Not a busy week for releases, but a number of really good ones nonetheless.
Artist: Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers
Album: Bought to Rot
Quick Description: Solo-ish record from the Against Me! veteran.
Why You Should Listen: Grace embracing the solo side is a good thing.
Overall Thoughts: Laura Jane Grace has basically transcended Against Me! at this point, having become a poster image for transgender people everywhere while still maintaining punk cred. This is definitely more of an alternative rock record, but it puts aside a lot of punk trappings in favor of fun (and sometimes funny, as with the ode to Chicago midway through) music with a message. It may be easy to sleep on this one, especially if Against Me! has never been your thing, but this is definitely worth your time.
Recommendation: Best record of the week, easy.
Artist: Darren Hayman
Album: Thankful Villages Vol. 3
Quick Description: Hefner frontman's historic project lands its third volume 100 years after the conclusion of World War I.
Why You Should Listen: The music is as good as the sentiment.
Overall Thoughts: Thankful Villages, to recap, were villages in the United Kingdom that had all members of the country's armed forces return home safely. Hayman has been visiting these villages and creating a nice little audio project based around the theme, and the latest is as good as the first two. Not much else to say, but stick around for an appearance by the Lincolnshire Poacher.
Recommendation: Take the time to listen.
Album: Simulation Theory
Quick Description: New album from Muse, Brit-rock legends.
Why You Should Listen: This is possibly the best Muse album in close to a decade.
Overall Thoughts: Muse apparently went back to basics a bit on this, recording songs as it suited them rather than trying to sit and write and record an entire album. Overall, it works. Is it cohesive? Maybe not entirely, but when the songs here are as good as they are (with "Pressure" being one of the best Muse songs in ages in particular), it probably doesn't matter. If you were ever a fan of Muse, and especially if you've slipped away a bit? This is as good a time as any to return.
Recommendation: Definitely worth a spot in your rotation this week.
Quick Description: New album by the raunchy rapper.
Why You Should Listen: Come for the fairly funny moments, stay for some of the better raps going.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know how cupcaKKe is able to successfully navigate not being known as a novelty act when songs like "Garfield" and "Typo" exist, but she somehow pulls it off. It's so ridiculous sometimes, but also so ridiculously good that my second, third, fourth listens are because I want to more than just trying to figure out how far she pushes the envelope. A great listen again this week.
Recommendation: A must-hear.
Artist: Hush Kids
Album: Hush Kids
Quick Description: Another entry in the "find the next Civil Wars sweepstakes," except it's really really good.
Why You Should Listen: You want you sort of folky duo stuff to be a little more complex.
Overall Thoughts: This came out a few weeks ago and we missed it, but I'm glad we got to it before it's too late. Are Hush Kids forging new ground here? Not at all, but that's not the point - it's simply expertly-crafted folk rock with some heart behind it, and it's all I wanted from it.
Recommendation: Find time for this one.
Artist: J. Mascis
Album: Elastic Days
Quick Description: Latest solo effort from the Dinosaur Jr. et al singer/songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Mascis is generally great, this moreso than usual.
Overall Thoughts: Ken is the big Mascis fan around these parts, but I don't dislike him at all. He's a key player in a generation of music that has stuck with me for a long time, and this latest album is a lot quieter than you'd expect while still feeling like a Mascis album. The acoustic treatment here really works and gives a really solid and surprising feel overall. I loved "See You at the Movies" when it first hit my playlists, and the rest of the album just holds up as well.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.
Album: Woven Waters
Quick Description: Rootsy greatness from a Southern act.
Why You Should Listen: You want your gorgeous, lush stuff this week.
Overall Thoughts: I'm always looking for bands that remind me of Hem, a little-known act from the 00's that did really beautiful music alongside a roots-oriented base. Tellico is also rootsy and has its share of great instrumentals to the point where they're nearly scratching that itch for me. It's a great listen if you like the Americana stuff like I do, but even if too much twang is a turnoff, there's going to be stuff here to love.
Recommendation: Highly recommended this week.
Artist: Rhett Miller
Album: The Messenger
Quick Description: Latest solo effort from the Old 97s frontman.
Why You Should Listen: Rhett Miller's solo work has been nearly as good as his work with the Old 97s...
Overall Thoughts: ...and in this case, perhaps better. There's something truly special about this solo effort that I can't quite put my finger on, and I very nearly listed this as my favorite of this week. There's super strong songwriting here, and it feels fresh and new in a way many efforts after 20+ years going do not. There's nary a flaw here, and this ends up being superlative from the very start.
Recommendation: Don't miss this one, another one of the best.
Artist: Hero Fisher
Album: Glue Moon
Quick Description: Sophomore effort from a blog favorite.
Why You Should Listen: Hero Fisher is better than most of her contemporaries, plain and simple.
Overall Thoughts: I have a tough time categorizing Hero Fisher, and the fact that Ken is such a big fan only adds to it. She's a classic singer-songwriter capable of working in multiple genres, and there's just something both endearing and addictive to her music that just catches me right. I can't pinpoint exactly when this grabbed me, but "If I Die and Nothing Happens" is an instant classic, and I know I'll be spending more time with this. We missed it last week and it would have been one of those top listens...
Recommendation: ...so don't ignore it this week.
* Masta Ace and Marco Polo - A Breukelen Story
* Liela Moss - My Name is Safe in Your Mouth
* Free Love - Luxury Hits
* The Wave Pictures - Look Inside Your Heart
* Public Memory - Demolition
* Johnny Mafia - Princes de L'Amour
* Daisybones - Gold
* Possum Moods - Northern Times
* Goodbye Honolulu - More Honey
* Various Artists - Songs That Saved My Life
* The Revivalists - Take Good Care
* Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra - The Capitol Studios Sessions
* Charles Bradley - Black Velvet
* Jon Spencer - Spencer Sings the Hits!