30. 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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29. DIRTY PROJECTORS- DIRTY PROJECTORS
Dave Longstreth continues his Dirty Projectors project, with a break-up record about former bandmate Amber Coffman. Longstreth is very musical but esoteric with offbeat rhythms and arrangements prominent throughout the album, and his unmistakably distinct high-pitched vocals make the Dirty Projectors “not for everybody”. My guess is that “Dirty Projectors” will prove to be a grower but early standout tracks include “Up In Hudson”, “Keep Your Name” and “Little Bubble”.
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28. 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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27. JULIE BYRNE- NOT EVEN HAPPINESS
Sophomore album by NYC transplant Julie Byrne is a beautiful and serene mixture of folk and new age music. It’s over in just over thirty minutes and feels even shorter- there are no weak moments.
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26. MOUNT EERIE- A CROW LOOKED AT ME
“A Crow Looked At Me” is 2017’s “Benji” or “Carrie and Lowell”- a beautifully written, deep and incredibly thought provoking album that is nonetheless devastatingly sad and too depressing for many. Phil Elverum recently lost the love of his life, wife and mother to his one year old child, to cancer and “A Crow Looked At Me” is a celebration of her memory but also how her death and her spirit envelopes his world as he has to pick up the pieces and go on living. That his wife died at just 35 and his child is not even old enough to truly ever remember her makes it all the more tragic. But there can be deep beauty found in sadness.
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25. LAURA MARLING- SEMPER FEMINA
Sixth album by London based singer-songwriter Laura Marling concentrates on femininity and the complex relationships between women. Still only twenty-five, Marling is a true “old soul”, crafting music which could have easily been made at any time in the last forty five years. After 2015’s more rock-oriented, excellent “Short Movie”, “Semper Feminine” is more of a throwback to Marling’s earlier, more acoustic based work. Standout tracks include “The Valley” and “Wild Once” but the entire album is a great listen.
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24.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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23.THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- WHITEOUT CONDITIONS
Seventh album by Canadian indie-rock super group is their first without group eccentric Dan Bejar who couldn’t record due to scheduling conflicts with his other group Destroyer. Bejar’s presence is missed as he is often responsible for some of the group’s best and most stylistically diverse songs. But likely due to his absence “Whiteout Conditions” is one of the band’s most focused pure power pop albums yet. As usual the NP’s are led by chief singer & songwriter AC Newman but Neko Case is now given more shine on lead vocals. The title track and “High Ticket Attractions” are early favorites.
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22.FUTURE ISLANDS- THE FAR FIELD
“The Far Field” is Future Islands fifth album but first since the band’s popularity increased exponentially due to hit single “Seasons” from 2014’s “Singles”. There may not be a single track on “The Far Field” as amazing as “Seasons” but the album as a whole is a more consistently rewarding effort. Future Islands is a three pieces band driven by Peter Hook-style bass riffs, passionate, heart on its sleeve vocals, robotic drums and no guitar. Lead singles “Ran” and “Cave” as well as the gorgeous “Through The Roses” all standout but there is not a weak track in the bunch.
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21. 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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