Album: I Inside the Old Year Dying
Quick Thoughts: PJ Harvey could rightfully claim an elder statesman status given her importance to the alternative rock landscape of the 1990s and 2000s, but instead, she keeps putting out albums that demonstrate her interest in creating compelling music instead of chasing any particular popularity. This latest album is a very artful effort, equal parts disquieting and attention-grabbing, and showcases a singer and songwriter comfortable in her place. I really loved this album - both as a musical endeavor and as a statement. A mandatory listen this week.
Songs of Note: "Autumn Term," "Seem an I," "I Inside the Old I Dying"
Quick Thoughts: Of some of the albums we missed from the first half of the year is this effort, which is a rap effort that isn't what you expect. The off-kilter start of "Kenwood Speakers" and "Soft Landing" morphs into a record that challenges as well as entertains. A superlative rap effort from this year.
Songs of Note: "Soundcheck," "Babylon by Bus," "Year Zero," "Waiting Around"
Album: Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love
Quick Thoughts: I'll be honest, I have no clue how we missed the boat on Kara Jackson. Maybe it's her delivery, which is a deep and resonant presence, or maybe it's that her former status as Youth Poet Laureate bestows a air of overimportance to the whole affair. Either way, missing this one was a big mistake, because this is definitely one of the best albums of the year. It's as honest as anything you'll come across, bending serious tunes about love and loss to more lighthearted brutality like "dickhead blues." She's a voice in all senses of the word, and you shouldn't miss out on this one.
Songs of Note: "no fun/party," "dickhead blues," "free"
Album: Ark Flashington
Quick Thoughts: A short rap concept-ish album (his third record in six months) with a ton going for it (especially given how prolific he is), this is an album you probably wouldn't want to miss in a busy week. The raps are great, the sampling especially solid, and the songs memorable. Check this one out.
Songs of Note: "Direct Currents," "Wild Bunch," "Most Black Superheroes"
Quick Thoughts: A short album from breakcore producer/songwriter Lauren Bousfield makes a very loud racket while also making a statement about the potential of the genre as a whole. The song titles are as impenetrable as the music in many regards, and that's by design. It's hyperpop for people who wish 100 Gecs was more glitched out, and I'm here for it.
Songs of Note: "Mansions No One Wants to Buy For Any Price," "Headstone Prices on Credit," "Organized Abandonment Bird Migration Patters Relentless Bureaucratic Violence," "Narrow Down Concepts Force Meaning"
Album: Speak Now (Taylor's Version)
Quick Thoughts: I don't need to tell you whether or not to listen to this, because you've likely already made your decision about the megastar. For my money, though, this re-recording of Speak Now is an album I was incapable of appreciating when it came out. It's definitely the first real country->pop crossover effort we received, and what's telling to me, at least, is how comfortable she sits in both world during this point in her career. "Mean" is probably her best song of her country roots, but you can hear the immediate ability to switch gears in songs like "Better Than Revenge," which would have fit right in on a Can't Hardly Wait-style soundtrack. The re-recordings are fun, however, because it's someone playing their old selves straight, (usually) warts and all - a 30-something Taylor Swift can't make this record any more than the 20-something couldn't make Folklore, but the 20-something still had multiple songs that didn't make the cut in the vault at this point. She's our greatest living songwriter. It's Taylor's world, we just live in it.
Songs of Note: "Mean," "Better Than Revenge," "When Emma Falls in Love," "I Can See You"
* Alice Phoebe Lou - Shelter
* Aluna - MYCELiUM
* Keep Shelly in Athens - Among Wolves
* Mariana in our Heads - Landscapes
* King Krule - Space Heavy
* AJ Suede - Indica Music
* AJ Suede and Televangel - Parthian Shots
* Julie Byrne - The Greater Wings
* Goat - The Gallow's Pole: Original Score
* The Lemon Twigs - Everything Harmony
* We Are Parasols - Body Horror
* Parannoul - After the Magic
* Lady Lamb - In the Mammoth Nothing of the Night (A 10-year anniversary edition of Ripely Pine with two hours of extras.)