Recent Releases, November Edition

Hi there!  While I was hiding out and taking a blogging break, I of course kept listening to all the new tunage coming our way.  I have to say I’ve been right pleased with the crop of releases for 2018 (further proving my theory that the best music comes out in years ending with 2 and 8, heh).  Here’s some great stuff that came out this past month.

Dead Can Dance, Dionysus, released 2 November.  An unexpected yet fascinating release from a great band.  It’s essentially two side-long tracks threading multiple melodies together, but it’s a fascinating listen.  I’d say it’s similar to their 90s output in sound and rhythm.

The Neighbourhood, Hard to imagine the neighbourhood ever changing, released 2 November.  Okay, so essentially this is their self-titled album plus tracks from the HardTo Imagine and Ever Changing EPs (whose names finally make sense now) and resequenced into a full album, but it’s still great.  I love how they’ve evolved from the radio-friendly “Sweater Weather” to murky and experimental alt-rock.  A solid collection.

Steven WIlson, Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, released 2 November.  A great live album from one of my favorite multi-instrumentalists.  It features a good cross-section of his solo output with a few Porcupine Tree surprises in there.

K-DA (feat. Madison Beer, (G)I-DLE & Jaira Burns) “Pop/Stars” single, released 3 November. I’m totally not a gamer (this is from League of Legends) and this would not have been picked up on my radar otherwise, except that an artist I follow on Twitter commented on how freaking amazing the rendering was on this animated video.  And it’s a killer track that gets stuck in my head now.

Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers, Bought to Rot, released 9 November.  An energetic and raucous album, she really sounds like she had a hell of a fun time recording this one.  Even the ridiculously spiteful “I Hate Chicago” sounds like there’s an element of playfulness.

Imagine Dragons, Origins, released 9 November.  I’ll totally cop to being a big ID fan despite their corporate rock sound — they’re just so much fun to listen to, and their ability to switch styles during the course of a single album is impressive.

The Beatles, The Beatles (The White Album) Super Deluxe Edition, released 9 November.  Well of COURSE this would be on my list here!  Giles Martin did a fantastic job of remixing an album that’s caused all kinds of arguments between fans, musicians and producers over the years.  It sounds clear and vibrant, but more importantly it brings out the band’s innate energies and gives each track a new life.  Highly recommended, even if you’re a passing Beatle fan.

P.O.D., Circles, released 16 November.  I’ve always liked this band ever since the Southtown album back in the day.  Great alt-metal tunes to crank up loud in the headphones.  A fantastic new release from them.

Failure, In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind, released 16 November.  An experiment for the band, they recorded this album four songs at a time over the course of 2018 and released them as EPs via PledgeMusic before dropping the entire album upon completion.  While this could have easily caused the album to become disjointed, it flows beautifully and retains its energy and power throughout.

Hooverphonic, Looking for Stars, released 16 November.  One of my favorite bands sneaks out an album while I’m not looking!  They may have yet another new singer but they’ve retained their lovely atmospheric style I love so much.  It sounds very similar to The Magnificent Tree, come to think of it.

The Smashing Pumpkins, Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., released 16 November.  With a ridiculous title like that, I really was expecting some kind of overblown navel-gazing monolith, but it’s actually a super-tight, super-fantastic, positive-sounding record that reminds me of Billy Corgan’s side project Zwan. I’m quite surprised and pleased by how fun it sounds. 

Laibach, The Sound of Music, released 23 November.  Our favorite Slovenian band takes its turn at covering songs from the Rodgers/Hammerstein musical and does it in their usual disturbing yet fascinating style.  Only they could make the purposely childish “Do-Re-Mi” sound sinister, proggy and awesome. Bonus points for managing to intertwine the music with their attempt to play a live show in North Korea some time ago.

Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, released 23 November.  These lovable goofballs return after a long absence with more punk silliness and infectious party rock.  A very welcome return.  Hooray!

The 1975, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, released 30 November.  This band has evolved in so many fantastic and unexpected ways that I’m always fascinated with what their next song will sound like.  This time out they’re twitchy and poppy, alternating between technopop giddiness and Radiohead-like weirdness.  I’m still not quite sure what to make of this album, but it’s definitely amazing.

Coming Soon: December releases and a Year-End Roundup!

Recent Releases, October 2018 Edition

October has had a bumper crop of amazing releases, much to my surprise!  Sometimes these latecomers can go either way… they may be filler, or they may not quite live up to the hype, but this time out it most definitely did.  Loads of tunes worth checking out…

John Lennon, Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, relesed 5 October. Although John’s solo output wasn’t as pop-oriented or catchy as Paul’s, when he nailed it, it was flawless. His 1971 album Imagine gets a multi-disk overview here, filled with demos and alternate takes, as well as fascinating partial mixes (such as the amazing strings-only ‘Elements Mix’ of “Imagine”), all of which are worth checking out if you’re a hardcore Beatle fan.

Kristin Hersh, Possible Dust Clouds, released 5 October. I love the claustrophobic loudness of this album, a style Hersh perfected way back in her early Throwing Muses days. One of my favorites of her recent output.

Matt Nathanson, Sings His Sad Heart, released 5 October. After the surprise release earlier this year of his Def Leppard covers EP (which earned kudos from DL singer Joe Elliott himself!), Matt returns to his pop roots and writes an album that on the surface might be somewhat melancholy, but never ignores the more positive future.

Kurt Vile, Bottle It In, released 12 October. Kurt is one of those musicians I never thought I’d get into, but I find his stuff fascinating. It’s off-kilter alt-folk very similar to Courtney Barnett (no surprise they released an album together last year) with some really inventive and fun songs.

Justin Courtney Pierre, In the Drink, released 12 October. The former Motion City Soundtrack singer surprised everyone (even himself!) by releasing a solo record, and it’s just as great as you’d think it would be. Very similar in sound to his MCS work, and just as peculiar and fun.

Live, Local 717 EP, released 12 October. I was pleasantly surprised by this record — Ed Kowalczyk is back in the fold as lead singer — and the music is just as solid and powerful as their mid to late 90s output. Great to see them again!

Minus the Bear, Fair Enough EP, released 12 October. Alas this band has disbanded and this is their final release, but it’s a great way to go. I was late getting into their work, but their entire discography is worth checking out.

Cloud Nothings, Last Building Burning, released 19 October. This band has always been loud, but this record’s just brutal. It’s unrelenting, pissed-off punk that kicks you repeatedly in the head from the first note and doesn’t give up. A perfect punk record and one of my favorite releases this month.

Elle King, Shake the Spirit, released 19 October. Elle has no fucks to give, and she’s not afraid of letting you know that on this album. She’s always had sassy lyrics, but there’s an extra layer of it here. Sometimes it’s funny and clever, but just as often it’ll be pointed and biting. A great follow-up to her previous album.

Robyn, Honey, released 26 October. A VERY welcome return for the dance-pop singer, after a long personal hiatus. The new album is filled with infectious dance beats and sleek production and it’s a fun listen.

The Struts, Young & Dangerous, released 26 October. A very aptly named band with the cockiest swagger since the Rolling Stones. Their sound is most definitely a throwback to the late 70s-early 80s, with a bit of glam and a whole lot of attitude, but it’s an extremely fun if often ridiculous listen.

Sara Bareilles, “Armor” single, released 26 October. Per her Twitter, this wasn’t supposed to be released until early next year, but she felt its message was extremely important and much needed this second, and she’s not wrong. It’s a call-out to all the sexist bullshit going on out there and the power of inner strength to make it stop.

Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine (20th Anniversary Reissue), released 26 October. “Closing Time” may have been their biggest and only hit, but the rest of the album it’s from is simply amazing. Dan Wilson and Co. are stellar songwriters that know how to craft catchy tunes that get stuck in your head for days. This re-release has been remastered (it sounds much warmer than the original) and contains four b-sides as well.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, IC-01 Hanoi, released 26 October. An unexpected but fascinating follow-up to their Sex & Food record from earlier this year, it’s an all-instrumental jazz-rock record that sounds a little like Meddle-era Pink Floyd with its swampy jam sound.

Thom Yorke, Suspiria OST, released 26 October. No big surprise that Yorke was tapped to do the score for the remake of the 1977 Italian horror flick, as it’s full of weirdness and creepiness that was only hinted at on the darker edges of Radiohead’s Kid A, Amnesiac and A Moon Shaped Pool. There’s a lot of instrumental score going on, but there’s also some great full-song tracks such as “Suspirium”. Worth checking out.

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Next Up: November New Releases!

Recent Releases, August Edition

I’m actually kind of surprised I was able to come up with a sizable post for August, considering that I’ve been away for most of it!  I did manage to catch up on a lot of great late-summer tunage, though.  Enjoy!

James, Living in Extraordinary Times, released 3 August. I’m annoyed that the only song I ever hear of theirs on the radio is still “Laid” when they have so many great albums, including this new one. They’re all definitely worth checking out.

Capital Cities, Solarize, released 10 August. A mix of older singles and EP tracks and newer material, the duo’s second album is refreshing, poppy fun.

Prince, Anthology 1995-2010, released 17 August. I was rather surprised by this album. Instead of a greatest hits mix, it’s a collection of deep cuts from The Gold Experience to 20Ten. As I hadn’t listened to that era in ages, so I’d forgotten how frikkin AMAZING he truly was as a songwriter. It’s a fantastic listen and highly suggested.

Death Cab for Cutie, Thank You for Today, released 17 August. The new record is well worth the wait. Ben Gibbard and co. have hit their stride here, returning to their meandering melodies and quirky lyrics but keeping it fresh. Also, mad props for sampling/borrowing from Yoko Ono’s “Mind Train” on the first single!

Nothing, Dance on the Blacktop, released 24 August. A great follow-up to their previous record, Tired of Tomorrow. This one feels more melodic and kind of reminds me of a less blistering My Bloody Valentine.

Interpol, Marauder, released 24 August. I love this new album! It feels like a solid return to their original post-punk sound — it does kind of feel like they successfully recaptured the best parts of Turn on the Bright Lights in a way. They’ve regained a powerful sound that seems to have been missing from some of their previous albums.

Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog, released 24 August. Another album that sounds like a great return to form. AiC’s best quality has always been their distinctly swampy grunge sound, and it’s all over the place here.

Mogwai, Kin OST, released 31 August. While this isn’t their first soundtrack (they released Atomic in 2016 for a documentary of the same name), it’s their first for a Hollywood film, and I’m kind of surprised they haven’t been tapped to do more, because they’re naturals at it. It’s heavy, loud, and amazing.

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Coming soon: September tunage!

Recent Releases: July Edition

The year continues to surprise me with a number of releases from new and old bands alike during what I usually expect to be a slow season.  July’s releases were few but they did not let me down at all.  Here’s but a few worth checking out!

Erasure, World Be Live, released 6 July. Seeing Erasure live is an experience; I got to see them on their 1990 tour for Wild! and it was a blast. Andy Bell is absolutely bonkers and fabulous and their songs are great. This is a wonderful extended album of their most recent tour and it’s a ton of fun to listen to, especially since they left in a lot of Andy’s ridiculous and hilarious in-between chatter.

Cowboy Junkies, All That Reckoning, released 13 July. I was surprised at how much this album resonated with me. It’s alternately lovely and brooding, but it’s an amazing listen. It’s rare that I’ll stream an album twice in one day on its release date, and that’s saying something. [There is also the fact that upon hearing the above track for the first time, I realized this was totally the kind of Flying Bohemians song I’d write back in the day.]

Dirty Projectors, Lamp Lit Prose, released 13 July. I think I used the word ‘tangly’ in my initial Twitter #NewMusicFriday review, and I think that’s a good description; this band’s sound is very heavily entwined within itself, with sounds going in all different directions and tied up in weird knots that somehow make sense. It’s strange yet fascinating at the same time.

Tanukichan, Sundays, released 13 July. Another AllMusic suggestion that paid off handsomely. Hannah von Loon (ex-Trails and Ways, who had a fantastic summer single called “Como te Vas” a few years back) plays heavy-sounding mid-tempo shoegaze (think MBV at their most accessible) and it’s right in my wheelhouse. It’s been playing quite a bit during my afternoon breaks while I’m whipping up some practice words.

The Internet, Hive Mind, released 20 July. Laid back hip hop with a touch of soul, reggae dub, and more. It’s an addictive album to listen to, especially when you need to chill out after a long work day. I need to look into more from this band.

Public Image Ltd, The Public Image Is Rotten (Songs form the Heart), released 20 July. Meanwhile, John Lydon’s career-spanning box set (available digitally as well!) is indeed an exercise in nonconformity and refusal to go with the flow, and experimenting with what sounds resonate with you. From their punk and dub beginnings to their late-80s/early-90s alt.rock all the way to their recent kicking-it-old-school crunch, it’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly an amazing ride.

Gaika, Basic Volume, released 27 July. A wild mix of slow reggae dub tinged with a dark and creepy Tricky-like trip-hop flavor, this one completely blew my mind upon first listen. Absolutely amazing album worth checking out.

ShadowParty, ShadowParty, released 27 July. Various newer members of New Order and Devo gather together to play a fun mix of britpop and post-punk that sometimes sounds like New Order and sometimes like The Killers. Well worth checking out.

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Coming soon:  August releases!

Recent Purchases, June Edition

A surprisingly long list of releases this month!  I actually had to keep a few out this time!  A lot of these albums are very summer-friendly, which means I’ve been listening to them on repeat lately with the window open and a lovely Pacific breeze coming into Spare Oom’s window.   Some of my favorite albums of the year so far appear here.

Dave Matthews Band, Come Tomorrow, released 8 June. A welcome return after six years, and they sound confident and vibrant this time out. This one reminds me a lot of Crash; a lot of solid rock tunes going on.  I’m enjoying this one quite a bit.

The Get Up Kids, Kicker EP, released 8 June. Another great band returns from a long hiatus and provides us with a sharp and concise alternapunk EP. Well worth waiting for.

Black Box Recorder, Life Is Unfair, released 8 June. A nearly-complete discography box set from the moody trio of Luke Haines (The Auteurs), John Moore (The Jesus & Mary Chain) and Sarah Nixey. This was a band from my HMV years, and they even had a surprise hit with the above track in early 2000.

Matt Nathanson, Pyromattia EP, released 8 June. Matt covers six Def Leppard tracks in a semi-unplugged ballad format. This could have gone wrong so easily, but he not only pulls it off, he does so brilliantly. Even DL’s singer Joe Elliott contacted him to congratulate him on an excellent job.

Arthur Buck, Arthur Buck, released 15 June. Songwriter Joseph Arthur joins up with ex-REM guitarist Peter Buck on a fantastic record of slightly off-kilter yet catchy tunes. Their differing styles complement each other quite well on this one.

Johnny Marr, Call the Comet, released 15 June. The album might be about aliens coming to Earth to help us before we destroy ourselves, but Johnny knocked it out of the park with this one musically. His ‘guitarchestra’ style he’d mastered so well while in the Smiths makes a return here, and it sounds absolutely lovely. My favorite album of the month.

The English Beat, Here We Go Love, released 15 June. Dave Wakeling resurrects his old band name and puts out a great ska album just as brilliant as their 80s output. This one definitely surpassed my expectations.

Paul McCartney, “I Don’t Know”/”Come On to Me” single, released 20 June. Sir Paul surprises us with a new double A-side single teaser for a new album (Egypt Station) in September. Still going strong after all these years, and still writing lovely melodies.

The Cure, Mixed Up: Deluxe Edition, release 22 June. Robert Smith picks up where he left off years ago with his band’s remasters, this time with the 1990 remix album. This edition includes not just an additional disc of single remixes (including one of my favorites, the 12″ version of “Just One Kiss”!), but a third disc of new remixes spanning the band’s entire career, remixed by Smith himself. It’s a long listen, but it’s a fascinating one.

Dog Party, Hit & Run, released 29 June. One of my favorite local bands (they’re from Sacramento), these two sisters have been delivering kick-ass punk since they were in high school, and they’re still kicking ass today.

Florence * the Machine, High As Hope, released 29 June. Definitely a more personal and introspective album for the band, but just as stellar and amazing. All the critics are loving this one, and I am too.

Gorillaz, The Now Now, released 29 June. A surprise release from our animated heroes, this one is more of a return to their previous guest-free albums, and featuring catchier and more radio-friendly tunes. I’m still amused that the character taking place of the currently-in-prison Murdoc is none other than Ace from the Gangrene Gang from The PowerPuff Girls…!

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Next Up: July releases!

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!