Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Freebie: De La Soul - For Your Pain & Suffering

This week Friday Freebie is back with the long awaited return of De La Soul! It's been far too long since we've had anything new from De La, so we couldn't be more thrilled with this free teaser EP for their upcoming Kickstarter funded album.

The four song EP starts off with a skit, "The Devil Likes Candy." Sometime in the early 90s I became completely fed up with hip hop skits, but now 20 years later it invokes more of an "Aww" in nostalgia form. "Trainwreck" is by far the highlight of the EP. It shows that De La Soul might be at the top of their game right now. It's more serious and less silly than some of their more vintage work, but they're also 25 years older now and should probably be more serious. Plus, there's horns and actual hip hop choruses, and not just an R&B hook. It's funny when 30 year old techniques seem so fresh. "Beautiful Night" does have an R&B chorus, but it feels more organic than the usual shoehorned in version you've been hearing since Puff Daddy took over the world of rap. "Schoolyard Studios" isn't quite a skit, but it is skit adjacent. But it's two brand new songs for free from De La Soul, so no complaining here.

Download your own free copy of For Your Pain & Suffering here. You can also listen below. The full length, And The Anonymous Nobody, will be released on August 26. Be sure to check out De La Soul's website for any more information.

Sara Watkins - "Move Me"

Photo credit: Maarten deBoer
I've always liked Sara Watkins. I mean, who doesn't, right? But I've never quite gotten her music before. It's always been something I've listened to, and recognized it was good, but I never connected to it. It's pretty surprising, since she falls squarely into the bluegrass/folk realm that I love.

What surprises me the most is how much I love her new song, "Move Me." It's a move away from straightforward Americana and much more into the territory of mainstream pop rock. Watkins' voice is still bluegrass. I don't think she could ever lose that quality if she tried. But musically "Move Me," while being pop, has this slight hard rock edge to it. It sounds like something I'd hate, but instead I truly love this song.

Sara Watkins' new album, Young in All the Wrong Ways, is due out July 1 on New West Records. You can watch the video for "Move Me" below. For more information on Sara Watkins, check out her website.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tyler Jordan and the Negative Space - "Ballerina"

Austin's Tyler Jordan and the Negative Space occupy a space that fits right into our wheelhouse here at If It's Too Loud...: They have a classic, Americana rock sound that's reminiscent of Tom Petty, but they blend it with the laid back indie rock of bands like Pavement. Their debut single, "Ballerina," was produced by members of another of our current musical obsessions, Big Thief. "Ballerina" is a pretty straightforward rock song, with just enough slight quirks, a killer riff that goes throughout, and quite possibly the most epic false ending of the year. It's pretty much a guaranteed favorite song for anyone who reads this site with any regularity.

You can listen to "Ballerina" below. For more information on Tyler Jordan and the Negative Space, check them out on Bandcamp and Facebook.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Workforce - "Hollywood Lips"

Workforce first formed in Boston way back in 1988 after the break up of James Straight's previous band, Doppler Effect. After releasing two albums of 80s heavy electronic music, the band went into hiatus in 1996 after the release of Come Out! They got together to play a show in 2010, and have slowly started working on some new material.

Workforce have always been at their best when they skewer American culture. One of their new songs, "Hollywood Lips," is a perfect example, mocking Hollywood's obsession with a cartoonish version of perfection only achieved through plastic surgery. Rather than trying to update their sound to a more "hip" version of today's electronica, this is pure vintage Workforce. This could easily be a lost recording from 1988, and I mean that as the most sincere compliment.

You can listen to "Hollywood Lips" below. They are promising a new album this year. For some more information, check them out on Soundcloud and Facebook.

First Listen: New Releases for April 22

A surprisingly slow week considering how busy the recent weeks have been.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Jason Wilber
Album: Echoes
Quick Description: Some solid singer-songwriter tunes.
Why You Should Listen: Jason Wilber has a sound that's a little unexpectedly unique.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know when this album hooked me for good, but I will say that a good cover tacked on at the end will leave a great impression overall. If you start with his take on "I Am the Cosmos" and go back from there, you might get a better understanding of Wilber's sound and approach. This is a pretty great album on a whole, and is the only thing that sounds like this that I heard this week.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth your time.

Artist: The Legendary Pink Dots
Album: Pages of Aquarius
Quick Description: Latest album by the long-standing rock band.
Why You Should Listen: They've been around for over 35 years, so they're probably worth a listen on their own...
Overall Thoughts: ...but this one is perhaps a little more weird/off than their typical offerings. This is not to say that LPD is not experimental on their own, but there's just something that doesn't quite work with this album even if I can't put my finger on it. While big fans might find a lot to offer here, I don't see myself coming back to it.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, but might be for fans only.

Artist: Guided by Voices
Album: Please Be Honest
Quick Description: Reunion(?) album from the indie rock legends.
Why You Should Listen: If you like indie rock, you're listening to Guided By Voices.
Overall Thoughts: That was a quick hiatus. GBV's 174th album is ultimately more of the same power-poppy, hook-heavy affair that we come to expect from the band/Robert Pollard. In a sense, there's not a ton to say about this as the story is less about the album and more about the band's reunion.
Recommendation: If you like GBV, you'll like this. Otherwise, there are a number of albums to start with before this one for this band.

Artist: A$AP Ferg
Album: Live Long and Prosper
Quick Description: Possible breakthrough album from one of the A$AP Mob members.
Why You Should Listen: Always an interesting listen, this is going to be one of those underrated/undernoticed rap albums of the year.
Overall Thoughts: The first thing you notice when this album comes up is the guests Ferg gets on this album from all walks. Old school rap artists, dubstep DJs, it runs the gamut. What Ferg has done with this album, though, is kind of special in that it's a pretty strong artistic leap with both a lot of chances being taken and a lot of successful risks as well. Like with A$AP Rocky, the track with Skrillex is the standout, but this whole album is really worth your time. In a year where a lot of the rap/hip-hop/R&B music discussion is being dominated by Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and now Beyonce, this is not an album that should get overlooked.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week, and the best rap album in a while.

Artist: Lush
Album: Blind Spot
Quick Description: First release in 20 years from the shoegaze favorites.
Why You Should Listen: That this exists at all is a big deal in and of itself.
Overall Thoughts: At four songs, it's a little short, but it's a nice release nonetheless from a band I know people are excited to hear from. It's not breaking any new ground, but that's okay! I just hope we see more from them before long. As someone who has an affinity, although not love, for shoegaze stuff, this is still a pretty solid release.
Recommendation: Find time for this one.

Artist: California
Album: California
Quick Description: Some pop punk from members of Green Day, Jawbreaker, etc.
Why You Should Listen: It's a curiosity if anything.
Overall Thoughts: I mean, it's a perfectly viable pop/punkish record, not really a vanity project, but my overall feeling was that I really couldn't get into this, and it felt kind of unnecessary. If you're fans of the artists, you might get something out of it.
Recommendation: Perfectly serviceable, but not mandatory.

Artist: Plastic Flowers
Album: Heavenly
Quick Description: Lovely retro-tinged dream pop.
Why You Should Listen: If you wish your music had more 80s-style reverb...
Overall Thoughts: ...this is your album. It's a solid listen, I liked a lot of it, but it definitely wears its influences on its sleeve, and that might be a turnoff to some. For me, I absolutely loved the album and I can't wait to spend more time with it. Pairs well with the Lush EP.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, especially this week.

Artist: Paper Tiger
Album: In Other Words, Pt. 1
Quick Description: An instrumental-ish soundscape project from a member of Doomtree.
Why You Should Listen: Doomtree is awesome, and so is this.
Overall Thoughts: At four tracks, it's really a quick hit, but it's a lot of really great instrumental stuff that hits right where I was looking. It's a solid listen if you're into this sort of electronic instrumental stuff, and it doesn't have a real hip hop vibe to it if that's a turnoff. You'll know in the first few moments if this is your thing, but I thought it was really well-done.
Recommendation: A great listen.

Also out this week:

* Nicolas Godin - Contrepoint (member of Air does super experimental stuff)

Monday, April 25, 2016

These Wild Plains - "Old Reasons"

I first discovered These Wild Plains when I heard they were going to be part of the night of the Boston Music Awards honoring Evan Dando by performing a partial tribute set to Evan and the Lemonheads. Considering a Lemonheads cover is how I discovered Courtney Batnett, These Wild Plains are in pretty fantastic company.

Their newest single, "Old Reasons," is everything I love about These Wild Plains. The Lemonheads' influence is pretty obvious, particularly with Dando's more country-infused songs (which I somehow never realized exactly how country they were back in high school...). There is also a huge sampling of 90s alt-country bands like Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown. It's really a touch of everything we gush about obsessively in one band, so we're pretty confident you're going to love it.

You can listen to "Old Reasons" below. You can purchase a copy at These Wild Plains' Bandcamp, and for more information on the band, check out their website.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Paws - "Gone So Long"

Let's get this part out of the way right away. The new Paws album is produced by Mark Hoppus of Blink 182. I have nothing against Mark Hoppus or Blink 182 per se, but when one of my favorite noisy punk bands gets produced by the man who helped usher in the sugary mall pop punk genre, I'm right to be a little concerned. I think we all know what happened to H2O when they signed to a major and had to make the pop album. At least with "Gone So Long," the concern is unwarranted. Is it a little more polished than their previous albums? Definitely. Could it be a little too polished? Maybe. Is it still fun noisy punk? Yes. At some point every band starts to clean up their sound a bit. Goo was more polished than Bad Moon Rising, and while some people hated it, they're both considered Sonic Youth classics now. This might help Paws sell some more records, but they may also deserve it.

The third Paws album, No Grace, is due out June 17 on FatCat Records. You can listen to "Gone So Long" for yourself below. For more information on Paws, check out their website, and pre-order No Grace here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Brief Candles - "Provisions"

It's been far too long since we've heard from Milwaukee's Brief Candles. Luckily for us, teh band has released the first single from an upcoming full length. "Provisions" starts off simply enough. Brief Candles do this beautiful blend of pop leaning shoegaze (I have previously described it as a cross between Guided By Voices and My Bloody Valentine), and "Provisions" furthers that perfectly. It's mid-tempo, jangly, and just enough to bop along to. And then something happens. Shoegaze songs always have these little parts that seem like the song might devolve into chaos, but they never do. It's just not what shoegaze does. But then "Provisions" does. It ends in what can only be described as Sonic Youth trying to cover Iron Butterfly. And it's glorious.

Brief Candles' next full length isn't due until the fall, so get ready to listen to "Provisions" a ton while we wait. Luckily, you can do that below. You can also find some more information on their Bandcamp

First Listen, Part Two: New Releases for April 15

Here's the rest from this week!

Artist: Clairy Browne
Album: Pool
Quick Description: Clairy Browne goes solo with a record that's surprisingly poppier than anticipated.
Why You Should Listen: Her work with Clairy Browne and the Rackettes is great.
Overall Thoughts: This is about as nontraditional a traditional modern pop record will get. On one hand, this feels like it could fit right on modern pop radio, but, on the other hand, this has a classic/edgier sensibility better delegated to the alt-pop space. You mix in songs like "F.U.B." and you get an album that feels both all over the place and kind of perfect. I honestly loved it, and I'm looking forward to more time with it, but if you're looking for something more straightforward, this might not be it.
Recommendation: A great listen, but clearly not for everyone.

Artist: The Coathangers
Album: Nosebleed Weekend
Quick Description: Some great power pop from a female trio.
Why You Should Listen: Listen to "Perfume." If you're not in love with it within 30 seconds, why are you here?
Overall Thoughts: Seriously, one of the highlights of this week for me was this album. There's a classic girl pop sensibility to the harmonies while still being a little rough around the edges. They're a punk trio with some history behind them, and, while I don't know their older stuff, longtime fans might be turned off by the polish here. It's not a punk album in the most basic sense, and that's okay, because it's still pretty great.
Recommendation: An album of the week contender.

Artist: Kevin Morby
Album: Singing Saw
Quick Description: A country/folk record with a singing saw. Really.
Why You Should Listen: Morby is an established singer-songwriter with an interesting take.
Overall Thoughts: Kevin Morby has been in a few bands I'm not familiar with, and this album sounds a lot like a 1970s folk album at times, but with some modern flairs. Plus, a singing saw, which is not something I've heard in modern music in about a decade, and certainly not seriously. This album, while a pleasant listen, doesn't do a lot to set itself apart in a busy week, but those who haven't found anything in this space worth hearing this week should try it.
Recommendation: It's good, but not worthy of being at the top of your listening pile.

Artist: East of Venus
Album: Memory Box
Quick Description: Indie "supergroup" combines powers to offer a great classic alt-rock record.
Why You Should Listen: Four established musicians bringing their influences to the table is always worth a listen.
Overall Thoughts: At some points this sounds like Dire Straits, at others R.E.M., and that alone makes Memory Box worth some of your time. It's expertly crafted, and the result is an album that hit more than a few nostalgia buttons along the way. Really, if you've enjoyed any sort of rock music over the last 30 years, you owe it to yourself to give this a listen because it's going to really remind you of some great music and walk away with a few great songs along the way.
Recommendation: A must listen this week.

Artist: Eskimeaux
Album: Year of the Rabbit
Quick Description: A quick-shot EP from an indie pop band.
Why You Should Listen: We didn't talk about it much last year, but O.K. was a solid album and this also has some great highlights.
Overall Thoughts: The only downside to this release is that it's only six songs. A quiet affair in many regards, songs like "WTF" and "Drunk" jump out as highlights immediately and make me want to go back to their old stuff. In a crowded week, this is worth finding some time for.
Recommendation: A good listen.

Artist: Hallelujah the Hills
Album: A Band is Something to Figure Out
Quick Description: Latest album from the Boston-based indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Hallelujah the Hills is quickly becoming a favorite at this blog, and this album is more of the quality stuff we're enjoying.
Overall Thoughts: A solid band with some interesting songs and clearly a lot of work being put into what they're doing, the new album shows a continuing amount of polish from a band that's doing some great things and aren't getting enough credit for it. I'd love for this to be their deserved breakthrough, and this should absolutely grab you from the first few notes.
Recommendation: Definitely worth a listen this week.

Artist: Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop
Album: Love Letter for Fire
Quick Description: The man behind Iron and Wine teams with another singer-songwriter for a great folk album.
Why You Should Listen: Both of these artists have solid reputations, and this team-up is high quality.
Overall Thoughts: At first blush, this feels more like an Iron and Wine album, but, as it progresses, we get the feeling of how this is truly a collaborative effort. I've been a fan of Jesca Hoop for some time, and this ends up being something that has a lot of emotional weight to it as well as having the kind of quiet musicality that Sam Beam does so well. This isn't something to be missed, so check it out.
Recommendation: Another solid listen this week.

Also out this week:

* Sunns - Hold Still

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for April 15

A busy week of new music, which seems to be typical for the moment! 1 of 2 as has been the case for a while.

Album of the Week

Artist: Sturgill Simpson
Album: A Sailor's Guide to Earth
Quick Description: Latest album from the buzzed-about country act.
Why You Should Listen: If his previous album was his roots breakthrough, this might end up being his mainstream one.
Overall Thoughts: We've, to this point, not been on the Sturgill bandwagon here. It's not that he's not good at what he does, but I haven't personally felt the connection to his work the way a lot of other people have. Metamodern Sounds felt very sterile to me in particular, and I was expecting more of the same from this new album this week, and I didn't get it. His sound is still classic (the cover of "In Bloom" absolutely nails it), but there's a little bit of a layer of something here that I felt was missing before, and it makes it much more interesting. This is an album you're probably going to hear a lot more about, so get in on this one while you can.
Recommendation: A definite must listen for this week, even if it wasn't truly great.

Artist: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Album: PersonA
Quick Description: Latest album from the indie folk act.
Why You Should Listen: You liked more than "Home" and can tolerate some plodding folk tunes.
Overall Thoughts: I can't be kind about this: it isn't good. This is the sort of project one might expect from an act that's trying a lot of ideas and can't quite get them to stick. I've been a fan of Alex Ebert/Edward Sharpe since the Ima Robot days and this is just a hard miss across the board.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Artist: PJ Harvey
Album: The Hope Six Demolition Project
Quick Description: The companion to an art project from an indie/alt-rock favorite.
Why You Should Listen: Even if she hasn't been great for some time, PJ Harvey's output is always a must-listen.
Overall Thoughts: I haven't really truly loved a PJ Harvey album in a decade, and this is more of a concept album than a straightforward rock and roll album, but this both feels like the PJ Harvey I fell in love with 15 years ago and something new and fresh. It's early to say whether any of these songs will hold up on their own, but, for now? A solid listen.
Recommendation: Pretty good, especially if you're a fan.

Artist: Mr. Lif
Album: Don't Look Down
Quick Description: New album from the Boston-based rapper.
Why You Should Listen: I feel like Mr. Lif has been around forever, and he brings a great album here.
Overall Thoughts: Mr. Lif hasn't released an album in a long time, and he offers some solid old school hip-hop here that feels fresh without falling into a lot of the traps we've seen other classic acts deal with. Nothing jumps out at me as a classic on first listen, but the Del the Funky Homosapien collaboration is pretty solid. Overall, if you like rap music, give this a listen.
Recommendation: Pretty great!

Artist: The Hackensaw Boys
Album: Charismo
Quick Description: First album in ten years from the roots group.
Why You Should Listen: The Hackensaw Boys put on a great live show, and their albums are just as fun.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't realize it had been so long since they released music, but a few songs into this one and I realized pretty fast how much I missed them. A solid listen that roots fans here will enjoy, but you should really see them live to get the full experience. A great listen this week.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: The Del McCoury Band
Album: Del and Woody
Quick Description: Del McCoury band puts Woody Guthrie lyrics to music.
Why You Should Listen: Del McCoury is a legend, and the this sort of collaborative effort seems to always go right.
Overall Thoughts: There's a classic country sound here that might not be what everyone is looking for, but in terms of a pretty solid listen on a whole, you could do worse. There's plenty to like here on a whole, but (especially with some of the other roots-based albums out this week) this might get lost in the shuffle. If you're a big fan, bump this up, but...
Recommendation: ...worth a listen only if you're not into other stuff this week.

Artist: Har Mar Superstar
Album: Best Summer Ever
Quick Description: Indie funk/soul chameleon goes early pop.
Why You Should Listen: Har Mar Superstar is always interesting even if this is a little outside of where he normally sits.
Overall Thoughts: I had a lot of trouble with this one, in part because I came to it with some expectations and in part because I'm not sure whether it's good or not. On first listen, it feels like a miss - often muddled, kind of dirty, not where I wanted it to be. Whether it improves on further listens remains to be seen, but with other poppy albums out this week, I don't know if this has a spot.
Recommendation: Maybe for fans only, be wary.

Also out this week:

* Surgical Meth Machine - Surgical Meth Machine
* Cate Le Bon - Crab Day

Monday, April 18, 2016

Margaret Glaspy - "Emotions and Math"

Photo by Ebru Yildiz
While her previous releases were a bit more folk oriented, "Emotions and Math," the newest single from Margaret Glaspy, leans more toward the pop side of Americana that Lucius and Thao & The Get Down Stay Down have mastered. What sets Margaret Glaspy apart from the others is her voice. She has this soulful voice that also has an energetic 90s slacker vibe to it. Think of Susan Tedeschi meets Courtney Barnett. It all creates this element of both the familiar and unique blending together.

Margaret Glaspy's debut album, Emotions and Math, is due out June 17 on ATO Records, and is available for pre-order. For more information on Margaret Glaspy, check out her website, and listen to "Emotions and Math" below.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Grave School - "Eugene, OR"

Grave School's "Eugene, OR" will be the best short song you hear all year. The video clocks in at 2:06, but about 30 seconds of that takes place before the music kicks in. For the minute and a half that the song lasts, it's pure catchy 90s inspired pop rock. It reminds me a ton of whitechocolatespaceegg era Liz Phair meets The Anniversary. It's raw, and confessional, with swirling jangly guitars, and just as you decide you love the song and are dying for the second verse, it's all over. 

"Eugene, OR" is the fourth installment of The Native Sound Private Press Series. You have until April 18th to order a 7" of your very own. After that, no more orders will be taken, and it will never be reprinted. You'll also get a download of Grave School's EP, so just hearing more from these guys might make it worth it. You can order your own copy here. For more on Grave School, you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Also, Grave School features Gina from Sheer, who we've already babbled on about back in the fall.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

First Listen, Part Two: New Releases for April 8

And the rest of the week:

Artist: Future of the Left
Album: To Failed States and Forest Clearings
Quick Description: A mini companion EP to go along with their new album.
Why You Should Listen: It's a smaller dose, and perhaps better?
Overall Thoughts: This is music from the same sessions as the album I covered yesterday, and perhaps it's just that it's a much more concise piece that I enjoyed it more. A handful of good songs, the whole is pretty solid, and perhaps jump in on this one first?
Recommendation: A great companion to their other album.

Artist: Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
Album: Call It What It Is
Quick Description: Ben Harper's latest sort of folky sort of funky effort.
Why You Should Listen: You probably already know if you'd like this.
Overall Thoughts: Ben Harper had a minor hit with "Steal My Kisses" around 15 years ago, and I feel like he's more been on the edges of the sort of jam band thing for a while. I haven't really kept up with him much, but this album was basically what I expected it to be, and there's nothing wrong with that. Not going to blow your socks off, but not a bad listen, either.
Recommendation: Worth it if you're into his previous work.

Artist: Moving Units
Album: Damage With Care
Quick Description: Latest album from the dance/punk band.
Why You Should Listen: Moving Units have been criminally underrated over their tenure.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like Moving Units made a rise during a time where a lot of bands were merging dance instrumentation with rock music, and somehow Moving Units got left behind. I don't know why or how, because they've had some killer songs over the years, and Damage With Care continues along that same line with some great tunes that will, invariably, be missed by a lot of the people who would love it. Really, really good album, so give this a listen.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended this week.

Artist: September Girls
Album: Age of Indignation
Quick Description: Second dream-pop/rock listen from this Irish group.
Why You Should Listen: Their first album was amazing, this one just as good.
Overall Thoughts: I loved their debut album, and this release is definitely an improvement in many ways while still not losing what makes September Girls special. The sort of dreamy, drenched rock music I love so much is on full display here, and while this might feel a little darker on first listen than their first album, this is one I'm excited to get back to.
Recommendation: An album of the week contender. A must listen.

Artist: Parquet Courts
Album: Human Performance
Quick Description: Latest album from the prolific indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: We love Parquet Courts here, so I assume you do too.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know what's left to say about this band at this point. It feels like we get new music from them every 6-8 months or so, and each album seems better than the one before it. They're a great band, this is a great entry point, fits right in on the current indie scene while still being reminiscent of some of the great stuff of a decade ago.
Recommendation: Simply a must listen.

Artist: Hayes Carll
Album: Lovers and Leavers
Quick Description: First album in five years from the acclaimed Americana artist.
Why You Should Listen: Hayes Carll is considered one of the best for a reason.
Overall Thoughts: KMAG YOYO is at least part of the reason why I love Americana music today. So many of those songs hit home for me, and it's clear Carll is a great songwriter. The new album is definitely on the quieter, more deliberate end, which may be a turn-off to some of us who were expecting the sort of rollicking time KMAG offered, but that does not make this a bad album at all. Instead, it's a piece of work that really measures where Carll is in his life and is so well done it's almost easy to overlook in some senses. But don't overlook it, this looks to be one of those sleeper albums this year that I keep going back to.
Recommendation: Definitely give this a listen.

Artist: Grey Season
Album: Out of the House into the Nigh
Quick Description: Final release from the Boston natives.
Why You Should Listen: This is some smart alt-rock.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't know this band until after their final show, and that's too bad. An EP like this just makes you want to get to know a band more, and the leadoff track will probably just grab you right from the start. I hope the members of this band keep making music, as I'll be looking forward to checking it out.
Recommendation: A solid local listen.

Also out this week:

* Lights - Midnight Machines (her regular acoustic takes on her electronic album)
* Eliza and the Bear - Eliza and the Bear

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for April 8

Kind of a weird week, but a lot to get through and not a ton of time, so this will be split into two posts again!

Album of the Week:

Artist: She Makes War
Album: Direction of Travel
Quick Description: Smart, interesting indie singer-songwriter rock music.
Why You Should Listen: Every so often an artist appears out of nowhere and gives you a fresh-yet-familiar-sounding album. That's She Makes War.
Overall Thoughts: This is apparently this artist's third album, but I can't say I've heard of her before, and I can't wait until I have enough time to delve into the back catalog a bit. She Makes War makes some interesting music that both sounds like stuff you've heard before, but still surprises you and stays hooked in your head. "In Cold Blood" grabbed me by the time I was interested in this album, and "5000 Miles" just did not let go one bit. When I finished, I wanted to listen again, because I feel like there are layers here that I missed on first listen. If that's not the sign of a great listen, I don't know what is. This blew me away, and it might do the same for you.
Recommendation: One of my favorite recent listens period. A must.

Artist: Peter Wolf
Album: A Cure for Loneliness
Quick Description: Latest solo album from the J. Geils Band singer.
Why You Should Listen: His solo stuff (at least today) sounds nothing like "Centerfold."
Overall Thoughts: I first opted to listen to this because I confused him with Patrick Wolf, who is pretty different. Upon hearing this, I figured out very quickly that this was different, but in a pretty good way. It's certainly well-trod ground, but Wolf's voice is very fitting for the sort of adult contemporary sound he's going for here, and the result is a really solid album. It's good enough where I want to explore his back catalog a bit too, but maybe not to the point of checking out J. Geils again...
Recommendation: A solid listen you shouldn't sleep on.

Artist: Future of the Left
Album: The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left
Quick Description: Fourth album from the post-mclusky UK rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Future of the Left is basically required listening now.
Overall Thoughts: There was some significant concern that this album wouldn't even see United States shores, so the fact that we have it at all is one thing, but I will say that this album is chaotic and strange in ways I didn't love. There's still plenty of the acerbic wit throughout, and there are plenty of great songs in here ("White Privilege Blues" is a distinct highlight), but this feels like a misstep from one of my favorite bands on the first listen through. I wouldn't say not to listen to it, but with so many new releases this might be toward the bottom of the list if their sound isn't your thing.
Recommendation: Feels like a miss.

Artist: M83
Album: Junk
Quick Description: Latest album by the retro/electro act.
Why You Should Listen: M83 has hit a pretty great stride in what they accomplish.
Overall Thoughts: My favorite M83 albums are the earlier ones, before he discovered 80s synths and the retro thing. This is not to say this little niche he's carved out is bad, but it's not really my thing. Junk is his sound perfected, at least in my mind, and I kind of love what he's done with this album. It's kind of irreverent but kind of awesome all at once, and that's a tough balance to make. A solid effort, for sure.
Recommendation: If you like this sort of thing, it needs to be on your list this week.

Artist: The Lumineers
Album: Cleopatra
Quick Description: Much-awaited second album from the rootsy buzz band.
Why You Should Listen: "Ho Hey" was your jam.
Overall Thoughts: I think it's time for some straight talk on The Lumineers. Rising in the wave of Edward Sharpe/Mumford thing, "Hey Ho" was in every movie and commercial for a time, and I feel like we all convinced ourselves that The Lumineers were a big deal. But let's be real: the first album had "Hey Ho," "Dead Sea," and "Big Parade," and beyond that? I can think of dozens of better roots albums. Cleopatra doesn't really expand on anything, and is arguably a step backward considering where it started out, and it makes me wonder if we just all collectively ignored what was in front of us. This isn't compelling, and it might be great for your mom this Mother's Day, but that's it.
Recommendation: Skip it. Very unfortunate.

Artist: Frightened Rabbit
Album: Painting of a Panic Attack
Quick Description: Fifth album from the rockers.
Why You Should Listen: They do a pretty good job with the straightforward modern rock.
Overall Thoughts: Frightened Rabbit came around for me in a time with a lot of bands with "Rabbit" in their titles, and I've confused them with White Rabbits enough over the years to get pretty frustrated by it. I feel like they're a band that's no one's favorite but anyone who likes to listen to rock music enjoys, and that's a fine niche to sit in. It also results in albums like this that are completely pleasant experiences that I might never go to again because it's just not captivating enough with so much interesting stuff surrounding it. Not a pass, but not worth putting ahead of anything else. Just solid rock music.
Recommendation: It's not bad, but it should never take priority.

Artist: Mogwai
Album: Atomic
Quick Description: Latest album by the intrumental rockers.
Why You Should Listen: It's Mogwai. Why haven't you already listened?
Overall Thoughts: If you've heard Mogwai, you already have an opinion of what they do. This album (actually a soundtrack of sorts to a BBC documentary) follows up the stellar Rave Tapes, and while their signature sound is still on display throughout, this album also takes a little longer to get off the ground. Maybe it's more complex, maybe it's just very different due to the medium it accompanies, but it's not exactly what I was expecting, and that means it's a little mixed for me. Truth be told, I'll need more time with this one, but don't sleep on it.
Recommendation: Worth a listen even if it's imperfect.

Artist: Kelley McRae
Album: The Wayside
Quick Description: Rootsy singer-songwriter channels her inner Gillian Welch.
Why You Should Listen: Kelley McRae is underrated, and you need an Americana cleanser after that Lumineers album.
Overall Thoughts: Sweet is the best word to describe this album. I compare it to Welch, but there's not the underlying darkness that seems to permeate a lot of Welch's works. Instead, we get a pretty great album that feels uplifting in its own way, even if I can't say for certain it's meant to be on a first, not-too-close listen. I have loved everything McRae has done up to this point, though, and this continues along the lines of really solid listens from her.
Recommendation: Definitely worth a listen this week.

Also out this week:

* The Dandy Warhols - Distortland (why are you not on Spotify?)
* Deftones - Gore
* Filter - Crazy Eyes

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Julie Ruin - "I Decide"

The Julie Ruin is back with the first single from their upcoming album, Hit Reset. I don't remember even hearing that they were working on an album, so this is the most welcome kind of surprises. "I Decide" doesn't quite have the raw ferocity of Bikini Kill, or the danceability of Le Tigre or even The Julie Ruin's previous album, Run Fast. While it still has a distinctive groove and Kathleen Hanna's distinctive sing-song vocals, "I Decide" feels more indie rock than Hanna's previous projects. The song has a haunting quality that's leaving me very intrigued.

Hit Reset will be out July 8 on Hardly Art. You can pre-order the album here. The band's website appears to be under construction currently but will hopefully be up soon. You can watch the video (which features Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee wandering around South By Southwest) for "I Decide" below.

Surgical Meth Machine - "I Don't Wanna"

Al Jourgensen has put together roughly a thousand bands in his multi-decade career, so what's one more? His newest is Surgical Meth Machine. Surgical Meth Machine combines the heavy industrial that Jourgensen is best known for, but also includes a lot more electronic elements than usual. The first song released is "I Don't Wanna," which might be the biggest clusterfuck of noise that will be released in 2016. With industrial beats, squelching guitars, and pure electronic noise, it sounds like maybe three songs being blasted all together, but with Jourgensen involved, that's exactly what you want it to sound like. Plus, the song features vocals from Jourgensen's Lard and Revolting Cocks bandmate Jello Biafra for an adult level temper tantrum.

Surgical Meth Machine's debut album is due out April 15. You can watch the video for "I Don't Wanna" below. For more information, check out Al Jourgensen's website.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Vow - "Green Light"

As we inch closer to the debut album from Vow, they've made another song available to listen to. "Green Light" continues their move away from the synth pop of their first two Eps into more indie rock territory. That's not to say it completely gives up all electronic elements, as there is a strong resemblance to a sunnier New Order here, with just a hint of vocals that remind me of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and Steven Malkmus.

Vow's debut album, Kind Eyes, will be out May 27 on The Native Sound. Be sure to listen to "Green Light" below. For more information on Vow, check out their website. You can also pre-order the album on Bandcamp.

Lonesome Shack - "To the Floor"

Photo by Sarah Garrard
Lonesome Shack delivers completely stripped down dirty blues that has an undeniable boogie to it. The Seattle trio is set to release their fourth album, The Switcher, and has made "To the Floor" available to listen.

"To the Floor" is a raw, foreboding song. It just has this dark edge to it. It could be because the entire time you listen to it, you keep expecting it to just explode into this complete breakdown, like a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album would. But it never does. It just keeps building and building to a climax that never truly comes, all without changing tempo. You wait for a release that you never get. It's both frustrating and glorious. And you can somehow dance to it.

The Switcher will be released on June 24. You can listen to "To the Floor" below. For more information on Lonesome Shack, check out their website