Tuesday, September 12, 2017

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for September 8

Another busy release date means we're splitting this one in two.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Partner
Album: In Search of Lost Time
Quick Description: Stoner chicks with a fun and funny debut.
Why You Should Listen: This is definitely the most fun you'll have this week from a musical standpoint, but stay for the sharp songwriting.
Overall Thoughts: To say that this is probably collectively the most anticipated release of the week for both Ken and I is probably an understatement. Ken has noted that we’re way too old to enjoy this band as much as we do, and this debut album? Basically a direct hit of nostalgia and humor directly into the bloodstream. This duo knows exactly what they’re doing – from the framework of the album itself to their sound to the humor to even the fact that they have skits, this is a heck of a nostalgia trip that still works in a modern context. In terms of solely what they are as a band, this is a great release. Whether the humor and ridiculousness of the proceedings keep it from making some year-end lists remains to be seen, but this is a band that demands your attention.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week, if not the year.

Artist: ODESZA
Album: A Moment Apart
Quick Description: New album from the electro act.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for that happy medium between house music and whatever the popular brostep is, I guess.
Overall Thoughts: This dance act is one that I’m only recently a convert to as I’ve slowly started catching up with old episodes of Song Exploder. This new album is pretty sonically similar to their previous album, and that’s not a bad thing – their take on electronic music is pretty straightforward and it’s one that works well. There’s a breezy soundscape to go along with its overall-accessible nature, and that’s perfectly fine – these aren’t Calvin Harris-style club bangers, and I can’t say that’s what I’m looking for most of the time from this genre. The guest spots are fine, and they won’t set the world on fire, but I do think this is a pretty great album deserving of your time if you have a tolerance for the style.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: David Wax Museum
Album: Electric Artificacts
Quick Description: Rarities collection from a regional favorite.
Why You Should Listen: David Wax Museum is our favorite collective band here, and for good reason.
Overall Thoughts: B-sides/odds and ends albums are always a mixed bag. I think the relevant gold standard remains R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office, but even if it weren’t, it doesn’t mean I don’t compare albums like this to that one. David Wax Museum, over their tenure, have always been at their best when they’re not doing the slower, more deliberate stuff (with “Unfruitful” the obvious exception to the rule). This collection definitely has some of their more contemplative work on it, and isn’t lacking for its share of stuff that you understand why it wasn’t included on any of their major releases, but when a band is as good as David Wax Museum, enough of these continue to stand on their own that I’m just glad they opted to share them. Especially considering how long it’s been since we got some new English-language music from the group, I’m definitely not going to complain about some good stuff from one of our favorites here.
Recommendation: You may not love everything here, but this is still worth your time.

Artist: Infinity Girl
Album: Somewhere Nice, Someday
Quick Description: The final album from the indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Infinity Girl has always done some interesting stuff.
Overall Thoughts: Infinity Girl will be no more soon, and this album is their swan song. I’ve always generally enjoyed what this group has put out when I’ve heard it, but they’ve never been on my radar quite long enough to know how this lines up with their previous work. With that said, this is a very solid, consistent record and it’s far from a bad way to go out – Infinity Girl doesn’t sound like anyone else, but they also have an aesthetic that fits in with a lot of the better indie stuff of late. This serves as a good introduction to a band on its way out if you’re new to them, and I expect fans will probably be pleased on a whole with this finale.
Recommendation: Worth a spin.

Artist: Sparks
Album: Hippopotamus
Quick Description: Latest from the weird-yet-legendary band.
Why You Should Listen: Sparks is a really fascinating band.
Overall Thoughts: I am not equipped to talk about Sparks. I have a friend who is really into Sparks and has tried to get me into them, and… I mean, I get it, but I don’t get it. They’re a band from another time playing music from a time they’re not actually from. This album is a fun romp, but I know I’m missing something along the way, and that’s more than okay. Throughout listening, I kept thinking “yep, this is a Sparks album,” and that’s about all I can say. It’s a Sparks album, and you either know what that means or you don’t. And if you don’t, there are probably other albums to start with first.
Recommendation: It is what it is.

Artist: Chad VanGaalen
Album: Light Information
Quick Description: New album from the indie Artist (with a capital A).
Why You Should Listen: VanGaalen is an interesting musician.
Overall Thoughts: Chad VanGaalen would have probably been 2004 Jeff’s favorite artist had I learned of VanGaalen at the time of his debut release. As it stands now, he is still doing some weird and wonderful music that is scratching a very specific itch for me, but won’t be for everyone. VanGaalen is an artist, and that artist sensibility shines through in his music as well as his artwork, and this album definitely takes some risks others would not.
Recommendation: This might not work for you, but if the weirder side of mid-aughts indie does it for you, give this a listen.

Artist: Beaches
Album: Second of Spring
Quick Description: Newest album from the Australian psych-rockers.
Why You Should Listen: This is an album with a lot of variety and interesting parts to it.
Overall Thoughts: The only complaint I have about this album is that it’s simply too long. At an hour-long-plus run time, the variety that Beaches puts forward in its sound does tend to lean more toward the exhausting than the exhaustive, and that’s a shame. This is a really solid listen with a lot of great moments throughout, and it fits itself rather snugly between the sort of 1990s alt-rock trend and the more modern indie rock sensibilities of the day. If this was just chopped up a bit, I’d probably consider this one of my favorites of the week, but even with that one flaw, you shouldn’t avoid it.
Recommendation: This is absolutely deserving of your time.

Artist: Samantha Parton and Jolie Holland
Album: Wildflower Blues
Quick Description: Collaborative effort from members of the Be Good Tonyas.
Why You Should Listen: It's a solid, interesting folky collaboration.
Overall Thoughts: Of the members of the Be Good Tonyas, I’m definitely more familiar with Jolie Holland than Samantha Parton, but this sort of pseudo-reunion/collaborative effort is just a really crisp, pleasant release. It gives a nice end-of-summer feel to the proceedings while still sounding sweet and airy throughout, and I just really enjoyed this one. Of all the releases this week, this is honestly the one I’m most excited to get back to, as this just sounds really nice and comfortable.
Recommendation: Great for folkies and those who are kind of allergic to it alike.

Artist: Death From Above 1979
Album: Outrage! Is Now
Quick Description: New album from the indie rock duo.
Why You Should Listen: They're just so good, guys.
Overall Thoughts: DFA1979 was kind of the anti-White Stripes for me when You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine landed – a duo of drums and guitar/bass, but with a more aggressive attitude? Yeah, I was in. Then they broke up about as fast as they came around, and that was that. Then they came back, had a great comeback album, and now we officially have more comeback-era albums than original? Music is weird, but here we are – “Freeze Me” is a legitimate song of the year candidate, and there are a number of other solid songs on here even if I feel like we’re getting a little more of a shift in tone from the group on a whole. Overall, though? Growth is good, and a year with a new DFA album is a good year to be in.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

EPs of note:

* Me Not You - Reckoning 1 (if this were a full-length, and the quality was as good as this handful of songs, it would be my release of the week. The last two songs in particular are two of the best of this year.)
* The Veils - Swimming With the Crocodiles
* Mourn - Over the Wall

No comments:

Post a Comment