Saturday, February 25, 2017

Upcoming Album of the Week (Ending February 25)

It looks like we may be getting a new album from Chvrches before the year is out! Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics posted a studio picture with the band this week and they're certainly working on something. I will let you know if anything comes of it, until then, keep a eye out on my Upcoming Releases page for great new music on the way!

This week, Walter Martin, former (and may be future) bassist for The Walkmen announced his third solo album, My Kinda Music.

During his time with The Walkmen, Martin served at the band's bassist and organist. He released his first solo record shortly after the band's hiatus in 2014, We're All Young Together. The album was a collection of children's songs. He followed that up last year with a more traditional album, Arts + Leisure.

His third album will see him returning to the children's music scene. The album features Laura Gibson, Phil Ek, Gabe Wax, and Matt Berninger. Along with the album's announcement on Wednesday, he released the first single from the album, the Berninger-featuring "Hey Matt."

My Kinda Music is coming on May 5.

Also announced this week:

Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel - I Can Spin a Rainbow (May 5)
Arca - Arca (April 7)
The Bob’s Burgers Music Album (May 12)
The Bug Vs Earth - Concrete Desert (March 24)
Cayetana - New Kind of Normal (May 5)
Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of The Story — An Album to Benefit War Child (May 5)
Future - HNDRXXX (out now)
Michael Gira - Drainland (April 28)
The Mountain Goats - Goths (May 19)
Southern Poverty Law Center (May 5)
Steve Lacy - Demo (out now)
Swans - The Great Annihilator Reissue (April 28)
Taylor Bennett - Restoration of an American Idol (out now)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Best Albums of 2016

Every year, I compile the year-end music lists published by a variety of news, music, and entertainment blogs and magazines in order to determine the best ranked albums of the year. I consult a variety of try to capture the wide variety of styles covered by these sources.

My methodology is this: I look at the ranking of each list and assign a number of points to each album based on its placement on the list. For top ten spots, each album gets a number of points inverse to its position; a number one spot gets ten points, number ten gets one point, and so on. Beyond the top ten, albums receive a fraction of a point, the value of which depends on the album's placement. I start at 0.5 points for spots 11 through 20, going down one-tenth of a point for each group of ten. Once I hit 0.1 points, any remaining albums on the list will receive that value.

Here is the top ten ranking for 2016 albums:

10. The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It: 35.2 points (11 list inclusions, 1 number one spot)
9. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo: 38.5 points (14 list inclusions)
8. Angel Olsen - My Woman: 49.4 points (19 list inclusions)
7. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It from Here... Thank You for Your Service: 56.7 points (16 list inclusions, 1 number one spot)
6. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book: 64.1 points (16 list inclusions)
5. Radiohead - A Moon-Shaped Pool: 66.2 points (20 list inclusions)
4. Solange - A Seat at the Table: 81.7 points (19 list inclusions, 4 number one spots)
3. Beyoncé - Lemonade: 103.5 points (19 list inclusions, 6 number one spots)
2. Frank Ocean - Blonde: 106.8 points (21 list inclusions, 2 number one spots
1. David Bowie - Blackstar: 142 points (18 list inclusions, 6 number of spots)

As usual, there were few surprises in the top ten albums of 2016, even relative placement was as expected. There were two albums, however, that I did not expect to see in the top ten. The first is The 1975's I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. It appears on a relatively low number of lists, but was well-placed when it was included. I remember seeing scathing reviews of their self-titled debut, especially from the British magazine NME. Last year, NME placed The 1975 at the top of their list.

Another surprise for me was Kanye West. I thought that perhaps the music industry's love affair with him would end given the nature of the release of The Life of Pablo. Details of the album changed constantly and, even after it was released, more time would pass before the album was truly completed (is it yet?). I found it tiring, but it's exactly what many praised about the record.

In their place, I would have expected to see Car Seat Headrest, Leonard Cohen, Rihanna, or Mitski, artists who released albums that seemed to get more generous press.

Otherwise, things fell as one would typically expect, with cultural impact, anticipation, and memorials winning out.

My spreadsheet for performing my ranking can be downloaded here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New Music Friday - February 3, 2017

Be sure to view a list of upcoming releases here!

Essential Full-Length Releases

Big Sean - I Decided

Apart from his guest spots, Big Sean's early work didn't really impress me much. That started to change with the release of his last album, 2015's Dark Sky Paradise. That album introduced us to a more mature and introspective Big Sean, and this follow-up continues on those themes. He considers the record to be a concept album, centering on the idea of rebirth.

Watch: "Moves"
Watch: "Bounce Back"

MUNA - About U

MUNA is a pop trio who met in 2013 when the members were attending the University of Southern California. They released their debut EP, More Perfect, on Bandcamp in 2014, catching the ear of RCA Records. They continued to pick up attention and accolades with the release of multiple singles and an additional EP, Loudspeaker, in 2016. They craft a solid dark pop sound with their debut album, and address topics of gender and sexual identify.

Watch: "Loudspeaker"
Watch: "I Know a Place"

Sampha - Process

Throughout his eight year career, Sampha has become known as a reliable guest star, featuring on tracks from artists like Jessie Ware, SBTRKT, and Drake. His own creative output has been limited to a number of singles and a couple of EPs. Finally, he's released his own debut album and it's well worth the wait. It's a personal and beautifully-written record, and one that's already earned the love of fans and critics alike.

Watch: "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano"
Watch: "Blood on Me"

Surfer Blood - Snowdonia

Surfer Blood lost Thomas Fekete, their original guitarist who had been with the since their beginning in 2009, last year. Prior to that, longtime bassist Kevin Williams left to begin a new career. They come into their fourth album with two new members, including an old friend, Lindsey Mills, on bass. The changes in the line-up have also allowed for the band to retune their sound. Snowdonia seems more focused than their previous two records, though I don't know if they'll ever make another Astro Coast.

Watch: "Matter of Time"
Watch: "Frozen"

Syd - Fin

Syd is a member of the Odd Future group, and frontwoman of one of it's sub-projects, The Internet. She's putting out her solo debut just a week after one of her bandmates, Matt Martians, does the same. The album is influenced by 90s-era R&B/pop artists like Usher and Brandy, and also includes some trap elements. It's another record that has earned its artists early critical praise (it's a good week for debuts!).

Watch: "All About Me"
Listen: "Body"

Other Full-Length Releases

Communions - Blue

Watch: "Come On, I’m Waiting"
Listen: "Today"

Hideout - So Many Hoops, So Little Time

Watch: "I Got Your Message"
Listen: "Doctor"

Homeshake - Fresh Air

Listen: "Call Me Up"
Listen: "Every Single Thing"

Louise Burns - Young Mopes

Watch: "Storms"
Listen: "Who’s the Madman"

Mega Bog - Happy Together

Watch: "192014"
Watch: "London"

Porcelain Raft - Microclimate

Listen: "Big Sur"
Listen: "Distant Shore"

Red Love - Red Love

Listen: "Gone Tomorrow"

Singles, EPs, Soundtracks, etc.

Live Through Magic

Trainspotting #2: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Listen: Young Fathers - "Only God Knows"

Upcoming Album of the Week (Ending February 18)

CeeLo released what may be the least-essential track of the decade with an ode to Beyoncé sung to the tune of Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" (unsurprising called "Jay-Z's Girl"). Thankfully, there is much better music on the horizon, check some of it out over at my Upcoming Releases page!

Announced this week:

Animal Collective - The Painters EP (out now)
Brooklyn Youth Chorus - Black Mountain Songs (March 31)
Colin Stetson - All This I Do for Glory (April 28)
Future - Future (out now)
Nightlands - I Can Feel the Night Around Me (May 5)
Rick Ross - Rather You Than Me (March 17)
Yumi Zouma - (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (April 6)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Upcoming Album of the Week (Ending February 11)

I finally figured out this week was "cash me outside, how bow dah" is. Unfortunately, I'm no less confused about why it got so big. I will say, as is usually case, the "remix" of the statement in question is actually pretty spectacular. There are also, of course, real songs being released as well. Check out my Upcoming Releases page to see where some of those new songs are coming from!

This week, Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up announced the latest in their zodiac series, Year of the Snake.

In addition to their four albums, Fucked Up has also been releasing 12"s almost every year since 2006 in honor of the Chinese zodiac. The last one was 2015's Year of the Hare, they skipped 2016 (which, by the way, was the year of the red monkey).

Year of the Snake is set to be released on March 24.

Also announced this week:

Flume - Skin Companion II EP (February 17)
Fucked Up - Year of the Snake (March 24)
Jim O’Rourke & Kassel Jaeger - Wakes on Cerulean (March 10)
Mark Lanegan Band - Gargoyle (April 28)
Moonbase - “It Don’t Matter” (out now)
NAO - FAWK Remix EP (out now)
Ty Segall - Goblin EP (March 17)

New Music Friday - January 27, 2017

Be sure to view a list of upcoming releases here!

Essential Full-Length Releases

Allison Crutchfield - Tourist in This Town

Allison Crutchfield is the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee, and a former member of Swearin'. The band broke up in 2015 following Crutchfield's breakup with the band's guitarist, and she started her solo career. Tourist in This Town is her first record. On the album, she reflects on the end of the relationship and the band. Lyrically and creatively, she comes into her own, distinguishing herself from both her former band and her sister.

Watch: "I Don’t Ever Want to Leave California"
Watch: "Dean’s Room"

Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Japandroids are strangely quiet between records. They'll put out a short, hard-rocking, much-celebrated record, tour a little bit, then go quiet. The silence between records creates a fear, in me at least, that perhaps the band is no more. Those fears started to crack back in August when the band announced a few shows in the later part of the year. As expected, an album announcement soon followed. It's as good as their first two, let's just hope we don't wait another five years for the next.

Listen: "Arc of Bar"
Listen: "Near to the Wild Heart of Life"

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness

Not Even Happiness is the second album from Julie Byrne, who released Rooms with Walls and Windows in 2014. Her style is a throwback to 1970s folk and has earned her comparisons to older artists like Joni Mitchell, as well as some contemporaries, including Weyes Blood. Her music is calm and serene, perfect for cold winter nights indoors (though we don't seem to be getting many of those lately).

Listen: "Follow My Voice"
Listen: "I Live Now As a Singer"

Kehlani - SweetSexySavage

The beginning of last year was a tough time for Kehlani; following a break up with Kyrie Irving, and a less than positive public reaction to the circumstances of that relationship's end, she found herself hospitalized after an attempt at self-harm. The back half of the year was a sharp contrast to that. She went on a creative streak, releasing five singles, almost all with videos, including one for the Suicide Squad soundtrack. Several of those tracks also appear on her debut album.

Watch: "CRZY"
Watch: "Distraction"

Matt Martians - The Drum Chord Theory

Matt Martians is part of the Odd Future sub-group The Internet. He seems to be trying pre-empt bandmate Syd's debut album (released February 3) with a debut release of his own. The album dabbles in neo soul, jazz, experimental, and psychedelic sounds. It also, as is common with Odd Future albums, features contributions from other members of the group, including Steve Lacy and Syd.

Watch: "Dent Jusay" (featuring Syd & Steve Lacy)
Listen: "Diamond in Da Ruff"

Other Full-Length Releases

Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sounds

Watch: "Modern Act"
Watch: "Internal World"

Delicate Steve - This Is Steve

Watch: "Winners"
Watch: "Cartoon Rock"

Fancey - Love Mirage

Listen: "Dream All Night"
Listen: "Baby Sunshine"

Fred Thomas - Changer

Watch: "Voiceover"
Listen: "Brickwall"

Miles Mosley - UPRISING

Listen: "Abraham"
Listen: "Young Lion"

P.O.S. - Chill, dummy

Watch: "Lanes"
Listen: "Wearing a Bear"

Sloppy Heads - Useless Smile
Listen: "Always Running"

Stef Chura - Messes

Watch: "Spotted Gold"
Watch: "Slow Motion"

Ty Segall - Ty Segall

Listen: "Break a Guitar"
Listen: "Orange Color Queen"

Singles, EPs, Soundtracks, etc.

The Avalanches - Since I Left You Reissue

Watch: "Since I Left You"
Listen: "Stay Another Season"

Banana - LIVE

Cate Le Bon - Rock Pool

Watch: "Rock Pool"

D∆WN - Infrared Deluxe

Listen: "Paint It Blue" (Rizzla Remix)

Major Lazer - "Run Up"

Watch: "Run Up" (featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj)

Sleater-Kinney - Live in Paris

Listen: "Surface Envy"

Weyes Blood & Ariel Pink - Myths 002

Listen: "Tears on Fire"
Listen: "On Another Day"

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Upcoming Album of the Week (Ending February 4)

This week, next generation's most celebrated musicians were announced; Beyoncé and Jay-Z are having twins! It will probably be a while before the two young-uns start releasing any music of their own, so until then, check out my Upcoming Releases page for my listing of new music!

This week Blondie announced their 11th album, Pollinator.

Blondie is one of the great punk and new wave bands, at least in my opinion. They were also often one of the most inventive, incorporating disco, and later even hip hop into their music. Following a run of six incredible albums, the band broke up in 1982, with members moving on to pursue other projects.

The band reformed in 1997 and wasted no time getting back into the swing of things. They've released four albums since reformation, most recently, 2014's Ghosts of Download.

The new album will include contributions from other punk icons like Joan Jett and Johnny Marr, as well as some younger musicians; Charli XCX, Dev Hynes, and Sia will also appear. The album was announced on Wednesday, along with a new track, "Fun."

Also announced this week:

Bleached - Can You Deal? (March 3)
BNQT - Vol. 1 (April 28)
Bob Dylan - Triplicate (March 31)
Cold War Kids - L.A. Divine (April 7)
Danny Brown & Paul White - Accelerator (February 10)
Day Wave - The Days We Had (May 5)
Depeche Mode - Spirit (March 17)
Future Islands - The Far Field (April 7)
Jidenna - The Chief (February 17)
Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog (May 5)
Nathan Fake - Providence (March 10)
Wiki & your old droog - What Happened to Fire? (March 10)