Album: Material Control
Quick Description: The return of an act after 15 or so years.
Why You Should Listen: They were a classic act that is back in full force.
Overall Thoughts: The punk/post-punk revivals continue with Glassjaw. They hold nothing back on this reunion, and we all benefit – this is a great, loud, angsty punk record that doesn’t feel like it’s lost a step. The opening track just comes roaring out of the gate and by the time it’s over, you sit wishing there was more. Absolutely my surprise favorite of the week.
Recommendation: Welcome back, Glassjaw!
Artist: Taylor Swift
Quick Description: The latest from the pop superstar.
Why You Should Listen: This is basically the album everyone's talking about.
Overall Thoughts: I generally don’t like to fully trash things. I listen to a lot of really bad albums over the course of a given time frame, and we’re now able to get to Tay Tay’s newest on the streaming services. So first, it should be acknowledged that “Look What You Made Me Do” is great. “…Ready For It” isn’t bad, but it’s far from very good. As a leadoff track, however, it’s jarring, and then we get a rap song directly afterward. Later, we get Taylor Swift rapping, which just shouldn’t happen for no other reason except that it doesn’t sound remotely credible. And at the end of the day, that’s the problem with reputation in a nutshell – a pop star who made her name as a country singer-songwriter and who at least appeared to give the air of authenticity has provided us with one of the most over-engineered inauthentic musical experiences in a while. When you have Carly Rae Jepsen offering a strong pop confessional a few years back, when you have Katy Perry trying on a different persona as she evolves, when you even have Britney Spears offering an interesting take last year in an attempt to fit into the current pop landscape that she helped form (and did so, it should be noted, by being about as inauthentic as a pop star can be), it is absolutely stunning that this is what Taylor Swift came out with this album, especially when she is dealing with her own issues in this area. This remains a fascinating release in a lot of ways except for the music, which is frustratingly awful almost across the board and comes across as a manufactured artist playing at currently popular trends. If that’s the point, it did succeed, but at the expense of basically everything else it takes down with it.
Recommendation: As a cultural moment, listen to it, but you probably won't like it.
Artist: The Just Joans
Album: You Might Be Smiling Now...
Quick Description: Fun, lo-fi indie twee.
Why You Should Listen: You were really digging into the record crates a few weeks after learning about Belle and Sebastian.
Overall Thoughts: It’s been a long time since the pseudo-twee, lo-fi, indie stuff hit my ears and took me back the way Just Joans did with this album. The songs are fun and melodic while still having a slight air of strangeness to it. This would have fit right into my early-2000s rotation, and I’m hoping more time with this uncovers more solid stuff from this along with the initial nostalgia hit.
Recommendation: A solid, fun listen.
Artist: Cindy Wilson
Quick Description: B-52s singer with a solo record.
Why You Should Listen: The B-52s are/were awesome!
Overall Thoughts: One of the singers from the B-52s has a solo album out this week, and I was initially very excited as the lead single, “Mystic,” has been in a semi-regular rotation since it popped up for me, and my expectation was an album that would mirror that, and instead I got an interesting, perhaps a little slower and more introspective, pop album. If you’re expecting B-52s hijinks here, you won’t find them – Wilson, at least on first listen, is playing it straight, and that’s worth something in and of itself. I enjoyed this and I’m looking to see if this gets much staying power or even the proper attention...
Recommendation: ...as it’s deserving of both.
Artist: Neil Young and Promise of the Real
Album: The Visitor
Quick Description: Protest music from the legendary folk artist.
Why You Should Listen: You shouldn't. And I mean that.
Overall Thoughts: I mean, Neil Young is a legend. I don’t want to take away his contribution to the arts, and especially the arts when it comes to politics. This record, however, is kind of embarrassing in many regards. Protest music is always a little dodgy (even though Neil Young is perhaps best known for the protest songs he’s entered into the canon), but this is just a very cringeworthy effort, and perhaps is too on the nose, especially with the inadvertent timing of being released on the day Michael Flynn, key Trump advisor, was indicted. My recommendation is to stay away, but I’m not going to be the one who can change your mind on Neil Young at the end of the day, nor do I want that responsibility.
Recommendation: Skip this.
Artist: The Monsieurs
Quick Description: Lo-fi garage goodness.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for that sound that you loved when The Strokes were huge.
Overall Thoughts: This is your gritty, noisy garage rock effort of the week, featuring a member of Fuzzy. It’s brash and buzzy and if you’re looking for a new lo-fi, blown speaker garage album, this will absolutely scratch that itch for you.
Recommendation: Worth your time for sure.
Album: Songs of Experience
Quick Description: U2's latest. It's U2.
Why You Should Listen: You know what you're getting.
Overall Thoughts: I’m not a fan of U2 on a whole, and, frankly, this did nothing to change my mind. But there’s autotune in parts and it’s your typical earnest modern Bono, so I’m sure people who heard me wax ecstatic over late-era R.E.M. who like modern U2 will find plenty to like here.
Recommendation: For me, it’s a firm skip.
Artist: Bill Baird
Album: Straight Time
Quick Description: Lo-fi psychadelic indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: You really thought Elf Power and Olivia Tremor Control were amazing 20 years ago.
Overall Thoughts: I would have really been into this 15 years ago. This is melodic, strange rock music that has a lot going for it but is just far enough off the beaten path for people to question whether it's quite what they want to hear. But the first two songs sealed it for me, and the rest may work for you as well. A good listen on a whole.
Recommendation: An interesting listen, especially on a short week.
* The Minus Five - Dear December (maybe my favorite rock-originals Christmas album since Squirrel Nut Zippers 20 years ago)
* Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar
EPs of note:
* Powerslut - Go Fuck Myself (so good, guys)
* Owl City - Reel 1
* Gorgon City - Grooves on the Vinyl
* Line and Circle - Vicious Folly (sounds like old R.E.M.)
Also out this week:
* Doug Tuttle - Deeper Peace (not really an album, more a collection of clips)
* STRFKR - Vault Vol. 3
* HAN - The Children
* Karine Polwort with Pippa Murphy - A Pocket of Wind Resistance (gorgeous folk + spoken word piece)
* Heron Oblivion - The Chapel