Jai Wolf – The Cure to Loneliness
Label: Mom + Pop
People have waited just about forever for Jai Wolf to release a record and I count myself as one of them. That chillstep remix of Odesza’s “Say My Name,” was just too good despite its mock appearance and replacement of parts. So does he do well with a synthpop record? I mean, yeah. It’s high quality. But it also sounds like you could strip Jai Wolf from the name and call it a new M83 project and you’d be fine. In other news, rejoice M83 fans! THEY ARE BACK!
Khalid – Free Spirit
Producer: Digi, Charlie Handsome, Denis Kosiak, John Hill, et. al
Genre: Contemporary R&B, Neo-Soul
That Neo-Soul, R&B sound; I’ve tried giving it a location, (e.g. neo-Toronto sound always seems like a good fit) but because of digital propagation, you don’t really need to be in Toronto to be influenced by the Nineteen85/Drake machine, nor would it be right to erase Frank Ocean’s jump-start-my-heart development of hip-hop that is R&B and Soul that is hip-hop. At this point, he’s birthed a mega-genre with parts that have been molded to each other and Khalid is just bathing in it. I’m quite a fan of that tick tock drum machine and that worming, modulated synthesizer melody that worms its way throughout “Bad Luck” and The vibraphone/guitar duo on “Better” is quite infectious. Khalid also hints at Marvin Gaye’s vocal layering but is caught in a hardplace, being too noncommital about it; there might be two vocal tracks for brief moments, but it’s mostly one-track vocal for far too long, losing steam after “Outta My Head.” You kinda realize at that point that there are 7 more songs and everything up to that point has been a case of more parts rather than wholes.
Patio – Essentials
Producer: Shehzaad Jiwani
Label: Fire Talk
These Patio ladies have listened to a lot of Wire and Cate le Bon on repeat, so let’s make it short and sweet: “Scum” is a slow burn ballad to all the punks in attendance. “Vile Bodies” has a great picking melody that carries the rest of the cut—weakest of the run—but no worries. “No Time” has the choral parts that are an absolute refreshment in such a guitar heavy record. “Open” is the Patti Smith spoken word, slow jam of the record with Wire-like shred. All good right?
Unfortunate them: they also sound like a Clash record with all the attitude beaten out after “New Reality,” but then again, their doesn’t seem to be much attitude across the entire record. Some might say, “well, yeah, when was post-punk ever meant to have more attitude than punk?” and I would have to respond, “that doesn’t mean it’s meant to have none at all!” Post-Punk is supposed to walk a really fine line of “dejected, but not happy about it.” If that means they gotta cut things loose like Costello, they do. If that means they gotta pout like the Police, they do. If that means they gotta moan like Siouxie Sioux, then they do. Unfortunately these ladies spend the greater part of their record being the “Egg Salad Girlfriend” to their “Chicken Sandwich Boyfriend.” The four part section that is rather good comes right in the middle. Everything else is just whitebread.
Priests – The Seduction of Kansas
Producer: John Congleton
Label: Sister Polygon
Genre: Art Punk, Post-Punk
This is the album of the week. I’ve been needing a post-punk band to take it from the aesthetic level to the actionable, and although they may mock “YouTube Sartre” for armrest coaching: “There’s no way to overthrow the bourgeoisie/ Except tossing a hand grenade/ Into your society,” they still have to concede “Personal Freedom”s always been ugly.” So if you want to smash the system; start smashing it. How quintessentially Tarantino; should he ever release a film set in the late-2010’s and not include Priests in some capacity, I would be mad. In fact, this whole record just be pulled from carte blanche. It makes sense, considering a large theme of Tarantino movies as of late dances around the corruption of the American Dream, and if Priests do anything, it’s vibe with that idea. The eponymous “The Seduction of Kansas” is ostensibly about the the ruination of America as viewed through its prime middle-state, which had seen its public services budgets shoestringed under former Governor Sam Brownback before his resignation, why am I telling you this? Well, ask Priests and they will reply “for a drawn-out, charismatic parody/ Of what a country thought it used to be.”
PUP – Morbid Stuff
Producer: Dave Schiffman
Genre: Punk Rock
We’ve been graced this week, with a fantastic Post-Punk record and a super solid Pure-Punk record too. The band formerly known as Topanga, PUP decided to delve into some Morbid Stuff but I’m not exactly sure how that’s any different than their last stuff; moreover, isn’t the point of punk to always play with the dead things? Oh well, I guess PUP wants to cut the crap—nope; album cover is pink—alright so they figure themselves to be sarcastic poets, this time round. Sure, I’m not usually one for punk because of punk’s disassociation with the pre-punk poets and the post-punk aesthetes so I don’t trust PUP to diverge mu—”I still dream about you time and time again/ While I’ve been sleeping in somebody else’s bed/ And as my body aged, the feeling, it never did”—oh, fuck me dead, that’s good.
Oginalii – Cause & Affection
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Oginalii are big fans of metal. Big fans of metal. Probably have a copy of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality stashed somewhere, hopefully between all the other Sabbath records up to Bloody Sabbath. Also hopefully leaning against a couple Oh Sees’ records too. There’s something refreshing about “Light as a Feather” and “Forgotten Kindness,” and despite some over indulgences on “vs vs” and “Cause & Affection,” the ladies pull into a spacey Sonic Youth garage rock that reminds me of Australian outfit Beaches; except in this regard Oginalii decide to stretch those pipes a little more. And as a debut it’s a chic little thing, which are words I never thought I’d say about psychedelic rock but here we are, with Oginalii, enjoying a rather modal debut.
Rose of the West – Rose of the West
Label: Communicating Vessels
Genre: Dreampop, Synthpop
You shouldn’t be surprised once it becomes clear that Gina Barrington’s project sounds like a Kate Bush knock-off or a Warpaint redux, because they’ve opened for Warpaint. And I’ll be honest, when Rose of the West decides to go a little darker with their sonic, it’s fine, it works and as a debut maybe that’s all we need: an introduction. They’re like x or they’re like y; Rose of the West then is like Kate Bush, Warpaint and a hint of Florence + the Machine put into a bottle mixed accordingly. They’re almost darkwave, but settle on dreampop, they’re almost good, but come out middling, with a handful of interesting songs, a handful of scraps and a small pile of rubbish.
Shana Cleveland – Night of the Worm Moon
Producer: Self-Produced with Johnny Goss
Label: Hardly Art
Genre: Psychedelic Folk
The psychotropic component of La Luz has always been a fascinating fold to their neo-beach girl rock and Shana Cleveland may not sing with much venom but she just knows how to lull you in. Let the record show, I don’t think this solo effort is an extraordinarily special LP; most humans on the planet won’t even know it’s actually (technically) her second debut record, the first debut being the cabin-in-the-words collection Oh Man, Cover the Ground, and a record which I enjoy for being so stripped down. Night of the Worm Moon just doesn’t surprise me—it’s good for a-stoopin’ and a-roosting wild and giddylike and grinning like a fool in the meadow—but it never ticks another box; it’s all finger-picking and light choral forces meandering around the cosmic, the slow course of the milky way rather than a meteor shower barrage. It came so close to being a progressive folk long-player (Inane concept? Check! Sense of space? Check! Tonal diversity? No check!), but instead recedes to the awkward space between vintage psychedelia and technical progressiveness. Oh well, at least it doesn’t require two joints and a dab; it’s good enough solo.
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Producer: Self-Produced with Johnathan Rado
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Electrobaroque, Psychedelic Baroque
This is an easy-listen record where easy-listening doesn’t sound like an insult; sort of like how when you call Rumours soft-rock, it doesn’t come off as paltry or patronizing as when you would describe Maroon 5 or Coldplay in the same fashion (I remember the moment limestone rock came into existence). But I digress, see, Weyes Blood takes her cues from “A Lot’s Gonna Change” but it’s not until “Everyday” that Natalie Mering goes beyond Beatles-esque, it has that entire Sixties baroque pop culture behind it; the Turtles, Mama’s and Papa’s, Young Rascals, all there. And from there she finds herself dabbling in light Radiohead alternativisms (“Movies” and “Mirror Forever”) and then mixing it with her deep Judy Collins register. The lead track makes out like she’s fabricated a Golden Age Disney soundtrack all microdosed and playing with some Moogs. I’d go so far as to say if Bambi had an iPod then Titanic Rising would be on it. And if it’s good enough for Bambi, then it sure as hell is good enough for me.
Witching Waves – Persistence
Producer: Mark Jasper
Label: Specialist Subject
Genre: The leanest Post-Punk possible
Apparently Witching Waves have a fear of putting on some weight. Persistence has to be Witching Waves’ most straightforward record; they have shaved off the fatty post- and just gone straight for the punk. What remains is absolutely anorexic. It’s bit hard to go back to basics when your original sound was quite basic already. Not simple, mind you, but definitely not complex. But those added little warbles are usually the mustard to the deli sandwich; a little bit goes a long way. But because they’ve opted to barely even scrape some butter over this jambon-emmental, the sub feels a little more dry than it should be. In other news, I could go for a Chicago Sub now.
Anderson .Paak – Ventura
Producer: Dr. Dre
Label: Aftermath/12 Tone Music
Genre: Contemporary R&B, Neo-Soul, Funk
So it was, on the intercités train, when I decided to put Ventura on and listen to it all the way through five or six times and then keep listening to it some more as I continued walking up the walls, around the gardens and through the market squares of Pau. Shit was bliss and at the end of it all, I have only three thoughts:
1. Sometimes less is more ft. no one
2. If we had to pay for Ventura by listening to the sub-par Oxnard (good, but not Malibu levels GOOD), then it was worth it.
3. California is just the cheap knock-off of Mediterranean France and Spain; better music, granted, but it’s easier to brink Ventura to France than it is to bring France or Spain to Ventura.
BATTS – The Grand Tour
Genre: lo-fi, Indie Folk
Lo-fi is a sonic that really can cross all genres; give something enough soft-focus fuzz and lowered volume and even instrumental hip-hop becomes a byword for “concentration” music. I was in college when the first study beats playlists started popping up and not much being a fan of classical, took to it immediately. Preying upon this sentiment is Melbourne’s BATTS and her debut record The Grand Tour, mentioned to me by my editor at Atwood Magazine. It was a curious little thing, with it’s electronic dream speech interludes luring me in and its indie folk warblings throwing me for a loop. I’ve never felt so confused; folk doesn’t do this whole Leslie-filter-spoken-word-gig, indie or no! But BATTS don’t care, and she backs it up with some damn fine tunes. It’s still a spotty record, but for a debut it’s bold.
Bibio – Ribbons
Genre: Psychedelic Folk, Folktronica
Ribbons is sparse—I’d hardly even call it folktronica in spots, just very pumped up neo-psychedelic folk. Think if Panda Bear dropped his electronic schtick for more than a moment and just recorded himself on acoustic guitar. I guess that comparison is of no use however, Bibio’s been making a name for himself just as long, but there are curious moments at first listen of Ribbons; moments like “Art of Living,” which sounds like a Reading Rainbow crossover (not judging, just taking notes), or “Watch the Flies,” which sounds like modern redub of themes from Charlotte’s Web, or “Erdaydidder-Erdiddar,” which pulls on renaissance folk like an Ian Anderson daydream. These curiosities make of this album an instant antique, a brand-new baroque, y’know, an oxymoron. And a delightful one at that.
Blankenberge – More
Producer: Mikhail Kurochkin
Genre: Shoegaze, Noise Rock
The second record from Saints Petersburg blissmakers, Blankenberge, More is a little more than just shoegaze however. Veering closer and closer and closer to post-rock as the longer-player develops. Because it’s a starting foray into the sound that Slint built, we can cut the five-piece some slack; they don’t go all in on the quiet-loud-quiet-loud clichés, not as hard as Wander do. It’s almost too cute to do so, cutting all the jam and headthroes down to lean 3-5 minute cuts not busting out past six minutes until the end of the record with “Until the Sun Shines” and “Fest.” If anything, it keeps the sonic fresh and well done rather than done over. For all you shoegaze fans, give it a listen, it will be well worth your time. For post-rock fans, give those latter two cuts your ears, it might energize you for a plunge back into post-rock. For the casual fan? Look elsewhere for accessibility.
Bleu Nuit – Le Jardin Des Mémoires
Producer: Julien Mineau
Label: Requiem Pour Un Twister
An album full of deconstructed darkwave Joy Division/Depeche Mode stylings awash in jingle jangle, you gotta hand it to the French: they get stupidly scientific about musicality sometimes. And sometimes it works out, it recombobulates together and everything goes tinker-tailor fine. Odd, but fine. Bleu Nuit, for the most part, end up on the fine side, but the odd is so jarring, you kinda forget how nicely done their darkwave schtick is. It’s like sitting there after your first viewing of Dr. Strange and just trying to remap what the hell you just watched/listened. In my estimation, everything from “Confusion” past is fine. Everything before? Excentrique, putain.
Chris Forsyth – All Time Present
Producer: Brucie Millions
Label: No Quarter
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
I got news for ya. Forget about all that Claypool Lennon Delirium for a second: Chris Forsyth‘s reputation as a psychedelic statesman might not be well known outside the Brooklyn borough, but it is there. His work with the Solar Motel Band is testament: it jumps right into the jam—fuck the chorus—and it might be the most post-punk thing about his style. But on All Time Present we are treated to his space-jazz inclinations. For half a record, you would think the man truly is playing to you from a Solar Motel, much in the same way The Comet is Coming was produced on the backside of an asteroid. It’s all great stuff in “Dream Song,” “(Livin’ On) Cubist Time,” and “Techno Top,” psychedelic counterparts to a Sun Kil Moon record, but like a Sun Kil Moon record there are parts in-between that just drag the long-player to an uncomfortable length. Mark Kozelek has an excuse for this—he’s fucking nuts—but Forsyth? He’s usually been smart about making sure his records are curated for time. He could have gotten with the cool kids and split this baby into two and made double the impact.
Then again, nahhh.
FONTAINES D.C. – Dogrel
Producer: Dan Carey
Dublinites their accent wavers from a true-blue Irishness to something that hit my ears like mock Geordie jowlings, all replete with dry wit and barbmanship (def. one who speaks sportingly in barbs) even when crooning. The record is Celtic punk meets English post-punk and there’s even a melodic hint that actually reeks of Britpop on “Dublin City Sky.” However, the real key to this whole record is when they find the long-lost sonic timbre companion to The Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” in “Television Screens,” shifting up rather than down at the break and “Hurrican Laughter’s” balls to the walls approach of an eerily similar opening riff to The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” The record is just smart and efficient in its playful references—intentional or not.
Melby – None of this makes me worry
Producer: Alexander Eldefors
Genre: Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
This album didn’t quite hit me like I wanted it to. I was expecting something… more; instead all I got was mopey foppishness on “VCR.” Melby plays dangerously on that line of using the psychedelic milieu as a mode rather than a mindset. And I could wax bullshit on that for longer than I like to admit—but the case and point is that the music can’t quite save their penchant for the ballad. I’m bored silly despite the folky twangs and the little psychotropic forays. For as much this genre of music is about bringing down mental walls, I can’t help but feel that a fair few want to put more up. Melby doesn’t quite commit this crime, hell, the music really begins to take shape in the latter half, but that first half? Rough, rough going.
Norah Jones – Begin Again
Label: Blue Note
Bit late for the 7-track album train, isn’t it Ms. Jones? That was 2018’s fugue , not 2019’s. However, upon listening to your latest project with Doveman, I must say: I wholly want this to be the standard for the aging artist. It’s not that those past their cultural prime (*cough* Come Away With Me *cough*) can’t have those big moments of return—Voodoo Lounge by the Stones being the biggest example—but the key to any artist’s success is how they write the ballad. Those slow shites make or break any record from any artist across any epoch. But by cutting most of that out, limiting yourself to 7 good tracks (6 in Begin Again’s case, I’m not too hot on album opener “My Heart is Full,” it sounds more imbalanced and muddier than need be), you give yourself the best chance to create a product that makes the heart grow fonder by its brevity. And while you breadcrumb us, you can work on those crazy ideas in the back of your head, refining them as you go. Deal? Deal. Can’t wait for the next 7-tracker long-player.
PJ Harvey – All About Eve (Original Music)
Producer: Self-Produced with Adam Bartlett
Genre: Progressive Electronic, Neo-Classical
PJ Harvey uses Franz Liszt’s “Liebestraum” as a keystone to an ambient, neo-classical soundtrack to Ivan van Hove’s stage rework of All About Eve. I thought I could write a summary about this, but, really, the summary of the album does it justice. It’s mostly just reworks of older material with “The Sandman” and “The Moth” feature Gillian Anderson and Lily James respectively and sound like croonier B-Sides off of The Hope Six Demolition Project. If you like classical music, rejoice, Harvey doesn’t slouch—but she doesn’t blow you away in any other respect. It all boils down to this single sentence: cool, I guess PJ can do classical now.
Drugdealer – Raw Honey
Producer: Self-Produced (Michael Collins)
Label: Mexican Summer
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Honey ft. Weyes Blood, but more importantly, the oozy, woozy room miked electric guitar tone is straight from an old George Harrison or Clapton eight-track tape. It whines and grovels in supplication while Mering recalls a Nico vibe. The real mainstays of this record, however, are Jim Croce and Jackson Brown to sate your inner disaffection with flower child tidings. Raw Honey is for the medication and your best bet is to use this for all those Sundays trapped thinking about the hopeless, inevitable future. In some ways this makes it even more dangerous; instead of being trapped in the future, you’ll be trapped in the past daydreaming about long hair, sideburns, flaired jeans, flowing button-ups, vinyl records, ahhhhh…
Just take me now, Drugdealer, take me now.
Fat White Family – Serfs Up!
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Art Punk
Musically and lyrically their best record—they’re not longer posing as skinheads! Just disaffected proles, phew. This doesn’t stop the Fat White Family from being misanthropic—far from it—they’re just more intelligent about displaying it. Where the debut was an affidavit of “edgy” moments bordering on just out-and-out callous, the second managed to be a little poetic about it, if still determined to inflame (“Goodbye Goebbels” is another level of provocative). As it stands, Serf’s Up! is the first Fat White Family record you can listen to for reading pleasure rather than revulsion. They even manage to get a little twee and baroque for us, perhaps realizing that life requires a dash of violins or vocal choirs; it serves the atmosphere and it makes for a damn good contrast when they decide to punk up the art.
Flaural – Postponement
Producer: Self-Produced with James Barone
Genre: Indie Rock, Psychedelic Rock
“Silent Volvo” is the closest to a Tame Impala song as I’ve ever heard—the first main solo riff is a harmonic pairing with the first half of the “Keep On Lying” lick. I thought they had just blankface plagiarized Kevin Parker at first (ballsy move for a debut), but it still means the rest of the record doesn’t sit right with me. It reminds me of me when I would write “poems” to songs, really just riffing on the lyrics already given, rewriting them to my own vague purpose. Not exactly groundbreaking creativity there. Not exactly groundbreaking creativity here either. Certainly well-produced, James Barone sees to that, borrowing parts of the Beach House sonic to actually make a record with a pulse. And outside of one song, this record stands pretty well on its own strengths.
But still, “Silent Volvo” was close—too close.
Gus Dapperton – Where Polly People Go To Read
Genre: Electropop, Hypnagogia, Jangle,
This is really good. Like not even as a debut really good, but like, good as a record. I’m not quite sure that it will have a similar sales/cultural impact as the xx’s debut, but it’s just 33 minutes of excellent, intelligent electropop—jangle and hypnagogia included. Efficient but lush, I can’t name a favourite song off the record because everything tickles that soft-spoken, slow-dance bop fancy. Gus Dapperton can hang his long-player with Sigrid as smart electropop starters for the year. Here’s to many more.
Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Producer: Self-Produced with Mike Sabath, Nate Mercereau, OAK, Ricky Reed & X Ambassadors
Label: Nice Life/Atlantic
Genre: Contemporary R&B
Got damn, Lizzo. I think this is how people feel about Beyonce’s music—a constant sense of shocked and stunned. She moves from neo-soul to trapstep with ease. She takes no prisoners either. “Jerome” and “Crybaby” might not have the explicit tag, but she’s taking down suckers graphically. My favourite has to be the skrt-break “BIG DICK ENERGY, TASTES LIKE COLLARD GREENS” from “Better in Color.” After Cuz I Love You had already pushed me back into my seat, this flipped my neck back; Lizzo doesn’t give a fuck. This long-player is #FIERCE with a soundtrack and it doesn’t give you much time to rest. “Lingerie” is the only slow Sunday-soul cut on record. It’s true most debuts feature weak ballads, but it’s a stylistic risk that they have to take. Lizzo takes hers when its a wash—we’re already convinced (or not) by “Lingerie,” so no harm if she flubs it. But she doesn’t, for the most part. My biggest problem is microscopic in the bigger picture, if you have the album on repeat, Cuz I Love You jumps right back into its soon as “Lingerie” ends. A bit jarring? But if that’s your only problem on the long-player, then you’ve made a good long-player.
Peggy Gou – Moment (EP)
Genre: Nu-Disco, Deep House
I thought this was a single on first listen; it’s only 13 minutes and two cuts long, both hovering the 6:40 mark and imbibed with the Mr. Finger’s school of house but infused with some lowkey UK Bass funkiness that, if I’m honest, I want to devolve into some liquid drum and bass—there’s a mix there that someone, maybe not even Peggy Gou, could exploit. As far Peggy Gou goes however, she’s got her bread and butter and she’s been exploiting it since 2016, Moment is just the latest. So what’s the wait, Peggy? Let’s get a longform piece already, practice time is running out and we’re all waiting here for you.
Stealing Sheep – Big Wows
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Glam, Electropop
Stealing Sheep are leaning hard into the glitter-sparkle-twinkle imagery, and while there are elements of neo-psychedelia and electropop, this record does better under appellation of neo-glam. And while their lyrical stylings may touch on vanity and luxury, they’re Hall and Oatesian about it; the glam is never the point, it’s all about how the glam warps the human relationship. But much like Gus Dapperton’s debut, there’s not much else to say about it—all the slickness and efficiency do that, it renders it hard to get a grip on what might actually be affecting Stealing Sheep other than commercial impulses.
Wand – Laughing Matter
Label: Drag City
Genre: Progressive Rock, Garage Rock
Usually art rock denotes a wont for orchestral flair, what with gaudy stitching of whole violin sections and multi-piano brocades, far be it from simple couture designs made with simple lo-fi guitars either droning chorus or melodious in solo. But Wand’s sense of limited instrumental scope means that Laughing Matter would be a one-hour-seven affair risking overstimulation on the guitars and Cory Hanson’s soft yet reedy voice. Not so, Wand is patient enough to realize they can adjudicate time for a violin or a piano or an acoustic guitar on single tracks. Segueing from the drone just enough that the album drifts in and out of lucidity without obsessively dragging the mind along movements and leitmotifs that Yes-fans, Emerson, Lake and Palmer touters and Genesis-ians—the progressive rock diehards—die for. Probably the snazziest addition is the flute and harp on “Wonder (II).” If the goal was to stand aside from the heavy, heady, often nauseating Segallcore, then Wand have succeeded in making accessible art-rock. lt’s still on the same plane as Kurt Vile’s Bottle It In. Perhaps it’s too chill for some listeners, a little too long for others but for me it’s got everything I like: suede melodism, an inner jacket of drone, classical buttons, hell, it fits Wand rather well.
Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balance
Producer: Jacknife Lee
Genre: Indie Rock, Garage Rock
“I feel like everybody started thinking too outside the box trying to be arty and different. We wanted to stay inside the box” was the line Van McCann used to defend The Ride’s patient unwillingness to push the issue on their careers and I’m quite sure he could just copy-past that for The Balance. This is slick, Killers-and-Arctic Monkeys faff fit for stadiums but not really much else. Give The 1975 all the grief you can, but at least they dare to get out of their comfort zone. Hell even Foals kind of swung for the fences lately. But you could exchange the artwork for The Balance with The Ride or The Balcony, reverse them in any order and say that was the chronology and I don’t think any newbie listener would be any the wiser.
Foxygen – Seeing Other People
Genre: Glam Rock
Disco Jagger with lazers would be a criminal understatement to this record, Foxygen have always played with Rolling Stones’ psychedelia-with-a-bite, venturing in and around the turn-of-the-Seventies vesper of a feeling. Hang saw them get down to a boogie-woogie by disco rock combination indicative of Elton John’s critical success mixed with the Some Girls, hell, they’ve even got a bit of Bowie attitude in there. But Seeing Other People, well, they’ve approached Dead or Alive synthwave territory on a bed of Rupert Holmes. The only thing missing is an “Escape” cover so you can smoke out your last cigarette with a partner in crime as the record crawls to an end, never to see each other again.
Kevin Morby – Oh My God
Producer: Sam Cohen
Label: Dead Oceans
Genre: Folk Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Chamber
Former Woods-man Kevin Morby has been compared to Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Lou Reed before, but on Oh My God, Kevin Morby is just assuming Various Positions of Leonard Cohen to plunge deeper into the heart that he displayed on City Music. Perhaps he’s just looking for his moment of hallelujah, but that doesn’t seem to be the case—the closest he gets is Savannah which has a sax that sounds almost too swanky for Cohen’s taste. For my taste, I want more of this; he’s out Cohen’d Alex Turner’s Last Shadow Puppets so why not let him indulge in these little free jazz moments and tinkering chamber twinkles.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Fishing for Fishies
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock, Roots Rock
On April 26th I listened to Fishing for Fishies. I didn’t think much of it that day. But on April 27th, the debate was on: where does Fishing for Fishies fit in King Gizzard’s discography? For one the record is kaleidoscopic collage morphing from their classic prog-garage mix into a bluesy, rootsy mix with early Nineties electronic. Never in my life would I have thought Led Zeppelin and T. Rex sounds could be mashed back to back with Aphex Twin; sure Kevin Parker managed to mix it with an early-Eighties prog aesthetic, but just the thought that the menacing blues bassline of “This Thing” could spring into the rootsy harmonica of “Acarine” before its wholesale abduction into another aural galaxy is surreal. “Cyboogie” comes back down to Earth (a little bit) but for a moment there, King Gizzard truly moved to another dimension. But besides this, Fishing for Fishies reminds of Paper Mâché Dream Balloon: it feels good, but I consider both b-side long-players. Replete with smooth transitions and clear high points (“Boogieman Sam,” “Acarine,” and “Cyboogie.”) but working more as detente from the madness of their early career. Two years is a colossal time period between releases for King Gizz fans and while solid, I still think the Lizard Wizard could do more.
Local Natives – Violet Street
Producer: Shawn Everett
Label: Loma Vista
Genre: Indie Rock, Synthwave
Smart and solid are such bywords. They say so much but relay so little. Like how are Local Natives so smart and solid? That’s always the problem with a fourth record that doesn’t change the rules or even go to bold new heights. Don’t get me wrong, Local Natives have definitely gone to somewhat somber musical areas, but they do that every record. The little gleam of violins on “Café Amarillo,” perhaps hinting at increasingly progressive or neo-classical musical inspiration are quashed by “Gulf Shores.” That’s not their sonic, sure but they gotta do more than this Americanized Foals musicality or they will quickly approach upscaled levels of stale.
MARINA – LOVE+FEAR
Producer: Sam de Jong, Oscar Görres; Captain Cuts, Joel Little et. al
Genre: Electropop, Dance, Dancehall
Yeah, yeah, I know: LOVE came out two weeks ago, but I had no reason to listen to half of a double record. Or at least, what is just a rather long single record. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the point of splitting this in two parts was. The lyrical divide never contrasts well—it’s always cloaked in the music—and because the music serves as bridge, with equal places for electropop, latin dance and dancehall all across both parts, the record just becomes a hodge-podge product of Marina Diamandis. And whether with or without her Diamonds, I can still tell this is the girl from FROOT just trying to adopt a Lorde-esque approach, strip her image like Natasha Khan and still somehow work in a dancehall sensibility. That’s just an insane collage of musicality and while it might work separately, it’s not a transformative project. It’s just a bunch of singles with vague connection to their thematic inspiration.
The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons
Producer: Owen Pallet
Genre: Progressive Rock, Folk Rock
Someone call the Lemon Twigs! The Mountain Goats have managed to take their whimsical prog-folk rock Go To School’s lunch money and use it to finance their Magic the Gather Addiction by waxing on a fishing village under threat of orcs and dragons. Is this a joke? Y’know what, don’t ask. I don’t wanna know.
Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker) – Run Fast Sleep Naked
Label: Future Classic
Genre: Alternative R&B, Indietronica
Is it weird that conventionality sounds fresh for Nick Murphy? “Never No” aims to Bruce Springsteen and release and “Message You At Midnight” tries to John Mayer its way into your heart. But it’s not all bad, it’s just weird to hear Nick Murphy sing. He had the pass to talk-sing his way through his music like it was an amateur musical because it worked with his swoozy smooth downtempo. No downtempo here, though; Run Fast Sleep Naked’s nude ass-busting move towards brighter indietronica jars what you thought about the Nick Murphy Formerly Known As Chet Faker. It’s not really about if the record is good or bad but rather if it opened up a new door for Murphy. I think it did, but it’ll be a trick to see how he can surprise us by being skilled rather than being new.
Vaura – Sables
Producer: Peter Walsh
Label: Profound Love
Genre: Gothic Rock, Post-Punk
Six years is a long time between second and third records. Normally that’s a rate worthy of a legacy band. Evidently, Vaura’s members have been busy. They’ve returned with a far more polished sound than found on their first two records, and, riding the new wave of post-punk revivalists, decide to juice it up with all the Pornography and Violator motifs possible. It’s always hard when a band puts itself so firmly in a tradition that is carbon-dated, hence the Allah-Las and La Luz, lost in Sixties surf rock or The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets and Post Animal, mired in Seventies sludge. Clearly these are bands with incredible appreciation to the point of nigh-perfect replication of eras—shit, it’s a reason why living in the modern era kicks so much goddamn ass: your choice for musical timepieces is unparalleled—but Vaura just remind me how much I want to listen to the Cure or Depeche Mode. They do well to fill a gap as Ritual Howls does for Bauhaus, but unlike Ritual Howls and Bauhaus, I’ve got too much sentimental value placed in their contemporaries.