Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for July 24

A slower release week than what we've been used to.

Album of the Week

Artist: Watkins Family Hour
Album: Watkins Family Hour
Quick Description: Roots-infused staples and originals from the longtime Largo residency led by Sara Watkins.
Why You Should Listen: You like the associated acts (Nickel Creek, Fiona Apple); you think Prairie Home Companion would be great if it were only the music.
Overall Thoughts: Album of the week because of the stature and music here, this forges no new ground but is a nice, pleasant, enjoyable musical diversion. As someone who hasn't listened to the show, I don't know how it adds up, but it's definitely a good time.
Recommendation: In a short week, it's great. In a busier week, it might slip through the cracks, but it's worth your time no matter what.

Artist: L'Orange, Kool Keith
Album: Time? Astonishing!
Quick Description: Project between the classic rapper and the well-regarded hip-hop producer.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy either of these artists and can stomach some experimentation.
Overall Thoughts: This is kind of a miss for me. I'm not a Kool Keith fan, per se, and I don't know a lot about L'Orange, so this kind of sailed over my head and I didn't find it too enjoyable. Plenty of other things like it came out recently that are more worth the time.
Recommendation: A fans-only affair.

Artist: The Acorn
Album: Vieux Loup
Quick Description: Challenging indie rock from an act that got some mainstream success a few years ago.
Why You Should Listen: You don't mind being challenged; you liked that song from Crazy Stupid Love a few years ago.
Overall Thoughts: This wasn't an easy listen, and I can't say I enjoyed it on first listen, but it's a musically ambitious and interesting affair that I do hope to spend a lot more time with in the coming weeks.
Recommendation: Worth a listen to see if it's for you.

Artist: Kasey Chambers
Album: Bittersweet
Quick Description: American release of the latest album from the Australian country artist.
Why You Should Listen: Kasey Chambers has an underrated body of work; the new album is a shift in prodcution.
Overall Thoughts: This isn't her best album, for sure, but in terms of it being a bit of a shift in tone and production from her previous works gives this a little extra reason to listen. As with all Kasey Chambers albums, there's a lot here to like and a number of solid songs like "Stalker" to keep you coming back.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, and it should be something readers of this blog will like. If it gets you looking into her back catalog, all the better.

Artist: Pearl and the Beard
Album: Beast
Quick Description: The final album from the roots-inspired indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: You like interesting indie rock/folk; a preference for interesting vocals and instrumentation.
Overall Thoughts: I've always found Pearl and the Beard to be difficult to categorize, and I have certain songs and sounds I hear when I think of them that I don't think others do. Still, the fact that they're breaking up following this album is unfortunate, and this is a pretty solid last hurrah. Worth a listen and worth exploring their back catalog.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Jess Penner
Album: Good Times
Quick Description: The new EP from the indie folk singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You like happy poppy songs; quick hit EPs of radio-friendly tunes is up your alley.
Overall Thoughts: I've been a fan of Jess Penner for a while, and this new EP has a lot to love, and the slower spots are over quick enough where the highlights shine through. She's not forging any new paths, but that's okay, it's still worth some time.
Recommendation: Given its short length and the good individual songs, this should hit your rotation.

Artist: Emily Hall
Album: Folie a Deux
Quick Description: Experimental folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You like challenging and The Acorn didn't challenge you enough.
Overall Thoughts: Objectively, this is an interesting, difficult record. Subjectively, it's impossible to truly give the sort of look to it that you'd want to, so I don't even want to try. It worked for me in some places, though.
Recommendation: If you want a challenge, you'll know really quick if it works for you.

Artist: Ducktails
Album: St. Catherine
Quick Description: Quiet, melodic indie rock from the guitarist from Real Estate.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Real Estate; you like things like Craft Spells.
Overall Thoughts: A quiet, interesting album on a whole. The artist name doesn't really give you an idea as to what it sounds like, but the entire point seems to be the sort of quiet, unassuming indie rock that has some jangle-pop influences sprinkled throughout. This isn't going to get you out of your seat dancing, but it is likely to be a pleasant background piece for your workday.
Recommendation: I definitely liked it, and you might like it too if it meets your expectations.

Artist: The Dustbowl Revival
Album: With a Lampshade On
Quick Description: Squirrel Nut Zippers with cowboy hats on.
Why You Should Listen: You love older throwback music; the Squirrel Nut Zippers were your jam 20 years ago.
Overall Thoughts: This is really, really great and I can't say enough good things about this album. They're hot jazz, swing, bluegrass/roots, and they slip on two or three of those genres with ease. Polished musicians (and much of the album is recorded live and you'd never know it) doing fun music, you really can't go wrong with this. How flawless this is might actually be a turnoff for some, but I really love this.
Recommendation: Fire this one up unless having a good time is something you prefer to avoid.

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