Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for August 19

One of the weirder weeks for new music since we started this project up. Away we go!

Octagrape - Emotional Oil: Ken knew of this band because they opened for Sebadoh (and wrote about them here), and I can totally understand why they did. If one was to think about what "indie grunge" might sound like in 2014, this EP would almost certainly take the bill. I'll be honest - I didn't love this, but it definitely has an interesting take and could absolutely find the right audience even if it isn't me. At under 20 minutes, it's not much of an investment and you'll know how you feel about it almost immediately.

Orenda Fink - Blue Dream: Orenda Fink's third solo album, and first since the reformation of Azure Ray, sounds a lot like an Azure Ray record, and that's not a bad thing. Putting aside the dream pop in favor of a more dreamy folk atmosphere, the album, on first listen, seems more successful than her previous solo efforts in a number of regards. I'll definitely be spending a lot of time with this album going forward, definitely a highlight of the week.

Literature - Chorus: At under 30 minutes, this new full-length from Literature feels like a really quick hit of somewhat-retro indie pop. It's a quality album, for sure, but throughout my entire listen I felt as if something was missing. I'm not sure what it is, but the album is still good enough as a more traditional indie guitar record to give it some more time. Definitely worth a listen.

Sarah Jaffe - Don't Disconnect: Sarah Jaffe first hit my radar, as she hit so many others, with her song "Clementine" about 7 years ago. It was an absolutely gorgeous folk-tinged song that worked on so many levels. When she released The Body Wins in 2012, it was a crazy departure into electronic beats and glitchy pop music, and, while it wasn't what I expected from her at all, it was still pretty great. Don't Disconnect is still more Body than "Clementine," but it bridges that gap between the two disparate tones in a very real way, and it ends up being a very solid listen. Fans of St. Vincent in particular will find a lot to love with this new album, it's definitely recommended.

Caroline Rose - I Will Not Be Afraid: Caroline Rose's debut album is really a lot of fun, perfectly blending old-style country music with a more modern touch. In a year where I've been obsessed with Lydia Loveless, this is an even more traditional sounding album in many ways, and yet it all feels like it works. Really, if you have any love for the current crop of alt-country or indie country artists, this has to hit your radar. It might end up being one of the better releases of the year.

Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker: Blog favorite Benjamin Booker finally releases his debut album this week, and it pretty much lives up to the hype that we've been hearing so much about. Kicking off with "Violent Shiver," it largely keeps that sort of pace and attitude throughout, and it's really the roots rock album (with the emphasis on the rock) I didn't realize I was looking for. If there's any justice in the world, he'll be spoken of in the same breath as Jack White in a few years. That's how good this album is. If you only pick one thing to listen to this week, you probably won't go wrong with this one.

Kimbra - The Golden Echo: Most of us first heard Kimbra with her guest spot on that Gotye song from a couple years ago. She released a pretty great solo album shortly after that, and The Golden Echo is the really weird, really strange, really experimental follow-up. As someone who really loved her first album, I admit that this one is a really difficult listen. It's more Tune-Yards than anything else, and... I don't know. I hate to drag my own expectations in on this, but at an hour long and without much in the way to hook me in, the album just doesn't work for me at all. Might be good for those really into experimental pop, but even then...

JJ - V: JJ (once jj) is a Sewdish electronic duo who named their third album after the Roman numeral for 5. The album is weird and uncomfortable, and part of me believes that's the point, but in a year which has had a lot of superlative releases in this genre, there ultimately feels like there's more than a little missing from it. Give it a shot, but be aware.

Laura Mvula - Laura Mvula with the Metropole Orkest: I fully enjoyed Mvula's debut album, Sing to the Moon, a solid soul/R&B album from the British singer. Her new album with the Metropole Orkest is a rerecording of that debut with an orchestra at Abbey Road studios. The good is that it provides an interesting alternative to the sound of her album, and ends up being a gorgeous record as a result. The production value, however, feels lacking, as it sounds like Mvula's vocals are buried somewhat often, and it gives the entire proceeding a flat quality. Overall, a good album and worth your time even if you're not a fan, but it could have done with some better mastering.

Bishop Allen - Lights Out: For as long as Bishop Allen has been on my radar, it's shocking to me that this is really only their third album. The good news is that Bishop Allen is really one of the most reliable indie bands going right now, and Lights Out is as solid a release as any of their others. It certainly shows a further maturity compared to their first, and it has the solid production values of their second from 2009, so, really, you know exactly what you're getting. An essential indie pop album by one of the great indie acts going.

Imogen Heap - Sparks: It's fairly impossible to judge Sparks based on one listen alone, nor can you judge it solely on the musical output provided. Sparks is a long-term project that includes fan involvement, technological achievements, label disputes, and so on. The individual songs, in many forms, have been available for some time, but as a full album, it's more interesting to listen to for what it is than for any sort of musical benefit. The music is good, don't get me wrong, but the album is a little staggered and, ultimately, I'm more interested in the production ("Me the Machine," for example, was composed using Mi.Mu Gloves) than the album itself. Still, as a musical experiment and maybe in contrast to Kimbra, there might be some interesting stuff for musicophiles in here.

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