Recent Purchases, May Edition – Part II

More great tunage from last month for your perusal! A few unexpected releases and a few long-awaited ones this time out…

James Bay, Electric Light, released 18 May. James’ follow-up to his excellent debut goes in quite a few unexpected directions. While it does contain some of his fantastic guitar work and classic pop ballads, it also experiments with loud guitar crunch and twitchy semi-electronic tracks as well.

Beach Slang, Everything Matters But No One Is Listening (Quiet Slang), released 18 May. Taking on the pseudonym ‘Quiet Slang’ for an album of unplugged versions of previous album tracks, they pull the project off amazingly well, giving the songs even more emotion than the originals.

Brad Mehldau Trio, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, released 18 May. One of my favorite jazz musicians from the past couple of decades releases a fantastic record with his trio. Extra points for doing not one but two unexpected covers — The Beach Boys’ “Friends” and Paul McCartney’s “Great Day”!

Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel, released 18 May. Courtney once again blesses us with dopey-jangly guitar rock counterpointed by razor-sharp lyrics. Not often you can get away with a goofy-sounding melody whose chorus is “I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them.”

Failure, Your Body Will Be EP, released 24 May. The second EP of Failure’s new project continues with more of their classic melodic dissonance and guitar crunch drive. Very curious to see where this project is going and how all the EPs will sound linked together as the final album.

Jonathan Davis, Black Labyrinth, released 25 May. The new solo album by Korn’s lead singer is a surprisingly strong and solid one. It kind of reminds me musically of early VAST — less alt-metal and more alt-rock musically, but just as dark.

Halo Maud, Je Suis Une Île, released 25 May. A recent discovery (thank you, AllMusic), her music feels alternately like an acoustic Stereolab minus the keyboards and dreampoppy similar to Beach House. She alternates between French and English — most often within the same song — and it’s a lovely album to listen to.

Snow Patrol, Wildness, released 25 May. Gary Lightbody and Co finally return after an extended absence with an excellent album that sounds more like their earliest albums than their poppier later ones. It’s a deeply personal and downbeat album, but it’s amazing and well worth the wait.

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Next Up: June releases!

Recent Music Purchases, May Edition, Part I

Another month comes to an end! The last few weeks have been quite busy on all fronts here, but all the new tunage kept me energized and entertained. Lots of good stuff this time around! Here’s what we have for the first half of the month. Enjoy!

Frank Turner, Be More Kind, released 4 May. As I’d said on Twitter, Frank Turner is the new troubadour you didn’t know you needed. This time out he’s not as folky, trying out a few pop tracks and ballads instead, and he pulls them off well. [Also: the above video is probably the best use of message appropriation I’ve seen in quiet some time. Heh.]

Belly, Dove, released 4 May. Tanya Donelly and Co return for an excellent, more adventurous third album. It sounds less like the more pop-oriented Star or the rocking King, and more like, say, Throwing Muses’ Hunkpapa, with a focus on angular yet catchy melodies. Unexpected but amazing.

Pinkshinyultrablast, Miserable Miracles, released 4 May. One of my favorite new discoveries, this Russian shoegaze band hits all my bingo points: heavy reverb, walls of guitars, dreamy vocals, and songs that just sort of skitter around the upper atmosphere. So much fun to listen to!

Beach House, 7, released 11 May. This band seems to have grown out of its Cocteau Twins comparisons and into its own special blend of dreampop. I should be listening to this one during my writing sessions more often.

Loreena McKennitt, Lost Souls, released 11 May. An unexpected but quite welcome (and very relaxing) album from a fabulous folk artist. She’s still putting out amazing albums.

Simian Mobile Disco, Murmurations, released 11 May. SMD’s new album seems to be more laid back and pensive than their previous output, but I’m not complaining, because it still sounds awesome.

Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, released 11 May. After the hangover-themed AM, the band’s new one is hard to pin down, other than it has something to do with science fiction…maybe? I’ve decided it’s a song cycle about the front desk clerk at said hotel, having a long dark night of the soul during one of his overnight shifts. It’s weird (to say the least), but it’s a *good* kind of weird.

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Up Next: More May releases!

Recent Purchases, April Edition – Part II

It was a busy first part of the month, and the rest of it wasn’t half bad either! Here’s some more great recent tunes I’ve been spinning lately…

The Damned, Evil Spirits, released 13 April. Of course this band would release an album on Friday the 13th! And it’s a damn fine record, in my opinion very similar to their early 80s output. In fact, it kind of reminds me of The Black Album, one of my top faves of theirs.

Juliana Hatfield, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, released 13 April. JH provides an excellent tribute to one of her childhood heroes with perfect and solid covers. It’s funny how ingrained in my head all these songs are, as my sisters owned most of the 45s!

A Place to Bury Strangers, Pinned, released 13 April. A bit of a change in the band line-up makes them sound a bit like Slowdive vocally and a hell of a lot more like Joy Division musically. Their wall-of-noise production hasn’t changed, though, and that ties it all together in an aggressive post-punk way.

Manic Street Preachers, Resistance Is Futile, released 13 April. The Manics return with another solid album of post-Britpop rock. They’ve always been more of a UK phenomenon, never quite catching on here in the States, but they’ve always been a consistently fine band.

Jesus Jones, Passages, released 20 April. I know, right?? Their last album was ages ago, but they’ve returned (thanks to PledgeMusic) with a damn fine album of songs worth checking out. Heavy on the guitars and rocking grooves as always, they deliver just what you’ve been hoping to hear.

Kimbra, Primal Heart, released 20 April. A little odd, but always fascinating. A fun groovy little album to sit back and relax to.

Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer, released 27 April. This album SO worth all the hype that’s been thrown at it. It feels like she’s rewritten Prince’s Dirty Mind, with all its funk grooves and uninhibited sexuality, but that’s definitely NOT a complaint. It really is an amazing album.

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Coming Soon: May releases!

Recent Purchases, April Edition, Part I

It’s a good thing I’ve been streaming these albums and downloading them a few at a time, because all these single major release dates are gonna bankrupt me. Lots of really fun albums at the start of the month, so we’ll have the rest of April featured in Thursday’s post!

Sloan, 12, released 6 April. A great band that’s been around since my college days, releasing a great album of alternative power-pop gems. Each band member wrote 3 songs each, and all twelve of them are solid.

MIEN, MIEN, released 6 April. This is one of those ‘I have no idea what I’m listening to but it’s amazing’ albums I often stumble upon. It’s like an unexpected mix of motorik, psych, goth, and Britpop, and it works. Extra points for making a spot-on Stan Brakhage homage for a video!

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sex & Food, released 6 April. UMO once again provides a wonderful album of lite funk, weird grooves and strange ideas. Sometimes they sound like Steely Dan (like with this track), other times they sound like badass grunge.  You’re never quite sure where it’s going, but it’s a fun ride.

Eels, The Deconstruction, released 6 April. Mark Oliver Everett returns from a four-year hiatus with a mix of slightly weird yet irresistible tunes on love, loss, and a fresh lease on life. It kind of reminds me of Beck’s Morning Phase: intensely personal yet uplifting at the same time.

Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, released 6 April. One of my top favorites this month. I’d heard of the band and had one of their older albums, but this one floored me upon first listen. Quirky and angular with melodies similar to Lamb, they’re just fantastic.

The Family Crest, The War, Act I, released 6 April. A local favorite (parts of the above video were filmed only a mile or two from our apartment!), they bring an amazing amount of energy to their music, whether it’s happy or sad. Definitely worth checking out.

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Up Next: More April releases!

Recent Purchases, March Edition Part 2

Here’s another huge blog entry featuring some truly excellent tunage from an excellent month of releases.  Enjoy!

The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart, released 9 March. Another ‘unplugged’ album, and it’s a lovely one, with a mix of old favorite tracks from the band mixed with some excellent new ones, including a cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”.

David Byrne, American Utopia, released 9 March. The always twitchy, always worldly Byrne treats us to another great album of the odd alt-pop he does so well.

Embrace, Love Is a Basic Need, released 9 March. I love this new record of theirs. It’s tender, it’s beautiful, and it’s got a hell of a lot of heart to it. One of their best records.

The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood, released 9 March. Proving they’re much more than just a one-hit-wonder with “Sweater Weather”, this band continues to release fascinating and slightly weird music worth checking out.

Editors, Violence, released 9 March. One of my favorite bands of the last decade or so, their new album isn’t as dark as the previous one, but it’s just as tense.

The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl, released 16 March. A slight change of sound and mood for this Portland band, finally embracing their 80s post-punk influences. Very unexpected sounds, but they pull it off beautifully.

Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism, released 16 March. Cover albums don’t always work as well as we wish they would, but this one is absolutely stunning, covering 80s and 90s R&B hits from Prince, TLC, Funkadelic, Al B Sure, Janet, and more. One of my favorite albums of the month, hands down.

Preoccupations, New Material, released 23 March. After changing their name to a much less controversial one (they were formerly known as Viet Cong and released one album under that name), they’ve only gotten better and better. Their new record has a distinctly late-80s-college-radio sound (this particular video even looks like it would have been right at home on 120 Minutes back in the day) that I love so much.

Failure, In the Future EP, released 30 March. Failure returns with a new project, a science fictional-themed album that will be released as a handful of EPs (and will be released as a full album later on). Looking forward to more from this amazing band.

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Coming Soon: April releases!

Recent Purchases, March Edition, Part 1

Another month almost near the end! Here’s the best of what was purchased over the first couple of weeks of this month, most of which I’m still listening to quite heavily. I say ‘purchased’ and not released, because these all had a drop date of the 2nd, and I had to keep an eye on my bank account!

The Breeders, All Nerve, released 2 March. A welcome return to the original Last Splash-era Breeders, with classic chunky riffs, noisy production, and the always off-kilter lyrics of Kim Deal. This one’s definitely going to be a summer listen for me.

Moby, Everything Was Fine, and Nothing Hurt, released 2 March. This one’s quite similar to his classic Play album from 1999, mixing twitchy upbeat songs with quiet mood pieces. There’s even a hint of trip-hop in there as well.

Lucy Dacus, Historian, released 2 March. She reminds me of Beth Orton in a way; not just a singer/songwriter but a sound sculptor. This album starts out soft and sedate but it features a lot of unexpected — and sometimes loud — turns, which keeps me coming back to it.

Moaning, Moaning, released 2 March. Apparently taking a page or three from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, this Sub Pop band comes straight out of 1985 college radio and doesn’t give up with its walls of guitar and reverb. Which of course means this album is tailored just for me!

Lucius, Nudes, released 2 March. The first of a few ‘unplugged’ albums that show up this month, and it amazes me how well Lucius translates to alt-folk in the process. Especially the new track “Woman”, which is simply stunning with its dual-lead harmonies.

Buffalo Tom, Quiet and Peace, released 2 March. The Boston boys are back with another great record of brash alt-rock and excellent songwriting. There’s even a hint of Springsteen influence on this album, but I’m not complaining.

Tracey Thorn, Record, released 2 March. The vocal half of Everything But the Girl releases her first solo album in six years, and it’s a welcome return.

Andrew WK, You’re Not Alone, released 2 March. The professor of All Things Party releases an album that screams EPIC, but also talks honestly about life. Meat Loaf-esque hard rock bombast (but without the ten-minute operettas, thankfully) shares the same space as spoken-word interludes on being the best you can be at whatever you aim for. Noisy and uplifting, just how AWK wants your life to be lived.

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Up Next: The rest of the month!

Recent Purchases, February 2018 Edition

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here, what with me releasing a new book, catching up on personal things, and preparing for FOGcon, I almost forgot to continue with the Recent Purchases post!  Thankfully February is a short month and I don’t have to split it up into two posts, so I can catch up quickly.

Hope you enjoy!

GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star, released 9 February. I don’t listen to jazz nearly as much as I used to, but this one was suggested by AllMusic and I have to say I’m glad they did, because this album is FREAKING AMAZING. They’re your basic piano-bass-drums trio, but their music is so energetic and unique that it sounds so much bigger. Highly recommended.

Franz Ferdinand, Always Ascending, released 9 February. These poppy weirdos have returned with yet another irresistibly catchy album full of quirky alt-pop gems. As always, it’s a fun listen from beginning to end.

The Wombats, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, released 9 February. One of my favorite album names of 2018 so far, and another fun listen. This band somehow manages to write songs that sound gleefully happy, even when the lyrics aren’t, and I love them for it.

Fischerspooner, Sir, released 16 February. I’d almost completely forgotten about this band — I own 2003’s #1 album, but missed out on all their follow-ups — but this one jumped out at me and wouldn’t let go. Alternately sexy and weird, and that’s exactly how they want it.

Superchunk, What a Time to Be Alive, released 16 February. My manager at the record store loved this band back in my HMV days, but I never quite latched onto them. Thankfully their latest has fixed that ghastly mistake! Good punky fun.

FiFi Rong, Awake EP, released 23 February. Another groovy, trip-hoppy EP from one of my favorite internet finds.

Our Lady Peace, Somethingness, released 23 February. This crowd-funded release finally gets a wide release. There’s an energy on this album that’s reminiscent to their late 90s-early 00s sound that balances out their softer side that they’ve been mostly using on their later releases.

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Coming Soon: March 2018, which so far seems to want to bankrupt me with its awesomeness!