I’m adding to my stable of music criticism posts by introducing a new Albums of the Month feature. The basic gist is that on the second Wednesday of the month (or, as is the case when I procrastinate, on Friday), I will write reviews of 3-5 albums released within the past three months (in this case May, June, and July of 2016). If there’s an album you love that you’d like me to review, post a suggestion below. Similarly, if there’s an album you hate that you want me to pillory, also let me know. And if there’s an album you’re timid about listening to and want me to try first, I’m open to anything.
***** – An all-time classic album (highly recommended)
**** – Great album (recommended)
*** – Solid album (consider buying or streaming/downloading top tracks)
** – Weak album (only consider streaming/downloading top tracks)
* – Poor album (not recommended)
ARTIST: James Blake
ALBUM: The Colour in Anything
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
COMMENTS: Blake’s gospel-style voice is paired with electronic sounds or sometimes a piano in this mournful album of love lost and a directionless life. This is a headphone album to hear the textures deep in the sounds in the often spare arrangements. This is not something to put on when you’re already feeling blue. Despite the title, this is a colourless, muted recording.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Points,” “Waves Know Shores,” “Always,” and “Meet You in the Maze.”
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
COMMENTS: Reminiscent of Passion Pit and Jamie xx, this is electronic music that is danceable but introspective. The standout tracks are excellent but overall it sounds repetitive and dull.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Run,” “To Have You Back,” and “Foolish.”
ALBUM: A Moon Shaped Pool
RELEASE DATE: 8 May 2016
COMMENTS: Quiet and folky with orchestral flourishes, sometimes reminiscent of Sigur Ros and early 70’s folk pop, This is not as innovative as I’m accustomed from Radiohead and while a worthy addition to their catalog, it’s not a vital one.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Burn the Witch” and “Desert Island Disk”
RELEASE DATE: 27 May 2016
COMMENTS:A downtempo electronic album feels the strains of anxiety and uncertainty, especially in the high register vocals of the many guest artists. A few songs stand out, but overall this is kind of a drag.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Never Be Like You (featuring Kai)”, “Wall Fuck,” and “Tiny Cities (featuring Beck)”
ARTIST: Moon Hooch
ALBUM: Red Sky
RELEASE DATE: 10 June 2016
COMMENTS: This is the latest collection of saxophone tunes with EDM arrangements. Mostly instrumental, but a few vocal tracks (with less sax because they’re singing – duh). A great party record.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Sunken Ship,” “That’s What They Say,” “Something Else,” and “Alien Invasion”
ARTIST: Blood Orange
ALBUM: Freetown Sound
RELEASE DATE: 18 June 2016
COMMENTS: This album bridges 80s r&b rhythms and sounds (a definite Michael Jackson influence) with socially conscious lyrics. I want to like it more than I do.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “By Ourselves,” “Augustine,” “But You,” and “Hands Up”