Tuesday, July 4, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for June 30

Celebrate American independence with a lot of new music!

Co-Album of the Week:

Artist: Mise en Scene
Album: Still Life on Fire
Quick Description: A rollicking rock and roll record.
Why You Should Listen: With the glut of 90s-inspired indie rock, this is a refreshing straightforward take.
Overall Thoughts: I think I loved this two songs in, and I know I loved it by the time I was through the fourth. It's just such a great listen - the vocals move effortlessly between primal rock screams and breathy moody stuff, there's a level of rock excess here that would almost seem tongue-in-cheek if this album wasn't so straightforward and great. One of my favorites this week (I couldn't choose), and one that might be in my end-of-year discussion.
Recommendation: A must-listen, surprise of the week.

Co-Album of the Week:

Artist: Ratboys
Album: GN
Quick Description: Latest album by the rock act with a little bit of country mixed in.
Why You Should Listen: Their first album was an underrated gem, this one might be better.
Overall Thoughts: Once upon a time, I heard someone compare Ratboys to Sheryl Crow's 1990s efforts, and there's some truth to that - Crow's first couple albums were very solid and hold up surprisingly well even if she's gone off the rails in the last decade. GN is the sophomore effort that we all hope for from our favorite acts. It continues with that immediacy, the weird mix of sounds that doesn't feel like it should work, and yet still feels better produced and more updated. Nothing about this is flawed.
Recommendation: Also a must-listen, this could become your favorite band.

Artist: Kacy Hill
Album: Like a Woman
Quick Description: Electronically-tinged R&B.
Why You Should Listen: Think if someone like FKA Twigs was making music to try and hit the radio.
Overall Thoughts: This is really interesting, possibly really great. Kacy Hill is doing a real soulful thing with a lot of interesting production, but it almost feels too polished in a way. This sort of presentation feels radio-ready and it takes away from what one might think would be more spontaneous. Overall, I feel like I'm damning a good record with faint praise, but I can just see it turning a lot of listeners off.
Recommendation: Good, but possibly not great.

Artist: The I Want You
Album: Now That's What I Call Music
Quick Description: Retro-style indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: There's plenty of sharp songwriting here.
Overall Thoughts: Yeah yeah, more retro stuff, etc etc. This seems a lot more sincere and a lot more fun when it's playing those parts up. I honestly feel like its a hit-or-miss album from a pure song standpoint, but you can't beat something this earnest.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: James Elkington
Album: Wintres Woma
Quick Description: Folky solo debut from a Wilco tourmate.
Why You Should Listen: This is like some of the solid British folk music that is always so welcome.
Overall Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this, both for the music and the musicianship. It's not Nick Drake-like, but it has its moments, and it's just a quiet, lovely little record that feels like it's already flying under the radar. If you like folk music (or even if you don't)...
Recommendation: ...check this out.

Artist: Washed Out
Album: Mister Mellow
Quick Description: Latest from the chill indie electro favorite is a little more chill than normal.
Why You Should Listen: Remember "I Feel It All?" It's a lot like that.
Overall Thoughts: Of the acts that I didn't expect to go the route of "I had a big hit, so now everything will sound like it," Washed Out seems to follow up a well-received song with more of the same. This isn't a bad thing in this case, since his sound lends itself well to it, but instead of being something that further advances the envelope as it were, there's a familiarity here that you might not have expected from Washed Out. So it's not bad - it's actually pretty good - just not mind blowing.
Recommendation: Perfectly fine listen this week.

Artist: Banditos
Album: Visionland
Quick Description: A time capsule of an indie release.
Why You Should Listen: This sounds like it was ripped off of a radio station from 40 years ago in a lot of ways.
Overall Thoughts: It's shocking how much this sounds like something that shouldn't exist in 2017. I was continually surprised by the nature of this, which is something that doesn't happen very often. This is a strange and wonderful album that's almost certainly guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and I look forward to future listens to see what it is I missed.
Recommendation: Definitely worth some time.

EPs of note:

* The Mynabirds - Be Here Now Part 1 (fun, breezy, poppy indie rock)
* Emilia - Down to the Sadness River (I only wish this were more than 15 minutes long)
* Henoheno - Remember EP

Also out this week:

* ZZ Ward - The Storm (sort of emblematic of the pop-ification of alt-country that has been a little mixed for me)
* Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Volume 1
* Beach House - B-Sides and Rarities

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