Tuesday, May 19, 2020

First Listen: New Releases from 15 May

Artist: August, Yours Truly
Album: Something Uncomfortable
Quick Description: Some really great glitchy electronic music.
Why You Should Listen: This is sneaky great with some crossover appeal.
Overall Thoughts: I randomly tripped up on this one this week when doing a little bit of research on the Charli XCX record (also out this week). This came recommended by someone, and wow, is it great. A lot of fun stuff here for those looking for something a little different and a little challenging, and it's almost akin to if the PC Music crowd trapped Ben Frost in a room for a month. Don't miss this one.
Recommendation: Won't be for everyone, but if it's for you...

Artist: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Album: Reunions
Quick Description: Latest from the alt-country masters.
Why You Should Listen: Isbell continues on his run of stellar, superior releases.
Overall Thoughts: It's not often that you listen to an artist's newest release and say "yep, this is some of the best work they've done yet," but here we are with the new Jason Isbell and I feel like I'm saying it yet again. Reunions is a classic Isbell/400 Unit effort on its face, and all the contributions you expect to be excellent are there, but there's just something from the stories he tells and the way he expresses the mood of those tales that just works on such a visceral level. There's no one like him, no one like his band, and we're lucky to have him in these times.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week, if not the year.

Artist: Jess Williamson
Album: Sorceress
Quick Description: Latest from a favorite around these parts.
Why You Should Listen: Jess Williamson has perfected her sound on this album.
Overall Thoughts: I dare you to listen to "Infinite Scroll" and not become obsessed. Ken and I have both been on board for some time, but this album represents a leap in songwriting and performing for Williamson that I didn't see coming, and the result is a deeply compelling record with basically no filler. You can't go wrong with this, even in a busy week, and I fully expect a few of these songs, if not the whole album, on some year-end lists.
Recommendation: Don't miss out on this.

Artist: MAITA
Album: Best Wishes
Quick Description: Debut album from a solid singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: There's an edge here missing from a lot of music like this.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know anything about MAITA, and I confess to missing her EP a few years back. "Someone's Lost Their Goddamn Wallet" hit my radar recently, and it just touched a chord with me in a way I didn't expect, and her full album does a similar thing. Her approach is one that just has a different feel to it, and the result is something that I've been itching to get back to again. There's a lot to love here, and I hope it doesn't get lost in a busy week quarantine shuffle.
Recommendation: A great listen.

Artist: Pharis and Jason Romero
Album: Bet on Love
Quick Description: New roots album from a favorite duo.
Why You Should Listen: This might be my favorite efforts of theirs yet.
Overall Thoughts: I was exposed to this duo on their last album, and quickly went back to their older stuff because of how much I liked it. This album in particular really connected with me on first listen, as it balances that tough line between raw exposure and a more polished approach, and the end result is just a super compelling record from a duo that knows exactly what they're doing and how to make beautiful music together. Can't go wrong with this on a whole, this is a folk record that's perhaps more superior to much else this year.
Recommendation: Another solid entry for the year.

Artist: The Dears
Album: Lovers Rock
Quick Description: New album from the Canadian rockers.
Why You Should Listen: This may be their best effort since their early releases.
Overall Thoughts: I might say this every time there's a new Dears album, but "21: The Death of All Romance" is a top 25 all-time song for me, and I've been chasing that high from The Dears for nearly two decades. While Lovers Rock doesn't get me there, it gets me closer than anything they've done as of late, and the sharp edges of this record come out to play in some pretty interesting ways. If you've fallen off the bandwagon, this is a great place to get back on board.
Recommendation: A solid effort.

Artist: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
Album: Temple
Quick Description: Latest from some indie favorites.
Why You Should Listen: It's Thao Nguyen at her best.
Overall Thoughts: Thao's been a favorite probably since "Bag of Hammers," and we loved A Man Alive from four years ago. Thao has since put out some solo work, hosted Song Exploder for a year, and now come out with maybe my favorite effort of hers yet. It's a little more mature, a little more direct, but a song like "Temple" leads off and sets the tone so perfectly that it's basically impossible not to fall for this one.
Recommendation: Worth the time.

Artist: Charli XCX
Album: how i'm feeling now
Quick Description: Latest from the weirdest mainstream pop artist going.
Why You Should Listen: Charli is leaning right into what got her into music to start.
Overall Thoughts: I almost feel like the album title is a declaration of intent. If you know Charli XCX, it's because of that infectious Icona Pop song from years ago or from "Boom Clap," arguably her biggest hit. She has, however, her feet at least partially planted in a weirder, glitchy pop area (think Hannah Diamond or Slayyyter) and it appears she's just diving right in with this effort. Predictably, I love every moment and I'm hoping not only that this is a success for her but that the rising tide lifts some other boats in the process.
Recommendation: A must listen if only for the cultural impact.

Artist: Retirement Party
Album: Runaway Dog
Quick Description: Noisy indie alt-rock.
Why You Should Listen: Retirement Party sounds a lot like our recent favorites.
Overall Thoughts: I don't have a ton to say about this, but I didn't want this to fall by the wayside in a busy week. This is great, angsty alt-rock reminscent of the 1990s female-fronted alt-rock we grew up and fell in love with. It's a great listen, and one you don't want to miss.
Recommendation: Worth the time this week.

Of note:

* The Magnetic Fields - Quickies (Some solid, very short songs.)
* The Phenomenal Handclap Band - PHB (Don't sleep on this. Not a lot to say but this is quite good.)
* Perfume Genius - Set My Heart on Fire Immediately (Becoming a TikTok meme hasn't changed him.)
* Sparks - A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (It's a Sparks album, which is all you may need to hear.)
* Lesley Barth - Big Time Baby
* Orpine - Grown Ungrown
* THICK - 5 Years Behind
* American Trappist - The Gate
* Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Mosaic of Transformation
* Moses Sumney - græ
* DJ Manipulator - Gram Jams
* Emily Wells - In the Dark Moving
* ALMA - Have U Seen Her?


* Theia - 99% Angel
* Fever Dream - Baby Girl Vendetta
* Emma Blackery - My Arms Are Open

Also out:

* Sleaford Mods - All That Glue (Odds and sods collection.)
* Stereoma - Ghost Stories From the Recently Deceased
* Western Addiction - Frail Bray
* Moby - All Visible Objects

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