• Category Archives Recommended New Music
  • Recommended New Music: May 2018

    ICEAGE- BEYONDLESS

     

    When Danish punk band Iceage broke out with their debut album “New Brigade” in 2011 they sounded gloomy, apocalyptic and dangerous.  But like any great band they have evolved their music with each album while maintaining their own distinct sound.  Iceage are still strictly indie and very unknown among the mainstream but they have gotten catchier and more accessible as they’ve aged.  “Beyondless” is their fourth album and certainly one of their best.  Tracks like “Catch It”, “Pain killer” and “Thieves Like Us” are some of the band’s best songs yet- goth pop but with a detached, ramshackle, almost drunken quality to them.  The band plays tightly while frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt sings loosely and off the rails, bringing to mind Pete Doherty of the late great Brit band the Libertines.  “Beyondless” is one of 2018’s better albums.

     

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    DJ KOZE- KNOCK KNOCK

     

     

    Most high profile album yet from one of the the millennium’s best DJ’s and techno artists.  DJ Koze if a German producer whose “Knock Knock” is a nearly 80 minute album encompassing nearly every type of electronic music imaginable, including minimalist techno associated with the Kompakt label, trip-hop, danceable club music with 70’s soul samples & balearic-style dream pop .  The album features a slew of guest vocalists including Roisin Murphy, Jose Gonzalez and Kurt Wagner, and many of the tracks are warm, melodic and even summery.  The album contains music to chew on but three obvious highlights include Gladys Knight sampling “Pick Up”, Bon Iver sampling “Bonfire” and the deeply groove oriented “Illumination”.

     

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    LEON BRIDGES- GOOD THING

     

    While Leon Bridges 2015 album “Coming Home” was a worthy debut of throwback soul heavily influenced by Sam Cooke & Otis Redding, its music too closely mirrored its influences to truly stand out by itself.  Bridges has a beautiful voice no doubt and anyone who can shine a light on the greatness of 60’s soul is doing the universe a favor.  That said Bridges new album “Good Thing” ups the ante considerably and feels much more contemporary, combining modern R&B with that retro soul which made Bridges appealing in the first place.  “Good Thing” is filled with tasteful ballads and a few upbeat, more danceable songs and two of the standouts are lead single “Beyond” and “Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand”.

     

     

     

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    BEACH HOUSE- 7

     

    Over the course of the last decade. psychedelic dream pop Baltimore duo Beach House has unlikely become one of the bigger and most consistent great bands in indie rock.  In seven albums they have yet to deliver an album short of very good and close to half of them have been great.  Their new album, the aptly named “7” is one of their very best- right up there with “Bloom” and “Teen Dream”.  While keeping their signature hypnotic, hazy sound with rich soaring vocals, “7” is heavier and thicker-sounding than their previous albums with more live instrumentation, particularly drums.  Highlights are found all over the album but include “Lemon Glow”, “Dive”, “Black Car” and “Drunk In LA”.  I predict “7” will land in my year end top ten as it continues to get richer and reward me more with each listen.

     

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    COURTNEY BARNETT- TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL


     

    Sophomore album “Tell Me How You Really Feel” sounds smaller and more minor than Courtney Barnett’s 2015 full-length debut “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit”, which was a surprise hit for the young Australian singer-songwriter who has a way with quippy, memorable and detailed lyrics and crunchy guitar riffs.  “Feel” is more introverted with less hit potential but it does not feel like a misstep.  I think in time it will show as an under-appreciated album with a handful of hidden gems- a likable album among a series of peaks and dips in the hopefully long and storied career of a major songwriting talent.

     

     

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  • Recommended New Music: April 2018

    SHAME- SONGS OF PRAISE

     

     

    Debut albums from South London post-punk band, who is indebted to Joy Division Gang Of Four & Interpol.  While Shame’s sound is certainly nothing new, their passionate, raw, intense, pissed off and political songs play well against the backdrop of Trump and Brexit and the band ramp’s down the experimentation of their influences creating an album of muscular, hard-charging, anthemic rock.

     

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    SOCCER MOMMY- CLEAN

     

     

     

    Soccer Mommy is twenty year old Nashville singer-songwriter, Sophie Allison & “Clean” is her excellent studio debut album- ten songs of witty, observational indie pop/rock.  Allison comes off as Generation Z’s version of Liz Phair, just as blunt but more sad.  Certain songs, especially “Cool” and “Your Dog” hit me immediately and are among my favorites of the year, but every track on the album seems to season upon repeat plays due to Allison’s sharp story-telling and attention to detail.  She is another exciting new voice pointing toward an exciting future for indie music.

     

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    AMEN DUNES- FREEDOM

     

     

    Best album yet from psychedelic, indie folk artist Damon McMahon, who has been recording albums for over a decade under the Amen Dunes monicker.  Like War On Drugs and Kurt Vile, Amen Dunes music unravels slowly and can feel hazy and druggy with moments of tension and release.  Though I enjoyed Dunes past music, “Freedom” represents a leap forward in songwriting especially with standout tracks like the title cut, “Blue Rose” and “Believe”.

     

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    CARDI B- INVASION OF PRIVACY

     

     

     

    “Bodak Yellow” was one of the most standout and ubiquitous tracks of 2017- rap or otherwise, announcing Cardi B as a bright new star of the genre.  Cardi is a Bronx-born rapper who became a social media star through Instagram and joined the cast of the VH-1 series “Love & Hip Hop: New York” before releasing any music.  Unlike most reality stars or actors who later become musicians, Cardi showed that she was a talent from the get-go. “Invasion Of Privacy” is her official major label debut and is the antithesis of the modern, sprawling, endless big budget rap star album (see Migos & Drake).  It’s all killer, no filler and contains “Bodak” as well as her other hit singles “Bartier Cardi” and “Be Careful”, as well as summer of 2018 summer smash “I Like It”.  Cardi’s rapping is funny, clever and biting and she may just be the best thing in commercial rap right now.

     

     

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    KALI UCHIS- ISOLATION

     

     

    “Isolation” is the great genre-bending debut album from 23 year old, Colombia American singer-songwriter, Kali Uchis.  Uchis moves effortlessly from funk to R&B & blues- neo-soul to dance pop to rock to throwback soul & doo wop.  While showing a slew of influences like Amy Winehouse & M.I.A., as well as album collaborators like Bootsy Collins and Damon Albarn, Uchis maintains a sound all her own. “Isolation” is 15 tracks with very few misses and its 46 minute length feels perfect.  Early favorites are “In My Dreams” as well as “Miami”.  2018, so far, seems to be a year filled with disappointed event albums but plenty of promising great new artists.

     

     

     

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  • Recommended New Music: March 2018

    SUPERCHUNK- WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE

     

     

    11th full-length release by North Carolina indie-heroes Superchunk, continues their brilliant 2010’s late career run with “What A Time To Be Alive”, an energetic, angry and political album perfectly ripe for these crazy times. It is therapeutic to listen to people in their fifties calling out “old people” their age, or not much older for all of the messes they have made. Among the many album highlights are the title track, closer “Black Thread” and “Reagan Youth”. Another feather in the cap of this remarkably consistent punk institution.
     

     

     
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     U.S. GIRLS- IN A POEM UNLIMITED

     

     

    U.S. Girls have gained indie-rock credibility and stature slowly over the past decade, but “In a Poem Unlimited”, the group’s latest release, represents a great leap forward for them. Meg Remy, the group’s main creative force, combines her experimental inclinations with synth-pop and disco to create the group’s most pop and accessible music yet, while also its most pissed off and political. It is a diatribe against male violence presented in danceable, pleasant earworms. “Rosebud” and “Pearly Gates”, especially, are two of the better tracks of 2018 so far.

     

     
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    LUCY DACUS- HISTORIAN

     

     

    Sophomore album by promising, young Virginia-based singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus is in a similar vein as her friend and Matador label-mate Julien Baker. Dacus’s music is less spare and frankly rocks much harder than Baker’s though with busier production- horns, string instruments & added vocal effects. Dacus writes exceptionally well and while the subject matter can be heavy, the lyrics are clever, introspective and philosophical. Musically she is the master of the “slow build” and “Historian” gets better with every listen.
     

     
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    JEFF ROSENSTOCK- POST

     

     

    With No Age, Superchunk and now, Jeff Rosenstock releasing great albums in the first quarter of 2018, punk is already enjoying a great and resurgent year. Rosenstock is a punk lifer in his mid thirties who has just come onto my radar. “Post-” is titled as such because the record deals almost entirely with the aftermath of the 2016 election clusterfuck and how to deal in Trump’s America. Though the subject matter is dark and upsetting, Rosenstock’s simple yet well-played and passionate music with power-pop riffs and shout-along choruses are inspirational. “9/10” and the nearly eight minute “USA” are two major highlights.

     

     
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     KACEY MUSGRAVES- GOLDEN HOUR

     

     

    “Golden Hour”, lovable Nashville outlier Kacey Musgraves third album, is her best yet and by some measure. Musgraves has a lovely voice with an obvious southern twang, which will likely always keep her rooted to a country sound. Yet she cleverly takes traditional country music and infuses it with early eighties pop, disco and R&B freeing her music up to sound unlike anything else out right now. Her lyrics are funny, witty, relatable and progressive (especially in the country world) and she cleverly turns cliched phrases like “Wonder Woman”, “Space Cowboy” and “High Horse” on their ear. The highlights are abundant with too many to list here and I hope Musgraves ends up all over the radio. “Golden Hour” is one of the best albums of 2018 so far and it is easy and fun to root for such a likable artist.

     

     
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  • Recommended New Music: January & February 2018

    TUNE-YARDS- I CAN FEEL YOU CREEP INTO MY PRIVATE LIFE

     

     

     

     

     

    “I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life”, tune-yards fourth album, is their most confrontational and political yet, while leaning towards a poppier direction musically. Lyrically, group leader Merrill Garbus focuses heavily on social justice as well as cultural appropriation and white guilt, critical of white liberals turning a blind eye toward injustice. The music is funky and bass-driven with Garbus’s otherworldly harmonies with herself giving the group a signature song. Standout tracks include “Colonzier”, “Coast To Coast” and lead track “Heart Attack”.
     

     

     

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    TY SEGALL- FREEDOM’S GOBLIN

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ty Segall is one of the most prolific artists working today. Even a music-obsessive such as I probably knows much less than half his discography. He’s released twenty albums in just under a decade so one must narrow the focus on the standout releases if possible. “Freedom’s Goblin” is a sprawling double album which takes from nearly every non-radio friendly electric guitar sound of the last fifty years. Early Metal, Stoner-rock, Crazy Horse inspired guitar jams, T-Rex-era glam rock, late sixties garage rock- it’s all here. There is even a kick-ass cover of disco-funk band Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone 1’s A Winner”. With an album this long not every track is created equal- Segall is intentionally messy and stylistically all over the place but the dude shreds and anyone lamenting the decline of guitar rock should check this out immediately.
     

     

     

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    NO AGE- SNARES LIKE A HAIRCUT

     

     

     

     

     

    “Snares Like A Haircut” is L.A. punk duo No Age’s first album since 2013 and their best in a decade. In fact it’s also my favorite album of the year so far. No Age take the hard driving energy of punk and the beautiful feedback haze of shoegaze and add it to sharp songwriting which has hooks for daze. They are equal parts pop and experimentation and “Snares”, their fifth full-length album, contains their best set of songs since “Nouns”. The highlights are abundant and include “Drippy”, “Cruise Control” and “Tidal”. Nearly every track on the album is under four minutes and the second the album ends it leaves the listener wanting more.
     

     

     

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    OUGHT- ROOM INSIDE THE WORLD

     

     

     

     

     

    Third album by experimental post-punk Montreal band Ought takes the group in a slightly more commercial direction to solid results. Ought has a decidedly eighties post-punk sound- think post-“Entertainment”-era Gang Of Four, a slightly less gloomy Joy Division and mid-eighties The Fall. Singer Tim Darcy sounds even more like The Fall’s Mark E. Smith than James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem does. Each of Ought’s previous albums has contained a few absolute gems and “Room Inside the World” is no different. “Desire” and “Disgraced In America” are two absolute standouts here, but while it is very unlikely you’ll start hearing Ought on the radio anytime soon, “Room” could end up opening up the band to a wider audience.
     

     

     

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    SCREAMING FEMALES- ALL AT ONCE


     

     

     

     

    I have been hearing about Screaming Females for years and finally decided to take the plunge and listen to them on their seventh album “All At Once”. I am damn glad I did and I definitely see what all of the fuss was about. The band is led by singer and lead guitarist Marissa Paternoster who delivers distinct, impassioned vocals and muscular guitar riffs. Apparently the group has tightened up its songwriting and taken its sound to a more radio-ready, pop-punk place. What I hear is a kick-ass, solid rock band with tons of hooks and I am excited to explore them more.
     

     

     

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  • Recommended New Music: October 2017

    KAMASI WASHINGTON- THE HARMONY OF DIFFERENCE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Harmony Of Difference” is the 30 minute EP follow-up to South Central Los Angeles Jazz Saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s three disc, three hour debut “The Epic”.  Washington, a leading light of today’s jazz who often collaborates with like-minded musicians outside of jazz like Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus & Thundercat, writes five concise thematic pieces that are combined into one lengthy fourteen minute suite called “Truth”, which is possibly one of 2017’s greatest recordings.  There is not a misstep one the EP, which may somehow better his audacious debut.  If you are looking for a good entry point to current jazz, Washington is a great place to start.  He takes the traditions of the hard bop masters, particularly John Coltrane, and expands it into current R&B and Hip Hop, enriching and enhancing both genres.

     

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    KELELA- TAKE ME APART

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Take Me Apart” is Kelela’s long awaited debut after a series of stunning EP’s.  Kelela makes innovative, futuristic pop music, danceable and sex-focused, but more akin to early Bjork, FKA Twigs and the xx than current club music.  Her music is patient, sultry & sensual, increasingly rewarding upon repeated listenings.  Lead single “Frontline” is a standout track, but “Take Me Apart” is consistently pleasurable from beginning to end.

     

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    WOLF PARADE- CRY CRY CRY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Cry Cry Cry”, Wolf Parade’s first album in seven years, is quietly its most rewarding listen since the Canadian group’s debut “Apologies To The Queen Mary”, which took indie rock by storm back in 2005.  Wolf Parade sticks to its recognizable driving rock sound, led by punchy synth riffs and co-singer/songwriters Dan Boeckner & Spencer Krug’ passionate vocals.  The group  brings a better stable of songs to the table, after two decent but not great albums released over the last decade in “Expo 86” and “At Mount Zoomer”.  Tracks like “You’re Dreaming”, “Artificial Life” and “Valley Boy” are among the band’s best and though many of the album’s songs stretch past the five minute mark, “Cry Cry Cry” speeds by quickly without any real missteps.

     

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    ST. VINCENT- MASSEDUCTION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fifth full-length album by singer-songwriter & wunderkind guitarist Annie Clark (As St. Vincent) is one of 2017’s best albums.  Like two of her heroes, David Byrne & David Bowie, Clark is never content to rest on her laurels, stretching her writing and musical chops to yet again create an album unique to her discography.  Thematically, “Masseduction” deals with heartbreak, leaving and distance.  It’s already been called St. Vincent’s most pop-oriented album.  This may be true as far as song accessibility but none of it sounds remotely like any current pop dominating the radio.  “New York”, “Los Ageless”, “Pills” and “Happy Birthday, Johnny” are early faves.

     

     

     

     

     

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    COURTNEY BARNETT & KURT VILE- LOTTA SEA LICE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Low key, low stakes, but consistently enjoyable platonic collaboration between two indie-r0ck standouts.  Philadelphia native Kurt Vile & Australia’s Courtney Barnett are close friends whose music you wouldn’t necessarily but together.  Vile plays expansive but mellow guitar-based rock- a northeastern slacker-persona doing psychedelic country.  Barnett’s music is much more punk-based and energetic.  Vile & Barnett,  societal misfits both, are expert songwriters known for witty whip smart turns of phrases and a sharp eye for detail.  “Lotta Sea Lice” is much closer to Vile’s sound than Barnett’s.  It is among neither artist’s best albums, but especially opening track “Over Everything” and single “Continental Breakfast” make it a fun listen.

     

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  • Recommended New Music: September 2017

    LCD SOUNDSYSTEM- AMERICAN DREAM

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    First album in over six years is another absolute winner for James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem, adding even more to a catalog that as consistently great as any band of this millennium.  As usual, Murphy synchronizes driving synth pop and club music, gloomy post-punk and the early oughts dance-punk sound that he helped revolutionize into a sound often familiar but still uniquely his own.  Bowie, Talking Heads, New Order, Suicide, Brian Eno are all major influences.  “American Dream” focuses on the aging process, self-reflection and the search for meaning and idealism, particularly in Trump’s America.  It is certainly among the best albums released this year and tracks “Tonite” and “Call The Police” are among the best songs in the group’s arsenal to date.

     

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    MOUNT KIMBIE- LOVE WHAT SURVIVES

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Third full-length release (it’s my first) by electronic music duo Mount Kimbie, who have apparently raised the bar by becoming much more song-oriented on “Love What Survives”.   Featuring celebrated indie guest vocalists including James Blake, Micachu & King Krule, Kimbie takes a leap from IDM into more traditional indie-rock territory.  Krule, who has his own heavily anticipated album out in mid-October, particularly stands out on “Blue Train Lines”, my favorite track on the album.  Mount Kimbie’s sound tow’s the line between propulsive Krautrock of group’s like Can & Faust, gloomy post-punk of Joy Division & early Cure and livelier energetic synth music of later New Order.

     

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    ZOLA JESUS- OKOVI

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sixth album by Zola Jesus is the first I’ve heard that I would consider all all out winner, despite a number of amazing individual moments released over the past decade.  Zola Jesus is Zika Danilova, an amazingly talented, opera-trained vocalist, whose soaring vocals give goth pop perhaps its first torch singer.  Lyrically “Okovi” deals with depression, cancer diagnosis & the suicide or attempted suicide of several of Danilova’s friends, but despite the dark themes, her gorgeous music sounds life-affirming rather than bummed out.  “Exhumed”, “Soak” and “Siphon” are my favorite tracks here but all of “Okovi” is a worthwhile listen.  Hopefully Zola Jesus’s profile will increase with this record.  They deserve it.

     

     

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    ALVVAYS- ANTISOCIALITIES

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second album by Canadian quintet improves on the group’s very good 2014 self-titled debut.  While it may lack a track as immediate as the debut’s “Archie, Marry Me”, “Antisocialities” is much more consistently winning overall.  Alvvays makes hook-filled indie-pop with a nod to shoe gaze and dream-pop. Lead singer Molly Rankin’s airy vocals are punched up to the front of the mix helping to make the group’s sound even more accessible than before.  The album barely breaks thirty minutes and is air tight without a dud among the ten tracks.  “Dreams Tonite” and “Plimsoll Punks” are two early standouts.

     

     

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    THE NATIONAL- SLEEP WELL BEAST

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Seventh album by gloomy Brooklyn dads, The National, is to my ears their best since “Boxer”.  The National rock harder here on a few tracks than usual giving “Beast” an energy and urgency not quite there on their still very good last few prior releases.  “Day I Die”, “Turtleneck” and “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness” are the louder cuts and are all standouts in the band’s increasingly vast catalog.  The album’s sonic variety allows mellower tracks like “Carin At The Liquor Store”, “Dark Side of The Gym” and “Guilty Party” to stand out more as well.  It’s great to see a band over a decade in, well steeped in middle age not running short on ideas and still making some of the best music of their career.

     

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  • Recommended New Music: August 2017

    PRIESTS- NOTHING FEELS NATURAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut album by D.C. based, mostly-female, political punk rockers is a perfect antidote to Trump-era nonsense.  It was released back at the top of this year but I finally got around to listening to it in August.  Like 70’s punk & post-punk bands like the Raincoats and the Slits, Priests are far more interesting than straight-ahead, paint by numbers punk, adding elements of funk, jazz, reggae and indie-rock.  First single “JJ” is the catchiest track, but closing cut “Suck” is the most musically interesting.  “Nothing Feels Natural” is a barely thirty minute album with not a second wasted.

     

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    CALVIN HARRIS- FUNK WAV BOUNCES VOLUME 1

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Funk Wav Bounces” is a lightweight, but perfect summer party album with a slew of top-notch famous guest stars including Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Future & Migos.  While not every track is a winner , the album contains at least a handful of great singles, including song of the year candidate “Slide” (featuring Frank Ocean & Quavo), along with second single “Feels” & “Rollin”.  The lack of heft from the album’s deep cuts does little to detract from its overall playability- it’s the perfect soundtrack to a summer BBQ.

     

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    IRON & WINE- BEAST EPIC

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Iron & Wine’s sixth album shows Sam Beam and company returning to the sparer, more stripped down sound of their earliest records, after more recent more band-oriented efforts.  At this point, it is same to call Iron & Wine one of the most consistently good bands in indie-rock as they’ve yet to have a misstep.  While “Beast Epic” may lack immediacy, there are no bad moments and it’s a gorgeous listen from start to finish.  The majority of this album is just Beam’s beautiful voice, his acoustic guitar and some strings and the occasional bass to back him up.  I’ve really enjoyed the group’s busier sounding records as well but this return to roots is nonetheless refreshing.

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    QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE- VILLAINS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Mark Ronson-produced seventh album shows this hard-rock institution at its most ass-shakin’ and experimental.  Queens have always been a groove-oriented group but I’ve never heard them actually this close to danceable.  Lead single “The Way You Used To Do” seems prime to take over radio but most tracks run into the five to six minute mark. This does not make them inaccessible.  Any long-time fan of Queens will not be disappointed.

     

     

     

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    THE WAR ON DRUGS- A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album find Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs really settling into a groove after 2014’s incredibly well received “Lost In The Dream”.  With a sound and production deeply indebted to mid eighties Boomer-rock (think “Avalon”-era Roxy Music, mid eighties-Dire Straits, late-eighties Springsteen with less nasally Dylan-esque vocals) TWOD is able to remind listeners of that throwback era, while maintaining its own singular, recognizable sound.  Led by frontman/songwriter and guitarist Adam Granduciel, the group’s big, busy sound is machine-line in its precision offering a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Though tracks like “Pain”, “Holding On” and the 11 minute plus “Thinking Of A Place” do stand out, “A Deeper Understanding” is best listened to as a whole- it’s a album that allows you to get lost inside of it.

     

     

     

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  • Recommended New Music: July 2017

    SZA- CTRL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Major label debut album from New Jersey based alternative R&B singer, SZA, is a surprise hit with tracks like “Love Galore” and “The Weekend” even crossing over to radio.  SZA’s lyrics are bold, frank and sometimes self-effacing- she is equally tough on herself as she is on bad ,ale behavior.  Her music sticks out as unique among her contemporary R&B peers as she often draws her sound from indie-rock as she does pop & soul.  Her Top Dawg label mates Travis Scott, Isaiah Rashad and especially Kendrick Lamar are all welcome featuring artist on this very smart & promising album.

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    JAY Z – 4 44

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Many didn’t feel like Jay-Z had this one in him.  One of the most talented rappers of all-time and arguably the longest career ever of sustained greatness, most thought of him as done after the fat, rich & happy artists failure of 2013’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail”, but 4:44 is not only great, it’s probably Jay’s best since “The Black Album”.  Many are reading “4:44” as a response to his wife Beyonce’s excellent “Lemonade”, or at the very least as an apology for his own marital shortcomings.  Whether it is or not, Jay-Z is certainly at his most emotional and introspective, allowing a real window into his soul.  “Smile”, “The Story of O.J.” and the awesome hit title cut are among the many highlights.

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    BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE- HUG OF THUNDER

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Broken Social Scene is a fifteen member collective of Canadian musicians and friends and “Hug Of Thunder” is the group’s first album and seven years and perhaps their best effort since 2002’s “You Forgot It In People”.  “Thunder” is less sprawling and more focused than past releases; an album about holding onto your ideals in turbulent times and and upon entering middle age.  With so many different people offering up their talents within the band, BSS is incredibly musically diverse while always steeped in the sound of early 00’s indie rock.  Hard-driving, mellow, soothing, droning, spacey and gorgeous are all apt adjectives in describing their sound and “Hug Of Thunder” is an extremely welcome and worthy addition to the BSS canon.

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    WAXAHATCHEE- OUT IN THE STORM

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album by Philadelphia band led by singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield, shows the group continuing to grow and get better with each release.  Each of their albums is examines the bad breakup of a relationship from a unique angle.  “Out In The Storm” is the first to look at the relationship from the perspective of having truly moved on.  Crutchfield’s lyrics are incisive and poetic, while Waxahatchee’s sharp indie power pop is a joy to hear.

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    TYLER, THE CREATOR- FLOWER BOY


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Color me surprised that the often offensive, always provocative rabble rouser, Tyler The Creator released his least offensive (by far) and best album with his fourth solo album “Flower Boy”. Production on past albums was normally in your face and aggressive, while on “Flower Boy” it’s gentle, beautiful and slow moving;  mellow jazz & soul samples are often used to color in the grooves.  Talented collaborators including Frank Ocean, Syd, Estelle & Pharrell Williams all contribute to “Flower Boy”.  It’s the biggest switch in sound of a recent artist that I can think of while possibly even being a coming out of the closet statement by Tyler, who previously has been justly accused of homophobic rants.  “Flower Boy” is a ton to dissect from a talented and often misunderstood young artist making his first major full-length album statement.  “Who Dat Boy” and “911/Mr. Lonely” are two standout tracks but the whole thing is a very strong listen.

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  • Recommended New Music: June 2017

    MARTY STUART & HIS FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES- WAY OUT WEST

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A longtime country music new-traditionalist, Marty Stuart had been completely off my radar until this year.  In addition to launching a solo career in the late eighties, Stuart had been a longtime touring sidemen for legends like Lester Flatt (of Flatt & Scruggs) & Johnny Cash.  As per the album title “Way Out West” is much more a ‘Western’ album that anything resembling today’s country music.  Stuart combines the sounds of sixties-style Bakersfield sound country music, bluegrass, psychedelia & surf music- a hodgepodge of sounds that he somehow is able to fit together to create an album that tells a story of the west and is a blast to listen from start to finish.

     

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    FLEET FOXES- CRACK-UP

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fleet Foxes third album and first since 2011’s “Helplessness Blues” is their most musically complex & least song oriented album to date.  “Crack-Up” needs to be listened as an album rather then piece by piece so that you can dive into its sheer beauty.  Three of the tracks are over six minutes, including two song suites.  It is safe to call “Crack-Up” progressive indie-folk.  The Foxes’ signature gorgeous harmonies are in tact- there is not mistaking this band’s sound.  It’s just so much denser and layered than ever before, but ultimately rewarding for the listener who sticks with it.

     

     

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    LORDE- MELODRAMA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Twenty year old, precociously talented Lorde follows up her wildly successful debut album (2013’s “Pure Heroine”) with “Melodrama”, which is five times better than her pretty great debut- an album which simultaneously shows major music growth, is a cohesive artistic statement and contains a collection of amazing songs and singles.  It’s the best pure pop album of 2017 and one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.  Thematically “Melodrama” concerns the trials and tribulations of teenage life on the precipice of your adulthood.  It’s a concept that’s been explored before for sure but Lorde’s expert writing makes the songs fee lived-in, authentic and autobiographical.  The highlights are many- lead single “Green Light”, “The Louvre”, “Homemade Dynamite”, “Supercut” and album closer “Perfect Places”.  It’s the type of album that could be generating hits for several years.  Is Lorde the voice of her generation?

     

     

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    JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT- THE NASHVILLE SOUND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After two solo albums (2013’s “Southeastern” and 2015’s “Something More Than Free”) which established Jason Isbell as one of the leading lights of alternative country, Isbell releases his first album with his band the 400 unit since 2011 and his third with the group overall.  The Nashville Sound is less a singer-songwriter album and more of a southern rock album with gritty kick-ass songs like “Cumberland Gap” and “Last Of My Kind” which sound closer to the Drive-By Truckers than Isbell’s more recent solo output.  Though “The Nashville Sound” has a few missteps great songs like the ones mentioned above, along with “If We Were Vampires” and “White Man’s World” make it another worthy listen for Isbell’s ever-growing fanbase.

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    VINCE STAPLES- BIG FISH THEORY


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Big Fish Theory” is the second full-length (to go along with two standout EP’s) album for the Long Beach, California based rapper, further cementing Staples status as one of the young shining lights of modern hip hop.  Like Kendrick Lamar, Staples is a great pure rapper who also has lots to say- he is a fearless voice in calling out societal hypocrisies and racial strife.  On “Big Fish” he marries his intellectual raps to club music beats, which are specially indebted to late eighties/early nineties Chicago & Detroit House and Techno music.  Early highlights include lead track “Crab In A Bucket” and Kendrick Lamar featuring “Yeah Right”, but I’m excited to dig into this album further.

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  • Recommended New Music: May 2017

    JAY SOM- EVERYBODY WORKS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Jay Som is SF Bay area multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte.  “Everybody Works” is her official debut album after late 2016 mixtape “Turn Into”.  Though her music plays as lo-fi bedroom pop, her strong sense of melody and propensity to ROCK allows “Everybody Works” to rise far above most other music of its kind.  Duterte is only 22 years old and her talent, ambition and wisdom at such a young age gives me the sense that she could be around for a long time and really make a name for herself in music.

     

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    MAC-DEMARCO- THIS OLD DOG

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Third full-length album “This Old Dog” shows talented millennial slacker-hero Mac DeMarco’s leap into relative maturity, as DeMarco delves into his family history with a loving, but struggling single mother and a mostly absent father with substance abuse issues.  DeMarco’s woozy, chilled-out, mostly acoustic sound remains in place and tracks like “On The Level” and “This Old Dog” are up there right among his best material.  Long-time fans will not be disappointed and DeMarco’s lyrical growth is a welcome sign.

     

     

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    SLOWDIVE- SLOWDIVE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Nineties shoegaze band’s first album in twenty-two years and it’s one of 2017’s best albums, continuing the welcome streak of Gen-X bands (Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine, Sleater-Kinney) delivering great reunion albums up there with their best work.  “Slowdive” is exacting and fussed over, but strikingly beautiful and at eight songs there is not even an average one in the bunch.  Whether pure pop, like album standout “Sugar For The Pill”, or more dissonant and swirling like “Star Rover” Slowdive deliver continuous ear candy- this album is a true triumph and makes me eager to go back and listen to the band’s original output.

     

     

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    CHRIS STAPLETON- FROM A ROOM VOLUME 1

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Nashville neo-outlaw Country hero Chris Stapleton follow up to his wildly successful, multi-million selling debut “Traveller”, is a modest, brief collection- a part 1 of a planned two part set (part 2 is planned to be released later this year)- that is all killer, no filler.  Album highlights include “Up To No Good Livin'”, “Them Stems”, “I Was Wrong” and Willie Nelson cover “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning”, but every single song here is damn good.  Stapleton is a top notch songwriter, an authentic and soulful singer and maybe the very best thing going in all of country music right now.

     

     

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    PERFUME GENIUS- NO SHAPE

     
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “No Shape” is the fourth album by confrontational & groundbreaking gay artist Mike Hadreas as Perfume Genius and is an ode to and a celebration of his love and relationship with longtime boyfriend and musical collaborator Alan Wyffles.  Hadreas’s music can be beautiful, heartbreaking, provocative, defiant and bold- sometimes all at once.  “No Shape” is his most consistently rewarding set of songs yet with lead single “Slip Away” being the most obvious highlight.

     

     

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