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!

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!