Jens Lekman Life Will See You Now
Jens Lekman is veteran indie-rocker from Sweden, for so long I had heard of him but just started paying attention with this new album. The first single we got was “What’s The Perfume That You Wear” where dark pulsing guitar erupts into a poppy eastern-influenced chorus, telling the story of a smell triggering the memory of his long lost love. Next Jens appeared on All Songs Considered and discussed “Evening Prayer” the fictional story of a man who makes a replica of his tumor that was removed, told from the point of view of a casual friend who joins him for a beer and shows that he cares. On this album Jens tells rich stories full of love, fear, friendship, and folly all done through the vehicle of bright uplifting European pop tunes. Though his influences are multi-cultural and geographically diverse this album does feel disntinctly European, with the casual aplomb of Serge Gainsbourg. On the surface these songs are fun and catchy but if you pay attention to the human stories within they gain more value. I’m now a die hard Jens fan after this album, his penchant for pop storytelling is unmatched.
Tall Tall Trees Freedays
Mike Savino has played under the name Tall Tall Trees for a while but he makes his label debut with Freedays. I’ve seen him play solo and as a member of Kishi Bashi’s band and his signature is using the banjo in interesting ways, whether it’s flashing lights or ripping off crazy solos or using it’s body for percussion. He wrote this album while taking care of an abandoned medical facility in the woods, which sounds creepy but clearly it helped with the earthy feel of this album. He transfers his banjo innovations to these songs with thunderous percussion, backing up flawless instrumentation and bold vocals that make for soaring crescendos. Savino melds folk, rock, country, and soul together into an explosive and emotive concoction. His banjo talent is really astounding, apparent on “SeagullxEagle” where he picks beneath cute lyrics and string arrangements that burst into a pop groove. K. Ishibashi was definitely involved and you can hear his influence on that song in particular. Mike’s years of innovation and experience have made for an impressive and astonishing label debut. I played the opening track “Backroads” on my podcast, check it out here.
Jidenna The Chief
The classic man himself Jidenna released his debut album, The Chief, this week. I have an interesting relationship with this guy’s music, I COULD NOT STAAAAAAND "Classic Man” and I still don’t like it, the beat is cheesy and his melody in just simply not enjoyable. From the image that song gave me Jidenna claimed to be this “Old Fashioned Man” with his 3 piece suit and slick hair, he seemed to be the Michael Buble of Hip Hop (I would even hesitate to label him as hip hop more like r&b or just pop). So naturally when this album came out and was well received, even given the Album of the Week honor by Stereogum, I decided to give him another chance. I came in with some skepticism and my mind was changed immediately. I love this album and I’ve been addicted to it. From the start he spits some hard hitting verses, with a charming braggadocio so his brags don’t come off as douchy because he’s the hero of the story and you root for him. These gangsta verses are countered with the songs for the ladies, like “Trampoline” where he croons an important message about female sexuality, “The lady ain’t a tramp just cuz she bounce it up and down like a trampoline.” The production on this album is dynamic, switching from driving sample based songs in the style of Kanye and Pusha-T and updated big band instrumentals fitting for the hip hop Sinatra. This album is proof that first impressions can be deceiving and you really should never fully write someone off because chances are they have something to offer.
Sam Patch Yeah You, and I
Tim Kingsbury is a multi-instrumentalist in one of the biggest, and one of my favorite, indie-rock bands Arcade Fire. Last year Arcade Fire’s Will Butler released his fabulous solo debut Policy and now Tim has released his solo debut under the moniker Sam Patch (named after the evil kenevil of the 1800’s). Listening to both Policy and Yeah, You and I and considering that immense talents of musical power couple Win Bulter and Regine Chassange it’s no wonder Arcade Fire is one of the finest bands around, as it is the confluence of so many skilled musicians. This album is insanely catchy and well produced, whether it’s crunchy guitar, glorious harmonies, or bouncy synth-pop hooks these songs will burrow into your brain and set up shop. It’s hard to even choose a favorite because they are all amazing in their own way. Tim combines folk rock, alternative county, and electro-pop into a polished uplifting indie-rock sound that takes on a life of it’s own. It’s cool hearing members do their own thing and being able to trace back their contributions to what I now view as a supergroup, Arcade Fire. Like I said they are one of my favorite bands of all time, I was already loving this Sam Patch album and then I found out it was a member of AF and it was done. This is a super promising debut from Kingsbury and hopefully he’ll deliver some more fantastic albums like this in his time between Arcade Fire albums.
Animal Collective The Painters
Last week Animal Collective released a song that summed up the tone of the life right now, “Kinda Bonkers” which we played on the podcast listen here. With this subtly political song they announced the follow up to last year’s Painting With a sort of epilogue, The Painters. Where the first two tracks follow a similar trajectory of the previous album, Animal Collective is never done surprising it’s listeners. The last two tracks a very big and bouncy and a lot of fun, including the final track “Jimmy Mack” a cover of Martha and The Vandells 1967 song. This ep seems to have more energy and life than Painting With, which had it’s standouts but also moments of chaotic dissonance as well. These songs find that balance of innovative and experimental and interestingly infectious that is really Animal Collective at their finest. To quote a friend of mine, “They could like take a shit on me and I’d love it,” while that is true that i will love and appreciate anything they put out, like 2008’s Fall Be Kind this ep really stands out.
Ryan Adams Prisoner
Veteran Canadian singer/songwriter Ryan Adam released his album Heartbreaker 17 years ago and it is regarded as one of the best breakup albums of the 21st century. Well now it has competition as his new album Prisoner chronicles the erosion of love and the eventual divorce from his wife Mandy Moore. While this subject matter is pretty dark and heavy, these songs a bright and weightless, with swirling guitars and echo-y 80’s-eqsue drums. These songs are beautiful examinations of love, we see Ryan fight relentlessly for his love ultimately to no avail and he's haunted by the memories. We walk with Ryan on the road to recovery as he paints vivid pictures of staring into the abyss of late nights, loneliness, and grief. Each lyric hits so hard as you can feel the pain and experience that informs it. The only glimmer of hope comes from the instrumentation, if these songs weren't so bright this album would be too depressing as the lyrics are unapologetically grim. Ryan Adams is the Springsteen of our time, which is a good and bad thing, his voice and style are so steeped in 80's influence that it feels kind of played out. I know everyone has a boner for this album and it is beautifully written I just feel like this style bores me. However, Ryan Adams is a brilliant and emotionally insightful guy who I greatly respect, check out his awesome appearance on All Songs Considered.
The Courtneys The Courtneys II
Canadian pop-punk trio The Courtneys make what they describe as “Flying Nun” inspired pop punk. They were big fans of the Flying Nun record label and now they’re singed to it. Under the aliases Crazy Courtney, Classic Courtney, and Cute Courtney who plays drums and leads the vocals, flanked by her compatriots who provide lovely girl group harmonies. This album is full of effortlessly catchy, hazy, sun-soaked pop punk tunes. Cute Courtney’s voice is perfectly suited for the swelling pop choruses found on this album. They take elements of classic hard-hitting punk and cloak them in a curtain of echo and fuzz. This a pleasant pop-punk album that is easy to sink in to and slide through. We played their awesome song "Tour" on my podcast check it out here.
Strand of Oaks Hard Love
Under the moniker Strand of Oaks, singer/songwriter Timothy Showalter made earthy folk rock, but as of late his sound has evolved. On his new album Hard Love his sound gets much bigger, and transitions from folk to blurry rock, with arena-rock drum fills and Showalter’s leveling voice countered with hazy guitars and synths. In Springsteen-esque tells evocative stories about love, drugs, nostalgia, pain, and the search for meaning in this life. This marks a new chapter for Strand of Oaks and he’s headed in an effective new direction. Brian played the nostalgic single “Radio Kids” on the podcast check it out here.
Electric Guest Plural
In 2012, Cali-based synth-pop duo Electric Guest released their debut album Mondo, which fit perfectly into the indie-pop lanscape with the likes of Empire of the Sun and Metronomy. I loved this band back then because they made songs that were just so catchy and smooth that it’s impossible not to love them. Now they’ve returned with their sophomore album Plural and they continue this trend. This album is full of subdued yet moving pop production with soft synths and Asa Taccone (brother of the Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone) has the voice of angel, and insane range. I listened to this as I sat in traffic after a Run The Jewels show with my low fuel light on and this album soothed my bubbling anger and anxiety. These guys appeared on my favorite podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! and they have an awesome video for “Dear To Me” where Asa does some sick Hotline Bling-esque dance moves, and the ladies from HAIM make an appearance, watch here. This is a great sophomore effort for a band who has a knack for making heart-felt pop songs.
Another artist that I’ve had a bit of a contentious relationship with is Future. I think part of the reason I didn’t like Future is because he did so many songs and an album with Drake, and his uber auto-tuned mumble rap style bored me. It’s no secret I haven’t been a fan of trap music in the past, but I’ve been enjoying Migos and Lil Yachty as of late, and I recently watched the Noisy doc about Atlanta’s rap scene, and it helped me appreciate the genre more and understand the motivations of the artists more. This album is the best one I’ve heard from Future, there is an energy in his flow that was previously not present. Although, there are many droning mumble moments where I lose interest, but for the most part this album is pretty engaging and catchy. The production is more engaging as well, though it is still pretty hazy and dark, elements are added that make songs interesting and “Draco” is the closest thing to a Future song in a major key. Overall, I would say this is his most accessible album yet, but it’s still about 10 songs too long. Considering that he’s released 4 albums in the past two years and appeared on an insane amount of songs, I know he’s about making money but there’s something be said about quality over quantity.