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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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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