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