Grandaddy Last Place
This album like many this week, Last Place marks the resurgence of a cult classic indie-rock act. Grandaddy. If you listen to my podcast you may have heard me get a lot of shit for not having listened to this band. It’s rare that a band can make a comeback record that holds it’s own against their classic albums. I’m sure some hardcore Daddyheads (I’m not sure they’re called that but they should) would make the case that their old stuff’s better, but just looking at this album objectively it’s quite a piece of work. Though much of instrumentals are a blend of guitars, fuzzed out and acoustic, there is some experimentation with electronics and voice-altering techniques, adding a modern twist on a style that is steeped in 90’s nostalgia. Jason Lytle’s voice and style tows the line between the cosmic psychedelia of The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and the rustic hospitality (D&D reference) of John K. Samson. Lytle’s soft inviting vocals tell stories of breaking down and starting over again. The music aptly captures this raw emotional feeling that so many of us know too well. This album comes off as so effortless, yet with gentle reminders of the intense thought, experience, and emotion that make up these songs. Brian played “Way We Won’t” which is an amazing song on the podcast check it out here.
Chicano Batman Freedom Is Free
Some retro acts feel forced an unoriginal, with the musicians trying to channel vintage styles that might be fun for a couple songs, but not for a whole album or career. However, some bands nail it and tap into a seemingly endless well of retro influence that they form into their own style. That is the case with LA’s Chicano Batman, combining Brazilian Tropicalía, early ’70s psychedelic soul, and romantic pop. If you’re a fan of glorious horn arrangements, sick organ solos, and incredible dynamic guitar music, this is the band for you. They take on the pressing issues of our time with swagger and soul, wearing matching formalwear and sounding like the belong on the radio in the 70’s. Amongst it’s many merits is the guitar playing of Carlos Arévalo. This is an amazing guitar album. No matter how heave the subject matter, these guys will keep you groovin. We played my favorite song on the album “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” on the latest episode of the podcast check it out here.
WHY? Moh Lhean
This is one I’ve been waiting on for a while, I’ve been listening to this album for months and I even interviewed Yoni Wolf for Ghettoblaster. After he experienced a health scare in Costa Rica, Yoni found himself empathizing with people in a way he never did before. This lead to him questioning life’s great mysteries and looking inward to examine how to move forward. This album has such a unique feel of being both tethered to the earth and reaching for the cosmos, with earthy folk instrumentals recorded on tape machines, countered with grand cosmic arrangements and production techniques that tamper with the traditional instrument sounds. This is a beautiful and profound philosophical album, I’m glad the world can now share in this great piece of work. Check out this episode of the podcast where I played the amazing song “This Ole King” and be sure to subscribe to Ghettoblaster Magazine to read my feature on Yoni in the upcoming issue.
When I went to see Kishi Bashi in 2013, the opening band took to the stage donning matching grey suits and they proceeded to give a passionate performance of what is now my favorite song of theirs “Honeymoon” This modest folk setup; piano, standup bass, and drums, made such a big sound and the three members all shared vocal duties and created beautiful harmonies. That band was Bombadil. I talked to the guys after the show and bought their album and I became a fan. Last year they released their album, Hold On, and while their folk style was still present they added in electronic drum beats and horns that felt a little out of place. Following the release of the album, founding member Stuart Robinson left the band. While he was an integral part of the band, they’ve lost members before and they pushed on. Their new album Fences finds them returning to their folk roots, these songs are scaled down based around guitar and vocals with pianos and percussion rounding out the compositions. Daniel Michilak has such a distinct, friendly voice that is supplemented with heavenly harmonies. This record is produced by one of my favorite indie-rock producers John Vanderslice, so this album sounds flawless. I’m happy to see this band that I love embracing what makes them great.
Ibibio Sound Machine Uyai
Sound Machine is right, there is no limit to the diversity of sounds produced on this album. These song feel dense with layers of instrumentation and electronics that it can be almost overwhelming at times, but it always delivers a cool groove. Mastermind Eno Williams lived most of her life in Nigeria, giving her the sensibilities of Nigerian funk (a genre I love) which she combines with dance music elements. Though it’s sung largely in the Nigerian language Ibibio, you don’t have to be multi-lingual to dance to these groovy tunes or pick up on the emotional vibe the songs. While it has it’s darker more emotional moments, overall this album feels like celebration music. I dare you to try not to tap your foot when listening to this album.
Sondre Lerche Pleasure
My first though was this sounds like Jens Lekman with synths and drum machines. Sondre Lerche is a Norwegian singer/songwriter who has been making music for over a decade, and over the years his style has varied and evolved. Pleasure finds him crooning songs about love and pleasure backed by innovative and engaging electronic compositions, erupting into 80’s pop influenced choruses. I feel like these songs have the bones of just great indie-pop songs, but this big at times intrusive electronic percussion and sounds add a whole other element that make these song as catchy as they are experimental. To quote my cousin and co-host Brian, I would describe this album with one word “bonkers."
Jordan Klassen Curses EP
Last year, Canadian singer/songwriter Jordan Klassen released his fantastic album Javelin, which found him expanding his “Fairy Folk” sound into well constructed tunes with grand compositions with epic crescendos. While he continues the gorgeous orchestration on the Curses EP he pulls back a bit, at times returning to the intimate folk style heard on his earlier albums. Klassen’s airy voice sometimes falls a little flat, though he does have a lovely falsetto that he often implements. However, the flashiness his voice lacks is supplemented by some really beautiful instrumentals. Every song on this album is expertly executed. Jordan opens up about his “curses” of anxiety and depression relating to relationships, aging, and fear. Lastly, I am obligated to give my girlfriend Kyle credit for introducing me to Jordan’s music, so there you go. It’s been cool to see Jordan grow as a musician over the past couple albums and this EP gives us another glimpse at that growth.