Infinite Shuffle

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.

June 13, 2015

215 – Title Fight

Filed under: Kingston Pa., T — assman41 @ 3:13 pm

When it comes to the four albums released thus far by Title Fight, NPR did a great job of describing the group’s evolving sound: “A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.”

Starting with 2009’s compilation disc, The Last Thing You Forget through Hyperview, which came out this past February, there is a steady progression from Warped Tour cast-offs to My Bloody Valentine’s heir apparent.

That first disc, which is a mix of early singles and whatnot, lives up to its emo/hardcore label. Sounding like any number of bands touted by Alternative Press, there isn’t a great deal of substance here.

But with the release of their first studio album, Shed, in May 2011, Title Fight started to show signs of potential, growing heavier and “shedding” the pop-punk vibe. Particularly halfway through the disc on songs such as “Safe in Your Skin” and Where Am I?”

They didn’t take long to show their growth, when, in September 2012, they dropped Floral Green, a much heavier album with almost nary a sign of their pop-punk past.

Now, with Hyperview, the evolution appears complete for the Kingston, Pa., quartet. The disc opens with a very chill, shoegazey “Murder Your Memory” before launching into the mumbled, MBV-soaked “Chlorine”. That vibe continues on the more-decipherable “Hypernight”.

Those three songs, while solid in their own right, are like a preamble before things really take off, starting with “Mrahc”, the first track that seems single-worthy and sees everything starting to click. Then there’s “Your Pain is Mine Now”, which is arguably the most complete song on the album.

“Rose of Sharon” is another catchy tune that manages to differentiate itself from those preceding it. “Trace Me Onto You” feels like above-average filler, and it takes an interesting change of pace about halfway through the track.

“Liar’s Love” is a great example of the group’s sound and the other main contender for top song. It’s no wonder NPR picked it for its Austin 100 mix. It’s followed by “Dizzy”, which is an extra-slow tune that brings you back down to Earth before “New Vision” puts a little pep in your step and sends you on your way.

It’d be nice to think the group has found its sweet spot and will explore this sound for a while, but who knows with these guys.

April 26, 2015

214 – Radical Dads

Filed under: Brooklyn, R — assman41 @ 3:21 pm

It wasn’t until about a month ago that I first heard of Radical Dads. And that was only somewhat in passing when they were mentioned in a Paste article about creative album cover artwork.

Shortly after, a friend mentioned listening to them, so I figured I’d give them a try. And, thankfully, I persevered through the first couple of irredeemable tracks and found something more inviting on the other end.

Universal Coolers, which came out Feb. 25, is the third album by the Brooklyn-based trio. It’s also the best offering thus far as they’ve taken the best qualities of their first two discs — 2011’s Mega Rama and 2013’s Rapid Reality — and synthesized it into something more palatable.

That’s not to say the earlier offerings were hard to listen to. They were just inconsistent with more filler than standouts. “Walking Wires”, off Mega Rama, was probably the best example of their overall sound on that album. Other notable tracks are “New Age Dinosaur” and “No New Faces”, the latter of which is reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky — but with vocals.

The group took a half-step back on the follow-up, cramming it with too much filler and unnecessary distortion. The few worthwhile tunes include the title track and “Stampede”.

Which brings us to the latest disc. The only possible reason I could see wanting to listen to the first two tracks is to make the rest of the album sound that much better. Radical Dads put the best stuff in the heart of the order in tracks 3-5 — there are 10 tracks, so we’re obviously likening this to a slow-pitch softball team not an MLB squad.

“Slammer” and “In the Water” are the first signs that this could be a band worth paying attention to in the future. Then along comes “Don’t Go”, and you start thinking, “Man, this might be an album I come back to sporadically for years to come.” It’s probably not accurate at all, but it feels like this is the band’s first song with a normal verse-chorus-verse structure. It won’t be topping any best-of-the-year lists, but it may be worthy of an honorable mention.

Next up is the title track, which is another strong entry before things start to wane a bit. Thankfully, the album closes on a high note with “Cassette Brain”, a previously released single.

March 13, 2015

2015 SXSW preview

Filed under: SXSW — assman41 @ 3:23 pm

A few years ago, in advance of attending SXSW, I went through the entire 1,200-plus-song torrent and weeded out all the riff-raff before posting a comprehensive list of tracks that piqued my interest.

Not since then have I been so prolific. I did download another year’s torrent, but I can’t even remember how far I made it.

This year, I am once again spending my March in the Midwest, wishing I could be in Austin. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some of the best bands the festival has to offer.

As he has done for the past several years, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson has compiled a playlist of 100 of the top acts playing at SXSW. The Austin 100 is a great mix of just about everything you’d want to hear or see throughout the week.

That being said, no one is going to agree with NPR’s recommendations 100 percent of the time. In fact, I only “favorited” 40 of the songs — but that doesn’t include songs by Alvvays and Courtney Barnett.

The nice thing about this year’s stream is that once you’ve made it through all 100 songs, you can switch over to Favorites mode and only play the songs you liked.

Below is a list of the acts/songs I picked out. Since the festival is already in full swing and I don’t have a ton of time, I’m just including the brief description that NPR wrote.

Now, go listen to the mix — you can also download it for a few more weeks — and discover some new favorite bands. I know I’m gonna be referring back to this list throughout the year for new bands to listen to.

  • A. Sinclair – “Shiny Things” … A band that knows its way around dense, dramatic rock anthems.
  • Amason – “Älgen” … The Swedish pop quintet sprawls in five directions at once.
  • Charlie Belle – “Get To Know” … Three teenagers play pop with subtlety beyond their years.
  • Chastity Belt – “Time To Go Home” … Smart, unpredictable, feminist indie-rock.
  • Cheerleader – “Perfect Vision” … Bright, shimmery pop-rock, suitable for fist-pumping.
  • Cold Mailman – “Moments” … Synth-y, boy-girl indie-pop that builds and builds.
  • Colony House – “Silhouettes” … A band that knows its way around an alt-rock anthem.
  • Count This Penny – “Shoebox Scene” … Graceful country-pop with gorgeous vocals and Appalachian roots.
  • Donovan Wolfington – “Keef Ripper” … Speedball power-pop with a party-friendly vibe.
  • Fatherson – “I Like Not Knowing” … Scottish-accented rock that builds from a whisper to a storm.
  • Field Mouse – “Everyone But You” … A fizzily agreeable dream-pop charm offensive.
  • Genevieve – “Colors” … Company Of Thieves’ frontwoman sings bouncy anthems of affirmation.
  • Geographer – “I’m Ready” … Openhearted pop-rock, powered by a throbbing synthesizer.
  • Hanne Kolstø – “We Don’t See Ourselves” … Toy-box pop that charms, clatters and soars.
  • Hinds – “Bamboo” … Finds a way to make garage-rock primitivism shimmer.
  • Houndmouth – “Sedona” … A Midwestern roots-rock band relocates its heart to the desert.
  • Howard – “Falling” … Stormily percussive folk-pop that prioritizes atmospherics over uplift.
  • Joan Shelley – “First Of August” … Weaponized melancholy, with tender beauty that soothes.
  • Jukebox The Ghost – “The Great Unknown” … Piano-fueled pop, readier than ever for stardom.
  • Kaleo – “All The Pretty Girls” … Falsetto-fueled balladry meets Icelandic grandiosity.
  • Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – “Bubblegum” … An introspective singer sheds his quiet side, lets it rip.
  • Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out” … Mile-wide pop-rock, suitable for radios everywhere.
  • Kristin Diable – “Time Will Wait” … A rollicking bar-band throwback, but with maximum star power.
  • La Luz – “Pink Slime” … Garage-rock that’s both playfully light and cavernously booming.
  • The Last Year – “Mania” … Rockers explore synth-pop with sparkling results.
  • The Lees Of Memory – “We Are Siamese” … Superdrag vets play shoegaze rock with an epic swirl of guitars.
  • Makthaverskan – “Witness” … Garage-rock intensity, with enough drama to fill an arena.
  • Moving Panoramas – “Radar” … Dreamy pop meets shoegaze rock to form what the trio calls “dream gaze.”
  • Quiet Company – “Understand The Problem” … Songs about losing faith are rarely this hummable.
  • San Fermin – “Jackrabbit” … Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s chamber-pop keeps getting bigger and busier.
  • Screaming Females – “Ripe” … Scrappy hard rock with big guitar solos, bigger vocals. … Sidenote: this was actually the very first band I saw live upon arriving at SXSW in 2011.
  • Skylar Spence – “Fiona Coyne” … Ludicrously catchy funk-pop from a guy who used to call himself Saint Pepsi.
  • Spring King – “City” … Exactly as its name implies: rock ‘n’ roll for a sunny day.
  • Sunny Sweeney – “Second Guessing” … Smart, salty country songs about figuring life out while we can.
  • Title Fight – “Liars Love” … A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.
  • Twerps – “Back To You” … Playful, almost primitive at times, and infectiously sweet.
  • White Reaper – “Cool” … Ramones-y pop-punk that wastes few words or chords.
  • Wild Party – “OutRight” … Sleek power-pop that reaches beyond the rafters, all the way to the stars.
  • Young Buffalo – “Sykia” … Insistent, harmony-intensive power-pop with gigantic choruses.

March 9, 2015

213 – Little Racer

Filed under: Brooklyn, L — assman41 @ 1:05 am

When I started this blog several years ago, many of the bands I was writing about fell into the indie-folk category. Not only was I posting about groups such as Mumford & Sons, Dawes and The Head and The Heart, I was often referencing them while drawing comparisons to a slew of up-and-coming bands.

Eventually, my tastes shifted toward a more airy-fairy, lo-fi beach pop sound. Bands such as Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and The Drums were prominent in that ilk and often earning shout-outs in future posts.

I figured that wave would slowly die off and be replaced by another sub-genre. To a certain degree it has, but it always seems to be simmering on the back burner, just waiting to boil over with another slew of similar-sounding bands.

The latest is Little Racer, a four-piece outfit from Brooklyn that combines all that is great about those aforementioned groups. With its 2014 EP Modern Accent, the band took that catchy, indie-beach vibe and took it somewhere new by adding a clear punk attitude.

That is “Vanessa”, one of the standouts among the six songs on the nearly year-old release. The intro sounds reminiscent of The Vaccines’ “Post-Breakup Sex”.

The disc opens with “Fake French”, a mid-tempo ditty that sounds like a slightly punk version of The Drums. The group beats The Drums drum again on “Ghosty”, a song that also sounds like the closest link to Little Racer’s raw 2011 debut offering, a two-track EP.

In case they hadn’t shown how punk they are, Little Racer close out the recent EP with “Punk Life”, which gives off a weird, “we don’t care if you like this, but we secretly hope you do” vibe throughout the song.

The catchiest song here is the second track, “Dancing”. It sounds like something you might hear on an episode of “The Inbetweeners” — the original British version, that is — or more likely in an Expedia commercial. (That gives me a great idea for a future post.)

Thus far, the crew’s catalog is still in the single digits, so it’ll be interesting to see where they take things from here.

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