Album Reviews: Quick Thoughts


What if I didn’t review any albums for some time and then did a bunch at once?  Again?

AlbumThe Competition
Artist: Lower Dens
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Two Faced Love” and “Young Republicans”
Thoughts: These songs have a lush sound reminiscent of the 1980s New Romantics.  Which is fine, if you’ve listened to all of that 35+ year old music and yearn for more. The big twist is that lyrically it is much more political than romantic.
Rating: **1/2


Album: Close It Quietly
Artist: Frankie Cosmos
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “41st,” “So Blue,”
Thoughts: Greta Kline follows up on 2018’s Vessel with another collection of lo-fi folk rock tunes.  Her sweet voice clearly sings ruminative lyrics about growing into adulthood.
Rating: ***


Album: Crush
Artist: Floating Points
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Thoughts: This collection of minimalist electronic music from UK musician Sam Shepherd was just what I needed to hear right now.
Rating: ****

 


Album: There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Artist: clipping.
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Nothing is Safe,” “The Show, and “Blood of the Fang”
Thoughts: This the third album from this experimental hip-hop act from Los Angeles, and first since 2016’s Splendor & Money.  There are two great things about this album: 1. the rapid rhymes of Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame) and 2. the deep-textured synth sounds he raps over.  The lyrics are grim and gory, making it an appropriate addition to your Halloween party playlist.
Rating: ****

Album Review: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights by The New Pornographers


Album: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
Artist: The New Pornographers
Release Date: September 27, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “You’ll Need A New Backseat Driver,” “The Surprise Knock,” and “Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile”
Thoughts:

I’ve been a longtime fan of The New Pornographers but finding my enthusiasm for the Canadian band dwindling over there past few releases. This new album has everything one would expect of the New Pornographers, the unique mix of power pop and folk rock, harmonies, virtuoso instrumentation, and clever titles.  The first three songs on the album are good, but there are no standout gems like “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” “Challengers,” or “Crash Years.”  The remainder of the album is just boring.  I guess The New Pornographers and I have just drifted apart.

Rating: **

Related:

Monthly Mixtape: May 2019


The Monthly Mixtape for May will take you on a journey!

Sarah Pagé :: Ephemeris Data
Kick it off with some experimental harp music.

The Silver Lake Chorus :: Tabu
Follow up with some tight choral harmonies and hot rhythms.

Black Pumas :: Colors
Then slide into some classic psychedelic soul.

 

Sass :: Spoiled by Rotten
Nex, some aural time travel to 1991.

Sleater-Kinney :: Hurry on Home
And while you’re in the 90s, pick up Sleater-Kinney and bring them to the present to work with St. Vincent!

Is there any great new music I missed along this journey?  Let me know in the comments!

Previous Mixtapes:

 

Album Review: The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey


Album: The Best of Luck Club
Artist: Alex Lahey
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore
  • Am I Doing It Right?
  • Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
  • Isabella

Thoughts:

Do you like 1980s power pop, but want to hear it from a young, contemporary artist? Australia’s Alex Lahey fits the bill on this album that just totally rocks.  She even rips out a sax solo on “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” A year ago this week, I reviewed an album by Lahey’s fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, which I completely loved, and I feel just as strongly for The Best of Luck Club.  Lahey is maybe a bit less edgy musically than Barnett, but her lyrics are empowering and uplifting.  And even on the ballads the pair of ballads that close out the album – “Black RMs” and “I Want to Live With You” – Lahey express the contended domesticity of a loving relationship while still being a rock & roller.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend


AlbumFather of the Bride
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Release Date: May 3, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hold You Now
  • Harmony Hall
  • We Belong Together
  • Sympathy
  • Jerusalem, New York, Berlin

Thoughts:

I’ve liked Vampire Weekend since I first heard “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” a dozen years ago.  But I like them with the uneasiness of a white, preppy dude who grew up in the suburbs and likes the sounds of music of non-Western cultures listening to other white, preppy dudes who grew up in the suburbs incorporate those sounds into their pop music.  We’re all probably guilty of some level of cultural appropriation.

The sound on Father of the Bride is more stripped down than preceding Vampire Weekend albums.  It’s more of a folk rock sound with a little Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter. The lyrics also show the band in a different place, older and concerned with mortality and an uncertain present.  “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” bandleader Ezra Koenig sings on “Harmony Hall.” Those are words capture the zeitgeist of the times, and yet are hidden in a sunny pop tune that typifies much of the album.

Rating: ***

 

 

Album Review: On the Line by Jenny Lewis


Album: On the Line
Artist: Jenny Lewis
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Heads Gonna Roll
  • Wasted Youth
  • Hollywood Lawn
  • Dogwood

Thoughts:

As a brief prelude to this review, a new album from Jenny Lewis reminded me of how much I liked Rabbit Fur Coat, followed by the stunning realization that the album was released in 2006! I discovered Rabbit Fur Coat at the time when I first started becoming aware of new music through podcasts and streaming services, and now my “new way” of consuming music is rather old at 13.

Okay, onto the actual new album, which is Jenny Lewis’ fourth. The album has a retro-sound reminiscent of 70s sunny California pop. This sound is added by the appearance of veteran musicians like Don Was, Ringo Starr, and Jim Keltner in he backing band.  Nevertheless, the sound is still fresh, and the lyrics are anything but frothy. Lewis is primarily a storyteller, telling stories of people desiring escape, lost love, and lots and lots of substance abuse. There’s a lot of humor in her lyrics, but often the humor is a way of revealing deeper pains.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: It’s Real by Ex Hex


Album: It’s Real
Artist: Ex Hex
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Tough Enough
  • Cosmic Cave
  • No Reflection
  • Talk to Me

Thoughts:

This is the second album (following 2014’s Rips) from the Washington, DC based trio of Mary Timony on guitar, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris.  It’s got a mix of 80s punk and hardrock with touches of power pop and 60s girl groups thrown in.  There’s nothing quite original here, but it is a well-crafted collection of raging guitar solos and sweet harmonies.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Crush on Me by Sir Babygirl


Album: Crush on Me
Artist: Sir Babygirl
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Heels
  • Flirting With Her
  • Haunted House
  • Everyone Is a Bad Friend

Thoughts:

The debut album from New Hampshire’s Sir Babygirl features bubblegum pop, dance beats, and glass-shattering vocals belted out by Kelsie Hogue.  The lyrics focus on celebrating queer identity and learning to love oneself.  It’s a powerful and exuberant collection that shows that bubblegum can have some bite.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Remind Me Tomorrow by Sharon Van Etten


AlbumRemind Me Tomorrow
ArtistSharon Van Etten
Release Date: January 18, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Told You Everything
  • No One’s Easy To Love
  • Comeback Kid
  • You Shadow

Thoughts:

Van Etten’s first album in five years features folk song arrangements over synthesizers with lots of oscallation and distortion. The effect is atmospheric and emotionally piercing, especially the lyrics the focus on surviving trauma, falling in love again, and muddling through the ever-messy present. This is a terrific work that is worth multiple listens.

Rating: ***1/2

Monthly Mixtape – December 2018


One final mixtape for 2018, and it’s quite the mix of songs! What are you’re favorite songs the year? I’m working on my year end list and will post it here on December 29th!

Forma Antiqva :: Canarios

Art d’Ecco :: Nobody’s Home

Bee Bee Sea :: Sonic Boomerang

Wafia :: I’m Good

Larkin Poe :: Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues

 

 

 

Previous Mixtapes: