Albums of the Month: July 2016


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.

Ratings scale:

***** – 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)


ARTISTJames Blake
ALBUMThe Colour in Anything
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
RATING: ***
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.”


ARTISTTourist 
ALBUM: U
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
RATING: **1/2
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.”


ARTISTRadiohead
ALBUMA Moon Shaped Pool
RELEASE DATE: 8 May 2016
RATING: ***
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”


ARTISTFlume
ALBUMSkin
RELEASE DATE: 27 May 2016
RATING: **
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)”


ARTISTMoon Hooch
ALBUMRed Sky
RELEASE DATE: 10 June 2016
RATING: ****
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”


ARTISTBlood Orange
ALBUMFreetown Sound
RELEASE DATE: 18 June 2016
RATING: ***
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”


2014 Year in Review: Favorite albums


I’ve never attempted to make a list of favorite albums, primarily due to economic reasons I’ve never been able to listen to enough albums to make a fair judgment.  But now we live in the age of the cloud and I subscribe to Rdio and have the opportunity to listen to a lot more albums than ever before.  So, I’m going to give this a go, but I’m still not going to make a top ten, just eight favorites.

If you’re interested in more of the best albums of 2014, check out the lists compiled by my friends Erik and Jon.

The albums are arranged alphabetically by artist. I’ve included a sample song from each album, but check out SoundCloud, YouTube, or the artists’ websites for more.  I’ve also included an Rdio playlist of all eight albums below.

Aphex TwinSyro 

The first album by Richard James released under the Aphex Twin moniker is a sonic wave of electronic noise and melody.

Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba

A project of Italian alian producer C. Crisci, Clap! Clap! creates dance music by combining electronic sounds with samples of traditional African music.  While not the first  effort to make this combination of sounds, Tayi Bebba is remarkably unique.

Ex HexRips

Following up on the great supergroup project of Wild Flag, Mary Timony is back with another band that plays just straight-up great rock & roll.  I haven’t fallen in love with an album this quickly in a long time.

FM BelfastBrighter Days

An electronic-pop band from Iceland plays on all of my weakness.  This music reminds me of the 1980s, but done right.

Moon HoochThis is Cave Music

Moon Hooch is an all-sax band.  Cave music is apparently saxophones playing swinging dancetunes that feel like acoustic EDM.

St. Vincent

Annie Clark’s eponymous album is on all the best-of lists of this year, so I don’t need to say more than if you haven’t listened to it, check it out now.

 3rdEyeGirlPLECTRUMELECTRUM

Prince released two albums this fall, and this is the better of the two, a collaboration with a new all-woman band of guitar player Donna Grantis, drummer Hannah Ford and  bassist Ida Kristine Nielsen.  Prince responds well when challenged by working with other great artists, and this album has more of a rock vibe than I’ve heard from Prince in some time.

Ana Tijoux – Vengo

French-Chilean hip-hop MC blends Latin beats, R&B, and consciousness-raising lyrics.

 

http://www.rdio.com/people/Othemts/playlists/12376150/Favorite_Albums_of_2014/

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the Week Follow-up: New Albums by Clap! Clap! and Moon Hooch


I haven’t kept up with Song of the Week posts mainly because I haven’t been hearing songs that excite me much the past month or so.  Maybe I’m being too picky or maybe I’m not listening to enough new music.  Regardless, now more than ever, if you have a song to share, you should post it in the comments.

I am excited that there are new albums from a couple of Song of the Week laureates, which you you should definitely check out.

Moon Hooch featured in SOTW on 2 November 2013.  Their new album is  This is Cave Music.

 

Clap! Clap!‘s new album is Tayi Bebba.  “Elon Mentana” was song of the week on 8 March 2014.

 

 

 

2013 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


With the top ten or so songs listed for every year of my existence, it’s time for the year-end review of my favorite songs of 2013.

For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 2012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

I’ve featured many of this songs in my Song of the Week posts this year.  If you see a link from a song title it will take you back to the Song of the Week post for that song.

San Francisco – Foxygen

That’s ok, I was bored anyway

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GMF – John Grant

You could be laughing 65% more of the time

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.Number 9 – Moon Hooch

Please stand away from the platform edge

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A Tattered Line of String – The Postal Service

In the glow of the nights golden hue

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Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) – Shad

Now when you’re Third World born, but First World formed/
Sometimes you feel pride, sometimes you feel torn

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White Foxes – Susanne Sundfør 

For the gravy of your soul

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Indians From All Directions – A Tribe Called Red feat. Das Racist

To the L to the L to the L to the Ella

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Delicate Cycle – The Uncluded

And my heart started with a quarter

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Step – Vampire Weekend

The truth is she doesn’t need me to protect her

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Slyd – !!!

No, that’s weird

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Honorable Mentions:

Song Most Often Played at the Request of My 5 y.o. Son:

Feel this Moment – Pitbull feat. Christina Aguilera

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Funniest Viral Song that You Can Dance To:

The Fox – Ylvis

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Best Boston History Lesson Set to Music:

The Great Boston Molasses Flood – The Dead Milkmen

[Listen on The Dead Milkmen website]

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Best Drunken Barroom Sing-a-Long of a Traditional American Folk Song:

Shenandoah – Tom Waits w/ Keith Richards

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Scariest Song You Can Dance To:

The Terror – Flaming Lips

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Best Song That I Was A Part Of Creating With a Video That’s Not Safe For Work:

The Wolf is on the Hill – Beck (arranged by Krissy Skare, performed by a 50 voice chorus, choreography by Sugar Dish)

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Let me know what you think of these songs in the comments, and of course, let me know you’re favorites for 2013