Saturday, February 17, 2018

My Favorite Albums of 2017

Other Full-Length Releases

20. Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

Watch: "Lonely World"
Watch: "Indulge Me"
Watch: "Doomed"

19. The Fresh & Onlys - Wolf Lie Down

Watch: "One of a Kind"
Watch: "Impossible Man"

18. Feist - Pleasure

Watch: "Century"
Watch: "Pleasure"

17. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up

Watch: "Third of May/Ōdaigahara"
Watch: "Fool’s Errand"

16. Ibeyi - Ash

Watch - "Deathless" (featuring Kamasi Washington)
Watch: "I Wanna Be Like You"
Watch: "Me Voy" (featuring Mala Rodríguez)

15. Spoon - Hot Thoughts

Watch - "Do I Have to Talk You Into It"
Watch: "Hot Thoughts"
Watch: "I Ain’t the One"

14. Laura Marling - Semper Femina

Watch: "Next Time"
Watch: "The Valley"
Watch: "Nothing, Not Nearly"

13. The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

Watch: "Whiteout Conditions"
Watch: "High Ticket Attractions"

12. The National - Sleep Well Beast

Watch: "Dark Side of the Gym"
Watch: "Walk It Back"
Watch: "Sleep Well Beast"

11. The War in Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

Watch: "Holding On"
Watch: "Nothing to Find"
Watch: "Pain"

10. Bedouine - Bedouine

Bedouine is Azniv Korkejian, who was born and raised in the Middle East (Syria and Saudi Arabia respectively), before landing in the US in the latter part of her childhood. It's her experience in the US which seems to lend itself most to her music, recalling 1970s folk. I knew next to nothing about the artist before first hearing her debut record, but I was captured from the start of the opening track.

Watch: "One of These Days"
Watch: "Solitary Daughter"
Watch: "Dusty Eyes"

9. Aldous Harding - Party

I first heard of Aldous Harding when she opened for Deerhunter on tour in 2016. I sensed that other concert-goers seemed either unimpressed or weirded out by her, but there was something incredible about both her music and her presence. I looked for her first album at show, with no luck, so I immediately purchased online when I got home. She's still a little weird on this second album, but is far more polished. The best example is in the lead single from the record, "Imagining My Man".

Watch: "Blend"
Watch: "Imagining My Man"
Watch: "Horizon"

8. Rostam - Half-Light

I was worried about future of Vampire Weekend when Rostam announced he was leaving the band. Regardless of their future, he has proven that his work outside of the band will continue to be excellent. The first example came with his collaborative album with Hamilton Leithauser in 2016, but he shines on his own here, as well. I can hear elements in his music that contributed to his past work, but his own perspective and voice shine through on his proper debut.

Watch: "Bike Dream"
Watch: "Half-Light"
Watch: "Gwan"

7. Gorillaz - Humanz

I have a dirty secret to tell, I think this is the best Gorillaz album. The band's best songs aren't on this record, but this represents their best complete vision (IMHO). The collaborations here are amazing, ranging from Vince Staples to De La Soul to Mavis Staples to Savages' Jehnny Beth. The Vince Staples collaboration that opens the album is probably my favorite and ends with what may be the most incredible rap line of 2017 (you'll have to listen below to find out)!

Watch: "Strobelight"
Watch: "Saturn Barz" (featuring Popcaan)
Watch: "Ascension" (featuring Vince Staples)

6. Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry

While it was sad when Wolf Parade went on hiatus, I was leery of their return. I've sometimes found that a band's return sees them become a mere shadow of their peak (see: The Dismemberment Plan). They first teased their return with a short EP, which left me underwhelmed, but this album floored me. My favorite of theirs remains their debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, but this is a far better return than many other bands have been able to achieve.

Watch: "Valley Boy"
Watch: "King of Piss and Paper"/"Artificial Life"

5. Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors

This is more of a David Longstreth solo record, one on which the artist ostensibly lays his soul bare following the end of his relationship with former bandmate Amber Coffman. Some details that have come out since the release of this album call into question its honesty, and lessens its emotional impact. Still, this was on repeat in the early part of the year, and I think it's a great record. Dirty Projectors have always been a little weird, but that weirdness is best contained here.

Watch: "Up in Hudson"
Watch: "Cool Your Heart" (featuring D∆WN)
Watch: "Little Bubble"

4. St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION

So until a couple of weeks ago, this album was on my favorites list, but not this high. St. Vincent had a concert in Cincinnati a few weeks ago and the incredible live show bolstered the strengths of the record. Every time that I listen to the record now, I'm transported back to the theater and reminded again of just how amazing of a performer and musician that she is.

Watch: "Los Ageless"
Watch: "New York"
Watch: "Pills"

3. Lorde - Melodrama

My bias against pop music is something that I've been starting to release myself from in the past couple of years. Still, my initial impression of Lorde when she released Pure Heroine was colored by this bias. Over time, I came to love a few singles from that album. She's even better this time around, matured by her experiences over the past few years and even more assured of her own unique perspective and style.

Watch: "Perfect Places"
Watch: "Green Light"

2. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

I was apprehensive when I heard the direction that Lamar was taking for his fourth album; trap isn't my favorite genre. But, ever the auteur, he has elevated the sound far beyond what anyone else is doing. It doesn't sound like a copy of anything; he is one of those few artists who, regardless of the changes he makes between records, always sound definitive.

Watch: "LOYALTY." (featuring Rihanna)
Watch: "ELEMENT."
Watch: "HUMBLE."

1. SZA - Ctrl

I'd heard SZA's music prior to her stand-out feature on the opener of Rihanna's ANTI-, but it was that feature that got me most excited for her work. The delays on the release of the record only served to increase its anticipation. Fortunately, it has lived up to, and exceeded, the excitement and hype built up over its multi-year release cycle. My favorite thing about SZA is just how unconcerned she is with decorum. It's in her lyrics, her dancing in her videos, everything with her image and her sound!

Watch: "The Weekend"
Watch: "Supermodel"
Watch: "Drew Barrymore"

Upcoming Album of the Week (Ending February 17)

One of my favorite new trends in music is the craft beer co-brand. A wide array of musicians have gotten their own beers, including Julianna Barwick, Mastodon, and Miles Davis. This week added a new artist to the line-up, Run the Jewels. The duo will be releasing a new beer, the "Panther Like a Panther" stout.

If Run the Jewels have any other, music-related, announcements soon, be sure to keep an eye out for it on my Upcoming Releases page!

This week, Courtney Barnett announced her sophomore solo album, Tell Me How You Really Feel.

Many of us were first introduced to Barnett with the release of The Sea of Split Peas, which was a re-release of her first two EPs, but it was her debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit that made me first fall in love with her music. The record easily made it onto my list of favorite albums for 2015, I loved her conversational, seemingly train of thought style.

She continued that style last year, partnering up with another purveyor of the meandering lyric, Kurt Vile, for Lotta Sea Live. She teased this new album early in the week, releasing a trailer featuring some new music. She capped off the week with the official announcement, along with the first single, "Nameless, Faceless".

Tell Me How You Really Feel is set to be released on May 18.

Also announced over the past two weeks:

Alice Bag - Blueprint (March 23)
Altered Carbon: Original Netflix Series Soundtrack (out now)
The Body - I Have Fought Against It, but I Can’t Any Longer (May 11)
BOOTS - #DARKDAZE (out now)
Busdriver - “The Imperfect Cinema” (out now)
DRINKS - Hippo Lite (April 20)
Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound (May 4)
Forth Wanderers - Forth Wanderers (April 27)
Half Waif - Lavender (April 27)
John Prine - The Tree of Forgiveness (April 13)
Johnny Cash: Forever Words (April 6)
Lion Babe - “Honey Dew” (out now)
Lost Girls - Feeling EP (March 2)
Mark Pritchard - The Four Worlds (March 23)
MF DOOM & Czarface - Czarface Meets Metal Face! (March 30)
Okkervil River - In the Rainbow Rain (April 27)
A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant (April 20)
Rafiq Bhatia - Breaking English (April 6)
Ryan Adams - “Baby I Love You” (out now)
Tanlines - Present (out now)
Tinashe - “Faded Love” (out now)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Sex & Food (April 6)
Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing (April 27)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Upcoming Album of the Week (Ending February 3)

Well, the Grammys were a bit of a disappointment. I was very happy to see wins from The National and The War on Drugs, but there were some real misses in the major categories. Maybe next year will be better, so check out my Upcoming Releases page to see I may be rooting for in next year's ceremony!

Here are the artists who announced new music this week:

Albert Hammond Jr. - Francis Trouble (March 9)
Damaged Bug - Our Voltage (March 1)
Dungen / Woods - Myths 003 (March 16)
GUM - The Underdog (April 6)
Kate Nash - Yesterday Was Forever (March 30)
Laura Veirs - The Lookout (April 13)
Mark Kozelek - Mark Kozelek (May 11)
The Messthetics - The Messthetics (March 23)
Thurston Moore - “Mx Liberty”/“Panik” (February 19)

New Music Friday - September 16, 2017

Be sure to view a list of upcoming releases here!

Essential Full-Length Releases

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - Choir of the Mind

Emily Haines is a member of Broken Social Scene, a band with a strong release showing in 2017. She is one of two members of the band to release an album, along with the new album from the band. Choir of the Mind is only her second album with the Soft Skeleton (third solo overall), and first in 11 years.

Watch: "Statuette"
Watch: "Planets"

The Jet Age of Tomorrow - God’s Poop or Clouds?

I don't know if the Odd Future gang is really a thing anymore, but some of the subgroups created within it are still going strong. The Jet Age of Tomorrow is made up of Matt Martians and Pyramid Vritra, and got their start with samples turned down by other members of the collective. God's Poop or Clouds? is their fourth album.

Listen: "The Long Way Home" (featuring Syd)
Listen: "The Jaunt"

Myrkur - Mareridt

Many areas are male dominated, black metal is no different. Myrkur is one of a few female artists in the genre, which inevitably has led to abuse from insecure men in the black metal community (the world is terrible). Admittedly, I don't listen to much metal (black or otherwise), but Myrkur is one of my favorites. Mareridt is her second solo album. following 2015's M.

Watch: "Ulvinde"
Listen: "Måneblôt"

Ringo Starr - Give More Love

Give More Love is the 19th album in Starr's 48-year solo career. The record sees him joining up with a number of past collaborators, including Peter Frampton and Paul McCartney.

Listen: "Give More Love"
Listen: "We’re on the Road Again" (featuring Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, & Steve Lukather)

ROSTAM - Half-Light

ROSTAM was the guitarist and co-songwriter for Vampire Weekend until early 2016, when he left to focus on his solo career. His first outing was a collaborative album with Hamilton Leithauser, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine. Half-Light is his first fully solo record, an amazing show of his culture, influences, and talents.

Watch: "Half-Light" (featuring Kelly Zutrau)
Watch: "Gwan"

Other Full-Length Releases

Annie Hart - Impossible Accomplice

Watch: "Hard to Be Still"
Listen: "My Heart’s Been Broken"

Ariel Pink - Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

Watch: "Feels Like Heaven"
Watch: "Another Weekend"

Deer Tick - Vol. 1

Watch: "Sea of Clouds"
Listen: "Card House"

Deer Tick - Vol. 2

Watch: "It’s a Whale"
Watch: "Jumpstarting"

Human Heat - All Is Too Much

Listen: "I Need My Space"
Listen: "Close to My Chest"

Hundred Waters - Communicating

Watch: "Wave to Anchor"
Watch: "Fingers"

Lee Ranaldo - Electric Trim

Watch: "Circular (Right as Rain)"
Watch: "New Thing"

The Lone Bellow - Walk into a Storm

Watch: "Time’s Always Leaving"
Listen: "Walk into a Storm"

Prophets of Rage - Prophets of Rage

Watch: "Living on the 110"
Watch: "Unfuck the World"

Singles, EPs, Soundtracks, etc.

BATYA - "What’s My Name"

Watch: "What’s My Name"

The Bottom Line Archive Series: In Their Own Words with Vic Scelsa

Listen: Lou Reed - "Sweet Jane"
Listen: Lou Reed - "Strawman"

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - Son of a Lady

Listen: "Sleep"
Listen: "Son of Lady"

Michael Nau - The Load

Listen: "Diamond Anyway" (featuring Natalie Prass)
Listen: "The Load"

Philip Selway - Let Me Go: Original Music from the Film By Polly Steele

Listen: "Let Me Go"

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Upcoming Album of the Week (Ending January 27)

The Grammys are this weekend! Most years, I'm underwhelmed by the nominees and only really pay attention to the "indie" category. This year holds some exciting nominations across the board! I am hoping for The National to win Best Alternative Album, SZA to win Best New Artist, and Kendrick Lamar to win Best Album.

Check out my Upcoming Releases page to see a collection of albums I may be rooting for in next year's Grammys!

Last week, Spanish band Hinds announced their sophomore album, I Don't Run.

Hinds may hail from Madrid, Spain, but they sing in English. These four ladies make garage rock-slash-lo fi music with influences and comparisons ranging from The Velvet Underground, to The Vaccines, to Mac DeMarco.

They received praise for their early singles from both major music publications and established musicians. Their debut album, Leave Me Alone, was released in early 2016.

The announced the follow-up towards the end of last week and released the first single from the album. I Don't Run is scheduled for release on April 6.

Also recently announced:

Amen Dunes - Freedom (March 30)
August Greene - August Greene (March 9)
Barbagallo - Danse dans les ailleurs (March 2)
Brazilian Girls - Let’s Make Love (April 13)
Camp Cope - How to Socialise & Make Friends (March 2)
Cashmere Cat, Major Lazer, & Tory Lanez – “Miss You” (out now)
Charlotte Day Wilson - Stone Woman (February 23)
Cocteau Twins - Head Over Heels Reissue (March 16)
Cocteau Twins - Treasure Reissue (March 16)
David Bowie - Heroes Vinyl Reissue (February 23)
David Bowie - Lodger Vinyl Reissue (February 23)
David Bowie - Low Vinyl Reissue (February 23)
The Decemberists - I’ll Be Your Girl (March 16)
DJ Koze - Knock Knock (May 4)
Editors - Violence (March 9)
Everything Is Recorded - Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell (February 16)
Field Report - Summertime Songs (March 23)
Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog (April 6)
Lucius - Nudes (March 2)
MGMT - Little Dark Age (February 9)
Mount Eerie - Now Only (March 16)
of Montreal - White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood (March 9)
Preoccupations - New Material (March 23)
The Sea and Cake - Any Day (May 11)
Tracey Thorn - Record (March 2)
The Voidz - Virtue (March 30)
Wye Oak - The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs (April 6)
Yo La Tengo - There’s a Riot Going On (March 16)
Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar (March 9)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Best Albums of 2017

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 a broad consensus of the best ranked albums of the year. I consult a variety of sources of try to capture the wide variety of styles covered by these publications.

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 placements within the top ten, each album gets the 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 2017 albums:

10. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy: 23.6 points (11 list inclusions; 4 top ten appearances)
9. Perfume Genius - No Shape: 25.1 points (15 list inclusions; 3 top ten appearances)
8. Sampha - Process: 26.6 points (15 list inclusions; 5 top ten appearances)
7. The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding: 33 points (15 list inclusions; 4 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
6. Wolf Alice - Visions of a Life: 33.6 points (6 list inclusions; 4 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
5. St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION: 49.2 points (16 list inclusions; 7 top ten appearances)
4. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream: 54.5 points (17 list inclusions; 10 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
3. SZA - Ctrl: 83.4 points (19 list inclusions; 11 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
2. Lorde - Melodrama: 105.5 points (16 list inclusions; 13 top ten appearances; 4 number one spots)
1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.: 152.1 points (20 list inclusions; 17 top ten appearances; 8 number one spots)

Nothing this year really caught me off-guard. There was, of course, the requisite highly-regarded pop album in Lorde's Melodrama, but the success of that album did not surprise me (I thought the record was incredible). Wolf Alice turned out to be a bit of a sneaker. Though I heard a lot of positive things about their sophomore album, it didn't actually appear on very many lists. On the lists it did appear on - including NME, Q, and Under the Radar - it was generally ranked towards the top.

There were some, relative, disappointments for me. Dirty Projectors had an extremely poor showing for their self-titled album, which was a favorite of mine. I also expected The National, Moses Sumney, and Waxahatchee to have been ranked higher. Kendrick Lamar, however, no surprise whatsoever.

If you're a data geek, like me, you can download my rankings spreadsheet here!

Here are a few more interesting lists!

The Next Ten

20. Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy: 16.3 points
19. Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology: 17.6 points
18. King Krule - The Ooz: 17.8 points
17. Kesha - Rainbow: 18 points
15. (tie) Khalid - American Teen: 18.2 points
15. (tie) Kelela - Take Me Apart: 18.2 points
14. Big Thief - Capacity: 18.7 points
13. Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens: 19.5 points
12. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory: 21.3 points
11. Fever Ray - Plunge: 22.7 points

Top Ten Albums By List Inclusions

10. The National - Sleep Well Beast: 13 lists
6. (tie) Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory: 15 lists
6. (tie) Perfume Genius - No Shape: 15 lists
6. (tie) Sampha - Process: 15 lists
6. (tie) The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding: 15 lists
4. (tie) St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION: 16 lists
4. (tie) Lorde - Melodrama: 16 lists
3. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream: 17 lists
2. SZA - Ctrl: 19 lists
1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.: 20 lists

Top Ten Albums (with No Top Ten Spots)

10. Aimee Mann - Mental Illness: 1.5 points
9. (Sandy) Alex G - Rocket: 1.6 points
6. (tie) Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer: 1.6 points
6. (tie) Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds from Another Planet: 1.6 points
6. (tie) Drake - More Life: 1.6 points
5. (tie) Kehlani - SweetSexySavage: 2 points
5. (tie) Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Kid: 2 points
3. Future - Hndrxxx: 2.3 points
2. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up: 2.5 points
1. Thundercat - Drunk: 3.9 points

Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Music Friday - September 8, 2017

Be sure to view a list of upcoming releases here!

Essential Full-Length Releases

Alvvays - Antisocialites

Alvvays released a spectacular self-titled debut album in 2014. That album was anchored by "Marry Me, Archie", a song about trying to cajole a reluctant lover into marriage. The first single from their sophomore album takes on a nearly opposite sentiment, mourning the end of a relationship. There's growth in their follow-up, but without the loss infectious jangle that made Alvvays such a delight.

Watch: "In Undertow"
Watch: "Plimsoll Punks"

Deerhoof - Mountain Moves

Deerhoof have a distinct sound, one they've displayed on studio albums already four times this decade. They're doing something a bit different for this fifth album, bringing in a number of featured artists. Collaborators range from Awkwafina, to Juana Molina, to Jenn Wasner.

Watch: "I Will Spite Survive" (featuring Jenn Wasner) 
Listen: "Come Down Here and Say That" (featuring Laetitia Sadler)

The National - Sleep Well Beast

The National are one of the most stylistically consistent bands in indie rock, but they've always maintained a timeliness that kept them from becoming boring. Things are no different on this latest record, their seventh, with some subtle and some not-so-subtle references to the current political environment.

Watch: "Day I Die"
Watch: "Carin at the Liquor Store"

Tony Allen - The Source

African drummer Tony Allen has had a long and prosperous career, both as the drummer for Fela Kuti and as a solo artist. His latest album, and according to the artist himself, his best, is his first for famed jazz label Blue Note.

Listen: "Push and Pull"
Listen: "On Fire"

Zola Jesus - Okovi

Okovi is the fifth album from this Wisconsin singer, long known for her goth pop sound and dark lyrics. The darkness continues on this latest record, written when the singer was back in hometown following a battle with depression. The result is an incredible album that has earned her some of her highest praise of her career.

Watch: "Exhumed"
Watch: "Soak"

Other Full-Length Releases

Alex Cameron - Forced Witness

Watch: "Candy May"
Watch: "Runnin’ Out of Luck"

Carmen Villain - Infinite Avenue

Watch: "Red Desert"
Listen: "Borders" (featuring Jenny Hval)

Death from Above - Outage! Is Now

Watch: "Never Swim Alone"
Watch: "Freeze Me"

Faith Healer - Try ;)

Watch: "Try"
Listen: "Light of Loving"

Julie & The Wrong Guys - Julie & The Wrong Guys

Watch: "You Wanted What I Wanted"
Listen: "Love & Leaving"

Lomelda - Thx

Listen: "From Here"
Listen: "Interstate Vision"

Lunice - CCCLX

Watch: "Mazerati"
Watch: "Distrust" (featuring Denzel Curry, JK The Reaper, & Nell)

Mount Kimbie - Love What Survives

Watch: "Delta"
Watch: "Blue Train Lines"

MuteMath - Play Dead

Watch: "Break the Fever"
Watch: "War"

Nosaj Thing - Parallels

Watch: "U G"
Listen: "All Points Back to U" (featuring Steve Spacek)

Partner - In Search of Lost Time

Watch: "Play the Field"
Listen: "Gross Secret"

Small Circle - Cyclical

Listen: "Mornings"
Listen: "Spinning"

Sparks - Hippopotamus

Watch: "Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)"
Watch: "What the Hell Is It This Time?"

Susanne Sundfør - Music for People in Trouble

Listen: "Mountaineers" (featuring John Grant)
Listen: "No One Believes in Love Anymore"

Ted Leo - The Hanged Man

Watch: "Can’t Go Back"
Listen: "You’re Like Me"

Tori Amos - Native Invader

Watch: "Reindeer King"
Watch: "Cloud Riders"

Singles, EPs, Soundtracks, etc.

Animal Collective - Sung Tongs Vinyl Reissue

Listen: "Leaf House"
Listen: "Winter’s Love"

David Bowie - The 1980 Floorshow

Listen: "Jean Genie"
Listen: "Time"

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Up from Below Vinyl Reissue

Watch: "Home"
Listen: "Janglin"

Jimi Hendrix - Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix Vinyl Reissue

Listen: "Hey Joe"
Listen: "Fire"

Mas Ysa - Untitled

Listen: "Face"
Listen: "Mapquest"

Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See Vinyl Reissue

Watch: "Fade Into You"
Listen: "So Tonight That I Might See"

Mourn - Over the Wall

Listen: "Color Me Impressed"
Listen: "Over the Wall"

Nico - Behind the Iron Curtain Reissue

Listen: "Procession"
Listen: "All Saints Night from a Polish Motorway"

Syd - Always Never Home

Listen: "Moving Mountains"
Listen: "On the Road"

Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series)

Zomby - GASP!

Listen: "GASP!"
Listen: "ZKITTLEZ"