Tuesday, March 31, 2020

First Listen: New Releases for 27 March

The end of the world is bringing its A game for new music right now.

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: Ghosts V: Together / Ghosts VI: Locusts
Quick Description: Two new surprise entries in the Nine Inch Nails Ghosts canon.
Why You Should Listen: It's ambient industrial done right.
Overall Thoughts: I was thinking today that if you told me back in high school that the guy behind The Downward Spiral would be one of the best movie scorers in his era and that his more ambient efforts would be the things I'd love the most, I don't know how I would react. But here we are, in 2020, and Nine Inch Nails has quietly become one of the most essential artists of our time and the two surprises this week really show what makes Trent Reznor so important. There's no reason to miss this one anyway, but it's definitely one of the great listens of the week.
Recommendation: A must-listen in any week, never mind this one.

Artist: The No Ones
Album: The Great Lost No Ones Album
Quick Description: Debut album from an indie supergroup of members from I Was A King, The Minus 5 and R.E.M..
Why You Should Listen: It's basically a really twangy Minus 5 album, and that's fine.
Overall Thoughts: Scott McCaughey is officially back at it following his stroke, Peter Buck is as busy as always, and the Norwegian musicians they've teamed up with for this album are not a band I'm familiar with, but bring us to an album really worth listening to. It's the best of all worlds combined here with a lot of memorable songs and what ends up being a pleasant, spring-like listen. If you've got even a minor affinity for any of these acts, make sure you take some time with this one, as it's one of the best of the early goings.
Recommendation: A really great listen this week.

Artist: Orion Sun
Album: Hold Space for Me
Quick Description: Out-of-nowhere debut from a fresh new voice.
Why You Should Listen: This is another favorite of the year for me.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over and I am so, so glad he did. This is one of those albums that just surprised me from the start. It's stark, it doesn't align with any specific genre, and it's a voice that is fully formed and realized even in these early career stages. This is an absolutely brilliant listen from an artist who, if there's any justice left in a post-coronavirus world, will be getting all the accolades for what she's done here.
Recommendation: One of the best of the year.

Artist: Jennah Barry
Album: Holiday
Quick Description: Dreamy folk-rock.
Why You Should Listen: Another great voice that came out of nowhere for me this week.
Overall Thoughts: From the looks of things, this is the first album in eight years from this songstress, and considering the quality of this album and songs like "Rocket," I hope existing fans see this as worth the wait. This is another gorgeous album that runs the risk of being overlooked in a week like this, but something this unique and out of time deserves a closer look.
Recommendation: A gorgeous album this week.

Artist: The Chats
Album: High Risk Behaviour
Quick Description: Silly, nerdy punk.
Why You Should Listen: It's so endearingly geekpunk that you can't help but smile.
Overall Thoughts: Listen, this isn't going to end up on any best of lists, but when you have a punk band doing songs called "The Kids Need Guns" and "Pub Feed," you give it a shot. 14 songs, 28 minutes, and it's going to make you smile.
Recommendation: Make a half hour for this one.

Artist: Lilly Hiatt
Album: Walking Proof
Quick Description: John Hiatt's daughter carves her own path.
Why You Should Listen: She deserves more than the comparison to her father.
Overall Thoughts: This is a great alt-country listen. It's up there for me with Lydia Loveless, with Kathleen Edwards, and the like. This is her fourth or fifth album at this point, and she's really come into her own as a songwriter and performer, and this is just wonderful from start to finish. "P-Town" (not about ours, New Englanders) is solid, "Some Kind of Drug" and "Candy Lunch" early standouts, and this is just an album that should really cement her as an artist worth knowing if she isn't one already. Don't miss out on this.
Recommendation: Another superlative listen from Hiatt.

Artist: Margaret Glaspy
Album: Devotion
Quick Description: Highly anticipated second album from the singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Emotions and Math was an instant classic.
Overall Thoughts: So, fair warning: if you are expecting a sequel to Emotions and Math, you're not getting it here. I am unsure as to Glaspy's motivations on this album, but this is a much more odd and experimental affair. I won't say that it works 100% of the time, but there is a lot of interesting stuff here, and when it works (like with "So Wrong It's Right," "Vicious," and "What's the Point"), it works really well. This is definitely an unexpected left turn given how great her debut was, but it's still worth your time because it's such a clear and singular vision from an artist that is clearly doing her own thing.
Recommendation: A good one this week, even if it doesn't 100% do it for you.

Artist: Basia Bulat
Album: Are You in Love?
Quick Description: Latest from the Canadian folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Maybe the most solid folk-rock effort from her in some time.
Overall Thoughts: I've been a fan of Basia Bulat from the moment I learned of her, and each album has been a pleasant revelation. This is no different, with some great efforts like "Your Girl" and some more complicated offerings like "Love is at the End of the World," this is, in many ways, the perfect album to keep your social distancing habits alive for a bit. Bulat has always meant quality for me, and Are You in Love? keeps that reputation alive.
Recommendation: She's always great, and this is no different.

Artist: Ringo Deathstarr
Album: Ringo Deathstarr
Quick Description: First album in years from the shoegazey rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Ken was super excited to hear this was out.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't know this band existed before this week, and I really only added it to my list because it's a great name for a band. What I didn't expect was the sort of wonderful wall of sound loudness that I always feel is lacking from so many bands in this genre. There's a lot to love here, from "God Help the Ones You Love" and "Gazin" to the more poppy and mainstream "Be Love." But still, this is a great, great listen this week and may be just the thing to shake you from your quarantine doldrums. I'll go as far as to say this could end up being a long-term favorite for me...
Recommendation: Make time for this one.

Artist: Sorry
Album: 925
Quick Description: Debut album by the buzzworthy alt-indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Sorry typically puts out some great stuff.
Overall Thoughts: It's not an insult to say that 925 is probably the fifth or sixth best album to come out this week given how stacked this week is. But in literally any other week, this would likely be the highlight of the week, and this will probably have longer staying power to boot. This is a great traditional alt-rock effort in so many ways, and it absolutely feels like a band coming into its own at just the right moment. Listen to songs like "Rock 'n' Roll Star," "Right Round the Clock," or "More," and tell me this band isn't destined for great things.
Recommendation: Probably the best straight rock record this week.

Artist: Dua Lipa
Album: Future Nostalgia
Quick Description: New album from the rising pop star.
Why You Should Listen: Dua Lipa is very pop friendly, but there's something about her take that works for me.
Overall Thoughts: I think I became a fan with the somewhat silly "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" from her previous album that I tripped up on randomly late last year. Lead single "Physical" from this album was a propellant affair that got me interested in what's happening here, and I'm happy to say that Dua Lipa has found her way a bit and delivered a focused album with a lot of great songs. "Don't Start Now" is rock solid, "Love Again" would be great even without the "Your Woman" (yes, the old White Town track) sample, and I'm just really into the whole thing.
Recommendation: A must-hear for pop enthusiasts, and worth the time for everyone else.

Artist: Wednesday
Album: I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone
Quick Description: Second album by a fuzzy indie act.
Why You Should Listen: This is a really solid indie album.
Overall Thoughts: We missed this back in February, and it's weird to highlight it now given how crazy good this week is, but, guys? Don't sleep on this. This is a really great album with a lot of the sort of fuzzy indie alt stuff we love around here, and the only downer is how there are only eight songs to enjoy. This one should have some staying power if you're into it.
Recommendation: Don't miss out.

Of note:

* Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini - Illusion of Time (Speaking of ambient-style music, this is a great and complicated listen.)
* Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brams - Aporia (Another instrumental piece with some ambient notes to it. Also great.)
* Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real - Naked Garden (Feels a little like an odds-and-sods collection, except that all the odds and all the sods are solid songs.)
* Nap Eyes - Snapshot of a Beginner (Smart, fun indie rock.)
* Gold Cage - Social Crutch (Some of the more interesting stuff on the rock side this week.)
* Dana Gavanski - Yesterday is Gone (Interestingly, if you had asked me what the second Margaret Glaspy album might sound like, I would have said something like this.)
* Old Man Gloom - Seminar IX: Darkness of Being (Some heavy dark metal. I don't know if I'll ever want to listen again, but this grabbed me in a way the genre traditionally hasn't.)
* Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud
* Robotaki - The Grand Mirage
* The Orb - Abolition of the Royal Familia
* Half Waif - The Caretaker
* Jordana - Classical Notions of Happiness
* Activity - Unmask Whoever
* Brian Fallon - Local Honey
* FACS - Void Moments
* Vanessa Carlton - Love is an Art


* Dirty Projectors - Windows Open
* Perlee - Slow Creature
* Alfred. - One Trick Pony

Also out:

* Joyner Lucas - ADHD (Worcester's own!)
* Lewsberg - In This House

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