Tuesday, August 15, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for August 11

A solid week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Matt Pond PA
Album: Still Summer
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: This is their best effort yet in a series of solid listens.
Overall Thoughts: Matt Pond PA’s continuing to put out high quality records. This might be their third since the band announced they were finishing up, but I’m fine with seeing more releases if they’re this good. The title track is great indie power pop with a light touch, and of course we love “The Ballad of Matt and Laura” around these parts. Truly, they’ve put out three of their best albums in recent succession, and this is continuing along those lines.
Recommendation: A solid listen and the best of the week.

Artist: David Rawlings
Album: Poor David's Almanack
Quick Description: Gillian Welch collaborator with a new album of rootsy goodness.
Why You Should Listen: David Rawlings is responsible for some of the purest roots music going.
Overall Thoughts: Dave Rawlings is probably best known for his collaborative efforts with Gillian Welch. Considering how scant her output is, it’s great to have a new record from Rawlings this week. In a way, it’s more of that gritty, old-style country folk that he and Welch are so skilled at producing, but it does have a more modern feel to it from a production standpoint that ultimately works. Really, you can’t go wrong anyway, but this is a great listen this week regardless.
Recommendation: Make sure this hits your rotation.

Artist: Jeremy Pinnell
Album: Ties of Blood and Affection
Quick Description: Roots rock with a very populist sound.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking to dip your toe in the mainstream, not dive right in.
Overall Thoughts: It’s kind of odd to hear Jeremy Pinnell’s purist country in a week with a Dave Rawlings release. This feels like what you’d expect from so-called “Outlaw Country” a decade ago, which is all well and good, but when you have people like Sturgill Simpson changing the game a bit, this starts being a little less solid. This is not a bad album by any measure – it just feels a little out of place. It’s too traditional to be alt-country, too left-of-center to fit into the modern mold. It’s fine that it stakes its own ground in the modern era, but my takeaway was “yeah, this is great, but I still would rather hear X” during certain songs.
Recommendation: Absolutely give this a listen, don’t get me wrong – this just might not hit the notes you want it to.

Artist: Suzanne Santo
Album: Ruby Red
Quick Description: Genre-straddling singer-songwriter stuff.
Why You Should Listen: This is a solid and unique listen this week.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t know what drew me to this album or what, but this was a great listen on a whole. Suzanne Santo is making some interesting stuff here, and there’s a bit of a folk/country feel to this while still feeling more like a gritty solo rock record. It’s always difficult to straddle the line this way, but Santo mostly pulls it off in this album. Some of the more soaring vocals might be a turnoff for some listeners, but it wasn’t a negative for me
Recommendation: Overall, a positive listen.

Artist: Dan Wilson
Album: Re-Covered
Quick Description: Semisonic singer and songwriter sings songs he scribed.
Why You Should Listen: Dan Wilson's won Grammy awards for this stuff.
Overall Thoughts: I missed this one last week, and I’m disappointed that I did given how much of a fan I’ve been of Wilson’s post-Semisonic work. His work as a songwriter? He doesn’t write for a lot of acts that I consider myself a fan of, and this album of performances of songs others made famous works for what it is, but since I don’t know a lot of the originals… I will say that his take on “Someone Like You” is really great and I think his voice is better for it than Adele’s (#hottake) but on a whole...
Recommendation: ...I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Artist: Jen Cloher
Album: Jen Cloher
Quick Description: New album from a talented singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Her influences ring proudly and it works really well.
Overall Thoughts: A very interesting release this week. Cloher feels like a cousin of folks like Courtney Barnett who are turning the whole singer-songwriter thing on its ear a bit. This doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into any specific genre, which is to its benefit, but it’s hard not to hear a lot of favorites, from Barnett to Liz Phair, influencing the proceedings. This is a great listen, and was one of my favorites this week.
Recommendation: Definitely worth giving a shot.

Artist: Guided by Voices
Album: How Do You Spell Heaven
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock superstars.
Why You Should Listen: Guided by Voices may as well be Pavement considering their importance.
Overall Thoughts: GBV has been around forever, Robert Pollard one of the most productive songwriters in modern times, and with the amount of music he puts out, GBV hasn’t had an album full of gems in a while. For this album, there are definitely a few solid tracks (“Steppenwolf Mausoleum” is a true highlight) mixed in with a lot of forgettable stuff, which could probably define GBV anyway.
Recommendation: Listen once, take what you like, and move on. No losses here.

Artist: Downtown Boys
Album: Cost of Living
Quick Description: Political Providence punks with a timely new record.
Why You Should Listen: They're a favorite around here for good reason.
Overall Thoughts: A political punk favorite here at the blog, the new album accomplishes what it seeks to do. There’s a lot of this that isn’t my style, and I don’t think I would agree with much of anything they would have to say within their politically-charged lyrics, but there’s a real fun urgency here that pushes the punk aesthetic they’re putting forward into a different gear than many of their peers. This could be a breakthrough of sorts for them given the climate (especially after this weekend), so if you like your punk rock with a side of ideology, keep your eyes on this one.
Recommendation: Will scratch this itch if you have it.

Artist: Frankie Rose
Album: Cage Tropical
Quick Description: Busy singer-songwriter gives us a new solo record.
Why You Should Listen: It's maybe the best work she's put out.
Overall Thoughts: Another favorite of mine this week. While I’ve really been into the whole 1990s alternative aesthetic as of late, I feel like the synthy stuff has been more hit-and-miss. Frankie Rose has been in a number of solid bands over the last decade, and this solo take is some great songwriting. I feel like the overall tone of it doesn’t always hit the mark, but when it’s clicking on all cylinders it’s arguably better than anything she’s done post-Dum Dum Girls.
Recommendation: You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check this out.

Artist: Oneohtrix Point Never
Album: Good Time Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Quick Description: Movie music from a challenging electronic artist.
Why You Should Listen: Oneohtrix Point Never is doing some of the most interesting electronic music since Aphex Twin's height.
Overall Thoughts: I’m never going to complain about new music from Oneohtrix Point Never, even if it’s in a soundtrack/score form. This is challenging and atmospheric and sparse while maintaining the urgency I’m looking for, and that’s kind of this act in a nutshell anyway.
Recommendation: You should give this a shot.

EPs of note:

* Jess Penner - Imagination (Jess Penner offers an EP of takes on family-friendly classics. This might be a little *too* on the nose from a quirk standpoint, but I won’t sit here and say I didn’t enjoy it.)

Also out this week:

* The Districts - Popular Manipulations (fairly basic alt-pop/rock)
* Donnacha Denney et al - Tessallatum (interesting modern classical)
* Kesha - Rainbow (as someone who likes pop music, this is Not My Thing.)

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