatchee moniker, and this is her best yet.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know how to describe this, even now, because Waxahatchee has always filled its own little nook in the indie world. Trying to compare it to anything else is a little bit of a challenge, and that's fine - at its core, it's a unique indie listen, and this is no different. But this album also gives us songs like "Silver" and "Never Been Wrong" that speak to a positive evolution in her sound that just works for me. I can't recommend this enough, and I hope it has some solid staying power.
Recommendation: Easily the best of the week.

Artist: RAC
Album: EGO
Quick Description: Turntablist/DJs continue their pop ways.
Why You Should Listen: They've traditionally been interesting.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this DJ/turntable collective’s previous album, but this one just feels… weird. Some songs are solid – the Rivers Cuomo effort is fine, the MDNR song a definite plus, but on a whole, this feels more like going through the motions more than anything.
Recommendation: Probably skip it.

Artist: Kabells
Album: Ten Flowers
Quick Description: Strange, poppy music.
Why You Should Listen: This is definitely the most interesting listen of the week.
Overall Thoughts: Sometimes these songs have a whistle to them where I think it’s Andrew Bird singing falsetto with an electronica backing effort. Other times this feels like the standard pop efforts that are a little left of center and won’t get a ton of radio play. I can’t say this did much for me at all, and I can’t say I fully grasp the intentions here.
Recommendation: I didn't love this, but you might.

Artist: Siobhan Wilson
Album: There Are No Saints
Quick Description: Solid singer-songwritery stuff.
Why You Should Listen: A fascinating listen this week.
Overall Thoughts: In what kind of looks like a slowish week, I took a flier on this one and I’m glad I did – this is a unique singer-songwritery take, has some folk elements but also pushes out a lot of fuzzy elements and takes plenty of risks.
Recommendation: Absolutely try this one out.

Artist: Dishwalla
Album: Juniper Road
Quick Description: The latest 1990s revival.
Why You Should Listen: You loved "Counting Blue Cars."
Overall Thoughts: As much as we’re loving the 1990s revival around these parts, this was not an album anyone was asking for and is really not an album we needed. They’re also trying to be a little heavier than what they’re famous for, and none of it works.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Shabazz Palaces
Album: Quazars vs. The Jealous Machines
Quick Description: Off-center rap music.
Why You Should Listen: The weirdest rap album you'll hear this year.
Overall Thoughts: Some really dark, perhaps almost gothic in a way, rap music. There was a moment when Tricky, the trip-hop guy, was experimenting in this space a bit, and this felt very reminiscent of that effort. As for this, I don’t think it was bad, but I can definitively say it wasn’t for me. If you’re looking for something really different, give this a shot...
Recommendation: ... but your mileage may vary.

Artist: Offa Rex
Album: The Queen of Hearts
Quick Description: British folk with the Decemberists.
Why You Should Listen: If the Decemberists don't get you on board, the rest of this should.
Overall Thoughts: This was a surprise! I did not anticipate a collaboration between the Decemberists and a British folk singer, but here we are – the album itself is fun, feeling both modern and traditional, and it toes that line perfectly. Colin Meloy’s voice on the tracks where he’s featured as a vocalist are perfect, and Olivia Chaney often sounds like she was transported from two generations ago.
Recommendation: One of my favorite listens this week, and just a great little piece of music overall.

Artist: Oh Wonder
Album: Ultralife
Quick Description: New album from the poppy duo.
Why You Should Listen: Oh Wonder isn't forging a new path, but they still sound new and fresh in their space.
Overall Thoughts: Oh Wonder is sort of like the poppy cousin of The Head and the Heart in my brain. I can’t think of many acts that sound like them, but what they do generally works. This latest album is Oh Wonder hitting their stride, and it’s pretty solid. Even songs like “Bigger Than Love,” which try to be a little less traditional, have a lot going for it.
Recommendation: On a whole, a solid listen this week.

Artist: Twisted Pine
Album: Twisted Pine
Quick Description: Great straightforward bluegrass.
Why You Should Listen: You like your roots records to be no-nonsense.
Overall Thoughts: This is just a fun, light bluegrass record, no way around it. Pretty vocals, great instrumentation, and it doesn’t try to jump outside of what it does really well. If you’re into the more “progressive bluegrass” that’s made some waves in the last decade, you’ll probably be bored by this, but as someone who really enjoys the traditionalist side, this is a gorgeous modern take.
Recommendation: Absolutely give this some time this week, it’s a lovely listen.

Artist: The Dears
Album: Times Infinity Volume Two
Quick Description: The latest from the Canadian indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: They were so good early on that it's hard not to want to try them again.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like I’ve been waiting for The Dears to replicate the brilliance of their first album for 15 years. This one doesn’t do it for me, unfortunately, being a bit of a mishmash of genres and ideas that never seems to fully flow together. Lots of talent here, but I never feel as if the execution is there for me anymore.
Recommendation: A miss.

EPs this week:

* Coldplay - Kaleidoscope (They've become a ridiculous band over the last decade, but they know how to write an anthemic song better than anyone)
* Best Ex - Ice Cream Anti-Social (awfully close to the pop side of things, but it works when it works)
* Railroad Earth - Captain Nowhere (Solid if unspectacular)
* The Radio Dept. - Teach Me To Forget

Also out this week:

* Sheer Mag - Need to Feel Your Love
* Psychic Temple - IV

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