Since my last post we've welcomed in fall! Is there anything better than a California fall?? Wait, there is? Like for sure? It's better almost everywhere else? K calm down, I was just curious. MOVING ON. Unfortunately, in that same amount of time we've had to say goodbye to Yankee baseball. Fresh wound. We now have the offseason to reflect on what was actually a much better season than many of us had hoped for. So I'm not too upset, the future is bright my friends! Regardless, the playoffs should be fun this year. Now, onto music...
I'm sure that you've noticed, but as my reviews have gotten a little longer, and more in depth (or maybe I'm just more talkative), my posting of them has become seldom. I'm not really thinking of changing, as I enjoy digging a little deeper, especially when it comes to artists I care about. Because of this, I think I need to talk a little about everything new I've been listening to, because most of it won't warrant a full bodied review. While I have thought about doing one big review a week accompanied by a handful of small summaries, I don't have the self discipline to retain that kind of consistency (yet!...?). So for now, I'll just do a quick roundup (keeping with that namesake) of all the records that have been in rotation for the past month.
*I realize that more albums than the ones I talk about in this post were released in September, but I'm only mentioning ones that I've listened to all the way through multiple times*
09/ 09 / 16
The Head and the Heart - Signs of Light
The Head and the Heart has a sound built for road trips. Though I wouldn't call myself an avid listener, if I have an open road ahead of me, they're one of options that consistently flow through my head (Lord Huron, LP, Ray LaMontagne, Milo Greene, etc.) and this album hasn't changed that. The sound here is definitely much more full and lively, unlike their previous records, which were built on soft spoken melodies and background instrumentals that rocked you into a sleep state.
As I may have alluded to above, I've never been a massive The Head and the Heart fan, relying more on their singles than their albums as a whole. That, I'm afraid, is going to remain. Signs of Light is fine, simply fine. Ultimately, for me, the moods that they're trying to fill me with can be done more effectively by other artists.
Local Natives - Sunlit Youth
While the expanse in their sound is notable, I'm not as taken as I thought I'd be. After the release of the albums lead single (and opener) "Villains" I was intrigued. When they released the second single, "Fountain of Youth," I was ecstatic. Much like Yeasayer earlier this year, when they released their single "I Am Chemistry," I was all in. Unfortunately with both artists, they fell just short of my lofty projections (though, to be clear, I much prefer Local Natives record).
Keep in mind those are MY projections, and because I don't think, "an album is only as good as it's best single" is a saying, I have to pull back a bit. Sunlit Youth shows definitive growth, both lyrically and musically, and the progression leads to more complexity throughout. While I'd call myself more than a fair-weather fan, I'm not die hard, and this album hasn't done anything to change that. But, like all the albums on this list, I'll need to spend a little more time listening before I actually dissect it.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones - Sea of Noise
I'm not usually one to make snap judgements, but right when "Crumbling Light Posts Pt. 1," the records opening track, began, I knew I was going to enjoy this record more than it's predecessor, the groups debut record Half The City. It was the simply fact that while the first album, lively and passionate, lacked atmosphere, and with this not even two minute opener, I knew they'd found it.
The cohesiveness also surpasses the first record, built with flow it just makes everything run a bit smoother. The only downside for me (right now) is it's missing those notable singles that set it off. While the first record felt uneven, it had spectacular singles; this record plays solid all the way through but is lacking those memorable go-to tracks (although "Midnight on the Earth" is AWFULLY close). This opinion could very well change, but as of now...
Whether fans agree or disagree with my assessment, I think there is one thing we can recognize as an absolute truth, you HAVE to see this group live. It is as lively and beautiful as the best day you've ever had. Take somebody you love, or even just somebody you like...actually, take somebody you hate and when you STILL have the time of your life you'll understand the power of St. Paul & The Broken Bones.
09/ 16/ 16
Kishi Bashi - Sonderlust
Like with anything that you love, things come and go. Baseball players you grew up with retire, bands you loved fade away, people you hold dear move away; things come to an end. Naturally all of us are filled with the same question, will the replacement be as good? Will it mean as much? Can it retain that special connection you had with the predecessor?
The reason I'm saying all this is because the first time I heard Kishi Bashi the first thought that popped into my head was that the future of music was going to be safe. I mean, it was obviously going to be safe, but for me personally, the future of music was safe. The industry has never been short of innovators but it's rare that I come across something that fits into my wheelhouse so smoothly that you'd think it has been there the entire time. That's Kishi Bashi.
Blending alternative, classical, psychadelic, funk, pop, and anything else you can think of culminating into one big, at times chaotic, but always beautiful, harmony. That's his gift. We're lucky to have him. Listen and love.
AlunaGeorge - I Remember
Building on what they started with 2013's Body Music, it's dancy, sexy, and fun. While those are all great attributes, it's definitely a collection of singles not feeling like an album constructed of one theme or idea, instead being built on "this sounds good...this sounds good...THIS sounds GOOD." That's not a bad thing, but it's just sounds that I've heard so much. Listen to "Jealous," fun right? Then think about anything you've heard on the radio recently. That is the aptly titled "I Remember, in a nutshell for me.
Will this stop me from throwing on a few tracks in the background of a party? No. Will I put on for just me? Also no.
Usher - Hard II Love
This may be surprising but this is probably Usher's best record in over a decade. After spending the last number of years trying to duplicate the sounds of now it seems he's finally found a happy medium between the style that made him a worldwide star while also mixing in hints of today, creating an extremely listenable and surprisingly great record.
Hard II Love doesn't have the singles that some of his past albums have had, but I honestly think that works to his benefit here, as the record seems to flow uninterrupted. While it is a little long, coming in at an hour, I'll just split it into two listens. Hard II Love is soulful, honest, and a return to form for the former modern R&B king (who did a damn good job at proving there's still plenty left in the tank).
09/ 23/ 16
Mac Miller - The Divine Feminine
To put it as simply as possible, I think it's good...? Possibly? Maybe it's just me but I hear a lot of different artists influences in this record, Vince Staples, Logic, J. Cole, Chance, etc. Which...I guess isn't a terrible thing because I really like them, and the production is solid throughout, especially on the opener "Congratulations." Which, had it not been for that track, I don't think I would have continued listening as I haven't really enjoyed any offerings from Mac prior.
I'll need to spend a little more time, though I've been dipping back into The Game pretty heavily and I'm really loving Danny Brown's latest offering. But there enough here to warrant a return, The Divine Feminine is MUCH better than I thought it would be. See you soon Mac n' Miller.
Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij - I Had A Dream That You Were Mine
10 songs. 40 minutes. THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKIN ABOUT. This is the collaboration from the lead singer of the now on hiatus The Walkman, Hamilton Leithauser and founding member/ producer for Vampire Weekend Rostam Batmanglij. I'll start by saying I'm a huge fan of both these men. Rostam's solo work is some of the most beautiful and filling music I've heard in awhile and Hamilton's raspy passionate vocals have long been an obsession of mine.
I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is as good as I thought. Combining Rostam's penchant for dream-like instrumentals and Hamilton's knack for doo-wop influenced hooks we're given a that retro modern feel that I can get enough of. This is a jam, and I can't stop listening.
How To Dress Well - Care
I'm not usually this hyper aware of run times but it seems like everyone is on a "longer is better" rampage right now as I'm seeing more hour long albums then ever. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and I'd classify myself as a patient listener, but I also appreciate efficiency when it comes to get your point across.
This record, while still quiet, gets the blood flowing in a way its predecessors have not. This was by design, as before, creator Tom Krell, seemed more concerned with helping us have a good sleep when it came to moods. So I do like the expanse here, just listen to the smooth pop opener, "Can't You Tell" next to the dark "The Ruins." I still prefer 2012's Total Loss, but this is solid.
Warpaint - Heads Up
Best Warpaint release to date? Possibly. The only thing holding me back? Leeeeeength. Maybe I'm not as patient as I thought. On Heads Up they take their slurred alternative sound to new heights with an eclectic array of influences. The result here is a much crisper feel then before, though a bit less defined in terms of direction. This is probably as a result of the members all contributing to side projects in addition to Warpaint.
While their sound is still brooding, Heads Up is definitely more lively their previous efforts. The drums seem to beat a little louder, the guitars sharper, and the vocals have the same meditative anguish. For what it's worth, I'm waiting for the weather to cool down a bit before I stream this heavily. It just doesn't make sense with blue skies and 95 degree heat.
GRiZ - Good Will Prevail
GRiZ has gotten serious play from me ever since he dropped Mad Liberation. His style, and I'm sorry for this, funk and fresh. It felt like a modern classic, playing more like dance-tastic amped up RJD2, rather than one of the EDM replicants that have invaded the DJ scene since GRiZ's rise to power.
Normally I'd say no to the hour length but when you're having this much fun you just let things flow. He's got a great....you know what? Just put this record on. It's the summer jam I was missing so I guess I'll just have to get down this fall. Almost every track is worth your time, get to work.
09/ 30/ 16
These 9/30 releases you have to take my word with a grain of salt since I've only had one weekend to sift between four albums
Banks - Alter
Alter, Banks' second LP, is basically a copy of Goddess, playing like a direct continuation of it's predecessor. While it isn't a bad thing, it is a little disappointing. She stepped onto a throne previously uninhabited, taking on the role of a female version of The Weeknd (Trilogy era), though it was in mood alone, as she is definitely forging her own path.
There are definitely notable moments on the album, especially the four song stretch of "Weaker Girl" through to "Haunt." But overall, I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of "I've heard this before," though I will say that clipping 13 minutes off the length of her debut (Goddess was an hour, while this is 47 minutes) made a big difference. I'm a huge supporter of the 10 track 40 minute LP (unless you're hitting me with a concept album aka make your records as long as you want Janelle Monae).
Bon Iver - 22, A Million
I have to admit, I've had this record in my possession for the last month and it's been seared into my brain during that time. If you're a fan of Bon Iver then 22, A Million is what you've been waiting for. If you're not fan of Bon Iver....then 22, A Million is what you've been waiting for.
I'll keep this simple and let you listen for yourself; and at a short and sweet 34 minute run time it won't be difficult to dive into. Their style has evolved in a beautiful way, and the time spent away from the group has clearly landed them perspective and growth. This is good. This is worth your time. Loop it. Be free.
Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life
This is definitely the record I've spent the least amount of time with over the weekend. Regina is truly in a category of her own, so whether the record is hit or miss, it will always strike a unique chord. If I want to hear Regina, I put Regina on. Unlike with some other artists, where the craving can be satisfied by interchangeable artists.
She hasn't lost her flair for the quirky or dramatic, and it's genuinely nice to have her back as my soft spot for her sound seems to be endless, but my initial reaction to this album is that it's pleasant. It doesn't touch what she gave us on Begin To Hope and Far, though I am enjoying it more than her last effort, 2012's What We Saw From The Cheap Seats.
The downside of having such a specific sound is that if I'm not in the mood then there's no getting around it, and right now there too many other sounds I'd rather focus on. So when I'm craving her I'll update my take on Remember Us To Life, but for now, your opinion of the record is entirely up to you.
Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
Danny Brown is nothing if not different. To say there's no one else like his in rap would be to state the obvious. From his voice, to his flow, to his approach, he is definitely his own entity. Abrasive at first, he could easily leave a bitter taste to the unsuspecting listener, but give him a chance and I have no doubt he'll leave his mark.
Atrocity Exhibition is dark, and while the downward spiral may sound enticing at times, his honest take on the negative matters in his life is sobering. He doesn't glorify his actions, he just simply states them. It's refreshing. Working with producer Paul White almost exclusively give the album a great natural flow, a pairing that brought many of the bright spots on his previous output 2013's Old.
Brown is fierce, real, and dominant. This is worth your time.
Solange - A Seat at the Table
In what might be the strangest turn, this record probably gave me the best first listen of any album this month. It's very much its own entity, made with quite a few specifics in mind; it shows a complete work by an artist who just seems to get better and better.
My instant comfort with a record is a rarity, but that's what happened here. Her voice floats and flutters over mostly downtempo jazzy/ R&B stylings, everything coming together beautifully, curating the mood at every turn. It may seem long, at over 20 songs, but with nine interludes mixed in, the length is on par with most other records these days. Although the way this record makes me feel, I don't think I'd be complaining at 20+ full length tracks. Solange has found her niche, and for someone whose sister might just be the most famous person on the planet, making a name for yourself all on your own shows just how good she is.
Check this out. This just might be my fall album. Great stuff.