Infinite Shuffle

December 30, 2016

Best of 2016 — My list

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 7:13 pm


In the past, whenever I compiled my best-of-the-year post, I always had to sift through a slew of music publications’ lists to see all the music I’d missed throughout the year. Then I’d quickly give it a listen and decide if it was worthy for inclusion.

Now, as I prepare to post Infinite Shuffle’s eighth annual “best of” list, I can proudly say that I have not looked at a single year-end recap. Instead, I’ve listened to more new music this year than ever before and feel confident that I’m well-versed enough with this year’s releases that I can competently put together my own list without any outside influence.

Throughout the past 12 months, whenever I came across a disc that I deemed especially noteworthy, I added it to my list of contenders. Then, during the December lull in new releases, I went back and listened to all of the nominees, rated every song on a 5-star scale and gave each album a cumulative average score.

While the scores below may seem rather low, that’s just because the inevitable filler tracks on every album bring down the averages considerably. So, really, anything in the 1.5-star range or higher is still a very strong album. And there was a pretty clear cut-off toward the end of the list, which is why it’s awkwardly broken into the top 31 plus 13 honorable mentions. That’s just how things shook out.

Also worth noting is just how big the gap is between the Nos. 1 and 2 discs. It just shows how impressed I was with my top pick.

I’ve created a couple of playlists — one through Google Play and the other embedded below via YouTube — for your listening pleasure as you peruse my list.

So, without further ado, I give you the best that 2016 had to offer.

  1. The Strumbellas – Hope (2.64 stars) … I proclaimed this album my favorite of the year when I first heard it in the spring, and nothing’s changed. I hadn’t actually listened to it since, but it more than holds up. Most of the albums on this list are lucky to have one or two songs worthy of 3 stars. Of the 11 tracks here, I rated eight of them 3-4 stars. It’s an embarrassment of riches from the Canadian crew’s third release.
  2. The Hotelier – Goodness (2.25 stars) … The Worcester, Mass., group came into its own on its third album, mixing pure emo (“Goodness, Pt. 2” and “Sun”), R.E.M.-style harmonies (“Piano Player”) and head-bobbing goodness (“Soft Animal”).
  3. Big Thief – Masterpiece (2.18 stars) … The debut from Adrianne Lenker’s crew stacks up well alongside such contemporaries as Hop Along, Warpaint, Sharon Van Etten and The Walkmen. The strongest tunes include the title track, “Vegas” and “Real Love”.
  4. Lucy Dacus – No Burden (2.17 stars) … Speaking of Ms. Van Etten, this indie rocker’s debut flows in the same vein as the Brooklynite — perhaps a skosh lighter. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” is a standout among plenty of quality tunes.
  5. Palace – So Long Forever (2.09 stars) … The British indie rock band’s debut is filled with The XX-style chillwave guitars throughout — particularly on “Bitter” — and emotive folk vocals.
  6. Oscar – Cut and Paste (2.05 stars) … Every song is an earworm, starting with opener “Sometimes” and its catchy, droning male vocals and complementary female vocals. Another big track, “Fifteen”, oozes twee, while “Breaking My Phone” (grunge) and “Daffodil Days” (chillwave) add some breadth.
  7. Bleached –  Welcome to the Worms (2.0 stars) … Solid, catchy pop-punk in the same vein as Sleater-Kinney, but much tamer. “Wednesday Night Melody” definitely has the best hook, and “Trying To Lose Myself Again” is also noteworthy.
  8. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack (1.9 stars) … With The National’s Aaron Dessner behind the mixing board, these Scots added a melancholic layer to their already-emotional rock. “Get Out” is the latest in a growing catalog of awesome from the group, while “I Wish I Was Sober” and “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” are not far behind.
  9. Butch Walker – Stay Gold (1.9 stars) … A great mix of alt-country and modern classic rock, like a Son Volt/Gaslight Anthem hybrid. The title track is the strongest on an album full of pleasant tunes.
  10. DMA’s – Hills End (1.88 stars) … This Aussie crew’s debut sounds like a modern take on Oasis. Listen to “Lay Down” and you’ll be hooked.
  11. Amber Arcades – Fading Lines (1.85 stars) … The Dutch singer-songwriter’s debut channels a number of influences, such as Best Coast (“Come With Me”, “Perpetuum Mobile” and the title track), shoegaze (“I Will Follow”) and rock (“Turning Light”).
  12. American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth (1.83 stars) … Gary McClure’s second album is an indie rock/chillwave hybrid with vocals reminiscent of Silversun Pickups. “Give Up” is one of the best tracks of the year.
  13. Balance and Composure – Light We Made (1.75 stars) … On their third album, the Doylestown, Pa., crew beautifully toe the line between hardcore and emo. Most of the stuff here is above-average, but “Is It So Much To Adore?” and “Afterparty” stand out.
  14. Pinegrove – Cardinal (1.75 stars) … Throughout the album, this group conjures up thoughts of The Decemberists and Death Cab for Cutie, but there’s also some early ‘90s college rock mixed in for good measure. “New Friends” will quickly feel like an old friend.
  15. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow (1.75 stars) … On its second album, this Philly duo shows how amazing shoegaze can be, particularly on “Vertigo Flowers” and “The Dead Are Dumb”.
  16. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony (1.73 stars) … A good mix of lo-fi, shoegaze, psychedelia and good old-fashioned indie. The real key is the airy-fairy guitar mixed with the female vocals.
  17. The Trouble with Templeton – Someday, Buddy (1.72 stars) … A great mix of indie rock, emo and shoegaze, this is the second release for the Aussie outfit. Standout tracks include “Bad Mistake”, “Sailor”, “Heavy Trouble”, “Complex Lips” and “Vernon”.
  18. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (1.68 stars) … Throwback country for a modern audience, the songs range from fun, honky-tonk to melancholy, down-in-the-dumps. Channeling her inner Dolly Parton and Jenny Lewis, Price nails it throughout, particularly on “Hands of Time” and “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)”.
  19. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (1.68 stars) … With a proper backing band, Will Toledo takes his slacker serenades to a whole new level. Angsty and apathetic, Car Seat Headrest are equal parts Cloud Nothings, Beck and Courtney Barnett. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is the highest high on an album full of them.
  20. Eagulls – Ullages (1.64 stars) … This is The Cure at their darkest and heaviest. “Velvet” and “Lemontrees” are the standouts, but, really, this is a great collection of classic post-punk.
  21. Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream (1.6 stars) … The Minnesota artist is on par with every other powerful indie-rock/pop singer-songwriter out today. “Called You Queen” should be enough to get you hooked.
  22. Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp (1.57 stars) … A quick, fun listen filled with a different kind of indie-pop. “Everybody Wants To Love You” is a standout.
  23. Beach Baby – No Mind No Money (1.55 stars) … These Brits’ debut is like a modern take on ‘80s alt-rock, most notably The Jam. It’s full of catchy tunes, such as “Limousine” and “U R”.
  24. Caveman – Otero War (1.54 stars) … When you listen to “Life or Just Living” and “On My Own”, think of it as Mike + The Mechanics for the millennials.
  25. Pity Sex – White Hot Moon (1.54 stars) … Shoegaze at its absolute finest, standouts include “Orange and Red”, “Burden You”, “September”, “Pin a Star” and “Wappen Beggars”.
  26. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever (1.53 stars) … At 16 songs and nearly 73 minutes, there’s plenty of solid indie shoegaze to enjoy. “Dom” reminds me of a lo-fi/garage version of Blink 182’s “Adam’s Song”.
  27. DIIV – Is the Is Are (1.50 stars) … This is a great sophomore effort full of airy-fairy goodness. “Bent (Roi’s Song)” and “Under the Sun” are top tracks.
  28. Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win (1.50 stars) … The debut full-length release from this Australian singer-songwriter feels like Sharon Van Etten meets Lucinda Williams. There are deeply personal lyrics sung in a half-angelic, half-haunting voice over folk-country instrumentation. Everything here is above average, but “Leadlight” stands out just a bit.
  29. Aurora – All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend (1.46 stars) … This Norwegian teenager has the firepower of Sia and Ellie Goulding and emotional quirkiness of Bjork. An ethereal voice with plenty of help from Auto-Tune, she occasionally seems to have an Irish lilt. Particularly on “Through the Eyes of a Child”, which, along with “Winter Bird”, is on the softer end of the spectrum. Meanwhile, standouts such as “Runaway” and “Conqueror” are of the anthemic variety.
  30. Stephen Steinbrink – Anagrams (1.46 stars) … The singer-songwriter strikes a happy balance between hopeful and melancholic, slow and upbeat, raw and shiny. Steinbrink uses production effects to make his near-falsetto even higher, and he mixes it with some solid guitar work to create a perfectly pleasant batch of tunes that you could either put on in the background or turn up and sway along to. The title track and “Impossible Hand” are very catchy.
  31. Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death (1.45 stars) … Eight albums in, and these two Canadian sisters haven’t missed a beat. This album is loaded with electro-pop bliss. “Boyfriend” and “U-Turn” are standouts.


  • Teenage Fanclub – Here (1.33 stars)
  • Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones – Little Windows (1.3 stars)
  • KT Tunstall – Kin (1.27 stars)
  • Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings (1.25 stars)
  • Local Natives – Sunlit Youth (1.21 stars)
  • Adia Victoria – Beyond The Bloodhounds (1.17 stars)
  • LVL UP – Return to Love (1.15 stars)
  • La Sera – Music For Listening To Music To (1.15 stars)
  • Lumineers – Cleopatra (1.14 stars)
  • The Head and The Heart – Signs of Light (1.12 stars)
  • case/lang/veirs – self-titled (1.11 stars)
  • Lydia Loveless – Real (1.10 stars)
  • Black Rivers – self-titled (1.00 stars)

December 29, 2016

Old Releases: 2016 Mix

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 12:19 am

For me, the past year was filled with nearly nonstop new releases — with plenty of soccer podcasts mixed in for good measure. But, on occasion, I did manage to listen to some music released prior to 2016.

Here’s a quick rundown of groups, many of whom could feasibly put out music in 2017.

  • Bad Bad Hats – Psychic Reader [2015] … This music is like catnip to me. I don’t even know what to say about it other than the fact that I love every song, and even my girlfriend really enjoyed it — and we never agree about music.

  • Hippo Campus – South [2015] … Average to above-average. “South” and “Dollar Bill” are solid. Reminds me of another band I’ve discovered in the last couple years; I just can’t remember who it is. Maybe GIVERS or Lord Huron.
  • Hippo Campus – Bashful Creatures [2015] … Sounds closer to a Vampire Weekend record, but not as quirky.
  • Wax Idols – American Tragic [2015] … Definitely reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees. “Lonely You” is a catchy single that could have easily come from an ‘80s movie soundtrack. “I’m Not Going” is Siouxsie mixed with Warpaint. “At Any Moment” is another catchy tune that’s a good mix of ‘80s and today.

  • Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us [2015] … A nice dose of rock but with just enough of a pop-punk tone to make it seem interesting. Like a poppier version of Japandroids or The Gaslight Anthem without the Jersey/Boss twinge. “Young & Alive” is a standout.
  • Ducktails – St. Catherine [2015] … A mixture of psychedelia and airy-fairy pop. “Headbanging in the Mirror” is a standout track.

  • SW/MM/NG – Feel Not Bad [2014] … It’s hard to listen to SW/MM/NG and not notice how similar lead singer Brian Kupillas’ vocals are to those of The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser. Thankfully, this is not just some carbon copy of those Brooklynites. Where The Walkmen seem to be doing their best to channel The Strokes and Bob Dylan, SW/MM/NG are aiming more for the sound of, say, Lower Dens or Beach Fossils. “Some Dreams Come True” is a standout that pulls in the listener, but the rest of the album is what keeps them tuned in. “All I Want” has a bit of a Band of Horses vibe, while “It’s Good To Be” calls to mind Coldplay.

  • Tennis – Cape Dory [2011] … Indie-pop at a soothingly slow pace with a nostalgic tone that hearkens back to the mid-’50s.
  • Rainbow Kitten Surprise – Seven + Mary [2013] … A nice mix of blues, alt-country and plenty of indie-rock.  Standouts include “Devil Like Me”, “Seven” and “First Class”.
  • Treetop Flyers – The Mountain Moves [2013] … “Things Will Change” sounds like it was beamed straight from a ‘70s AM rock station.
  • Young Summer – Siren [2014] … A neverending stream of auto-tuned goth pop with several catchy songs, most notably “Fever Dream”, “Striking Distance” and “Leave Your Love”.

  • Pylon … A solid post-punk band from the early ‘80s that combines U2, Joy Division and Blondie.
  • The Academic – Loose Friends EP [2015] … A young, up-and-coming indie band out of Ireland that has a lot of potential.

December 26, 2016

New Releases: Nov-Dec 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 11:14 am

The final batch of new releases for the year is a short one. Things really slow down around the holidays, which is probably why every publication puts out its best-of lists throughout December rather than waiting for the end of the year. However, there were a few standouts that came out in the final two months that may have been overlooked by the major pubs.

Here are my hot takes from months 11 and 12; and be sure to look back throughout the week for my own year in review posts.

Nov. 4

Palace – So Long Forever … The debut full-length release for the British indie rock band is definitely one of the best of the year. It mixes so many enjoyable elements from other solid bands from the past few years. There are the chillwave guitars throughout, particularly on “Bitter” and “So Long Forever”, that would not sound out of place on an album by The XX. For much of the disc, lead singer Leo Wyndham’s vocals are reminiscent of the emotive folk Dry the River hit big with a few years ago. But there are a few times, most notably on “It’s Over”, that he sounds more like a Hozier knock-off.

Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions – Until the Hunter … Fans of Mazzy Star rejoice! Last seen on the band’s 2013 release, Seasons of Your Day, the lead singer is back with another side project. It’s a folkier version of what you might expect if you’re a Mazzy Star novice (like myself). The highlight here is her duet with Kurt Vile on “Let Me Get There”.

Jim James – Eternally Even … Admittedly, I haven’t listened to much of James’s side projects nor his main band, My Morning Jacket, in several years. So, perhaps the overall vibe on this, his second solo effort, is not too far out of line with where his music is at these days. That being said, I’m not a fan. This sounds more like an R&B/soul artist in 1970s Detroit rather than an alt-rocker from modern-day Kentucky.

American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth … Former Working for a Nuclear Free City guitarist Gary McClure added Ian Reitz, Josh Van Hoorebeke, and his wife, Bridgette Imperial, for his second full-length release under this moniker. The result is an indie rock/chillwave hybrid that should help shoot this band to the top of every hipster “it” list. The first single, “Give Up”, is as good as anything you’ll hear this year. McClure’s grainy, pseudo-falsetto is reminiscent of Silversun Pickups’ leader Brian Aubert, most notably on standouts “Hello, Dear” and “Amazing Grace”. “Someone Far Away” is another one to look for.

Lambchop – FLOTUS … This album has nothing to do with Michelle Obama. The title of the latest release from the collective led by Kurt Wagner stands for “For Love Often Turns Us Still.” Despite being active since the mid-’80s, I’ve barely ever listened to this outfit, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was a low-key, production effect-filled disc full of soulful lounge music.

Nov. 11

You Blew It! – Abendrot … This Florida crew may not label itself as an emo band, but its third album can’t be called anything but. Like a slightly punkier version of Jimmy Eat World’s classic Clarity, this disc is loaded with pensive lyrics and sorrowful instrumentation.

Jacuzzi Boys – Ping Pong … This SoCal trio’s fourth album is pretty straightforward rock, with an indie-punk bent. Other than that, there’s nothing particularly memorable about it.

The Men – Devil Music … As several reviews intimated, the sixth full-length release from this Brooklyn post-punk quartet was more of a labor of love than anything else. Recorded over a weekend in January, it’s packed with distortion, reverb and fuzz and feels more like a two-day jam session rather than a proper record.

Martha Wainwright – Goodnight City … Having never gone out of my way to listen to her prolific catalog, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out she’s like a cross between Joni Mitchell and Joanna Newsome. (At least at this stage in her career.)

Emeli Sandé – Long Live the Angels … A Scottish version of Rihanna puts plenty of soul into her second album.

Kristin Hersh – Wyatt at the Coyote Palace … The Throwing Muses co-founder returns with her 10th solo offering. Her raw vocals and acoustic guitar highlight the lyrics, which are the star here. “In Stitches” is a standout.

Sad13 – Slugger … On her solo debut, Speedy Ortiz lead singer Sadie Dupuis comes off sounding like a modern-day Liz Phair.

Sleigh Bells – Jessica Rabbit … On their first three albums, I only liked one song by the Brooklyn noise pop duo — “Rill Rill”. Other than that, I could never really get into the abrasive, disjointed sound. But on their fourth disc, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller have managed to make something more accessible. Things are still plenty noisy, but, for the most part, the songs have enough going on that they’re tolerable. No tracks stand out; it’s just nice to hear something palatable from them.

Nov. 18

Diana – Familiar Touch … The second album from the Canadian electro-pop trio is a captivating mix of pop, electronic and chillwave. The instrumentation often hearkens back to ‘80s pop/R&B — think Lionel Richie — but lead singer Carmen Elle does a good job of keeping things from seeming too nostalgic or corny. “Confession” is a solid table-setter for a disc filled with mostly enjoyable tunes and the occasional miss.

Highly Suspect – The Boy Who Died Wolf … The Massachusetts rock trio received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song for the opening track (“My Name is Human”) of its second album. The fact that I hated the song makes me wonder how bad the other songs are in that category. The band itself sounds like Chris Cornell fronting Filter — interesting to some listeners, but probably derivative to most.

Nov. 25

The Weeknd – Starboy … The singles machine didn’t take too long with his third full-length album, and several songs have torn up the charts. I fully understand why people enjoy his mix of R&B, rap and electro-pop. Personally, I can only tolerate it for so long. The lone song I would deem worthy of repeating is the opening title track, which features Daft Punk.

Elephant Stone – Ship of Fools … The fourth release for the Canadian trio hems closer to indie-rock than psychedelia, but there’s enough of the latter that gives the whole thing a bit of a chillwave vibe. The crew, led by Rishi Dhir, also weaves in some Indian instrumentation to give it a little something extra. The standout here is “See the Light”.

Dec. 2

The Trouble with Templeton – Someday, Buddy … A great mix of indie rock, emo and shoegaze, this is the second full-length release for the Brisbane, Australia, band led by singer/songwriter Thomas Calder. He started the group — which takes its name from a Twilight Zone episode — as a solo project in 2011 before fleshing it out as a quartet. Calder’s vocals range from sounding like David Gray on the low end to Grouplove’s Christian Zucconi at the higher octaves. Standout tracks include “Sailor”, “Heavy Trouble”, “Complex Lips” and “Vernon”, but, really, everything here is above average.

Angelina – Vagabond Saint … The debut for the mononymous British singer-songwriter falls somewhere in the overlap of blues, country, rock and soul on the Venn diagram of the music world. At times, she seems like she could go full Brittney Howard and bring down the house with her pipes. But she never takes it to that level. Instead, she focuses on keeping things raw and sultry.

Peter Doherty – Hamburg Demonstrations … The former Libertines and Babyshambles frontman classes it up with his full first name on his second solo disc. As for the music, it’s a whole lot of meh.

Dec. 9

Neil Young – Peace Trail … The patron saint of Canadian rockers returns with his 37th full-length album. I’ve probably only listened to 3 percent of his solo work, so my knowledge base is limited. But this disc seems like what one would expect — plenty of acoustic guitar folk-rock with the occasional protest song (“Indian Givers”). If you’re a Younghead, you’ll probably enjoy it.

December 17, 2016

New Releases: June-October 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 1:53 am

We’re coming down the homestretch this year, and I’ve managed to pick up my pace considerably. Here’s five months’ worth of new music to sink your ears into.

I’ve only got two months worth remaining, and, thankfully, they don’t have the same breadth as most months.

And, remember, some of the embedded videos are actually playlists and may require skipping ahead to the notable tunes.


June 3

  • Ladyhawke – Wild Things … It’s been a long time since I have listened to Pip Brown’s debut album, but from what I recall about that, it pales in comparison to her latest offering. That previous work included three songs I absolutely loved, but it also had a load of useless filler. Here on her third album, the Los Angeles-based Kiwi churns out her most consistent disc to date. If the infectious opening track, “A Love Song”, hasn’t received loads of radio airplay by now, someone at her record label needs to be fired. The rest of the album is loaded with mostly above-average indie-pop, including another peak at “Golden Girl”.

  • Joseph Arthur – The Family … Overall, the 14th solo release from this Ohio-based singer-songwriter is pretty solid. It’s filled with quality musicianship, singing and lyrics. That being said, I just found it generally boring. So, go ahead and listen to it, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hit repeat.
  • Spain – Carolina … This California crew could easily find a fanbase among the loyalists of Sun Kil Moon, Junip and their ilk. The band’s sixth album since 1995 is filled with lush instrumentation and soothing, deliberate vocals. But it can also pick up the pace when it wants to, like on “Lorelei”. Josh Haden’s voice is very reminiscent to Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith.
  • Fatherson – Open Book … The Scottish indie-rock trio started strong on its sophomore effort, with catchy tunes such as “Just Past the Point of Breaking”, “Always” and “Lost Little Boys”. But it wasn’t long before things turned more sappy and melodramatic.
  • Robert Ellis – self-titled … On his fourth album, the Houston area native combines alt-country, baroque pop and any number of other influences into a well-crafted collection of singer-songwriter tunes. Notable ditties include “How I Love You”, which calls to mind Son Volt, and “California”, a great story about moving away after the end of a relationship.
  • Whitney – Light Upon the Lake … The debut album from this group, which includes a couple of members of Smith Westerns, is filled with vintage ‘70s-era instrumentation — similar to Portugal. The Man. It provides a backdrop to some majorly falsetto male vocals. It’s a great summertime album. “The Falls” is notable, but there’s not a great deal of fluctuation here.

  • Max Jury – self-titled … Iowa-bred, London-based, this indie pop-rocker mixes alt-country, folk and even gospel into an enchanting brew on his debut. Top track “Beg & Crawl” calls to mind some of the best from the Laurel Canyon scene. Occasionally, his voice sounds distinctly feminine, similar to Fiona Apple — particularly on “Love That Grows Old”.
  • Psychic Ills – Inner Journey Out … When I think of psychedelic music, the first image that comes to mind is of lazy hippies lying around listening to trippy tunes. As for the musicians themselves, I imagine them just jamming out endlessly, but I don’t consider them lazy. So, Psychic Ills, are a little different in that their music sounds like a couple of slackers just halfheartedly playing psych music. Obviously, that’s not the case, but that’s just the vibe that comes across when listening to this album. I generally don’t give this genre a second thought, so I won’t be listening to this disc again. But I will note that I enjoyed the instrumentation on “Another Change”.
  • Mourn – Ha, Ha, He. … This band would fit in well on a playlist with Chastity Belt, Hinds and Speedy Ortiz. If you like any of those, check out this second album from the Spanish crew. Barely more than 26 minutes, it won’t eat up much of your time.
  • Moonface – My Best Human Face …  This second collaboration between prolific Canadian musician Spencer Krug and the Finnish band, Siinai, is pleasant throughout. The first two songs — “The Nightclub Artiste” and “Risto’s Riff” — are a solid start, and “Ugly Flower Pretty Vase” is a standout with its indie-rock prowess.

  • The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Monolith of Phobos … If you like full-frontal psychedelia, get comfy and press play. Otherwise, avoid at all costs.
  • William Tyler – Modern Country … A generally pleasant, instrumental neo-folk album. I gave up after 1.5 songs, but that’s because I tend to find instrumental music boring. That being said, I did enjoy the portion I actually listened to.
  • Minor Victories – self-titled … This is the debut offering from the interesting mishmash of members of Slowdive, Mogwai, Editors and Hand Held Cine Club. The end result is something that most closely resembles a hybrid of post-punk and shoegaze. Rachel Goswell provides her ethereal voice to the project, while the instrumentation bounces from synth-pop to rock to industrial to orchestral and several in between. The best example of all these styles is penultimate track “The Thief”. In addition to the collected talents in the group, a pair of vocalists make guest appearances — Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek on “For You Always” and Twilight Sad’s James Graham on standout track “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)”.

  • The Kills – Ash & Ice …  The fifth album from the indie duo of American singer Alison Mosshart and British guitarist Jamie Hince is supposedly the culmination of their preceding efforts. She brings a certain energy to these dark, heavy tunes that is hard to match. And his guitar work is solid. That said, it’s an acquired taste, and I’m just not feelin’ it. If you’re already a fan of The Kills, you’ll probably love this. If they’re new to you, go ahead and give it a spin.
  • Cat’s Eyes – Treasure House … According to Wikipedia, this duo formed when Faris Badwan (from English indie rock band the Horrors) introduced Italian-Canadian soprano, composer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffir to 1960s girl groups. That influence is evident throughout their sophomore album, but nowhere more so than on “Be Careful Where You Park Your Car”. Other instances include “Drag”, “Girl in the Room” and my favorite track, “Names on the Mountain”. Meanwhile, the songs where Badwan takes the lead have a darker, haunting feel, such as on “We’ll Be Waiting”, “Everything Moves Toward the Sun” and “Standoff”, which sounds like a modern take on classic Bowie.

  • Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines … This album feels both classic and modern at the same time. Just a great country-rock vibe running throughout and supported with some pretty great guitar work. “Conditions Wild” and “Full Moon Tide” are particularly notable. The back half of the album takes on a decidedly more Led Zeppelin vibe.
  • FEWS – MEANS … Another strong addition to the Swedish indie rock scene. This debut disc is loaded with tightly crafted tunes more befitting seasoned rock vets. “Drinking Games” and “The Queen” are standouts. “100 Goosebumps” is reminiscent of a lot of stuff that came out a decade ago, while “10 Things” calls to mind The Drums. Also, clocking in at under 37 minutes, this is an album you could easily listen to several times through without getting tired of it.

  • RM Hubbert – Telling The Trees … The latest solo release from this Scottish guitarist features collaborations with a slew of female vocalists. Several were decent, but the only one that stood out was “Sweet Dreams” with Marnie.
  • Fear of Men – Fall Forever … Ethereal vocals mixed with post-punk instrumentation make for a rather enchanting listen. Jess Weiss conjures memories of Dolores O’Riordan — without the Irish brogue. There were a lot of solid tunes, just no real standouts. But this sophomore offering should firmly establish the Brighton, England, trio as a force to be reckoned with on the dream pop scene. (I imagine most members of that genre being rather waifish, so I suppose a stiff breeze could be considered “a force.”)
  • Amber Arcades – Fading Lines … This debut full-length album from Annelotte de Graaf’s alter ego mixes the best elements of some of the most popular retro trends of the past few years, most notably the ’60s girl groups and shoegaze. As one reviewer mentioned, the Dutch singer-songwriter can go in any number of directions from here. Opener “Come With Me” combines Best Coast and chillwave. “Constant’s Dream” is like a Dutch version of Dolores O’Riordan, while the catchy, faster-paced title track brings back the Best Coast vibe. “I Will Follow” is pure shoegaze, and “Perpetuum Mobile” brings things back to a nostalgic sound. The penultimate tune, “Turning Light”, is a total change of pace; it’s faster, rockier and filled with more effects.

  • Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death … Eight albums in, and these two Canadian sisters haven’t missed a beat. This album is loaded with electro-pop bliss. “Faint of Heart”, “Boyfriend” and “U-Turn” are standouts.
  • The Strokes – Future Present Past … This is a three-song EP by The Strokes. That’s about all you need to know.

June 10

  • Weird Dreams – Luxury Alone … Very synth-heavy chillwave album. Opener “Binary” and “The Ladder” seem to be the best examples of what Doran Edwards can do now that he has left his band behind and moved to Paris as a solo act. Things also drift into a psychedelic haze at times, particularly on “Mirror”.
  • Empty Houses – Daydream … The debut album from this Detroit trio answers that age-old question “What would it sound like if Adele fronted a retro-soul/rock band?” Now, Ali Shea certainly doesn’t have the same kind of pipes as her London counterpart, but she provides an adequate, toned-down facsimile. Try the title track to get an idea of what you’re in for.
  • Brigid Mae Power – self-titled … This Irish songstress’s debut is like a far more palatable version of Joanna Newsome. It’s filled with haunting vocals and soothing piano.
  • Rival Sons – Hollow Bones … Some straight ahead hard rock with at least a valiant attempt at melodies.
  • The Temper Trap – Thick as Thieves … The Aussie band’s third studio album — and first without original lead guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto — is a return to the sound that originally put it on the map in 2009. If you’re looking for something similar that year’s breakout hit “Sweet Disposition”, check out the fourth track here, “Lost”. But before that are more interesting tunes “So Much Sky” and “Burn”. Overall, the disc is a fun listen and above-average.

  • Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages, Vol. 1 … Admittedly, I liked this album more because of its backstory. It’s the first of a planned trilogy from the British singer-songwriter who was inspired by the 54 villages in England and Wales where soldiers from World War I returned home safely. The tunes are generally bucolic and of the acoustic variety. The only problem is that there is a lot of spoken word from various elderly townspeople recounting their memories from the war. I only made it halfway through the disc before giving up.
  • BRONCHO – Double Vanity … This is a distortion-filled mix of various genres of rock, including shoegaze, garage, surfer and indie. “I Know You” is the lone notable track.
  • Nite Jewel – Liquid Cool … A decent offering of catchy electro-pop that would fit nicely on the Drive soundtrack. No notable tunes here, but it managed to keep my attention throughout and didn’t force me to skip ahead.
  • Yung – A Youthful Dream … The debut full-length release from this Danish pop-punk band is filled with a mix of shoegaze and indie rock that should put Cloud Nothings on notice. That being said, this is still a band filled with untapped potential. There are a lot of average and above-average songs here, with the most notable being “Uncombed Hair”. Others worthy of a mention are “A Mortal Sin”, “A Bleak Incident”, “The Sound of Being Okay” and “A Youthful Dream”.
  • Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town … I’d always heard Clark lumped into the same category as Kacey Musgraves, as they both broke out around the same time. However, Clark definitely hems closer to the mainstream line. But while it’s not quite as revolutionary as Musgraves or Margo Price, it’s at least more entertaining than a lot of stuff on the radio. The hit single, “Girl Next Door”, is a big middle finger to any guy out there who thinks he can do better with another woman. And “Homecoming Queen” is a classic, bittersweet tune about looking back at one’s unfulfilled potential.

  • Band of Horses – Why Are You OK? … I will forever love their second album, 2007’s Cease To Begin. Unfortunately, that was their peak as far as I’m concerned, and this, their fifth album, continues the downward spiral. Even if I wasn’t judging it against past work, I’m confident I wouldn’t give the album a second thought. The disc is loaded with Ben Bridwell doing his thing, and there are a couple of points where the group seems to be doing its best Pink Floyd impersonation. And that’s about it. The closest thing to a single is “Throw My Mess,” which is Band of Horses at their classic folkiest.
  • Alexis Taylor – Piano … This was a generally pleasant and relaxing listen from the lead singer of Hot Chip. Taylor’s second full-length solo release is actually filled with stripped-down and re-imagined versions of songs from Hot Chip and his side project, About Group, as well as some of his favorite artists. This disc, which is aptly filled with plenty of piano, is nothing special; it’s just a calming way to spend 41 minutes.
  • Diarrhea Planet – Turn to Gold … The Nashville crew’s third album is filled with straightforward rock that’s tinged with enough pop so as to conjure comparisons to ‘80s hair metal. But don’t let that scare you. This is way better than its influences. However, it may not be as good as the band’s previous releases. “Announcement” is standout here, and “Ruby Red” is worth noting as well.

  • Spring King – Tell Me if You Like To … The debut release from this British indie-rock band is filled with generally catchy tunes with the occasional miss. There aren’t necessarily any standouts, but, overall, it’s an impressive start for a band that has the potential to have some staying power.
  • Peter Bjorn and John – Breakin’ Point … It’s become clear that PB&J will never recapture their past glory of a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean that they’re gonna go down without a fight. On this, their seventh album, they often flirt with catchy singledom, but nothing quite manages to reach that threshold. The title track and “A Long Goodbye” come closest.
  • Gemma Ray – The Exodus Suite … The seventh album by this British singer-songwriter sounds exactly like something that would be playing in the background of a James Bond movie.
  • Throws – self-titled … This is the debut album from Tunng founding members Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders. The most striking thing about the music is the vocal harmonies, which call to mind Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. Other than that, I’m not sure what to make of this disc. It’s definitely interesting and an acquired taste. It’s not in my wheelhouse, but I’d imagine a lot of people enjoying it.
  • Garbage – Strange Little Birds … Two things struck me upon listening to the latest offering from the American-Scottish stalwarts — that after more than 20 years, this is only their sixth album and just how heavy and industrial it is. I’ve always imagined Garbage as a synth-rock band that looked a little dark but actually sounded poppy. That’s definitely not the case here.
  • Charlie Faye & the Fayettes – self-titled … The Austin singer-songwriter puts a modern spin on ‘60s soul-pop girl groups. You need only listen to the lyrics of opener “Green Light” to realize this came out in 2016 and not 50 years earlier.
  • The Gotobeds – Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic … Ugh, I will never be a fan of these rock bands that mix speak-singing lyrics with faux late ‘70s British punk attitude. I’d name some similar bands, but I’ve blocked them all from my memory.

June 17

  • Elizabeth Cook – Exodus of Venus … A rather dark take on the country genre from a woman who endured a divorce and the death of her parents since releasing her last album six years ago.
  • The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem … This is the first time I’d ever listened to this Canadian crew, even though this is its 13th release. And now I’m starting to think it is tragically underrated. Depending on the song, it sounds like Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, David Bowie (“Hot Mic”) and any number of other slightly off-center indie acts. The standout is “In a World Possessed by the Human Mind”. Since the recording of the album, lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with brain cancer. It is unclear if there will be any more albums in the band’s future; but let’s hope so.

  • Jay Arner – Jay II … I’ve listened to this Vancouver resident’s second solo release a couple of times, and I’m still struggling to find the words to describe it. The best comparison I can make is a one-man version of Of Montreal. I liked this album more than I would’ve expected based on that description.
  • Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math … There are no standouts on this Brooklyn singer-songwriter’s debut disc, but that doesn’t mean this album as a whole isn’t a hit. Combining the raw emotion of Jenny Lewis with the bluesy twang of Joni Mitchell, this is a phenomenal rookie effort that is sure to be a critical success.
  • Will Butler – Friday Night [Live] … On the Arcade Fire member’s second solo release, he gives us a live set recorded during his 2015 tour for his debut release, Policy. The basic feel here is a mixture of Arcade Fire, Destroyer and any number of other popular indie-rock acts.
  • Caveman – Otero War … The instrumentation on this Brooklyn crew’s third full-length release is like a modern, indie take on Mike + the Mechanics. (Let that sink in for a second.) Check out “On My Own”, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. “All My Life” and “80 West” are other notable tunes, but, really, everything on this disc is above-average.

  • Still Parade – Concrete Vision …  The debut LP from Berlin-based electronic artist Niklas Kramer is straightforward indie-psychedelia in the same vein as Tame Impala. And, if you’re an avid reader of this blog, you know how I feel about those Aussies.
  • Mumford & Sons – Johannesburg [EP] … A welcome entry in the band’s growing catalog of awesomeness. The five-track disc was recorded in Johannesburg over two days and includes collaborations various local artists, such as the Very Best and Baaba Maal.
  • PAWS – No Grace … This Scottish pop-punk trio reminds me of an indie version of Against Me! — something about lead singer Phillip Taylor’s cadence is reminiscent of Laura Jane Grace, which makes the title amusing. The second track, “N/A”, immediately became one of my favorite songs of the year. Also noteworthy are “Impermanent” and “Empire State”. This is the band’s third album, and it was produced by blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus.

  • Sarah Jarosz – Undercurrent … The fourth release from this Texas-bred singer-songwriter is a perfect hybrid of indie-folk and country. Everything here is pleasant, with “Take Me Back” standing slightly taller than the rest.
  • Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini … These two British teens get points for naming themselves after a grammar lesson. And, judging from the tracklist on their debut disc, they are fans of wordplay. Alas, that’s about all they have going for them. The songs here are too scattershot and lack focus. And the Cockney-tinged rapping sprinkled throughout is instantly grating.
  • Jake Bugg – On My One … I respect the British singer-songwriter for trying to grow as an artist on his third album. Unfortunately, what he developed into was something lackluster at best. The only moment on this disc that is any good is when he returns to his folky Bob Dylan-wannabe ways on “Put Out the Fire”. Other than that, it’s a worthless record.
  • Big Deal – Say Yes … This was a pleasant, if inconsistent, swan song for the band, which announced Sept. 1 that it had broken up. Musically, the duo of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood dabble in a variety of genres, including indie-rock, pop, shoegaze and chillwave. Many of the songs come across as above-average filler. Besides the title track, it seemed as if they had already mailed it in by the time they recorded this disc.
  • Mitski – Puberty 2 … On her fourth album, New York indie siren Mitski Miyawaki channels the best of Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Warpaint and every other powerful female act that is able to share something deeply personal in a very dark, raw manner. “Your Best American Girl” is one of many good examples of this. “A Loving Feeling” is a rare poppy tune here.

  • Weaves – self-titled … The debut disc from this Canadian crew was disjointed at best. It was going all over the place with influences such as St. Vincent and Get Behind Me Satan-era White Stripes among others. The group showed signs of potential, but it really needs to pick a direction and hone in on it.
  • The Low Anthem – eyeland … With a lot of the music on this list, I’m not necessarily sure what to expect. But having heard — and loved — some of The Low Anthem’s earlier work, I figured this would be more of the same. Not at all. On its fifth studio album, the Rhode Island-based folk crew went in a very cosmic direction, something well beyond psychedelia and more like experimental psych-folk. You might as well just stick to their earlier releases.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway … Exactly what you’d expect from the SoCal rock/funk/pop legends on their 11th studio album. A lot of oddly rhymed lyrics and not-so-veiled lines about sex and anatomy? Check. Anthony Keidis oscillating between funk-rap and stoner-pop balladeering? Check. A lot of fun guitar work from Flea? Check. The gents are past their prime, but hardcore fans won’t care.
  • case/lang/veirs – self-titled … Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs are each such powerful forces in their own right, but it’s rare that we get to hear any of them harmonize with someone of equal stature. Within the first 20 seconds of opening track “Atomic Number”, each of the three luminaries delivers a line and you know immediately what kind of sonic experience awaits. I had been eagerly awaiting this trio’s debut ever since it was announced, and the ladies did not disappoint. There is nary a lull, but the Veirs-led “Best Kept Secret” was my fave.

  • Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room … The second release by this British songstress evokes comparisons to Duffy, Adele and Imogen Heap, among others. The opening tracks also give off an African vibe.

June 24

  • Alice Bag – self-titled … Wow, I feel like I just discovered a major hole in my music knowledge. Apparently, Bag is a legend of the first wave of punk in the ‘70s. After venturing into myriad other fields, such as acting, teaching, writing and activism, Bag is back with her first-ever solo album. It sounds a lot like what you might expect from someone who’s been through the wars and come out the other side. A lot of the songs here lean toward a nostalgic girl-group vibe. But there are the occasional glimmers of true punk. “He’s So Sorry” calls out domestic abusers and the victims that enable them.

  • Nice as Fuck – self-titled … The surprise new side project from Jenny Lewis hearkens back to the post-punk and New Wave bands of the early ‘80s. “Higher” sounds like some of the early New Wave stuff that was coming from previously punkish bands. “Guns” is the top track here, while “Angel” is also notable.
  • Drowners – On Desire … Everything about this album seems great at first listen. But within a few songs, you realize how derivative it is. Through two albums, this New York indie crew has still yet to find its own voice. Instead, it takes all the best parts of a slew of influential bands and compiles them into something pleasant and familiar but also unoriginal.
  • Hannah Georgas – For Evelyn … The Canadian singer-songwriter’s third album is perfect for a rainy morning. Its vocals are haunting, lyrics sorrowful and production not overdone. Georgas is a mix of Zola Jesus and Regina Spektor. The most uptempo tune, “Evelyn”, is the most noteworthy, but everything here is solid.

  • Broods – Conscious … The second release from New Zealand brother-sister duo Georgia and Caleb Nott sounds like a lot of stuff you’d find on mainstream pop radio. So, it’s no surprise that this album includes collaborations with Tove Lo and Lorde. That said, it was at least a pleasant listen. The standout is “Heartlines”.
  • Puro Instinct – Autodrama … On their second album, this sister duo puts a modern, chillwave spin on ‘80s synth-pop.
  • The Felice Brothers – Life in the Dark … It’s no surprise this album was recorded on a farm in upstate New York, as it’s dripping with a heavy dose of The Band influence. On their ninth disc, the Felices also channel their inner Son Volt, Wilco and Bright Eyes.
  • The Mystery Lights – self-titled … The debut from this Brooklyn act is like a time warp back to 1960s Nuggets-era psychedelic and garage rock. There is a slightly modern twist as the vocals are occasionally reminiscent of Alabama Shakes.
  • Stephen Steinbrink – Anagrams … On his seventh studio album, the singer-songwriter based in the state of Washington, strikes a happy balance between hopeful and melancholic, slow and upbeat, raw and shiny. Steinbrink uses production effects to make his near-falsetto even higher, and he mixes it with some solid guitar work to create a perfectly pleasant batch of tunes that you could either put on in the background or turn up and sway along to. The title track is very catchy and needs to be on the radio. Also noteworthy is “Building Machines” — but, really, the entire album is aces.

  • Hot Hot Heat – self-titled … The fifth and final act from the Vancouver crew is apparently more of the same indie-rock/electro-pop that has filled their catalog. (I wouldn’t know, since, for some reason, I’ve never listened to them before this.)
  • The Avett Brothers – True Sadness … The gents from North Carolina mix in way more production, electronics and just general “wall of sound” on their ninth album. That’s likely the result of having Rick Rubin at the helm. Overall, it’s not their best work, but it’s still certainly above average. Top honors go to “Smithsonian”.
  • Deerhoof – The Magic … I doubt I’ll ever find the experimental rock group as anything other than annoying. But plenty of people out there love it. I do like the fact that this album was recorded over a seven-day period in an abandoned office space in New Mexico.
  • Marisa Anderson – Into The Light … According to Metacritic, the fourth full-length release for the singer-songwriter is a soundtrack to an “imaginary science-fiction western film.” Basically, the entirely instrumental album sounds like Explosions in the Sky’s theme song to the show Friday Night Lights.

July 1

  • Sara Watkins – Young in All the Wrong Ways … The third solo album from this country-folk singer-songwriter has hints of Lee Ann Womack, Natalie Maines and Kacey Musgraves, but it’s 100-percent Watkins. Even on the songs that feature guest appearances from such acts as Aoife O’Donovan, Jim James and Sarah Jarosz. There are no standout tracks, but lovers of both country and folk will find this to be an entrancing listen.
  • GØGGS – self-titled … Apparently, Ty Seagall was getting restless and needed to add another project to his already-prolific list. This time, he teams up with Charles Moothart and Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw for this grimy, garage rock offering. It’s not my cup of tea, but Seagall has never really done it for me anyway.
  • Beyond the Wizards Sleeve – The Soft Bounce This London duo’s debut release jumps around so much, that no track resembles its predecessor. But taken as a whole, Erol Alkan and Richard Norris, with the help of various collaborators, have created a mostly dark, haunting album that dabbles in electro, shoegaze, psychedelia, fuzz-rock and even a little pop. Bands such as My Bloody Valentine, The XX, The Beatles and 5th Dimension can be heard on various tunes. The best is the synth-heavy “Diagram Girl”. It’s the most palatable track on an otherwise “acquired taste” album.
  • Metronomy – Summer 08 … These British blokes sound like a poor man’s Hot Chip. I’d consider the latter a bit of an acquired taste. As for this crew, just skip it.
  • Martha – Blisters in the Pit of My Heart … Teetering on the brink of “annoying Warped Tour whining,” this pop-punk outfit from Britain manages to stay barely within the good graces of the indie world. The band’s second offering oscillates between solid, emotive ditties such as “Chekhov’s Hangnail”, “11:45, Legless in Brandon” and “Do Nothing” and the aforementioned whinier tracks.

  • blink-182 – California … Basically, if you were a fan of the band before, then you’ll enjoy this album with a slightly wistful feel. If you hated the band, don’t listen to this. And if you’ve never listened to it, give this a try, then go back and listen to Enema of the State and Dude Ranch. This disc picks up right where the group left off, even without former frontman Tom DeLonge. “Bored To Death” probably does the best job of recapturing blink at their heyday. “San Diego” is also noteworthy.
  • Bat For Lashes – The Bride … Besides the song, “Daniel”, I had never really been a fan of Natasha Khan’s earlier work. But this, her fourth LP, was entrancing in its simplicity. It is a concept album about a woman who takes her honeymoon trip alone after her fiance was killed just before their wedding. That should give you an idea of the overall tone. The best comparison is like listening to a toned-down and more somber version of Annie Lennox. “Joe’s Dream” and “Close Encounters” are notable.

July 8

  • Moon Bros – These Stars … Singer-songwriter Matt Schneider churns out a prototypical mix of folk, bluegrass and Americana on his sixth full-length release.
  • Evans the Death – Vanilla … One reviewer called this album “an intriguing and often fun record that not only rewards repeat listening, but almost demands it.” Other than the “fun” part, I’d say that’s a pretty apt description. You definitely won’t pick up on all of the nuances during the first spin. I’ve listened to it twice and still haven’t nailed it down. What I think seems like a lack of focus, others would probably deem “adventurous” or “eclectic” or some other positive adjective. On its third album, the British indie rock quartet dabbles in pop-punk (“Suitcase Jimmy”), post-punk (“Armchair Theatre”), shoegaze (“Disowner”), fuzz-rock (“European Bison”) and even a little nostalgic ‘50s pop (“Cable St. Blues”). The only real standout here is the aforementioned “Disowner”. But someone with different musical ears could conceivably find themselves infatuated with this disc.
  • TTNG – Disappointment Island … This band, formerly known as This Town Needs Guns, seems like one of those groups that were once playing the back stages at Warped Tour and are now trying to develop a more mature sound. However, unlike Title Fight and Turnover, this British trio is still too whiny to be taken seriously.
  • Omni – Deluxe … The debut from this Atlanta not-so-super group is filled with straight-forward garage rock and the occasional notes of chillwave and ‘60s rock.
  • Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis … Firstly, my only real exposure to this band was several years ago with the incredibly catchy single, “Mountains”, from 2009. That being said, the Scottish indie act’s ninth album tends to be somewhat scattershot and only occasionally resembles that earlier hit.
  • Shura – Nothing’s Real … This 25-year-old from Manchester, England, also known as Alexandra Lilah Denton, has officially put herself on the indie-pop map with this debut. Filled with ‘80s-style electro pop and R&B and mixed with modern-day production, this offering is a perfect balance of emotion and computers. The two standout tracks are “What’s It Gonna Be?” and “What Happened to Us?” A shade below those is “Make It Up”, while the chorus in “2Shy” is similar to FKA Twigs’ “Two Weeks”, just less dramatic. The title track is reminiscent of Kylie Minogue’s second act. The only knock on this album is that, while it clocks in at just under an hour, more than a third of it (22:29) is filler, with a couple of intro and interlude tracks and two worthless songs at the end that combine for more than 20 minutes. Hopefully, Ms. Denton will hire a better editor on her next album.

  • The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset … The second album by the Kathleen Hanna-led crew is filled with the type of female-fronted pop-punk you would’ve heard in the ‘80s.
  • Johnny Foreigner – Mono No Aware … If you’re a fan of Los Campesinos!, you’ll probably love this gang of Brits.

July 15

  • Bright Light Bright Light – Choreography … The third full-length release from Welsh pop artist Rod Thomas features several cameos, most notably Elton John on three of the first four tracks. Two of those — “Symmetry of Two Hearts” and “Running Back To You” are really uplifting electro-pop. “I Only Want to Please You”, featuring Ana Matronic, sounds like something my brother would love, like early Aughts-era George Michael. But my favorite tune is the closer, “Where Is the Heartache”.

  • Heliotropes – Over There That Way … On her second album, Brooklyn-based Jessica Numsuwankijkul has taken things in a different direction with an all-new backing band. This disc is filled with shoegazey-pop tunes, with more than a hint of ‘50s nostalgia that makes them easy to sway to. “I Can’t Remember” is one of the more pleasant songs, and some male backing vocals add another dimension to the title track.

July 22

  • Gap Dream – This Is Gap Dream … This album is dripping with apathy, sounding like something that was made in a parents’ basement somewhere. It’s the third release for Gabe Fulvimar’s alter ego and was recorded over a two-year period in California. So, clearly, he wasn’t in much of a hurry to finalize this slacker daydream of a record.
  • The Amazing – Ambulance … I don’t know if it’s just something in the water or perhaps only a coincidence, but this crew has a similar vibe to fellow Swedes Junip. On its fourth album, the group merges indie-rock, folk, Americana and dream pop into something magical. Everything here is above-average, but the standout is “Divide”, which comes off as sorta like Sun Kil Moon, but not as bare-bones and with a lot more instrumentation.

  • Bear’s Den – Red Earth & Pouring Rain … The music sounds like it’s straight out of the mid-’80s, while the vocals and lyrics seem to be an homage to Snow Patrol. Needless to say, it’s an interesting mix. But damned if it’s not catchy. There are no standouts, but it’s definitely worth a listen. It’s the second release for the British duo and first since the departure of its bassist.
  • Look Park – self-titled … The solo debut from Fountains Of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood is a cross between indie-folk and gypsy-pop. Collingwood’s voice is reminiscent to the fellas in They Might Be Giants. “Get On Home” is a nice closer.
  • Lou Rhodes – theyesandeye … This British singer-songwriter’s bread and butter is pastoral folk, and she doesn’t stray from that here, on her fourth album. Not even on the surprising cover of the xx’s “Angels”.

July 29

  • Lori McKenna – The Bird & the Rifle … On her 10th full-length release, the Massachusetts-born country singer-songwriter isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. But that doesn’t mean this album isn’t filled with entrancing tunes about looking back on better days and ahead toward an unclear future. Standouts include “Giving Up on Your Hometown”, “Old Men Young Women” and “We Were Cool”.
  • Viola Beach – self-titled … It’s unfortunate that these songs will forever be overshadowed by the tragic circumstances surrounding their release. Viola Beach was an indie rock quartet from northwest England. I say “was” because on Feb. 13, 2016, all four members, along with their manager, were killed when the vehicle they were riding in crashed on a bridge and plummeted into a canal in Södertälje, Sweden. A public campaign boosted two singles up the charts, and, upon its release, this debut album entered the charts at No. 1 in the UK. Musically, the band was an interesting mix of Arctic Monkeys and VHS or Beta. While the songs weren’t groundbreaking, they showed a great deal of potential.
  • Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate … Their seventh studio album and first in 12 years shows exactly why so many young bands look up to these SoCal pop-punk luminaries. Everything here is just a cut above average. But you can tell that, despite the layoff, these guys have this game down to a science.
  • Owen – The King of Whys … This is the eighth full-length album released under this moniker by Chicago-based Mike Kinsella, a prolific artist who has (had) his hands in numerous projects, most notably Joan of Arc and Cap’n Jazz. This disc is a mix of emo and singer-songwriter pop and is loaded with emotional songs about Kinsella’s past.

Aug. 5

  • Field Mouse – Episodic … On its third album, the one-time duo has grown into a five-piece and, in doing so, expanded its soundscape. Once more of a dream pop outfit, the group’s vibe is far more lush and closer to prototypical indie-rock/pop. Rachel Browne’s vocals pull you in, and the more flushed-out instruments keep your head bobbing along.
  • Boys Forever – self-titled … The debut solo release for Veronica Falls’ Patrick Doyle is filled with a type of slacker-pop that’s not quite lo-fi — perhaps mid-fi, if there ever were such a thing — and owes a small debt to ‘60s psychedelia. “Voice in My Head” is a strong tune. A lot of the songs are reminiscent of “Big Me” by Foo Fighters, particularly “If You Don’t Mind”.
  • Arkells – Morning Report … On their fourth full-length release, these Canadian indie rockers put forth an uninspired, derivative effort. The music felt like a compilation of several other bands, with nothing special standing out. The album wasn’t necessarily bad, just boring. The lone bright spot was “Come Back Home”.
  • Lawrence Arabia – Absolute Truth … New Zealand artist James Milne’s fourth album is filled with songs that, strangely, remind me of Jonathan Richman’s musical interludes throughout the movie, “There’s Something About Mary”. Milne’s offerings are far more palatable and lean toward ‘60s soft pop.
  • Blues Pills – Lady in Gold … This Swedish band channels its love of ‘70s blues-psych rock into its sophomore album. If that’s something you think you’d dig, this is a solid album. Otherwise, it’s good background noise to work to.
  • Cheena – Spend the Night With… … If one were to rank the genres this supergroup’s debut album would fall into, they’d probably find themselves oscillating among rock, punk and pop. (At least that’s what I did.) Depending upon the song, you’d be tempted to pick a different influence. Basically, this disc covers all the bases, for better or worse.
  • Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream … I’d heard some of the Minnesota artist’s work in the past and remember liking it. But after hearing her latest offering, I’m dumbfounded that she doesn’t receive as much critical praise as the likes of Sharon Van Etten, Laura Marling. PJ Harvey and every other powerful indie-rock/pop singer-songwriters. Everything here is solid, with nary a filler track. “Called You Queen” is my favorite, but the entire album deserves a listen.

  • Wye Oak – Tween … The Baltimore duo’s fifth studio album should really be considered No. 3.5 as it’s made up of eight outtakes from the previous two releases — 2011’s Civilian and 2014’s Shriek. The dichotomy of the two different sounds makes for an interesting compilation and a worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection.
  • Blossoms – self-titled … This British indie pop band’s debut is pleasant enough; perhaps too pleasant. It seems like everything here was made to be radio-friendly. The group melds some of the best aspects of pop from the past 30 years and puts it through an indie filter to give it some much-needed cred. This album is better than probably 60 percent of the stuff I’ve listened to this year. That said, it’s nothing special.
  • Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not … Here’s a band that I have not listened to nearly enough in my life. Every time I hear one of its songs on the radio, I’ve enjoyed it. Despite not having a deep knowledge of its catalog, I can say that this, the group’s 11th proper release, sounds like pretty much everything else it’s released — at least in the last decade. And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that.

Aug. 12

  • Kyle Dixon – Stranger Things, Vol. 1 [Original Television Series Soundtrack] … I only listened to the first couple of tracks, but I already know I love it just as much as the show.
  • Horseback – Dead Ringers … The sixth album from this experimental-rock outfit combines elements of rock, pop, electro, chillwave and mixes it with a heavy dose of psychedelia. Besides the lengthy (16:39) closer, “Descended from the Crown”, the other seven songs on the album clock in between 5-8 minutes. So, sit back and relax, because this album is ideal for tuning out the rest of the world.
  • Cool Ghouls – Animal Races … This album is pretty much exactly what you’d expect when you learn that Cool Ghouls is a “San Francisco garage rock band.” Channeling every last influence they can from ‘60s and ‘70s garage/psychedelic rock, the group’s third album is a perfect homage to that era. But it also has enough modernity to appeal to millennials. “Sundial” sounds like a mix between Boston “More Than a Feeling” and Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These”. One standout is “When You Were Gone”, which could have come out of Laurel Canyon in the ‘70s. And closer “Spectator” throws in some female vocals to add a little spice at the end.
  • Blind Pilot – And Then Like Lions … Musically, the Portland sextet is more poppy than The Head and the Heart but more folky than The Lumineers. The group’s third album is filled with pleasant tunes that should keep them relevant on the indie scene. The lone single, “Packed Powder”, is a solid song, but opener “Umpqua Rushing” is a nice, mid-tempo indie-rock track that needs to be on the radio immediately.

  • The Moles – Tonight’s Music … Two decades since their last release — and just their second LP overall — the Australian indie rockers return with a two-disc, 24-track compilation of songs recorded during the past 20 years. The music itself is an acquired taste, with the closest comparison being Conor Oberst fronting Guided By Voices while on hallucinogens.
  • Young the Giant – Home of the Strange … Having loved this SoCal indie-pop crew’s debut, I’ve been disappointed to see how its sound has evolved. This, the lads’ third album, is like some sort of mash-up of Maroon 5 and Fall Out Boy. I’ll just assume you stopped reading after that sentence.
  • Brendan Canning – Home Wrecking Years … The third full-length solo release for the Broken Social Scene co-founder is a good combination of modern day indie-rock, ‘60s San Francisco harmonies and the kind of bluesy-jazz you might find on a Destroyer record. Opener “Book It To Fresno” is a relatively simple song with solid instrumentation, mumbled verses and a harmonic chorus, but it totally works. Other tracks will hit or miss depending upon your preferences. “Nashville Late Pass” is another standout.
  • Of Montreal – Innocence Reaches … If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already aware of Of Montreal, and you likely have a strong feeling one way or another about them. So this, the 14th album from the Athens, Ga., products, likely won’t be swaying you as it’s just much of the same — crazy, electro-psychedelia with more than a passing homage to David Bowie. Personally, I’ve only ever liked a handful of the group’s songs, so it’s no surprise I’m not a fan of this disc. I will admit that opening track “let’s relate” was solid.
  • Hockey Dad – Boronia … The debut full-length release from this Australian surf-rock duo sounds like the type of music that would’ve fit in perfectly on the soundtrack to Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the criminally underrated film from 2008 starring Mikey Cera and Kat Dennings. That soundtrack includes songs from such acts as Bishop Allen, We Are Scientists, Vampire Weekend, Shout Out Louds and many others. It’s a perfect time capsule for what the indie-pop/rock scene sounded like at the time, and Hockey Dad shares the same vibe. Admittedly, all the songs on this album sound similar and none will be changing anyone’s life any time soon, but it’s a fun listen nonetheless. “A Night Out With” did stand out due to its pleasant chorus.

  • A Grave with No Name – Wooden Mask … One site referred to this band as “folk,” while another labeled it “rock.” Honestly, it reminded me of the slower, darker stuff from Death Cab For Cutie, pre-Transatlanticism. So, there’s some punk, some rock, some pop, and a little folk toward the end.

Aug. 19

  • Black Foxxes – I’m Not Well … This British trio’s debut falls somewhere in between emo and pop-punk. It sounds like a combination of a lot of bands that have done a stint on Warped Tour and doesn’t do enough to make itself stand out.
  • Cold Pumas – The Hanging Valley … The second full-length release for the British indie rock band is filled with the kind of post-punk that wishes it was Joy Division but compares more favorably their many knock-offs from the past few decades. And while they have yet to figure out how to reinvent the wheel, Cold Pumas have at least made a solid album for anyone who generally enjoys post-punk — a category I happen to fall into. Standout tracks include “The Shaping of the Dream” and “Open Mouth of Dusk”.
  • Benjamin Francis Leftwich – After the Rain … The second full-length release from the British singer-songwriter was influenced by the death of his father. And the music is as moving as you’d hope. The reviewer at Mojo summed it up best: “A multifaceted diamond that moves his gentle vocals between musical dark corners and soaring expanses.”
  • Bayside – Vacancy … Exactly what you’d expect from this pop-punk crew’s seventh album. Basically, imagine what a Warped Tour band would sound like 10 years after its prime.
  • John Paul White – Beulah … The second solo effort for the former member of The Civil Wars is a pleasant listen but nothing special. One note: I never noticed until now how much White’s singing voice resembles Ed Kowalczyk from Live — but less whiny and more twangy.
  • Lisa Hannigan – At Swim … The third solo effort from this Irish singer-songwriter was produced with The National’s Aaron Dessner, which adds a dark sheen to the haunting folk. She occasionally sounds like the Irish cousin of the gals from First Aid Kit, just darker. “Anahorish” reminded me of Bette Midler’s “The Rose” with its minimal instrumentation and powerful vocals.
  • Slow Club – One Day All of This Won’t Matter Any More … A relatively chill and pleasant listen, this is the fourth album from the British indie pop duo of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor.
  • Exploded View – self-titled … The debut full-length release for Annika Henderson’s latest project is slow, dark and messy, but at the same time, there seems to be a method to the madness. It’s like an easily acquired taste. Falling somewhere within the realms of chillwave, punk, goth and post-punk, this album is sure to get your mind racing.
  • Arc Iris – Moon Saloon … Definitely an acquired taste, the second full-length release from this Rhode Island indie rock trio led by Jocie Adams on vocals is a mix of Tori Amos and Joanna Newsome. Opener “Kaleidoscope” was the lone redeemable tune.
  • Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung … The guitar often says “country,” but the lyrics, the attitude and everything else screams folk-rock on the Chicagoan’s third album. Unsurprisingly, the album was produced by a member of Wilco (Leroy Bach), a band that has perfected the balance of indie-rock and alt-country. “Age Old Tale” sounds like an homage to Led Zeppelin.
  • Lydia Loveless – Real … More of the solid alt-country goodness we’ve come to expect from Ohio singer-songwriter on her fourth album. It’s aptly named as there isn’t an ounce of pretense in her songs or delivery. Everything here is above-average, but “Out On Love” struck a chord with me as it — for some unknown reason — evoked memories of Cyndi Lauper.

Aug. 26

  • Vinyl Williams – Brunei … According to Metacritic, the third full-length release from this Los Angeles-based artist is a concept album about a visitor from outer space who believes Earth is utopian. That’s a solid description of the kind of music you can expect — airy-fairy tunes with a dreamy, psychedelic, chillwave vibe throughout.
  • Gringo Star – The Sides and in Between … The fourth album from these Atlanta rockers answers the age-old question: “What would Peter Bjorn & John sound like if they were a garage/psychedelic band from Georgia?”
  • TUNS – Tuns … These Canucks are definitely fans of The Beatles.  The debut full-length from the Canadian trio of Sloan’s Chris Murphy, The Inbreds’ Mike O’Neil and Super Friendz’s Matt Murphy, sounds like it could’ve been released in the late ‘60s during the surge of Liverpudian wannabes. “Mixed Messages” is a great example of this. But there’s also plenty of modern vibes here, nowhere more so than “Mind Your Manners”.
  • Ezra Furman – Big Fugitive Life [EP] … I’d never listened to any of this Chicago singer-songwriter’s previous work, but this seems to be a decent entry point. It’s a compilation of leftover tracks from 2015’s Perpetual Motion People and 2012’s Year of No Returning. Musically, it’s like a combination between Dan Bejar and the Violent Femmes, but perhaps tamer than that description may lead you to believe.
  • Mild High Club – Skiptracing … As you may be able to surmise from the name of the act, the music here is very trippy. It’s the second release from Alexander Brettin’s psychedelic pop outfit, and that’s about all there is to say.
  • Katy Goodman & Greta Morgan – Take It, It’s Yours … This is such a fun, interesting take on a bunch of punk classics from the nostalgic voices of Goodman (Vivian Girls and La Sera) and Morgan (Springtime Carnivore and Hush Sound). The way these two harmonize, these songs take on a whole new life and you forget they’re covers. Until you start recognizing the lyrics halfway through and it hits you. My personal faves are “Dreaming”, “Ever Fallen In Love”, “Bastards of Young” and “Rebel Yell”.

  • Butch Walker – Stay Gold … This is a great mix of alt-country and modern classic rock — imagine Jay Farrar fronting The Gaslight Anthem or Brian Fallon leading Son Volt. It’s the eighth album from the native Georgian and should be the one that gets you interested in his entire catalog.
  • The Veils – Total Depravity … This London band has taken the Black Keys sound and moved it into a weirder, less-palatable direction. On its fifth album, things fluctuate between head nod-inducing and skip-triggering. The high points include “Swimming with Crocodiles” and “Low Lays the Devil”. While that’s not enough for me to recommend this disc, I could certainly understand why plenty of listeners would enjoy this.
  • The Parrots – Los Niños Sin Miedo … As AllMusic said in its review: “The Parrots may not be doing anything new or even close to it, but they give the corpse of garage rock a good kicking.” This Madrid trio’s debut hearkens back to the Nuggets-era classics of the ‘70s garage scene. There are no standouts, but it’s still an entertaining listen.
  • Cass McCombs – Mangy Love .. The eighth album from the California singer-songwriter is filled with a laid-back jazz-folk that conjures comparisons to artists such as Kurt Vile, Dan Bejar and Beck.
  • Morgan Delt – Phase Zero … On his second full-length release, the California singer-songwriter takes psych-rock to a faster tempo than we’re used to hearing.

Sept. 2

  • Scott and Charlene’s Wedding – Mid Thirties Single Scene … The third album from this Australian garage band falls in line with the recent surge of acts who sound like they’re trying to replicate the pop-punk vibe of early ‘80s Southern California. And this crew pulls it off nicely, particularly on standouts “Hardest Years” and “Distracted”.

  • The Warlocks – Songs from the Pale Eclipse … The seventh full-length release from this California psychedelic band features new versions of songs from demos from the past 16 years. While the whole psych ethos permeates throughout, the interesting twist is the frequent shoegaze vibe that the crew emits. This is a solid album to put on in the background.
  • Beach Baby – No Mind No Money … The debut LP from these British indie rockers sounds like the best of ‘80s alt-rock filtered through a modern lens. In fact, Lawrence Pumfrey’s vocals bear an uncanny resemblance to those of The Jam’s Paul Weller. Co-front man Ollie Pash provides complementary falsetto throughout, nowhere more noticeable than on “Ladybird”. This album is full of catchy tunes, but the best is the Drums-like “U R”.

  • King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman … The latest release from the solo project of Kenny Anderson combines the joy of indie-folk rock with the power of bagpipes and the smirk of an Irish accent. While it may not be torching the charts any time soon, it’s an interesting listen.
  • Angel Olsen – My Woman … On her third album, the North Carolina singer-songwriter expertly mixes country, folk, pop and rock into an enchanting sonic experience. The general attitude here was laid-back with the occasional dalliance with mid-tempo. The standout tune, “Sister”, is a perfect showcase for Olsen’s many talents.

  • James Vincent McMorrow – We Move … The falsetto and sensual grooves call to mind the likes of D’Angelo and Frank Ocean. It’s hard to fathom that this bloke hails from Dublin. This music isn’t my cup of tea, but I can definitely see why he’s received so much critical acclaim three albums into his career.

Sept. 9

  • Grouplove – Big Mess … If this had been the L.A. indie pop-rockers’ debut album, I might’ve liked it more. But it pales in comparison to earlier work. There are certainly catchy parts in various songs, and “Spinning” gets a thumb-up, but, overall, it was just meh.
  • Psychic Twin – Strange Diary … According to Metacritic, this debut full-length release for Erin Fein’s alter-ego was written while she was divorcing her husband and moving to Brooklyn from Champaign, Ill. (Fun fact: I listened to it just hours before heading to Champaign for a football game.) The music is rather enchanting, sounding like something that inhabits the same universe as the Stranger Things soundtrack. But the vocals obviously take it to a different level. Coincidentally, the best song here is “Strangers”. Fans of ethereal, electro-pop should check it out.

  • The Pictish Trail – Future Echoes … The latest release for Johnny Lynch’s project is a dark pop offering with plenty of elctro, mixed with a touch of soul.
  • Drugdealer – The End of Comedy … So much about this feels like the 1970s Laurel Canyon scene — right down to the strong flute presence.
  • Bastille – Wild World … If you enjoyed this British electro-pop crew’s 2013 debut, Bad Blood, you’re destined to like this follow-up as well. It basically picks up where its predecessor left off. Plenty of radio-ready tunes, filled with catchy grooves and power-anthem choruses. I could be reading into the lyrics too much, but some of it seemed to be a commentary on the recent presidential election cycle. Opener “Good Grief” was the lead single for good reason. “Fake It” isn’t bad either.

  • Nots – Cosmetic … The second album from these Memphis garage rockers sounds similar to a lot of female-fronted punk bands from the ‘80s. The omnipresent distortion helps give it a modern feel.
  • KT Tunstall – Kin … Despite the fact that her 15 minutes of mainstream fame has passed her by, the Scottish singer-songwriter continues to produce quality indie-pop/rock. The fifth album in her catalog is the latest in a string of solid offerings. “Maybe It’s a Good Thing” and opener “Hard Girls” are particularly notable, and “It Took Me So Long To Get Here, But Here I Am” has something of an ‘80s pop feel.
  • D.A.R.K. – Science Agrees … I had high hopes for this debut from the trio that includes singer Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries) and bassist Andy Rourke (The Smiths). My excitement was extinguished early in opening track “Curvy”. This disc falls in some gutter between industrial-pop and post-punk.
  • Twin Atlantic – GLA … For the most part, the only thing separating this band from a lot of the stuff in Alternative Press magazine is the Scottish accents. The alt-rock crew’s fourth full-length release, which was inspired by its hometown of Glasgow, flutters between rock and pop-punk, never really distinguishing itself much from everyone else. It isn’t bad, just not noteworthy. “Whispers” is pleasant.
  • Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You …  The debut full-length release from this British trio is filled with melodic pop-punk that will keep listeners’ attention throughout. It comes across as pretty standard fare, but every so often, lead singer Nicola Leel knocks it out of the park, like on “Last Ditch”.

  • Allah-Las – Calico Review … The third release from this Los Angeles garage rock/psychedelic pop band is a relaxing listen that will transport you back to the late 1970s. It’s not as trippy as a lot of psych stuff, and it’s also not as rough as most garage offerings. It’s just a pleasant way to spend about 36 minutes.
  • Teenage Fanclub – Here … The Scottish band’s 10th album — and first in six years — is a well-crafted chillwave/psychedelic hybrid. Like a toned-down and more-melodic War On Drugs. It’s nothing like the whiny alt-pop of its early years. There are no standouts here, but everything is above-average.
  • Okkervil River – Away … Okkervil River has always been a band you could count on for solid, generally low-key indie-rock. The thing that sets them apart are the witty lyrics penned by leader Will Sheff. The eighth studio release from the Austin crew is the first with a revamped lineup. However, the sounds and words are what you’d expect.
  • Local Natives – Sunlit Youth … If I’d never heard of this Los Angeles indie rock crew, I would’ve assumed it was some new, up-and-coming chillwave act. It’s impressive how much its sound has changed since its 2010 debut, Gorilla Manor. While that album was fun and, at times, rollicking, this third disc is far more laid-back, but also more sharply produced. Standouts include “Dark Days” and “Psycho Lovers”.

  • Wilco – Schmilco … While last year’s Star Wars was nothing special, the band’s 10th release seems like more thought was put into it. It’s surprising, considering the material came from the same recording sessions as its predecessor. There were no standout tunes, but it’s still better than 80 percent of the stuff that was released this year.

Sept. 16

  • Lorelle Meets the Obsolete – Balance … The fourth release for the Mexican duo of Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto Gonzalez continues a history of lo-fi, fuzzy, psych-rock. There are also plenty of shoegaze vibes here. According to multiple reviews, this album takes several intense listens before you really grasp everything that’s going on here.
  • Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die … No album this year left me more disappointed than the L.A. folk-rockers’ fifth release. Gone almost entirely is the Laurel Canyon sound, and in its place is some strange amalgam of heavy, electric guitars, soulful crooning and funky songcrafting. I respect bands who try to grow and mature, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the end result.
  • Taking Back Sunday – Tidal Wave … On their seventh album, the Long Island rockers seem to be transitioning from the stages of Warped Tour to those of Riot Fest. To do that, they’ve done their best job of channeling The Gaslight Anthem — without the whole Springsteen cadence. This is actually better than I’d expected, but it’s still far from amazing.
  • Keaton Henson – Kindly Now …  The latest from this British singer-songwriter includes five piano ballads, which should give you an idea of what to expect. Stylistically, he’s reminiscent of Phosphorescent.
  • Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years … The fourth full-length release for the Staten Island rock band is a good mix of shoegaze and emo. “Have a Heart” is ultra-catchy, and, overall, it’s better than I’d assumed.

  • The Handsome Family – Unseen … This marks the 10th studio LP for the husband-and-wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks. It’s a whole lot of old-school country with a healthy dose of folk and bluegrass. While it’s not something that would get repeated spins on my devices, it certainly made for a pleasant listen while on deadline at work.
  • Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me … I should start by noting that, prior to this album, I’ve only ever listened to 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. So, my knowledge of the Gainesville, Fla., punks is limited. That said, their seventh release is decent but pales in comparison to its aforementioned predecessor. There’s plenty of melodies and guitar hooks, but it’s lacking in exciting moments. “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be” is the lone standout.
  • The Monochrome Set – Cosmonaut … The 13th album from these London indie-pop stalwarts is what Morrissey would sound like if his personality changed 180 degrees.
  • Deap Vally – Femejism … Produced by Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the second album from this Los Angeles duo sounds like it could be a YYY demo tape. From the Karen O-mimicking vocals to the specific-sounding guitar play. This crew does set itself apart with a much heavier and rougher vibe.
  • Preoccupations – self-titled … This is the Canadian post-punk band’s second album and first since changing its name from Viet Cong. This disc would fit on a playlist right alongside Joy Division, Bauhaus and every other notable post-punk group of the ‘80s.
  • Still Corners – Dead Blue … The third full-length release from the dream-pop duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray certainly checks all of the boxes for the genre. Haunting female vocals, loads of synth and other production. The problem is that it doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out from the rest of the pack. Occasionally, it sounds like it could be from the Stranger Things soundtrack, but that’s about it.

Sept. 23

  • The Lucid Dream – Compulsion Songs … This is hard, heavy psych-rock at its finest. This British crew’s third album is only seven tracks, but most are in the 6- to 8-minute range, with the closer clocking in at nearly 11.5 minutes.
  • Billie Marten – Writing of Blues & Yellows … This pleasant debut from the British singer-songwriter isn’t anything special, but it’s a welcome respite from a lot of the overproduced stuff coming down the pipes these days. The focus here is a beautiful voice and some solid guitar and piano accompaniments.
  • Passenger – Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea … If you’re a fan of saccharine-rich folk-pop that seems tailor-made for a jewelry commercial, you’ll love the eighth release from British singer-songwriter Mike Rosenberg. Otherwise, don’t bother.
  • LVL UP – Return to Love … The third release from this alt-rock group comes across as pure shoegaze with a pinch of Neutral Milk Hotel-style indie — particularly on opener “Hidden Driver”. The vocals tend to be of a droning style that could put the listener to sleep — but in a good way. There are no standout tunes, but the album is definitely a keeper.

  • Merchandise – A Corpse Wired for Sound …  This Tampa trio combines post-punk, electro, and industrial rock into a relatively inviting mix on its second full-length release. “I Will Not Sleep Here” has a nice ‘80s vibe to it.
  • Warpaint – Heads Up … The third album from this L.A. outfit retains the dark-pop ambience that set it apart initially. But this time around there’s more of an electro-dance vibe layered over everything. A great example of this is lead single, “New Song”, which is too dancey and repetitive for my liking. Honestly, this album was a major disappointment. But at least “So Good” wasn’t bad.
  • Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings … Coming less than a year after the release of their debut, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, these Philadelphia rockers continue to churn out solid indie tunes that are the perfect mix of pop, punk and rock. There’s also a notable shoegaze vibe, but that’s mostly because of the fuzzy guitars.

  • Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine … This is the debut effort from the duo of Walkmen frontman Leithauser and former Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmanglij. It had its moments, but none of them lasted for an entire song. Alas, the sum is less than the parts in this instance. “The Morning Stars” sounded the closest to a true Walkmen song.
  • Flock of Dimes – If You See Me, Say Yes … “Hey, I wonder what Wye Oak would sound like if they were an electro band?” Presumably, the only person to ever ponder that question was Jenn Wasner, the female half of the Baltimore chillwave duo. And she answers it with this generally pleasing debut of her solo side project. Her voice, which is usually restrained in her main gig, will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Annie Lennox here.
  • Devendra Banhart – Ape In Pink Marble … Much of his past work has been difficult to swallow, but this, his ninth release, is actually relatively soothing. There’s still the occasional quirkiness, but this tends to come across as a Deerhunter/Junip hybrid.

Sept. 30

  • Alcest – Kodama … The fifth release from this French band blurs the line between black metal and shoegaze and is what the members refer to as “blackgaze.” It’s about 95-percent instrumental and actually pretty enjoyable. What vocals do exist tend to lean toward the metal variety, but they’re very soft and tolerable.
  • Yellowcard – self-titled … For an emo band, this crew isn’t horrible. On their 10th and final album, these L.A. whiners churn out exactly the kind of music you’d expect from an emo-pop band that actually managed to stay “relevant” long enough to put out 10 discs.
  • The Growlers – City Club … I don’t know how their older stuff sounds, but the fifth release by these Cali indie rockers is a lot like The Strokes doing more indie and less rock. That’s not unsurprising, considering it was produced by Julian Casablancas. Some early tracks channel a New Wave vibe, but that quickly dissipates.
  • Public Access T.V. – Never Enough … The debut by these New York indie rockers sounds not only like the Strokes and Walkmen but just as much like the bands that those groups emulated more than a decade ago.
  • The Wytches – All Your Happy Life … On their second album, this British duo combine dark, gloomy chillwave with slow, plodding psychedelia into a rock dirge.
  • Itasca – Open to Chance … On her third album and first with a full backing band, Kayla Cohen sounds like Karen Carpenter fronting a country-folk act.
  • Regina Spektor – Remember Us to Life … On her seventh album, the angelic voiced Los Angeleno tries out some new effects to varying results. The moments when she channels Gwen Stefani probably should’ve been left on the cutting room floor. But there are plenty of her signature ballads to keep things interesting.
  • Bon Iver – 22, A Million … Justin Vernon’s third offering to the masses sounds like a male falsetto version of Imogen Heap. But worse. And throw in all the crazy glitches and production tricks and you’ve got yourself something that’s barely tolerable.
  • Ultimate Painting – Dusk … On their third release, the London-based duo of Jack Cooper and James Hoare infuse dreamy ditties with psychedelic melodies. If the dreampop genre had been around in the ‘60s, it would’ve sounded like this.
  • Pixies – Head Carrier … The sixth album from these pop-punk legends pales in comparison to past work. There’s really nothing here to get excited about. The guitar intro to “All I Think About Now” sounds identical to their classic, “Where is My Mind?”, which just re-emphasized how mediocre this disc is.
  • Jim Moray – Upcetera … This British singer-songwriter’s sixth album sounds like the cast recording of some Broadway play.

Oct. 7

  • NOFX – First Ditch Effort … The L.A. punk crew is back with its lucky 13th album. With 13 songs clocking it at just over 33 minutes, it’s a quick listen. It’s also a fun one, particularly on “Sid and Nancy” — where the band imagines the famous punk martyr being involved with Nancy Reagan — and the drug-related word play of “Oxy Moronic”.
  • Sum 41 – 13 Voices … Despite being nearly 15 years past their 15 minutes of fame, the sixth album from these Canadian punks is not as bad as you might think. Gone is the crassness of their youth, and in its place is some solid rock hooks. They almost give off a Linkin Park vibe, particularly on “Breaking the Chain”.
  • Norah Jones – Day Breaks … The singer-songwriter returns to her jazz roots on her sixth solo release. Unfortunately, she’s unable to recapture the magic that put her on the map around the turn of the millennium. While her first two albums were a breath of fresh air, these tunes are boring and uninspiring. Not even her angelic voice can save this disc.
  • White Lies – Friends … It’s a shame to see that the talented British trio had to self-produce its fourth album as it’s without a label. The disc itself is not great, but certainly above average. If it was a debut release, it’d show a band with a wealth of potential. It’s not, however, and it’s a sign that the group’s rookie effort likely was its peak.
  • Joyce Manor – Cody … This is the fourth album for the California pop-punk band and, apparently, the first in which they’ve toned things down from a raucous outfit to something more introspective. Having never heard its previous efforts, I can only say that this is a welcome offering. It’s a solid collection of punk-tinged emo-rock. There are no standout tracks, and the album won’t be winning any awards, but it’s a pleasant listen.
  • Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win … The debut full-length release from this Australian singer-songwriter feels like Sharon Van Etten meets Lucinda Williams. There are deeply personal lyrics sung in a half-angelic, half-haunting voice over folk-country instrumentation. Everything here is above average, but “Leadlight” stands out just a bit.

  • Kaiser Chiefs – Stay Together … When they first burst on the scene more than 10 years ago, the Kaisers were a fresh, fun, interesting band with a distinct sound. Six albums into their career, they’ve taken their sound into an odd, disconcerting direction. Nowadays, these Brits sound like a hybrid of numerous Britpop bands from the ‘90s and Aughts. The only worthwhile tune here is “Hole in My Soul”.
  • Phantogram – Three … The third full-length release for the New York duo utilizes an intriguing balance of electro-pop hooks and heavier choruses. “Same Old Blues” is particularly enchanting.
  • Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart like a Levee … The sixth release from M.C. Taylor combines folk, blues and rock into a laid-back, easy listen. “Cracked Windshield” will relax away all your cares.
  • Green Day – Revolution Radio … The pop-punk pioneers are back with their 12th album, but it really feels like their seventh — by that I mean that it sounds like a repeat of 2004’s American Idiot. Really, the band seems to have been regurgitating the same handful of songs for more than a decade.
  • Goat – Requiem …  The third album from this Swedish alternative band sounds like it came out of the heart of Africa, not Scandinavia.
  • Balance and Composure – Light We Made … If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ll remember that I became a big fan of Title Fight and Turnover last year. Both groups transformed from loud hardcore acts into something more melodic and resembling ‘90s alt-rock. Balance and Composure just became the third member of that troika. On their third album, the Doylestown, Pa., crew beautifully toe the line between hardcore and emo. Most of the stuff here is above-average, but “Afterparty” stands out.

  • Shovels & Rope – Little Seeds … On its fifth album, the South Carolina husband-wife folk duo experiments with all sorts of genres. The end result is a mish-mash of sounds that never really jels.

Oct. 14

  • SWMRS – Drive North … The third album for the Oakland quartet — and the first since changing its name from Emily’s Army — offers a slew of influences over the course of 12 tracks. Each song is different from the next. For the most part, the band’s sound is a mix of indie rock and pop-punk. But there’s plenty of straight-up punk, bubblegum pop and electro springing up along with various other genres. Because of the lack of continuity, listeners will deem the album full of hits and misses, depending upon their tastes. The catchiest tune is “Turn Up” and, to a lesser degree, “Figuring It Out”. I also like how the title track is basically 3.5 minutes of the band bashing Los Angeles. On a sidenote, founding member Joey Armstrong is the son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.
  • Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales … The debut full-length release from this New York indie rock trio incorporates elements of electro-pop, chillwave, New Wave, post-punk, rock and even speed metal, resulting in something you won’t hear many places. And Elaiza Santos’ vocals take things to another level.
  • Luke Roberts – Sunlit Cross … While the Nashville singer-songwriter’s third album is a pleasant folk-country collection perfect for being played in the background, there’s nothing exciting enough here to bring it to the forefront.
  • Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker – Overnight … The third release for the British folk duo is a perfect way to settle in for a busy day at work. The simple, understated instrumentation provides the right accompaniment to her beautiful voice.
  • Black Marble – It’s Immaterial … On his second album, the now-solo Chris Stewart channels post-punk and chillwave into an enchanting mix. “Frisk” sounds like if The XX had done a song for the Stranger Things soundtrack. And the guitar on “Iron Lung” is straight outta post-punk England in the mid-’80s.
  • Jagwar Ma – Every Now & Then … This Australian psych-rock trio’s second release is filled with the kind of electronics you’d find throughout the early ‘90s rap scene. That, mixed with the overall psychedelic vibe, makes this an acquired taste.
  • Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow … So, somewhere between its great debut and its third offering, this promising indie-electro crew out of England became the Scissor Sisters. What was very catchy electro-rock has morphed into something more fitting for a disco or rave.
  • Lemon Twigs – Do Hollywood … The debut full-length release for this Long Island pop band was clearly influenced by ‘50s doo-wop, ‘60s psychedelia and ‘70s soul and disco. It’s another one of those acquired tastes, but, judging from the album, I bet they put on a heck of a live show.
  • Kings of Leon – Walls … As much as I’d like to move on from this overexposed band, its latest disc is actually pretty solid. On their seventh album, the Nashville rockers scale things back a bit. Mostly gone are the anthemic rock tunes and in their place are more introspective, bare-bones ditties that hearken back to mid-career offerings.
  • The Early Years – II … On its second album, this British band combines psych-rock and post-punk with the best parts of electro music into an enchanting and engaging mix that never gets too dull nor too annoying. “Fluxus” and “Hush” are notable tunes.
  • C Duncan – The Midnight Sun … The Scottish artist’s second album is a heavier version of synth-pop — somewhere between The XX and Stranger Things.
  • D.D. Dumbo – Utopia Defeated … The most notable thing about Australian Oliver Hugh Perry’s debut release is how similar the vocals are to those of Sting. The music itself is an odd mixture of quirky indie-pop and tribal beats that make for an acquired taste. Think a male version of tUnE-yArDs.
  • Conor Oberst – Ruminations … His seventh solo album is Oberst at his finest. It was written while visiting his hometown in Nebraska and was recorded over two days. It feels as personal as anything he’s released, and the frequent harmonica adds some Springsteen vibes.

Oct. 21

  • The Courteeners – Mapping the Rendezvous … I was hopeful that, by their fifth album, these British indie rockers would’ve taken the States by storm. Alas, they appear to have stagnated. If this was their debut, I’d deem them full of potential. However, this far into their career it looks like they’ve already peaked.
  • Crocodiles – Dreamless … On its sixth album, this San Diego duo churns out loads of noise pop ditties that mesh psych-rock and electro-pop.
  • John K. Samson – Winter Wheat … The second solo release for the ex-Weakerthans frontman is filled with pleasant country-folk.
  • Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues … While it’s certainly not their best work, the indie-pop/rock crew’s ninth release is better than most of the stuff that came out this year. The Arizona quartet’s sound seems far more polished and closer to hard rock than back in its quirky indie-rock heyday.
  • Joan as Police Woman – Let It Be You … According to Metacritic, this collaboration with Benjamin Lazar Davis is loosely inspired by the musical patterns of the Central African Republic Pygmies. I can’t speak to that, but I can say that there seems to be a lot of genre-hopping from song to song. Vocally, it often sounds like Annie Lennox and Haim. Musically, there’s plenty of R&B in there, but also pop, folk and experimental rock.
  • Hooton Tennis Club – Big Box of Chocolates … The second full-length release from this British indie rock band sounds like Elvis Costello fronting Guided By Voices.
  • Syd Arthur – Apricity … Something about this British psychedelic rock band’s fourth album calls to mind VHS or Beta. This disc won’t light the world on fire, but it does at least show a group that could be worth paying attention to.
  • Agnes Obel – Citizen of Glass … The Danish singer-songwriter exudes elements of Imogen Heap, Zola Jesus and Joanna Newsome — to name a few contemporaries — but she is very much her own artist. On her third album, she mixes dark piano, haunting lyrics and just enough production effects to create an entrancing offering. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s doubtful Obel really cares.
  • American Football – American Football (LP2) … One of my many knowledge gaps in indie music is the original wave of emo music from the late ‘90s. It’s a shame, because everything I’ve heard from that era’s bands I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. And so it is with this disc, the long-awaited follow-up for the band that broke up after its 1999 debut. This offering is basically everything I imagine original emo to be — heavier and more melancholy and introspective as opposed to poppy and whiny.
  • Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat to Earth … If it was scientifically possible for Karen Carpenter and Sharon Van Etten to have a baby, it would be Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood).
  • The Radio Dept. – Running out of Love … The Swedish indie darlings have packed up their shoegaze ways and headed straight for indie-electro on their fourth album. It’s their first release in six years, and it’s filled with the type of instrumentation that would seem tailor-made for a New Order or Depeche Mode album. Although, according to interviews, they were aiming more for Inner City and other early ‘90s house/dance/electro bands. Lyrically, the songs focus on issues with their label, Labrador, and their native country.

Oct. 28

  • The Hidden Cameras – Home on Native Land …  For its seventh release, this Canadian indie pop band pays tribute to its homeland. Recorded over 10 years with guest appearances by Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Tennant, Bahamas and Mary Margaret O’Hara, the disc offers a quirky take on folk-pop from the Great White North.
  • Daniel Woolhouse – What’s That Sound … Depending upon the song, he seems to be channeling either The National’s Matt Berninger or Coldplay’s Chris Martin. This is first album released under his actual name after a pair of discs under the Deptford Goth moniker. “Dreamt I Was a Ceramicist Too” and the title track are standouts. (Also, several songs, most notably “Map of the Moon”, include a chime or xylophone-like instrument that is instantly reminiscent of Band-Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.)

  • CRX – New Skin … The debut for the side project of The Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valensi was produced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and the end result seems to be a perfect hybrid of the two. It’s harder than a Strokes disc but poppier than QOTSA. Opener “Ways To Fake It” is solid.
  • Alejandro Escovedo – Burn Something Beautiful … Considering this is the Texas-based singer-songwriter’s 12th album, it’s surprising he’s not more widely known. His voice is a cross between Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and Elvis Costello. So, maybe that explains why people don’t like him. (Zing!)
  • Honeyblood – Babes Never Die … The second full-length release from this Scottish indie-pop duo is the latest entry in the riot girl/pop-punk canon — a mix of Sleater-Kinney and the Go-Go’s. It’s catchy and quick, with 12 songs clocking in at 39 minutes flat. It’s a fun listen, particularly “Sea Hearts”, but certainly not groundbreaking.
  • The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Third World Pyramid … If you’ve never delved into the world of BJM, this disc would be a great entry point. The 15th album from the prolific San Francisco psych-rock crew calls to mind popular English bands from the ‘80s post-punk and ‘90s Britpop scenes as well as their psychedelic forefathers in Frisco. The title track is especially pleasant.

  • Marching Church – Telling It Like It Is … The second full-length release for the side project of Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt is definitely an acquired taste. The vocals and instruments are all disjointed, and the focus seems to change with each track, but there is a degree of potential here.
  • Empire of the Sun – Two Vines … The third release from this Australian electronic duo is more of the same — catchy hooks over head bob-inducing beats. At least one of these songs will likely gain traction if it hasn’t already. My guess would be the title track.
  • TOY – Clear Shot … The British alt-rock band’s third album feels like a cross between shoegaze and futuristic psychedelia. Or maybe post-punk and Britpop. Or heavy chillwave. It can be as difficult to pigeonhole as it is to digest upon first listen. But this is a disc that gets better with repeated spins.

September 9, 2016

New Releases: March-May 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 3:29 pm

Well, when I put up my first “new releases” post in April, I was about two months off the pace. As I put up my newest batch of new releases, I’m about three months behind. That means I need to listen to seven months’ worth of music in the next four months. I have faith I can pull it off, but we’ll see.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the new music that came out from the end of February through May. There are several albums here that we’ll be receiving future mentions during my end-of-the-year posts.

(Editor’s note: I intended for all of the following playlists to start on songs I mentioned in the post, but that seems to have worked successfully about half the time. So, feel free to skip through to the proper tunes in order to truly appreciate the music.)

Feb. 26

  • The 1975I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it … There’s a track early on this English band’s sophomore release called “UGH!”, and that’s pretty much how I felt throughout the entire disc. The first two songs sound like they’re channeling the worst of So/Us era (late ‘80s/early ‘90s) Peter Gabriel. The quick singing on “She’s American” reminds me of HAIM. As things progress, it’s like they changed their main influence to ‘80s/’90s R&B, with similarly appalling results. Halfway through, things take a more shoegazer turn with “Lostmyhead” and “The Ballad of Me and My Brain”.
  • Pinkshinyultrablast – Grandfeathered … The name says it all. It’s a good mix of indie-pop and shoegaze with a heaping dose of airy-fairy electro. “I Catch You Napping” and “Kiddy Pool Dreams” are standouts.
  • YuckStranger Things … The third release from this British group had some elements of their first two albums, but still definitely a departure as well.
  • Quilt – Plaza … There are a lot of different influences here throughout, but the one vibe that is most prevalent is ‘70s era AM rock. “Roller” and “Own Ways” are solid little ditties.
  • School of Seven Bells – SVIIB … This album is certainly full of pleasant, trance-inducing electro-pop. But there really aren’t any standout tracks, and, overall, it’s nothing special. It’s far from their best work. For a taste, check out “This Is Our Time”.
  • Santigold – 99 Cents … She’s always been an artist that is barely on the fringe of my musical tastes. I’ll usually like one or two singles from her albums, and that’s the case here. Opening track “Can’t Get Enough of Myself” and “Who I Thought You Were” are fun listens, and “All I Got” is above average. But the rest range from “meh” to skip-worthy.
  • Lily & Madeline – self-titled … This duo has a strong First Aid Kit vibe, but with more acoustic twang.  Album opener “Sounds Like Somewhere” is a standout that pulls you in immediately. And every song that follows is just as enchanting as the last.

March 4

  • Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place – You’re Doomed. Be Nice. … It’d probably help if I had a better working knowledge of Pinback. This debut from the co-founder’s new project is difficult to describe for a Pinback novice. However, it may not be the case for a fan. Anyway, musically, the album is reminiscent of several different eras of alt/indie rock. Crow’s vocals are distinct, as is his singing style — at times it reminds me of Weird Al Yankovic at his most serious/poppy. I can’t say this album is groundbreaking, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Some of the more notable tunes were “Business Interruptus”, “Yie Air” and “What We’ve Been Up To While You’ve Been Away”.
  • Muncie Girls – From Caplan To Belsize … Musically, these Brit lasses sound like every other pop-punk act from the past two decades. Things finally change pace a bit on “Social Side”, which has a mildly enchanting guitar line throughout.
  • Carter Tanton –  Jettison the Valley … Really nice, soulful singer/songwriter in the same vein as Robert Plant without the bombast. Also comparable to a more-upbeat Sun Kil Moon and a catchier Ray LaMontagne. The entire album — which features cameos from Marissa Nadler and Sharon Van Etten — is a very chill listen, but opener “Twentynine Palms” and “330” caught my ear more than the rest.
  • Steven James Adams – Old Magick … Vocally, reminds me a bit of Ringo Starr and Johnny Flynn.
  • Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are … More of the same from the incredibly prolific leader of Guided By Voices. Nothing earth-shattering here. The lone tune that stood out a bit was “Little Pigs”.
  • Ray LaMontagne – Ouroboros … Exactly what you’d expect when you hear that Jim James is producing a Ray LaMontagne album — heavy, fuzzy guitars, plenty of psychedelic vibes and nonstop throaty whisper-singing. It’s surprisingly reminiscent of Pink Floyd.
  • Tonight Alive – Limitless … This Aussie group’s third album sounds a lot like Paramore and their ilk.. Very poppy and very positive. The most tolerable song is “We Are”.
  • Lapsley – Long Way Home … Things started out on an interesting note with “Heartless”, but after that, it just became a straight-forward dance club album.
  • Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive … A lot of different influences in this album, including funk, rap, folk, indie, pop. Personally, I’m not a fan, but I respect the band and can certainly understand why some people probably love it.
  • The Coral – Distance Inbetween … This is the eighth studio album in 14 years from these veteran UK rockers. I’d never heard of the group before now, but this is arguably the best release to date, according to some reviews. And its Metacritic score of 81 ain’t too shabby. Sonically, it has a bit of a rock opera feel to it, with some Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath inflections.
  • Polica – United Crushers … Synth-heavy dance-pop that’s begging to be remixed. Right now, it’s too dark/heavy for the dancefloor and too fast for background music.
  • Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are … Just more of what you’d expect from these indie slackers. Makes me feel like I’m lounging around outside my old off-campus apartment during the summer semester in college. Good times.
  • Miike Snow – iii … A whole lotta average electro-pop. No real hits, but some definite misses, including “Heart Is Full” and “For U” with Charli XCX.
  • M. Ward – More Rain … I feel like such a poser; I’ve never really listened to very much of M. Ward’s stuff. All I can say about this is that it sounds reminiscent to his previous work — a mix of Conor Oberst, Kurt Vile and Wilco.
  • Wussy – Forever Sounds … Much of this Cincinnati indie duo’s sixth album is reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt and other early alt-country — most notably on “Hello I’m a Ghost”. But there’s enough variation to help the band avoid being pigeonholed. The standout track, “Donny’s Death Scene”, hearkens back to Concrete Blonde and other such female-led alternative groups of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
  • La Sera – Music For Listening To Music To … This surprisingly pleasant discovery is brimming with nostalgia, but with a very modern take. Katy Goodman’s vocals put a modern twist on ’50s pop in the same way that her previous group, Vivian Girls, practically trademarked a decade ago. The biggest difference here are the male vocals of Todd Wisenbaker that provide a foil for Goodman. Overall, La Sera’s fourth release is a fun, relaxing listen. Top songs include “High Notes”, “Begins To Rain” and “Nineties”, which is aptly named considering the very ’90s vibe that permeates throughout.
  • Big Ups – Before A Million Universes … Alternating between thrashing guitars and shoegaze ennui, this would be a great listen on a Monday morning at work, which is exactly how I experienced it. There were no standout tunes; it was just filled with the kind of music that oscillated betwixt white noise and calming ambiance.

March 11

  • Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want … The second album from this indie pop/rock quartet based in Cambridge, Mass., is just 28 minutes of head-bobbing joy. “Realization Hits” is the most notable ditty here.
  • The KVB – … Of Desire … “Night Games” is a very gothic, synthy tune that could’ve come out of Germany in the 1980s. The rest of the album doesn’t stray too far from that template on this darkwave offering.
  • Holy Wave – Freaks of Nurture … Some very psychedelic indie rock here, particularly on “Wendy Go Round”. Favorite track: “California Took My Bobby Away”
  • Matt Corby – Telluric … A whole lotta smooth R&B.
  • Aurora – All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend … This Norwegian teenager has the firepower of Sia and Ellie Goulding and emotional quirkiness of Bjork. An ethereal voice with plenty of help from Auto-Tune, she occasionally seems to have an Irish lilt. Particularly on “Through the Eyes of a Child”, which, along with “Winter Bird”, is on the softer end of the spectrum. Meanwhile, standouts such as “Runaway” and “Conqueror” are of the anthemic variety.
  • LuciusGood Grief … The Brooklyn quintet drifted away from its folkier side on this sophomore effort. “My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve” is a moving song with great lyrics. Album closer “Dusty Trails”, one of the few folk ditties, is extremely catchy with is perfect First Aid Kit-like harmonies. The deluxe version includes a few demos and covers of the ’60s tune “You Were on My Mind” and a horrible take on David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”. Despite a few bright spots,, this album is average at best.
  • Brian Fallon – Painkillers … Opening guitar is straight out of Born To Run. While it’s not exactly like his work with The Gaslight Anthem, it’s difficult not to make comparisons when you listen to Fallon’s distinct voice. There is nothing necessarily special here, but if you like his previous work, you’ll like this. Check out “Among Other Foolish Things”.
  • Pete Yorn – arrangingtime … Having barely listened to Yorn’s previous work, I can’t speak to how this compares to the rest of his catalog. That being said, this album is full of catchy, if not head-bobbing, indie-pop that combines the vibe of ‘90s alt-rock with the ethos of the current indie scene. Opener “Summer Was a Day” sets a strong tone, and it never wavers from there. “Shopping Mall” provides a nice change of pace midway through.
  • Emmy the Great – Second Love … Some generally pleasant soft pop. “Hyperlink” is a definite standout, and “Social Halo” is also notable. The vocals are nice, but the atmospheric guitar throughout takes this sophomore offering to another level.
  • Into It. Over It. – Standards … It’s definitely got the vibe of early ‘00s emo and pop-punk, but there’s enough of a lo-fi/shoegaze influence that it’s at least palatable. At different points throughout the album, the vocals are slightly reminiscent of Transatlanticism-era Death Cab for Cutie.
  • The Magnetic North – Prospect of Skelmersdale … Seeing this description for the band on Metacritic — Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Folk, Chamber Pop, Folk-Pop — I had high hopes for The Magnetic North. And, while they certainly aren’t bad, I was underwhelmed. The British trio’s second full-length album is full of lush harmonies and baroque pop instrumentation, but there’s just something missing here. I’m quite confident that some people reading this would love the album, but I can’t throw my full support behind it.

March 18

  • The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free … Nothing about this album is appealing. Not the faux-punk attitude. Not the jarring instrumentation. And certainly no the talk-singing vocals throughout.
  • The Goon Sax – Up To Anything … This is indie-pop/rock with a punk ethos. Lyrically and stylistically, this Brisbane, Australia, trio sound like direct descendants of ’80s alternative and punk. Much of this album could have been culled from the Left of the Dial box set. Every song here sounds like some slackers who picked up instruments and started ho-humming about their bleak existence in a semi-catchy manner. The closest thing to a single is “Telephone”.
  • Grant-Lee Phillips – The Narrows … This is the eighth solo album from this folk/alt-country/Americana stalwart. It’s nothing special, but it’s still a pleasant listen.
  • Lust for Youth – Compassion … Led by opening standout “Stardom” this album is straight-up ’80s synth-pop, in the vein of Depeche Mode and Joy Division.
  • Meilyr Jones – 2013 … Soulful and quirky chamber pop that is an acquired taste.
  • Primal Scream – Chaosmosis … Yet another prolific band that I basically know nothing about. The 11th album from this seminal group covers a lot of territory, from indie rock to ’80s synth pop to prog rock and a variety of points in between. “(Feeling Like a) Demon Again” and “Where the Light Gets In” were my personal favorites — they were also the most ’80s-influenced tracks here.
  • Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing to Go Back To … Good, solid alt-country. “Whitey and Me (Don’t Ride Him Down)” sounds like a Son Volt outtake.
  • Cullen Omori – New Misery … Solo debut from former member of Smith Westerns. It’s not bad. It’s a little more airy-fairy than his previous group.

March 25

  • Birdy – Beautiful Lies … This is a decent set of alt-pop in the same vein as Ellie Goulding but with less bombast and more soul. “Keeping Your Head Up” is nice. It’s not surprising that some of the producers on this album have worked with Adele and Florence + The Machine.
  • Eric Bachmann – Eric Bachmann … Pleasant piano-centric tunes fill this second solo album from the former frontman of Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers. All the songs are nice enough, but “Mercy” might be the standout.
  • Night Moves – Pennied Days … I was really diggin’ this after one listen. It’s some great psych-tinged indie rock reminiscent of Portugal. The Man in the way that they conjure up the sounds of ‘70s AM rock.
  • Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day … On his second album, this Oklahoma singer-songwriter brings an alt-country feel to what would otherwise be a straight-up bluesy bar band. He also channels his inner Tom Petty at times on the back half of the disc.
  • The Thermals – We Disappear … This is the seventh album from the Portland-based indie-pop trio. It wavers between the worlds of pop and rock and mostly gives off a boring, formulaic vibe. They are past their prime for sure. The closer, “Years In a Day”, was decent.
  • The Joy Formidable – Hitch … The Welsh rockers put a modern spin on ’80s alt-rock. The group’s third album starts strong with “A Second in White” and “Radio of Lips” — this is the standout track with some great guitar work — and continues through a variety of influences. Camera Obscura pops up early, and “Liana” sounds like something straight off a Concrete Blonde disc.
  • Kiran Leonard – Grapefruit … If you’re a fan of more experimental or avant-garde indie-rock, this sophomore effort from the Manchester, England, singer-songwriter is worth a listen. Otherwise, you might as well skip it.
  • Plague Vendor – Bloodsweat … A tolerable mix of indie-rock and punk that probably falls in the wheelhouse of many listeners. I’m just not one of them.
  • Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter … This is throwback country for a modern audience. Vocally, Price sounds like a mix of Dolly Parton and Jenny Lewis. The songs range from fun, honky-tonk to melancholy, down-in-the-dumps. The best combination is “Four Years of Chances”, where Price recounts her escape from a troubled marriage.

April 1

  • Willie Nile – World War Willie … I’d never heard of this fella before now, but this is apparently the 11th full-length studio album for the NYC rocker, so someone out there must like him. He’s what I imagine would be the result if a TV executive told a screenwriter to come up with a character that was “like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Mick Jagger all rolled into one.”
  • John Congleton and the Nighty Nite – Until the Horror Goes … Reminiscent of The Flaming Lips, but an even harder taste to acquire.
  • Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones – Little Windows … With the majority of male-female duos, it’s the woman’s voice that pulls me in, while the fella provides a nice contrast. On this nostalgic country-pop offering, Thompson’s enchanting vocals stand out, even though he and Jones split the workload evenly. Jones is no slouch herself, and she offers some perfect harmonies. Standout tunes include “Better At Lying” and “Make a Wish on Me”.
  • Dinner – Psychic Lovers … Mediocre synth-pop with the most dufus-sounding vocal effects you’ll ever encounter.
  • Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp … Definitely a distinct new sound. I’m not even sure how to describe it. Some very catchy indie-pop that you should just check out for yourself. Now. “Everybody Wants To Love You” is a standout, and “In Heaven”, “The Woman That Loves You” and “Heft” are also noteworthy.
  • Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing … Opening track “Floated In” sets the tone for this laid-back album full of sing-song vocals similar to Kimya Dawson and The Moldy Peaches. It’s the second release by the alter ego of Greta Kline.
  • Lukas Graham – self-titled … Besides the big hit single “7 Years”, this album was slightly above-average. It was a lot of solid lyrics — on par with Macklemore — encased in British, white boy pop/soul.
  • Shonen Knife – Adventure … This Japanese pop-punk outfit has catchy music, but the vocals just don’t hit. Opening track “Jump into the New World” sounds like a karaoke version of a ‘60s pop song. And the rest of the album follows suit.
  • The Summer Set – Stories for Monday … Everything about this album — from the music to the lyrics to the cover art — makes me think of any number of movies involving a main character living it up one last time before the end of high school. “Jean Jacket” and opening track “Figure Me Out” are particularly wistful. This release isn’t gonna garner any awards, but it was still a fun listen. It also makes me wanna rewatch “American Pie”, which was released on my 17th birthday.
  • Robbie Fulks – Upland Stories … This was a welcome introduction to the prolific 53-year-old folk singer-songwriter. “Baby Rocked Her Dolly” is particularly entertaining.
  • Bleached –  Welcome to the Worms … Solid, catchy pop-punk in the same vein as Sleater-Kinney, but much tamer. “Wednesday Night Melody” definitely has the best hook, and “Trying To Lose Myself Again” is also noteworthy. “Chemical Air” has the best guitar solo on the album, toward the end of the tune.
  • Laura Gibson – Empire Builder … While there are plenty of women out there singing beautiful indie-folk, it’s hard to beat this songstress’s fourth official release. Although there aren’t necessarily any standouts, there also isn’t a low point anywhere on the album. Every song will grab your attention from start to finish. Musically, Gibson is a mix between Regina Spektor with her vocal inflections and Sharon Van Etten’s haunting lyrics and tone.
  • Autolux – Pussy’s Dead … File this one under “Acquired taste”. Heavy, fuzzy, psychedelic rock that would probably be pretty great while on one or more hallucinogens.
  • Teen Suicide – It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot … I had high hopes for this album after the first couple of minutes of opener “Living Proof”. But after a midpoint pause, the tune took a detour. And from there, things careened down a cliff of distorted effects-laden, lo-fi, slacker indie-rock.
  • Bibio – A Mineral Love … This reminds me of that genre of pop/R&B/soul that was big for a minute in the ‘80s. That is not a compliment.
  • Andrew Bird – Are You Serious … I haven’t listened to a lot of Bird’s music, but what I have I enjoyed. This album, however, didn’t do it for me. It had too much of an experimental and disjointed sound throughout. The title track was the most palatable.
  • YeasayerAmen & Goodbye … When you’re dealing with a band that uses a theremin liberally, the phrase “acquired taste” is an understatement. I’ve only enjoyed a couple of songs from Yeasayer’s past catalog as they tend to be too far out there for my tastes. Nothing’s changed here. “Cold Night” and “Silly Me” are the only songs worth listening to again.
  • Bombino – Azel … This album was a revelation. It’s a perfect entry point for anyone who’s interested in sampling “world music.” Bombino is the moniker of Omara Moctar, an acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter. Born in Niger and raised in Algeria, he has experienced a great deal of political upheaval, turmoil and rebellion, and he lets it come through in his music. The guitar work is heavily influenced by classic rock, blues and even reggae, but there’s plenty of African flavor. Bombino sings in his native tongue of Tamasheq, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying this album, his third international solo release.
  • Black Mountain – IV … Just a bunch of psych-electro indie rock. There are plenty of people out there who would love this. Personally, I think it’s just a big wall of sound that doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself or reel in listeners.
  • The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect … Reminiscent of a lot of bands trying to channel the ‘70s glam-rock vibe. It’s hard not to constantly think of Arctic Monkeys anytime Alex Turner sings. I’ve yet to listen to this supergroup’s debut album, but it has to be better than this uninspired offering.
  • Weezer – Weezer (White Album) … So, I guess they’ve officially given up on naming their albums, huh? This is the fourth self-titled out of 10. The music is just as uninspired.
  • Lucy Dacus – No Burden … Just some great indie-rock in the same vein as Sharon Van Etten — perhaps a skosh lighter. “Strange Torpedo” is a standout among plenty of quality tunes.
  • Tacocat – Lost Time … This third album from the snarky, surf pop-punk palindrome out of Seattle is catchy and a nice distraction. But beyond that, it’s pretty forgettable. Clocking in at just under a half-hour, at least you won’t feel like you wasted much time listening to it.

April 8

  • Woods – City Sun Eater In The River Of Light … This is a mix of psychedelia, soul and a little jam that is not in my wheelhouse.
  • Bill Baird – Earth into Aether … Taking a cue from similar artists such as Conor Oberst, M. Ward and Alexi Murdoch, this singer-songwriter tends to keep things simple and spare. But he’s also not afraid to experiment with walls of sound on occasion. This is a great album to zone out to while doing menial tasks at home or the office.
  • The Gloaming – 2 … Just some straightforward Gaelic folk.
  • CFM – Still Life of Citrus and Slime … A mix of garage rock and psychedelia. It has potential, but it didn’t really do anything for me.
  • Deakin – Sleep Cycle … The solo debut from yet another member of Animal Collective, Josh Dibb’s offering sounds a little like a slowed-down version of something the mothership might put out. I haven’t liked any of his brethren’s solo efforts, and this one is no different.
  • Peter Wolf – A Cure For Loneliness … Having never listened to any of the former J. Geils Band singer’s solo efforts, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was an album filled with slow nod-inducing roots rock. It reminded me of some of the Rolling Stones slow classics, stripped down to their bare bones.
  • Mull Historical Society – Dear Satellite … This is a solid collection of indie-pop tunes that, while it won’t win any awards, will at least keep your attention throughout. Opening track “Build Another Brick” is distinct enough and gets things off on the right foot. Things sag a bit after that until “The Ballad of Ivor Punch” gives it a boost.
  • Hayes Carll – Lovers and Leavers … This is some prototypical folk-country that makes Nashville a worthwhile city to visit. He even mentions singing on Broadway in “Good While It Lasted”.
  • Ben Watt – Fever Dream … A cut above the average troubadour, Watt fills his plaintive songs with enough emotion to pull the listener in. There weren’t any showstoppers here, but “Winter’s Eve” and “New Year of Grace” did stand out to a degree.
  • September Girls – Age of Indignation … Kinda sounds like a poor man’s Warpaint. They’ve got the dark thing down, but they need to work on their melodies.
  • All Saints – Red Flag … My knowledge of All Saints is next to nil, but, by my estimation, they were Spice Girls wannabes (see what I did there), and their careers petered out at a similar trajectory. Now, a decade since their last release, they’ve returned with a mediocre offering that reminds me of what a reunited Spice Girls would probably sound like. Unless you have a history with this group, you should just skip this disc.
  • Future Of The Left – The Peace & Truce Of Future Of The Left … This is some barely palatable indie-punk in all its speak-singing glory.
  • Teleman – Brilliant Sanity … It’s indie-pop that teeters on the edge of being too quirky/annoying. The best comparison I can make is trying to listen to the band Spoon. While they sound nothing alike, they’re both bands that have to be taken in doses. Trying to listen to an entire album by either group can test one’s will. That being said, give this one a try. “Fall in Time” was probably the most tolerable ditty. And “English Architecture” was how Of Montreal might sound if they weren’t so weird.
  • The Dandy Warhols – Distortland … Yet another prolific band that I’ve never really listened to. This album is mostly electro-psych rock with smatterings of other influences. Judging from blurbs on Metacritic, this isn’t too far from their previous eight albums, which means I haven’t been missing out on much.
  • Lumineers – Cleopatra … Same as what you’d expect, but leaning more toward slower stuff rather than peppy tunes. The single, “Ophelia”, is definitely a keeper.
  • Parquet Courts – Human Performance … Nothing too special. A lot of the time, it gives off the vibe of half-assed punk. Other times, it reminds me of something I’d find on the Empire Records soundtrack. (Maybe that’s because one of the singers reminds me of Edwyn Collins.) Either way, this album feels mailed in. Maybe it was supposed to be released by Parkay Quarts. “Pathos Prairies” was the lone redeeming tune.
  • Frightened RabbitPainting Of A Panic Attack … This sounds exactly how you’d think it would when you hear that Aaron Dessner of The National is producing a Frightened Rabbit album. It’s everything you’ve come to expect from your favorite Scottish broods, with an extra layer of melancholy for good measure. And if it hasn’t already, “Get Out” needs to be receiving loads of radio airplay by now.
  • M83 – Junk … This is definitely one of the most aptly named albums you’ll ever find. In the past, you could always count on Anthony Gonzalez to churn out at least one super-catchy track on each release. Alas, this offering is nothing but 55-odd minutes of, well, junk.
  • The Heavy – Hurt & the Merciless … Mixing the best of rock, funk and blues, The Heavy have clearly found their sound and are sticking to it. It’s definitely an acquired taste, and the songs here are mostly palatable if not above-average. “Nobody’s Hero” probably deserves multiple spins, but that’s about it.

April 15

  • Blaqk Audio – Material … The fact that this band sounds exactly like a more electro version of AFI makes sense considering it consists of two members from said group. This is actually the third release from Davey Havok (lead vocals) and Jade Puget (keyboards, guitar), as they continue to find an outlet for their love affair with such groups as Depeche Mode, Ministry and Pet Shop Boys.
  • Lush – Blind Spot … This crew is among the forefathers of the shoegaze scene, and they haven’t missed a beat since disbanding in the late ‘90s. This four-song EP is filled with lush (pardon the unavoidable pun) vocals layered over dreamy instrumentation that harkens back to their mid-’90s best, before they veered toward Britpop.
  • The Coathangers – Nosebleed Weekend … Nothing special here. Just a bunch of slow-paced, slacker-exuding riot grrl punk. It’s not bad; it’s just bland.
  • Kevin Morby – Singing Saw … The former bassist for Woods, Morby’s songs are reminiscent to Wilco and Conor Oberst. This is his third solo album but first since departing Woods. Everything here is above average, but “Drunk and on a Star” and “Water” are particularly notable.
  • Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – PersonA … Besides the big single that they’ll forever be known for (“Home”), I think I’ve only heard one or two other songs by this band. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was woefully unprepared. The first two tracks are nearly unlistenable and sound nothing like the rest of the album. From that point, things are at least tolerable, if not barely average. “Somewhere” might be the peak, if only because it’s basically a rip-off of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”. And “Perfect Time” channels crooners of the Johnny Mathis ilk.
  • Suuns – Hold Still … Fans of textured, synth-laden, industrial post-punk should give it a spin. Otherwise, you may find yourself craving a Matt & Kim medley to help come back from the darkness.
  • Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop – Love Letter for Fire … You can never go wrong with an album full of acoustic male-female duets. That being said, this is an average offering at best. There are no real standouts; it’s just 39 minutes of soothing harmonies.
  • PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project … I’ve yet to jump on the PJ Harvey bandwagon, but I’m always hoping that her next album is the one that will change my mind. Alas, I’m still waiting. This disc, the ninth LP from Polly Jean, is her usual mix of halting, off-kilter chant-singing with occasional glimpses of something catchy — but it never lasts long. Harvey is up there with tUnE-yArDs, Joanna Newsome and, to a less-annoying extent, St. Vincent in the pantheon of highly acclaimed female artists who are traveling in a totally different orbit from my own.
  • Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth … I’ll start by saying I don’t particularly like this album, but I do respect it. Having never listened to the Grammy-nominated Simpson, I was under the impression he was an alt-country darling. And while his previous work may have leaned in that direction, this one cannot be pigeonholed into any genre — heck, you could probably list it under a handful of big-time genres, not to mention their various offshoots. Simpson channels a slew of influences, from rock, pop, soul, blues, funk and, of course, country, into a bubbling cauldron of sound. Whereas some listeners will love the overflowing mix of sounds, I found myself wanting it to be more focused. However, I also think that, after repeated listens, this album could grow on me. The standout is “Oh Sarah”, which is the closest thing to a country song that you’ll find here.
  • Big Black Delta – Trágame Tierra … If it weren’t for its lack of focus and horrible over-production, this album has the potential to make some waves. Alas, as it is, it’s just an overload of pop and electro mishmash. One song that managed to escape only slightly scathed is “RCVR”, a collaboration with Debbie Gibson.

April 22

  • We Are Scientists – Helter Seltzer … Gone are the days of With Love and Squalor. Ever since their major label debut in 2005, We Are Scientists have gradually drifted away from what initially made them so enchanting. Now, they’re just a run-of-the-mill indie-rock group. “Too Late” had its moments, and “Waiting For You” sounds like classic Weezer.
  • The Strumbellas – Hope … The first three tracks are endlessly catchy. Even tracks 4-5 are hummable; they just pale in comparison to their predecessors. “The Hired Band” slows things down, but it’ll still get ya groovin’. Then they immediately kick things up several notches on “Young & Wild”. This was my favorite album through the first third of the year.
  • Greys – Outer Heaven … This is just some straight-up, fuzz-filled, lo-fi, indie rock with the occasional nods to the first wave of emo. There’s no pretense here, and they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s just some solid sounds to zone out to for 39 minutes.
  • Niki & The Dove – Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now … The instruments sound straight out of a Lionel Richie song, circa 1987, but the vocals have that auto-tuned echo effect that could only come from present day. If that hybrid piques your interest, you’re in luck. Otherwise, meh.

April 29

  • Britta Phillips – Luck or Magic … Pleasant mix of old and new with five originals and five covers on the solo debut from the fairer half of Dean & Britta. “One Fine Summer Morning” is a soft, serene folk-rock that is a direct descendant of Joan Baez, Karen Carpenter and Joni Mitchell. … “Million Dollar Doll” is much more modern pop with a hard edge. The covers include the Cars’ “Drive” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”.
  • John Doe – The Westerner … The latest solo release from the frontman of punk legends X is filled with alt-country and roots rock that is a perfect accompaniment to a slow morning at work. “A Little Help” is a standout.
  • Travis – Everything At Once … I’ve probably only heard a couple of Travis songs in my lifetime, so I’m definitely a novice when it comes to the former Scottish “it” band. But after hearing this, their eighth album, I’m tempted to check out more from their catalog. The vocals reminded me of a mix of Bono and Art Alexakis. The bulk of the album was solid, including such tunes as “What Will Come”, “Magnificent Time” and “Animals”. Coincidentally, my least favorite tune was “Radio Song”, and even that one wasn’t too bad.
  • Imarhan – self-titled … Another Tuareg band! This Southern Algeria crew’s debut is more laid-back than Bombino’s recent effort, but that’s fine. It’s still a very pleasant listen.
  • Rogue Wave – Delusions of Grand Fur … Pretty solid effort by a band no longer in the spotlight. Some relatively catchy tunes with some filler mixed in as well. “What Is Left to Solve” was the most intriguing track here.
  • Melt Yourself Down – Last Evenings On Earth … This frenetic mashup of jazz, punk, funk and electro is not my cup of tea. But it’s definitely a fresh sound, and I guarantee there are plenty of music fans out there that would eat this up.
  • Plants and Animals – Waltzed in from the Rumbling … This album, the fourth from the Canadian indie rock crew, feels like the result of a group who wanted to experiment and try out a variety of sounds. While that strategy could have gone horribly awry, this effort sounds cohesive throughout. Dabbling in a variety of genres while maintaining a solid base, the flora and fauna posse churned out an eclectic mix of tunes that may not win any awards but should certainly earn praise from fans and critics alike.
  • King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity … It’s a non-stop ride aboard the garage-psych train. Literally. The eighth album from this Aussie crew is an infinite loop, with every song flowing into one another, including the closing and opening track. The music itself is decent enough if not particularly earth-shattering. But it’s kinda fun to hide the playlist and guess what track you’re on at random intervals.
  • The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust … A pleasant mix of strong harmonies and solid instrumentation shows that these Minneapolis-based alt-country stalwarts haven’t missed a beat over the course of nine albums. “Leaving the Monsters Behind” was particularly catchy, mixing in some shades of Elf Power and R.E.M. (not surprising since Peter Buck co-produced the album with Tucker Martine.) “The Dust of Long-Dead Stars” was also above-average.
  • Pity Sex – White Hot Moon … This is shoegaze at its absolute finest. It’s basically a continuation of their 2013 debut LP, Feast of Love. But with the sound they’ve harnessed, they can make 10 more of the same thing and I’ll eat them up. Standouts include “Burden You”, “September” and “Plum”.
  • Kyle Craft – Dolls of Highland … The debut album from this Louisiana native is like some sort of musical gumbo with the unholy piano combination of Elton John and The Band as its roux and Nate Ruess-style vocals ladled on top. It’s definitely an acquired taste. But it was released by Sup Pop Records, so, perhaps those venerable folks are hearing something I’m not.

May 6

  • The Rides – Pierced Arrow … If you’re a fan of pure blues-rock, you’ll love this offering from the supergroup that includes Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
  • A Giant Dog – Pile … This is a collection of head bob-inducing guitar rock with a huge punk influence in the same vein as what the Go-Go’s would’ve preferred to be had they not gone down the pop route. “Sleep When Dead” is both a standout tune and a microcosm for the vibe of this entire album.
  • Spookyland – Beauty Already Beautiful … Sounding like a mix between ’70s psych rock and ’90s Britpop, this sophomore effort from these Aussie lads is a solid table setter for a day spent listening to music. It won’t be winning any awards, but it’s catchy enough to keep your attention throughout. “Big Head” is notable.
  • Andy Black – The Shadow Side … The lead singer of Black Veil Brides has spread his wings and delivered a solo album. Having never heard of his main band, I don’t know how similar it is to this offering. What I can say is that this album is filled with anthemic tunes in the same vein as AFI and liberal use of Auto-Tune. If you’re into that sort of thing, then you’ll probably love this album. I do not fall into that category.
  • Little Scream – Cult Following … The second release from Montreal artist Laurel Sprengelmeyer is a haunting indie rock album, filled with dark guitars and plenty of synths. It’s one cohesive unit with few real standout tracks, but it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the music and forget how many songs deep you are.
  • Seratones – Get Gone … The debut from this Louisiana-based group sounds like the culmination for a band that’s been toiling at the county fair level for a decade. Whether that’s true, I have no idea; it just has the vibe of a group trying to mimic all their favorite rock artists and doing a passable job. Led by the howling vocals of A.J. Haynes, this crew isn’t reinventing the wheel, but its version of blues-rock/neo-soul definitely has the potential to gain a foothold. Take note of the title track, where Haynes does her best Robert Plant impersonation.
  • Kacy & Clayton – Strange Country … On their second album, these Canadian cousins churn out old-timey folk with a modern twist. Everything sounds like it must be a cover, but in actuality, all but three of the tunes are original material. See if you can guess the retreads.
  • Chris Cohen – As If Apart … Some very relaxing alt-folk, with a lazy, but serious, vibe from the former Deerhoof guitarist. There’s definitely a psychedelic influence, but it never overpowers it into feeling trippy. No real standouts here; just a very chill listen.
  • Thomas Cohen – Bloom Forever … The solo debut from the ex-S.C.U.M front man sounds like a hybrid of Destroyer and Deehunter, two bands that are very much acquired tastes. Cohen mixes the jazzy crooner of Dan Bejar with Bradford Cox’s psychedelic waif. “New Morning Comes” is definitely the most palatable and a good entry point.
  • White Lung – Paradise … Honestly, this indie-pop/rock album had a lot going for it. But I just could not get past lead singer Mish Way’s voice. It reminded me of several I’ve heard throughout the years, and it’s one that I’ve never been able to acquiesce to. That being said, you may find it highly tolerable — plenty of critics certainly did — and should at least give it a spin. Start with “Hungry”, the track NPR chose for its Austin 100 mix.
  • LUH – Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing … Ellery James Roberts’ vocals are so gravelly that they border on grating. It would take an amazing mix of instrumentation and production to make up for those pipes. But he pulls it off with the help of Ebony Hoorn on the duo’s debut album. Roberts is no stranger to ambitious projects, often burning fast and not for long. Hoorn’s haunting vocals are the perfect foil for Roberts’ gravel. And the music grabs your attention from the start. It’s one of those few acquired tastes that I actually find palatable. Notable tracks include “I&I” and “Beneath the Concrete”.
  • Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards – Memory … The final installment of an album trilogy that includes 2013’s Blindspot and 2014’s Distance, it’s the continuation of Michaelson’s slacker impersonation of Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon). The songs are pleasant and all, but they don’t exactly break new ground.
  • Cyndi Lauper – Detour … Cyndi does country! … Don’t waste your time.

May 13

  • David Bazan – Blanco … The latest entry from the former Pedro the Lion frontman is slower and more synth-heavy than his previous solo work. There are no catchy, single-worthy tunes as in the past, but that’s not to say this isn’t solid work. Be careful when listening; it has the power to lull you to sleep.
  • Kikagaku Moyo – House in the Tall Grass … This is a very heavy hybrid of psychedelic rock and acid folk — among other influences. Not overpowering, it can even be enchanting at times. The best, most accessible tune, “Kogarashi”, also happens to be the outlier in overall form and texture. And closer “Cardigan Song” provides a perfectly peaceful period to the proceedings.
  • Adia Victoria – Beyond The Bloodhounds … This Nashville-based songstress debuts with a mix of sultry, bluesy rock — and a touch of rockabilly — that gets your toes a-tappin’ from the start. Standouts include “Mortimer’s Blues”, “Sea of Sand” and “And Then You Die”.
  • Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos … This rock supergroup sounds a lot like you’d probably expect from its name — like a band that should be playing the Double Deuce in the movie “Roundhouse”. Including members of Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Widespread Panic, Great American Taxi and King Lincoln, the group’s second release is the first to include original songs. This disc is made for listening to on the open road. “Half Ass Moses” is a fun ditty.
  • Oscar – Cut and Paste … This is one of those discs where every song is an earworm, and some great tunes end up getting overshadowed by their more impressive mates. It opens with “Sometimes” and its catchy, droning male vocals that are perfectly complemented by female vocals. On “Be Good”, the chorus calls to mind “Strange Overtones” by David Byrne and Brian Eno. “Felt It Too” is very reminiscent of Diamond Rings’ “Something Else”. “Good Things”and “Only Friend”are solid. “Breaking My Phone” takes a grungier turn with plenty of feedback. “Daffodil Days” has an airy-fairy intro that leads into another solid song. Then comes “Fifteen”, which is oozing twee from every pore and is one of my favorite tracks. “Beautiful Words”and “Gone Forever”provide the album a nice send-off.
  • Fruit Bats – Absolute Loser … Combining the best of ’70s AM rock and modern alt-country, this sixth full-length release is a perfect entry point to Eric D. Johnson’s folk-rock project. Every song is captivating and will induce toe taps and head bobs. It’s the type of album that should cause listeners to delve deep into Fruit Bats’ catalog.
  • Islands – Should I Remain at Sea? and Taste … The band dropped a pair of albums on the same day. Should I Remain at Sea? is a straightforward indie pop/rock record with plenty of catchy tunes, including “Fear”, “Fiction” and “Back Into It”. Taste, meanwhile, is much more of an electro collection, on which lead singer Nicholas Thorburn does his best Chris Martin impersonation.
  • Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost … The third album from the Philadelphia quartet takes the few redeemable aspects of the emo/pop-punk wave of the Aughts and hones it into something more mature and refined. No songs stood out, but the album is decent enough and seems like one that would grow on a listener with repeated spins.
  • Karl Blau – Introducing Karl Blau … On the 21st release from this musical chameleon, Blau ventures into full-on cowboy mode. He injects his own modern-folk sensibilities into 10 classic country-western gems, the most recognizable being “To Love Somebody”. This album could’ve easily come out in 1976.
  • Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow … The Philly duo is back with its second album full of shoegazey goodness. “The Dead Are Dumb” and “Vertigo Flowers” are perfect examples of how amazing the genre can be. “Everyone Is Happy” is also a strong entry. The entire album makes me so wistful, which, I’ve just realized, is the sign of great shoegaze.
  • Yak – Alas Salvation … Uninspired rock with a healthy dose of punk attitude. These British lads try to begin a guitar rock renaissance on their debut effort.
  • Twin Peaks – Down in Heaven … It’s no surprise that these Chicago gents were inspired by albums from 1968 while creating their third release. Equal parts garage rock and psychedelia, they’ve clearly taken their love of the Rolling Stones and let it bleed all over these songs, particularly “Wanted You”.
  • Woodpigeon – T R O U B L E … Some generally pleasant indie-folk with a quirky edge. “The Accident” stood out — barely.
  • Arbor Labor Union – I Hear You They sound like a hybrid of Guided By Voices, Son Volt and Dinosaur Jr. This is the second release by the Georgia band formerly known as the Pinecones, and it shows that they clearly have potential.
  • Foy Vance – The Wild Swan … I can’t decide if this is folk-country or country-folk, but you get the idea. There’s also an undercurrent of blues-rock swirling throughout. There’s so much of an Americana vibe that you tend to forget he is from Northern Ireland. But he reminds you on “The Wild Swans on the Lake”. Besides that ode to the old country, “Bangor Town” and “Unlike Any Other” were the most pleasant tunes here.
  • Eagulls – Ullages … These guys are The Cure at their darkest and heaviest. “Velvet” and “Lemontrees” are the standouts, but, really, this entire album is exceedingly enjoyable for any fan of classic post-punk.

May 17

  • Wolf Parade – EP4 … It’s good to hear from the fellas from the Great White North. It had been six years since their last release of any kind, so this is a welcome offering and hopefully a sign of things to come. As for the music itself, it’s generally above-average but not necessarily anything special to behold. But I could think of worse ways to spend 13 minutes.

May 20

  • Tiger Army – V … It received mixed reviews, but the main critique is that the band’s fifth album is too much of a stretch from previous work for fans to accept. Since I’d never heard of the group, I don’t have that bias. For a newbie, this disc is surprisingly pleasant — adding some very clear ‘50s pop influences to a pscyhobilly foundation. The songs tend to stick to the same formula, mixing pining vocals with moving violin and strumming guitar. That being said, “Prisoner of the Night” and “Firefall” did manage to stand out.
  • Lonely the Brave – Things Will Matter … This band borders on that annoying type of modern rock that can be heard on radio stations across the Midwest. But it manages to come back from the brink by employing enough indie vibes to keep things interesting. It probably helps that the group is British, which just adds an extra bit of flavor to its music. This is the second album from the Cambridge lads, following their 2014 breakout debut The Day’s War. “Dust & Bones” stands out, but everything here is pretty solid. Lead singer David Jakes channels his inner Eddie Vedder throughout, nowhere more so than on “Tank Wave”.
  • Against the Current – In Our Bones … For a debut album, this New York trio comes off as quite polished. Musically, this pop-rock offering is similar to Paramore and their ilk. The songs are plenty catchy, but they really don’t stand out from a lot of stuff you’d find on mainstream radio.
  • The So So Glos – Kamikaze … The third album from this Brooklyn outfit is filled with more of its signature straight-ahead modern punk-rock.
  • Various Artists – Day of the Dead … I have no interest of sifting through nearly 5.5 hours of covers of a band I have barely ever listened to. That being said, if you’re a Grateful Dead fan, you’ll probably eat up these 59 tracks of reimagined goodness. If you’re not a Deadhead, maybe skim the list of artists and just listen to the ones that interest you. The only problem with that tactic is that there are so many great acts on this compilation that you’ll still end up spending a couple of hours on it. Among the notable entries were “Peggy-O” by the National (whose Aaron and Bryce Dessner curated this entire album), Mumford & Sons’ “Friend of the Devil” and “Mountains of the Moon” by Lisa Hannigan & Friends. J Mascis’ “Box of Rain”, “Standing on the Moon” by Phosphorescent & Friends and “Birdsong” by Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Friends were also solid. As was Courtney Barnett’s “New Speedway Boogie”, but it was missing the best part of her music — clever original lyrics.
  • Mutual Benefit – Skip a Sinking Stone … A very pleasant sophomore effort from New York City’s Jordan Lee. Balancing a fine line between melancholia and optimism, Lee puts listeners in a peaceful cocoon for about 40 minutes. There are no standout tracks, but the whole album is at least worth a listen.
  • Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial … This is Will Toledo’s coming-out party. His second full-length album and first with a proper backing band, the group takes Toledo’s slacker serenades to a whole new level. Angsty and apathetic, Car Seat Headrest are equal parts Cloud Nothings, Beck and Courtney Barnett. The opener, “Fill in the Blank” is a nice table-setter, but the band displays enough influences throughout that a full listen is obligatory. Right now, I think this is a pretty solid album; in a few months, I may consider it one of the year’s best.
  • Marissa Nadler – Strangers … Another strong outing from this Boston-based singer-songwriter. Nothing particularly awe-inspiring; just a pleasant listen.
  • Methyl Ethel – Oh Inhuman Spectacle … The debut from this indie-rock/pop trio from Down Under was filled with hits and misses — but mostly hits. The lead single, “Twilight Driving”, is infectiously catchy and sounds like a cover of a very familiar song that I just can’t place. “Depth Perception” is like an homage to Beach House, while “Unbalancing Acts” is reminiscent of Animal Collective, but more palatable. “Rogues” is also solid, particularly the guitars.
  • Andy Shauf – The Party … I don’t have much to say about this one. It was certainly a pleasant listen, but it was far from inspiring or interesting. I can’t really bash it, but I also can’t trumpet it. At least it’s not death metal.
  • Saosin – Along The Shadow … I’d heard of this band but had never listened to it. Of course, now I see that I wasn’t missing anything. This group clearly belongs on a Warped Tour stage. (Is that even still a thing?) On their third album, the Cali post-hardcore/emo kids welcome back original singer Anthony Green, who left in 2004 to form Circa Survive. Whether their sound has changed over the course of three albums, I have no clue. Nor do I care.

May 27

  • Clare Maguire – Stranger Things Have Happened … Very solid vocalist who mixes the pipes of Adele with the pianist-singer abilities of Sara Barailles and Regina Spektor. This is the follow-up to her 2011 debut and comes after recovering from depression and alcohol and drug addiction. The lead single is “Elizabeth Taylor”, but that tune pales in comparison to the fun, catchy ““The Valley”.
  • Yumi Zouma – Yoncalla … Sometimes you just need some pleasant dream pop to whisk you away, and this debut from the New Zealand crew fits the bill. Loaded with plenty of synths and airy vocals, they can give The XX and Beach House a run for their money. That said, this band doesn’t necessarily stand out from the pack. That’s fine; it’s still a worthwhile listen. “Text From Sweden” is particularly notable.
  • Bonnie Bishop – Ain’t Who I Was … One site filed this under folk, while another labeled it pop/rock and referred to Bishop as a country artist. In actuality, the sixth album from this Nashville-based singer/songwriter is straight up blues-rock, in the same vein as Stevie Ray Vaughan (without the amazing guitar). It’s also no coincidence that Bishop’s style bears a striking resemblance to that of Bonnie Raitt, who she lists as an idol.
  • Sonny & The Sunsets – Moods Baby Moods … Sounding like a modern day take on classic Elvis Costello & The Attractions, this sixth disc from Sonny Smith’s group is the definition of an acquired taste. The fact that it was tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus adds to the funkiness. If you can make it past that, there are some interesting lyrics to be heard.
  • The Hotelier – Goodness … This Worcester, Mass., group received a great deal of critical praise and was heralded as one of the leaders of the “emo revival” in 2014 when it released its second album, Home, Like Noplace Is There. Chances are it will be on plenty of best-of-2016 lists with its third and latest release. The disc opens slow with some spoken word boredom on the first track and an annoying start to “Goodness, Pt. 2”, but it quickly transforms into a great song that emo purists would applaud. It’s followed by “Piano Player”, which has a lot going on and is slightly reminiscent of R.E.M. at their most harmonious. After a solid middle portion, things really take off toward the back of the album. “Soft Animal” will get your head bobbing, and “Sun” is a single-worthy track. “You in This Light”, “Fear of God” and “End of Reel” provide a solid close.
  • Real Friends – The Home Inside My Head … This band is so prototypical whiny-emo, pop-punk that on the tune, “Mess”, it even waxes nostalgic about listening to Dashboard Confessional.
  • Kristin Kontrol … X-Communicate … This solo debut by Dum Dum Girls’ Kristin Welchez is dance-pop with a dark side. It’s like Robyn trying to cover Siouxsie & The Banshees with some very catchy results. “White Street” is a stand out; and the title track reminded me a bit of Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”.
  • PUP – The Dream Is Over … Here is some unapologetically straightforward pop-punk, if that’s your thing. Definitely nothing special, other than the fact that lead singer Stefan Babcock was told before recording it that he would be risking his singing career due to a hemorrhaging cyst on his vocal cords. The Toronto lads persisted, and this is the result. I must admit that some of the lyrics and titles were amusing, such as “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” and “My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier”.
  • Catfish and The Bottlemen – The Ride … This is a generally pleasant sophomore offering from the Welsh indie rock/pop outfit. It’s nothing special, but there are certainly worse things to subject your ears to. Opener “7” gets things off to a nice, slow-head-bobbing start, and the medium pace lasts throughout.
  • Big Thief – Masterpiece … I had to give this debut album four listens before I could even start to write a synopsis. Mostly because there are so many different influences here that I couldn’t really pinpoint a direction. So, I’ll just list some contemporaries of Adrianne Lenker & Co.: Hop Along, Warpaint, Sharon Van Etten and The Walkmen. This should easily go down as one of the best albums of the year. Besides the obvious filler tracks, there are really no lulls. The strongest tunes include the title track, “Vegas” (like a female-fronted Walkmen), “Real Love”, “Paul” (like a lo-fi cover of Bruce Springsteen) and “Animals”.
  • Daniel Romano – Mosey … Throughout this Canadian singer/songwriter’s fifth album, the music hearkens back to the ’70s and the days of “CHiPs” and “Starsky & Hutch”. Particularly on opener “Valerie Leon”, which seems like it could’ve possibly been in the soundtrack of a movie from one of that era’s famed auteurs. Romano’s voice often calls to mind that of They Might Be Giants, especially on the overly catchy pop-country “Hunger Is a Dream You Die In”.
  • Band of Skulls – By Default … Despite some pretty harsh reviews by critics, I have to admit that I was relatively pleased with the British rockers’ fourth album. The lyrics aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but the music was generally entertaining. The most notable songs were “Back of Beyond”, “This Is My Fix” and “Something”.
  • Kate Jackson – British Road Movies … Nearly eight years after The Long Blondes disbanded, lead singer Kate Jackson has finally delivered a solo debut. Admittedly, the only song I knew of theirs was “Once and Never Again”, but it was definitely one of my favorites from 2006. Only about a third of Jackson’s current album reflects the peppy tone of that track. A bigger chunk is devoted to slower, more pensive fodder. The most recognizable track is “Wonder Feeling”, which she released as a double A side single — along with “The Atlantic” — in 2011. It’s of the faster pace, as are other notable tunes “Stranded” and “Homeward Bound”. Overall, this album isn’t anything special, but it is nice to see Jackson finally return to the fray.
  • Beth Orton – Kidsticks … This is the seventh release from the British singer-songwriter who recently settled down in California. I have to assume this is a departure from previous albums, otherwise I have no idea how she’s managed to be so prolific. The songs here seem to be some sort of awful hybrid between Annie Lennox and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs.
  • Malcolm Middleton – Summer of ’13 … Man, oh man, did I want to hate this album after the first few songs. The overdone computer effects were enough to make me give up on it almost immediately. Alas, I’m a sucker for a thick Scottish accent, so I persevered. Eventually, it started to grow on me, and by the time I finished track 5, “Like John Lennon Said”, I’d officially relented. Don’t get me wrong: there is plenty to loathe here — namely all that electro junk. But there are a few saving graces, most notably just the refreshing quality of hearing that accent in a new setting. Other palatable songs were “Brackets” and “Little Hurricane”

April 27, 2016

Shazam 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 3:07 pm

One stat I’ve heard bandied about recently is that, of all the apps that people download for their smartphones, they only use a handful with any real frequency.

I can certainly attest to that. I don’t even regularly use the eight that are on my main screen. But one of my favorites, and the one I was most excited about when I originally upgraded from a “dumb phone” several years ago was Shazam. The idea that I could hear a song on the radio, hold my phone up to the speaker and it could instantly feed me all the pertinent details seemed like something out of science-fiction.

Nowadays, I don’t know what I would do without it. I guess I’d be forced to go back to my old method of figuring out songs — trying to pick out some lyrics and quickly searching for them online before I forget them. Most often, I use it while listening to the car radio or when I’m in a store with my girlfriend and hear something that piques my interest. It’s not uncommon for me to be standing in the corner of some women’s clothing boutique, holding my phone up as high as possible toward a ceiling speaker, trying to get a song to register on it.

I’ve discovered countless songs and bands using the app and have blogged about a few. I especially like that I have a running log of all these songs that I can turn to when looking for something to listen to. I decided to compile a full list of songs that I Shazamed last year (who ever thought that would become a verb?), not only to jog my own memory, but also to provide you with some possible new tunes to check out.

Just going through the list, a few things stand out:

  • Whenever I think to pull out my phone to Shazam a song, there’s a decent chance I’ll be doing it again within a few minutes.
  • I often Shazam songs when I hear something familiar but can’t remember the name of the song or band. Or sometimes I think it’s a new song from a band I know and discover it’s actually a totally different band.
  • I’ve blogged about a lot of these bands in the past.
  • I really need to listen to more music from J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. as I picked out three of their songs.
  • Apparently, I have trouble remembering the song “Riptide” by Vance Joy, as I tagged it twice.
  • Tycho songs are hard to remember. But that’s probably because there aren’t any words.
  • I don’t have an excuse for tagging two Mr. Little Jeans songs. I need to do a better job or committing their stuff to memory.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the songs. I created a playlist on Google Play, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

  • The War on Drugs – “Disappearing” … Dec 27, 2015
  • Dinosaur Jr. – “In a Jar” … Dec 27, 2015
  • J Mascis – “Several Shades of Why” … Dec 27, 2015
  • Speedy Ortiz – “Tiger Tank” … Dec 26, 2015
  • Catherine Wheel – “I Want To Touch You” … Dec 26, 2015
  • Sun Kil Moon (Admiral Fell Promises) – “Alesund” … Dec 22, 2015
  • Merchandise – “Become What You Are” … Dec 20, 2015
  • Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out” … Dec 20, 2015
  • Taylor Swift – “Wildest Dreams” … Dec 05, 2015
  • A Sunny Day In Glasgow – “Mtlov (Minor Keys)” … Nov 20, 2015
  • Wiz Khalifa Feat. Charlie Puth – “See You Again (No Noun Remix)” … Nov 17, 2015
  • Animal Collective – “Daffy Duck” … Nov 08, 2015
  • Cold Cave – “Pacing Around The Church” … Nov 01, 2015
  • Big Star – “September Gurls” … Nov 01, 2015
  • Joanna Gruesome – “Secret Surprise” … Oct 23, 2015
  • The White Stripes – “In The Cold, Cold Night” … Oct 23, 2015
  • Florence + The Machine – “Shake It Out” … Oct 11, 2015
  • Only Real – “Cadillac Girl” … Oct 04, 2015
  • Frightened Rabbit – “The Twist” … Oct 02, 2015
  • Dinosaur Jr. – “The Wagon” … Oct 02, 2015
  • Midnight Oil – “Dreamworld” … Sep 06, 2015
  • Charlie Puth (Feat. Meghan Trainor) – “Marvin Gaye” … Aug 26, 2015
  • Alina Baraz & Galimatias – “Make You Feel” … Aug 20, 2015
  • Peaches – “Hit It Hard” … Aug 20, 2015
  • The Only Ones – “Another Girl Another Planet” … Aug 12, 2015
  • Wolf Alice – “Bros” … Jul 23, 2015
  • Local Natives – “Heavy Feet” … Jul 21, 2015
  • The Incredible String Band – “A Very Cellular Song” … Jul 17, 2015
  • Toro Y Moi – “Empty Nesters” … Jul 16, 2015
  • Mr. Little Jeans – “Runaway” … Jul 10, 2015
  • The Weeknd – “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey) [From the “Fifty Shades of Grey” Soundtrack]” … Jul 07, 2015
  • Tycho – “Montana” … Jul 05, 2015
  • Valerie June – “Wanna Be On Your Mind” … Jul 05, 2015
  • Vance Joy – “Riptide” … Jun 30, 2015
  • DIIV – “Follow” … Jun 19, 2015
  • Jason Derulo – “Want To Want Me” … Jun 19, 2015
  • Cloud Nothings – “Now Hear In” … Jun 17, 2015
  • Frou Frou – “Breathe In” … Jun 13, 2015
  • Felt – “September Lady” … Jun 10, 2015
  • One Direction – “Story Of My Life” … Jun 04, 2015
  • OneRepublic – “Preacher” … Jun 02, 2015
  • The National – “Sea Of Love” … May 27, 2015
  • The Sundays – “Summertime” … May 26, 2015
  • The Beta Band – “I Know” … May 24, 2015
  • Squeeze – “Up The Junction” … May 24, 2015
  • The Knife – “Heartbeats” … May 21, 2015
  • Sam Cooke – “For Sentimental Reasons” … May 19, 2015
  • Wild Nothing – “Midnight Song” … May 17, 2015
  • We Are Twin – “The Way We Touch” … May 08, 2015
  • Passion Pit – “Carried Away” … May 08, 2015
  • The Stranglers – “Always The Sun” … Apr 21, 2015
  • Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush – “Don’t Give Up” … Apr 21, 2015
  • The Kinks – “Celluloid Heroes” … Apr 21, 2015
  • Television – “Venus” … Apr 05, 2015
  • The Boy Least Likely To – “I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes” … Apr 05, 2015
  • Vance Joy – “Riptide” … Apr 05, 2015
  • The 1975 – “Chocolate” … Apr 05, 2015
  • Jefferson Starship – “Find Your Way Back” … Apr 03, 2015
  • moe. – “Rebubula” … Mar 31, 2015
  • Houndmouth – “Sedona” … Mar 30, 2015
  • PHOX – “1936” … Mar 30, 2015
  • Foxes In Fiction – “Shadow’s Song” … Mar 29, 2015
  • Electric Light Orchestra – “Hold On Tight” … Mar 29, 2015
  • Mr. Little Jeans – “Good Mistake” … Mar 16, 2015
  • Bastille – “Laura Palmer” … Mar 16, 2015
  • White Lies – “Farewell To the Fairground” … Mar 10, 2015
  • The xx – “Night Time” … Mar 09, 2015
  • Sea Pinks – “Freak Wave” … Mar 09, 2015
  • The Royal Concept – “In the End” … Mar 08, 2015
  • The Replacements – “Swinging Party” … Mar 05, 2015
  • The Amazing – “Picture You” … Mar 02, 2015
  • Beach Fossils – “Daydream” … Mar 02, 2015
  • Smith Westerns – “Only Natural” … Mar 02, 2015
  • Hey Marseilles – “Rio” … Feb 28, 2015
  • Pure Bathing Culture – “Ever Greener” … Feb 27, 2015
  • Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)” … Feb 15, 2015
  • RAC (Feat. Penguin Prison) – “Hollywood” … Feb 14, 2015
  • Galaxie 500 – “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste” … Feb 13, 2015
  • M83 – “Midnight City” … Feb 10, 2015
  • Deerhunter – “Agoraphobia” … Feb 09, 2015
  • Bad Suns – “Rearview” … Feb 03, 2015
  • Canon Logic – “Ibok” … Jan 31, 2015
  • Motion City Soundtrack – “Wait So Long” … Jan 30, 2015
  • Metric – “Help I’m Alive” … Jan 21, 2015
  • Tycho – “Awake” … Jan 20, 2015
  • Gold Leaves – “Hanging Window” … Jan 19, 2015
  • Maps & Atlases – “The Most Trustworthy Tin Cans” … Jan 17, 2015
  • Veronica Falls – “Teenage” … Jan 16, 2015
  • Craft Spells – “Twirl” … Jan 16, 2015
  • Mac DeMarco – “Brother” … Jan 14, 2015
  • The “Glee” Cast – “Cough Syrup” … Jan 05, 2015
  • Television – “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives” … Jan 02, 2015
  • The Church – “Destination” … Jan 02, 2015

April 26, 2016

New Releases: Jan.-Feb. 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 6:00 am

Considering the fact that I have limped into the best-of-the-year blogging process the past few years, I figured it was time to come up with a new strategy. Since I didn’t foresee myself suddenly having tons of extra free time opening up on the horizon, it was clear that I had to do a better job of maximizing the time I do have.

The best time for me to listen to music is at work, when I can just plug in and zone out for much of my shift. But rather than simply pick random mixes on Google Play, as I had been doing for a while, I began taking a more strategic approach.

With the help of Metacritic’s New Releases listing, I’m attempting to keep as up-to-date as possible this year. Of course, I’ve discovered that’s easier said than done, considering it’s the final week of April and I’m already two months behind. But at least it’s something.

Anyway, here are all the albums I deigned worthy of giving a full listen to from the first couple of months (actually, I’m still in the middle of the Feb. 26 releases, but I was getting antsy and really wanted to put up a blog post.) I included a note or two with each — mostly just some initial thoughts on each album. I bolded the more notable albums, and I intend to dedicate lengthier posts for some of these bands in the future, but who knows when that will come to fruition?

Jan. 15

  • Mystery Jets – Curve of the Earth … Kind of a mid-to-late ’70s psych-rock vibe, like Portugal. The Man. Pretty solid album.

Jan. 22

  • Conrad Keely – Original Machines … Debut solo album from lead singer of … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead. Vocally, it reminds me of the lead singer of Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love.
  • Chairlift – Moth … “Romeo” is a great single; the rest of the album is subpar.

  • Aoife O’Donovan – In the Magic Hour … Overall pleasant and upbeat; slightly above-average. It’s nothing special, just nice.
  • The Temperance Movement – self-titled … This is just a classic bar band with the occasional softer tune. In the same vein as The Black Crowes.

Jan. 29

  • MONEY – Suicide Songs … Sounds like a shoegaze version of Conor Oberst.
  • Sia – This Is Acting … There are a lot of catchy songs that share the same formula — slow build into full-throttle electro anthemic chorus. “Bird Set Free” and “Move Your Body” were particularly notable.
  • Wet – Don’t You … This female alt-pop vocalist is very reliant on production effects. Lyrically, it sounds like toned-down remixes of Top 40 tripe. That said, it’s a catchy enough album that I’d listen to it again. Kind of like a guilty pleasure.
  • Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation … It’s a mix of blues-rock and Nuggets-era psychedelia — imagine what the Black Keys might have sounded like if they were born 40 years earlier. But it just doesn’t work for me.
  • Turin Brakes – Lost Property … Vocally, it’s a mix of Rural Alberta Advantage’s Nils Edenloff and Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett. Stylistically, it’s too complex to describe. Overall, it’s good, not great.
  • Cian Nugent – Night Fiction … Nothing special here. It’s a good album to put on as background music while doing chores or cooking dinner.
  • Cross Record – Wabi-Sabi … This is mostly just an eerie, airy voice; not much else here. This is kind of a poor woman’s Warpaint. It’s not horrible, just average at best.
  • Your Friend – Gumption … Very reminiscent to Beach House (I think?). This one may require a second listen.
  • Milk Teeth – Vile Child … It combines a lot of different elements from various genres, including pop’s catchy female vocals, punk’s snarling male vocals, the fuzzy guitars of shoegaze, some occasional whininess borrowed from emo, and plenty of early ’90s alt-rock attitude.
  • Basement – Promise Everything … This sounds like a band that was heavily influenced by Jimmy Eat World.
  • St. Lucia – Matter … This is some fun, poppy alt-electro with a bit of an ’80s feel — “Rescue Me” wreaks of Duran Duran and Erasure.

  • The Black Queen – Fever Daydream … A surprisingly above-average album. Vocally, it’s reminiscent to Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio, while the electro elements seem like something out of the ’80s — or perhaps old-school NES video games.

Feb. 5

  • Laser – Night Driver … Its 64 rating on Metacritic might be a little high. It’s just boring and uninspired electro-pop soul.
  • Beacon – Escapements … Some more boring soulful electro.
  • The Prettiots – Funs Cool … Here’s a girl group that churns out slacker acoustic pop with amusing, millenial-heavy lyrics and a punk ethos surrounding the whole thing.
  • Freakwater – Scheherazade … They remind me of what Son Volt might sound like if they were an all-female group.
  • Josephine Foster – No More Lamps in the Morning … She is kinda like Joanna Newsome, just more tolerable.
  • Porches – Pool … He’s not bad, but not great. It’s decent background music. “Car” was the lone standout.
  • Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale … This is some great, lo-fi, slacker mix of ’90s alternative and modern-day indie. There is definitely some Violent Femmes influence and probably some Neutral Milk Hotel in there.
  • Tuff Love – Resort … It’s got a good slacker-punk vibe with a British female vocalist. How can you go wrong?
  • Field Music – Commontime … This is very quirky indie rock in a similar vein as Of Montreal and Devo.
  • DIIV – Is the Is Are … This is a great sophomore effort full of airy-fairy goodness. “Bent (Roi’s Song)” and “Under the Sun” are standouts.

  • Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony … A good mix of lo-fi, shoegaze, psychedelia and good old-fashioned indie. The real key is the airy-fairy guitar mixed with the female vocals.
  • Mass Gothic – self-titled … At its best, the solo debut from Hooray For Earth frontman Noel Heroux is quintessential baroque pop, but there’s plenty of out-of-place filler ranging from lo-fi fuzz to electro-psych.

Feb. 9

  • Black Rivers – self-titled … This band, which includes former members of Dears, clearly has a mix of a lot of different influences. ”The Forest” sounds like a cross between Muse and Portugal. The Man. “Age of Innocence” is a could-be single very reminiscent of “Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio. “Coral Sea” sounds like current U2 vocally.

Feb. 12

  • Basia Bulat – Good Advice … This is a very catchy pop/folk album from start to finish for an artist that is slowly building a name for herself.
  • Pete Astor – Spilt Milk … It’s a good, solid album filled with British-accented folk-pop similar to many artists before him but still worth a listen.
  • Pinegrove – Cardinal … Throughout the album, this group conjures up thoughts of The Decembrists and Death Cab for Cutie, but there’s also some me and early ‘90s college rock mixed in for good measure.

  • Flowers – Everybody’s Dying To Meet You … This is kinda like a modern-day Cranberries, without the accent. It’s really nice.
  • Radiation City – Synesthetica … This act reminds me of St. Vincent.

Feb. 19

  • Fay Hield – Old Adam … If you’re looking for some pleasant Irish folk, look no further.
  • The Fall – Wise Ol’ Man [EP] … This is just a lot of incongruous junk and filler from a veteran group I doubt I’d like even in its peak form.
  • Sioux Falls – Rot Forever … At 16 songs and nearly 73 minutes, critics complain about the runtime, but I had no issues. There’s a lot of solid indie shoegaze to enjoy. “Dom” reminds me of a lo-fi/garage version of Blink 182’s “Adam’s Song”.

  • Seth Bogart – self-titled … This mishmash of various electronic effects and oddly sung lyrics combine to be rather off-putting.
  • The Cave SingersBanshee … This is a not great, not bad offering from this indie supergroup.
  • Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light … It’s certainly not their best work, but it’s mildly catchy at times.
  • Wolfmother – Victorious … It’s basically what you’d expect from this Aussie band’s fourth album. “Pretty Peggy” is different from the rest and also the best tune on the album.
  • So Pitted – neo … This is definitely on the heavier, punkier side rather than indie, as several sites had tagged it. It’s not really my cup of tea.
  • Marlon Williams – self-titled … It’s a good mix of classic country and alt-country with a little indie-folk mixed in.
  • Choir of Young Believers – Grasque … It sounds like a dude channeling his inner Sade, with underwhelming results.
  • Animal Collective – Painting With … This album is full of the band’s patented wonky, experimental indie-pop/rock. It’s an acquired taste and certainly not their best work.
  • Simple Plan – Taking One For The Team … I’ve never listened to any of this band’s music on purpose, but I have to wonder if it has changed its sound at all in the last decade.
  • TEEN – Love Yes … They have a very experimental sound. It’s reminiscent to St. Vincent.
  • Lake Street Dive – Side Pony … Here’s more of the bluesy rock that put this band on the map a few years ago and made Stephen Colbert fall in love with it.

Feb. 26

  • LNZNDRF – self-titled … An interesting mix of post-rock, electro and quirky indie from members of The National and Beirut. It seems like the type of music that gets better with repeated listens.
  • Holy Esque – At Hope’s Ravine … Vocally, it reminded me of ’80s rockers well past their prime, but the music and instrumentation kept my attention throughout. “Hexx” and “Silences” are standouts.

  • Bay Faction – self-titled … It’s an indie group with some definite jam band influences. It’s something of an acquired taste, one that I don’t have the palate for.
  • Bullion – Loop the Loop … An indie-electro outfit that is kinda reminiscent of Alt-J and Django Django. It definitely falls under the “acquired taste” category.
  • DMA’s – Hills End … More great stuff from this band that’s been tearing it up in its native Australia for the past several years. They clearly owe a debt to Oasis
  • The Dirty Nil – Higher Power … It’s better-than-average indie-rock with a definite punk ethos.
  • Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired … They’re vocally reminiscent to Joanna Newsome, but not as annoying or grating. “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” is definitely a keeper.

  • Mount Moriah – How To Dance … Judging by the name, the lyrics and the overall vibe, this sounds a lot like an alt-Christian band. The music is pleasant enough, but the whole church vibe rubs me the wrong way.

January 4, 2016

217 – Squarehead

Filed under: Ireland, S — assman41 @ 8:58 pm

A little more than a decade ago, if an under-the-radar indie band wanted to gain national exposure, it had to hope that some hip music director for a TV show or movie would happen across its music and use a song in the soundtrack.

You know what I’m talking about. Like back in 2004 when Adam Brody was raving about Death Cab for Cutie on The O.C. and Natalie Portman and Zach Braff were having their lives changed by The Shins.

Eventually, musicians took matters into their own hands via social media, such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. But they still know how powerful an endorsement can be when it comes from the right music site or blog.

The next iteration of that is podcasts, where anyone can gush to listeners about their new favorite bands in a way that can’t be replicated simply by the written word.

And that’s how I came to discover the band Squarehead, while listening to Domhnall Gleeson’s recent chat with the boys at Nerdist. The actor plugged a few favorite bands from his native Ireland, including FIDL and Delorentos. (Go here to listen to the interview, or just skip to the 37:20 mark.)

Regarding Squarehead, Gleeson said they were “like a mixture between Weezer and Nirvana and the Beach Boys or something.”

Personally, I don’t hear much grunge influence, unless he’s referring to the lo-fi quality that pretty much every indie band has these days. But there’s definitely plenty of Rivers Cuomo’s crew in there; nowhere more so than on “What’s Wrong”, the opening track from their 2013 album, RESPECT.

As for the “Beach Boys or something” line, he’s referring to the surf-pop vibe that a lot of popular indie bands have latched on to the last few years, best typified by The Drums. It can be heard throughout Squarehead’s album, especially on some of their catchiest tunes, such as “Swing” and “2025”.

(The above video was actually made by Gleeson, along with brother Brian, to help benefit his hospice charity, Immaturity for Charity.)

Just about every song from this Dublin trio is catchy to some degree. Some of the more notable tunes include “Two Miles”, “2025”, “Pulse”, “Magic Darts”, “Knives” and “John Of God”.

According to Wikipedia, the group began in January 2010 as a solo, acoustic project by lead singer and guitarist Roy Duffy. Along with Ian McFarlane (bass) and Ruan Van Vliet (drums), they released a couple of singles — “Fake Blood” and “Midnight Enchilada” — to critical praise before putting out their debut album, Yeah Nothing, in August 2011.

These songs are more homogenous but still catchy, and that surf vibe is even more prevalent. Besides the two singles, another standout is “Confident Girls”.

December 31, 2015

Best of 2015

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 8:56 pm

As you can tell by looking at this site, I had another subpar year when it came to blogging about music. I had a handful of posts in the first half of the year then dropped off the grid at nearly the exact same time as 2014.

Alas, music just isn’t as big a part of my life as it once was. But that’s not gonna stop me from sharing my thoughts on the year that was in music.

During my heyday, I would generally download albums, listen on my iPod, and rank the songs on iTunes’ five-star basis. Nowadays, I use Google Play almost exclusively to listen to music, so the most I can give to songs is a thumbs up or down. Also, the bulk of my listening is via playlists that are curated by a third party rather than full albums.

I found myself playing catch-up the past couple of weeks, trying to expose myself to as many of the “best” albums I could. But there’s still plenty that I either couldn’t get to or that simply fell through the cracks. Nevertheless, here is Infinite Shuffle’s take on music circa 2015.


  • CHVRCHESEvery Open Eye … None of these lists is in any particular order. However, if I was going to rank albums, this Scottish group would probably be at the top. … Thumbs up: “Never Ending Circles”, “Leave a Trace”, “Empty Threat”, “Make Them Gold” and “Keep You On My Side”
  • Beach HouseDepression Cherry … This group can do no wrong. … Thumbs up: “Sparks” and “Bluebird”
  • Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit … I was worried this Aussie wouldn’t be able to continue her strong start from several EPs on this debut full-length, but my fears were quickly abated. … Thumbs up: “Pedestrian At Best”, “Depreston” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”
  • Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home … This is a group that I wanted to write about all year but never found the motivation. Hearing it first via NPR’s SXSW primer then throughout the year on the Music Choice Indie channel, this all-female shoegazing quartet stuck with me throughout the year. … Thumbs up: “Joke” and “Time to Go Home”
  • Alabama ShakesSound & Color … I wasn’t exactly enamored with their debut album, so I was leery about this one. But they won me over with a more experimental sound. … Thumbs up: “Don’t Wanna Fight”, “Shoegaze” and “Sound and Color”
  • Modest Mouse – Strangers To Ourselves … This one was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I’ve never been a big fan of this group and have only liked a handful of its songs. But they knocked it out of the park on their first studio album in eight years. … Thumbs up: “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” and “Lampshades on Fire”
  • Title FightHyperview … This was one of my favorite discoveries this year. And it’s probably a good thing I didn’t find out about them sooner, since it wasn’t until this disc when things finally clicked. … Thumbs up: “Liar’s Love”, “Your Pain Is Mine Now”, “Mrahc” and “Rose of Sharon”
  • TurnoverPeripheral Vision … Another great find that shares several traits with Title Fight. … Thumbs up: “Humming”, “Cutting My Fingers Off”, “New Scream”, “Diazepam” and “Take My Head”
  • The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World … I doubt this group will ever make an album that doesn’t make my best-of-the-year list. … Thumbs up: “Make You Better”, “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, “Philomena” and “A Beginning Song”
  • Hop Along – Painted Shut … This was another group I’ve been wanting to blog about all year. In fact, I started a post in July, but never finished it. This is probably one of the most underrated albums of the year. … Thumbs up: “Waitress”
  • Kacey MusgravesPageant Material … This felt a little too much like a continuation of her debut album. But, considering how great the precursor was, she can be forgiven for going back to the well. … Thumbs up: “Biscuits”, “Dime Store Cowgirl”, “Pageant Material”, “Family Is Family” and “Cup of Tea”
  • Kurt Vilebelieve i’m going down … Just more of what you’d expect from one of the best solo artists in indie-rock today. … Thumbs up: “Pretty Pimpin”
  • Best CoastCalifornia Nights … When this group first hit the indie scene five or six years ago — depending upon how hip you were back then — it garnered a great deal of much-deserved hype. Three albums later, and these Cali kids are consistently putting out a top-notch mixture of surf-pop and shoegaze. … Thumbs up: “Feeling OK”
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller … Each year, there’s usually one country album that piques my interest. I hadn’t even heard of this troubadour until I was forced to watch the CMA Awards and he was up for just about every big honor. This is the kind of anti-bro country music that could actually get me interested in the genre. … Thumbs up: “Traveller”, “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Parachute” and “Fire Away”
  • DMA’s – self-titled EP … These lads from Down Under sound like the second coming of Oasis, Blur and all the best Brit Pop had to offer — just 10-times better. … Thumbs up: “Laced”, “Feels Like 37” and “So We Know”
  • FoalsWhat Went Down … There weren’t necessarily any standout tracks, just a few notable ones. But the album as a whole was a solid listen throughout. So much so, that it’s one you can listen to at any time and enjoy. … Thumbs up: “Mountain at My Gates”, “Night Swimmers”, “Lonely Hunter” and “A Knife in the Ocean”.
  • Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool … “Bros” and “Moaning Lisa Smile” are probably two of the best songs of the year. “Your Loves Whore” is also solid.
  • Josh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks … I’d never paid any attention to Josh Ritter until I heard “Gettin’ Ready To Get Down” a few months ago, and it might be my favorite song of the year. This album is a fun listen — not necessarily elite, just fun. Other notable tracks include “Young Moses” and “Homecoming”.


  • Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi … Long considered my favorite band, these guys have definitely fallen off from their prime. That being said, they’re still putting out solid music, just not elite-level stuff. … Thumbs up: “Black Sun” was the first single, but I think “Little Wanderer” and “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” are even better.
  • Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful … This album was definitely a good listen — and “Ship To Wreck” should be considered among the top songs of the year — but it isn’t one of the year’s best. … Thumbs up: “Third Eye” and “Make Up Your Mind”
  • Deerhunter – Fading Frontier … I think it may finally be time for me to give Bradford Cox’s crew the respect it deserves. I’ve been avoiding this group for years, since being forced to watch it at Bonnaroo and having Halcyon Digest shoved down my throat in 2010. My contempt began to dissolve a bit in 2013 with the release of Monomania, but I wasn’t convinced until now. There aren’t any real standouts here — although “Breaker” is probably my favorite — just a lot of solid tunes.
  • Grimes – Art Angels … I have a feeling I’ll never love an entire Grimes album. But, man, she knows how to churn out some catchy singles. … Thumbs up: “Flesh Without Blood” and “Realiti”
  • Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love … I wish I could get into this band, but I’ve just never been able to. I respect it greatly — particularly Carrie Brownstein — but, other than the occasional single, I just can’t buy in. That being said, this album was certainly tolerable, and I did enjoy “Bury Our Friends” and “A New Wave”.
  • Destroyer – Poison Season … It sounds like pretty much any other Destroyer album, which is an acquired taste. … Thumbs up: “Dream Lover”
  • The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily … As you would expect, it’s very reminiscent of The Black Keys, but there seems to be a more laid-back vibe than in Dan Auerbach’s main gig. … Thumbs up: “Put a Flower in Your Pocket”
  • Gwenno – Y Dyfdd Olaf … I definitely had heard nothing of this artist until a week ago. Turns out she puts out some decent music.
  • Miguel – Wildheart … If I was much of an R&B fan, I’m sure I’d love this. I can tell that he has a lot of talent, and, one day, he may create an album that I fall in love with. But I’d certainly rather listen to this than stuff in the next category.


  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly … This was pretty much a given; so much so that I wasn’t even going to give it a spin. But, considering how universally lauded it was, I figured I should at least show it some respect. That said, it’s just not my cup of tea.
  • The Weekend – Beauty Behind the Madness … As much hype as this artist and album received throughout the year, it didn’t show up on nearly as many “best of” lists as I would’ve expected. Perhaps that’s because of the reprehensible lyrics found throughout. This disc had so many things going for it, but the lyrics overshadowed everything else. And it’s the reason why something comparable such as Miguel’s album is earning more accolades this time of year. … Thumbs up: “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In the Night”
  • Tame Impala – Currents … I wrote off this band from the moment it came on the scene several years ago. But I occasionally second-guess myself after liking a random song. Then I listen to the album, and it turns out there are only a few songs worth my time. … Thumbs up: “Cause I’m a Man,” “Eventually” and “Let It Happen”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION … Everyone was so happy to see this Canuck finally break free from her “Call Me Maybe” curse. That’s all well and good, but she still produces music that is way too mainstream and derivative. She sounds like a poor man’s version of Taylor Swift, and I only have room for one pop queen on my playlist.
  • Jamie xxIn Colour … I’m a big fan of The xx, but their fans need to be warned that Jamie Smith’s solo project is almost nothing like his main work. Other than “Loud Places”, this album is unlistenable.
  • Girl Band – Holding Hands with Jamie … I nearly bought this album a few months ago, while in a local record store, based solely on its location in an “employees’ picks” section. Thankfully, I had a chance to sample it beforehand, because there isn’t a single bit of redeemable music on this disc.
  • Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon … The kid sounds like a hybrid of all the various Beatles’ solo work. He’s got potential, but I’ll pass for now.
  • Halsey – Badlands … “New Americana” channels the wordplay and apathetic rapping of Lorde’s “Royals”. Other than that, meh.
  • Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
  • ProtomartyrThe Agent Intellect


  • Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
  • Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  • Torres – Sprinter
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • Wilco – Star Wars
  • Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes
  • EL VY – Return to the Moon
  • DawesAll Your Favorite Bands
  • Mac DeMarco – Another One
  • Desparecidos – Payola
  • The Lone BellowThen Came the Morning
  • The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
  • Adele – 25
  • Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars


  • Natalie Prass – self-titled
  • The Districts – A Flourish and a Spoil
  • Twerps – Range Anxiety
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
  • Marina and the Diamonds – Froot
  • Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
  • Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness
  • Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
  • Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl
  • Alex G – Beach Music
  • Grill – Before the World Was Big
  • Joan Shelley – Over and Even
  • Bully – Feels Like
  • Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again
  • Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
  • Hound mouth – Little Neon Limelight
  • Seaford Mods – Key Markets

June 29, 2015

216 – Turnover

Filed under: T, Virginia Beach Va. — assman41 @ 4:39 pm

Considering all of the parallels between Title Fight and Turnover, it’d be reasonable to assume that I discovered the latter while listening to the former.

In actuality, I happened upon Turnover while listening to a New Indie Rock mix on Google Play. I liked several of the songs, but one in particular stood out. So much so that I stopped the mix and immediately focused my attention on this band.

Not only did I instantly fall in love with Turnover’s latest release, Peripheral Vision, but almost as quickly did I see an obvious connection to the aforementioned Title Fight.

In addition to sharing a producer on their latest efforts, both bands began in the emo/pop-punk genre before eventually transitioning to more of an indie rock sound. Title Fight’s evolution was gradual and came over several albums. Turnover morphed much more rapidly.

In his review of Peripheral Vision, Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen sums it up nicely.

“In each instance, a traditionalist punk band goes headfirst into more aqueous forms of indie rock, but retain qualities which put them at an advantage over the countless wan, limp bands who decided to sound like the Smiths from the beginning.”

Turnover formed in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2009 and put out a few EPs before signing with Run For Cover Records in 2012. They released their first full-length album, Magnolia, in 2013.

The songs on that disc were a little more toned-down their previous stuff. And maybe that’s because lead singer Austin Getz had more responsibilities after taking over rhythm guitar duties from the departed Alex Dimaiuat in 2012.

Throughout the album, Getz and Co. channel their inner Dashboard Confessional with varying degrees of success. But rather than come off as whiny teenagers pining for love, they seem more resigned and melancholy.

The 2014 EP, Blue Dream, seemed to be a statement to fans that the group was taking things more seriously. It’s just three tracks, but it includes “Read My Mind”, which is the first time Turnover had ever really taken whatever it is that makes them stand out and synthesized it into something more complete.

But even that release couldn’t have prepared the Turnover faithful for Peripheral Vision, which dropped on May 4 of this year.

The first things listeners are struck by are the new guitar sound and filtered — probably auto-tuned — vocals. Right off the bat, on “Cutting My Fingers Off”, it’s clear that there’s a lot more going on with this album, from instruments and vocals to the overall production. And all of it is adding to the sound rather than taking anything away.

“New Scream” is just as strong and leads into arguably the best track here, “Humming”. The opening melody pulls you in and keeps you hooked throughout. And the way Getz sings the chorus is reminiscent of Stornoway — just without the accent.

The album dips a bit on “Hello Euphoria” and “Dizzy on the Comedown”. Neither song is bad, they just get overshadowed by the preceding songs. The latter tune gets points for the line “It’s just a euphoric comedown,” which I can only hope is in reference to the former track.

Things pick up again with “Diazepam”, a song where you start out bobbing your head to the beat, but, by the end, you’re shaking your head in agreement with the lyrics. “Like Slow Disappearing” in another solid track that takes a backseat to its bigger brothers. “Take My Head” is a bit of a sleeper and has all the makings of a single.

Following a couple of filler tracks, the album closes on “Intrapersonal”, which sounds just like another song I loved from the past couple of years but cannot recall right now. (Feel free to listen to it and help me out in the Comments section.)

Turnover are still considered a supporting act, so this summer would be a great time to catch them before they break out. They hit the road in August, spending a couple of months in the Eastern time zone before eventually heading west in October.

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