Tuesday, August 29, 2017

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for August 25

Busiest week in a while, so we're splitting this up a bit. More tomorrow!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Kitty
Album: Miami Garden Club
Quick Description: 90s-tinged electro-pop.
Why You Should Listen: This is an unexpected delight.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t know how I tripped up on Kitty however long ago, but while the rest of the musical universe is tripping over itself for their take on the new Taylor Swift song (short answer: it’s not great, but it's catchy as all get out), here’s Kitty doing some really interesting indie electro-pop with a 1990s-era sensibility that I fear is going to be completely ignored. Kitty isn’t reinventing the wheel at all here, but she is doing a good job working within the existing tropes to develop something worth your time whether you’re a fan of the genre or not. I love this album quite a bit, and I keep thinking about it long after I first heard it.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth it this week, one of the best listens of the month.

Artist: Filthy Friends
Album: Invitation
Quick Description: Indie-ish supergroup's debut.
Why You Should Listen: You like R.E.M., and/or Sleater-Kinney, and/or Young Fresh Fellows.
Overall Thoughts: A supergroup including Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney and Peter Buck of R.E.M. should honestly be better than this. The singles have been okay, and there’s definitely a hint of everyone bringing their specialty to the table, but I can’t help ending this album feeling as if it had a lot of opportunity that it didn’t grab. The parts are much greater than the whole on this one, and if you like any of the people involved you’re definitely going to come away with something positive here...
Recommendation: ...but don’t expect something amazing.

Artist: Gogol Bordello
Album: Seekers and Finders
Quick Description: Your favorite European folk punks are back.
Why You Should Listen: They've stored up more than their share of good will.
Overall Thoughts: The “gypsy punks” are back with another album. As with their recent efforts, things have become a little less angsty and energetic, and it means that what you might have loved might not ever be coming back, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t know how to put together a quality rock song. They’re a good band with a good album, and this just doesn’t reach the heights of what this band has been in the past. Take that however you may.
Recommendation: Skip this unless you're a big fan.

Artist: EMA
Album: Exile in the Outer Ring
Quick Description: Latest from the complicated, often shoegazey, indie rocker.
Why You Should Listen: EMA is always an interesting listen.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of EMA for a while, and it feels like it’s been forever since she’s put out a new record. The good news is that this is a really deliberative affair, and it is scratching that Twin Peaks itch that’s been ever-present all summer for me – a lot of fuzzy, buzzy, droney instrumentation to go with a haunting vocal style that matches it perfectly. If I have a criticism, it’s that the album stays at a fairly even keel, and it never takes off into the stratosphere as you’d expect. But part of EMA’s charm is that she defies expectations whenever possible, so this is a good sign for this album.
Recommendation: I look forward to spending more time with this one.

Artist: Gordi
Album: Reservoir
Quick Description: Chillwave pop? Why not?
Why You Should Listen: This is getting some serious buzz.
Overall Thoughts: Hyped up chill pop music is sometimes my thing, but this ultimately did not connect for me in any meaningful way. It does take a lot for albums like this to jump to the next level, and I just don’t feel as if this one does it. There’s interesting things happening, for sure, but it’s not an album that made me sit up and take attention the way I wanted it to.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Blank Range
Album: Marooned With the Treasure
Quick Description: Vocally-significant folk music.
Why You Should Listen: It's probably the best release this week in this space.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over and it sounds like it’s going to be the folky record of the week. With the point that I tend to say a lot of the same things about these albums, I’ll just say that Blank Range sets itself apart with some bold vocals to contrast with the instrumentation on first listen. It’s an interesting mix that leaves me wanting more while also wanting to come back and hear what I missed the first way through. Not a bad way to get an album out there…
Recommendation: A solid release this week.

Artist: A Giant Dog
Album: Toy
Quick Description: Houston-based punk with a fun sensibility.
Why You Should Listen: This album has some great songs throughout.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of this Texas punk act for a little while now. They’re not my favorite, but they often come out with a song that just grabs me. “Photograph” is the lead single from this album, a dirty brutally honest love song, and it boosted a lot of my anticipation for this album that, unfortunately, it doesn’t totally meet. They’re a band that has found their groove, for certain, but whether said groove is something that’s grabbing me, I’m not as certain. I’m not saying you’ll hate this if you enjoy some gritty punk stuff, but I can honestly say there’s been better stuff out there for me on a whole this year in this area.
Recommendation: This is a good album, but there are other albums like it this year that might be better.

Artist: Jack Cooper
Album: Sandgrown
Quick Description: High-quality rock music.
Why You Should Listen: This album is guaranteed to surprise you.
Overall Thoughts: Jack Cooper’s album feels like a sort of Tom Pettyish-style rock effort that has a lot going for it. The lyricism is there, the melodies solid, and it has a very unassuming tone to it that I definitely enjoyed. I’m not sure what modern thing to compare it to, which is both a good and bad thing on a whole, but I do hope this finds an audience because Cooper is really doing something special here. Try the final song on the album first and then you’ll surely want to start at the top.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week.

Also out this week:

* Do Pas O - Join the Fucking Drum Circle (Guerilla Toss side project)
* Liars - TFCF
* A$AP Mob - Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy

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