Father John Misty Pure Comedy
What can you say about this album that Father John Misty doesn’t say on the album itself. This is a self-aware, prophetic, political, meta-masterpiece. On his first two albums as FJM Josh Tillman told stories of love and adventure, pages from the life of a Hollywood hipster, dense with sly sarcasm and cultural references. After a fully justified meltdown while playing a festival in the midst of the election cycle, Tillman decided to turn the focus of his music to skewering the frustrating customs and institutions of our country. He delivered probably one of the most daring and strange SNL performances, playing his 6 minute epic Pure Comedy, where he picks apart religion, politics, gender roles, and addiction. I was most excited when he played Total Entertainment Forever, which begins “Bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the oculus rift,” which garnered modest controversy, but I saw him play it at MoPop and thought it was a perfect cariciture of our entertainment addicted culture. Each song brings a new concept around this theme, whether it’s “Ballad of The Dying Man” in which he prophecies his own death, or the 13 minute “Leaving LA” in which he predicts the departure of many fans (ironic because i feel like he’s more popular than ever now) and tells a story of himself choking in a JC Penny’s as a kid. These songs are intelligent, deep, and though often sarcastic and satirist, heartfelt. I saw it in his face and heard it in his voice when he said to us at MoPop that he doesn’t mean to be insulting or pretentious. He offers kind warnings and paints a grim yet accurate picture of what the future holds. I played the titular “Pure Comedy” on Best Song Ever.
Joey Bada$$ ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
New York MC Joey Bada$$ has been making music since he was 15 years old, listening to his work it’s astounding how bright and insightful he is for his age. This is especially clear on his second full length, ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$. The 22 year old rapper presents musings on politics and race relations filtered through the lens of his life and experiences, giving these macro problems a individual perspective. In the lineage of great intellectual MC’s like Nas and Common, Joey speaks about the state of the world without feeling too preachy, rather feeling like a soldier in the ranks. The production on this album is so airy smooth, making these songs so inviting despite the sometimes tragic content contained within. Make no mistake this album is very bright and positive both musically and lyrically. Featuring the likes of Schoolboy Q and J. Cole, this album pushes Joey even further down the road to greatness. We always knew he was talented, but we’ve never seen him juggle social significance, personal expression, and sonic delight as effectively as he does on this album. Brian played the song "Rockabye Baby" on Best Song Ever.
Future Islands The Far Field
In 2014 Baltimore synth pop band Future Islands released Singles, it was their fourth album but it was the one that helped them gain notoriety. They made their Network TV debut playing Seasons (Waiting on You) which Pitchfork named the best song of the year. Now, they follow up their breakout album with The Far Field, carrying on their infectious synth compositions and Sam Herring’s unmistakeable, erratic vocals. The bright and bouncy instrumentals on this album are deceiving as the album largely focuses on the end of a relationship. Throughout the album Herring examines past relationships and the toll that being on the road takes. He often breaks the fourth wall, so to speak, talking about writing songs and being a musician, but it adds the context. Herring has such a strange voice that I wasn’t sure if I liked at first, but it’s so emotive and animated, so is his stage performance, that it’s endearing and powerful. Herring accepts the departure of his lover, understanding their motivations, yet still acknowledging the pain it’s caused him. This album was produced by one of my favorites, John Congleton, and I feel like it is the band’s best work yet. This is a beautiful examination of love that’s as catchy as it is heart-breaking.
White Reaper The World's Best American Band
On the Louisville punk band’s second full-length they successfully super-size their garage punk sound into giant arena rock. They channel the likes of KISS, ACDC, The New York Dolls, and more as they pack this album with powerful, catchy guitar riffs and inescapable melodies. Each song takes new chances with the guitar sound and general vibe touching on all areas of classic rock, each feeling appropriate and well placed. The World’s Best American Band is not just an awesome title but it’s the band’s mantra. Frontman Tony Esposito said, “ “Just like Muhammad Ali was the greatest, you gotta say it out loud for people to believe it.” This positivity is paying off as this is the best work yet. This album revives the spirit of party rock, where pop and hip-hop now have the party music market cornered, this harkens back to a time when rock and roll ruled the airwaves. I played the song "The Stack" on Best Song Ever check it out.
Aye Nako Silver Haze
Brooklyn punk band Aye Nako formed with a “community-oriented, anti-capitalist, LGBTQ-friendly ideology.” Now on their first full length on Don Giovanni they’ve refined their sound, delivering disorienting fuzzy punk with melodic swells that eventuate the vulnerable emotional lyrics. Singers Jade and Mars, are two sides of the same coin, offering varying yet connected perspectives of the queer black experience in America. These aggressive and uncertain sonics perfectly mirror that experience, even the prettiest melody isn’t safe from an off note thrown in to change the whole dynamic of the notes. This band is a part of an incredible music scene in Brooklyn with the likes of Vagabon and Epoch collective bands, and not only are they friends with some of these musicians but they all share an early aughts indie aesthetic that they all channel into different concepts and styles. I was expecting an album that would be emotionally significant but kind of brutal to listen to, and what I heard was the opposite. This album is full of energy and power and it presents a perspective that is not represented enough. Brian played the awesome single “Particle Mace” on Best Song Ever.
Tashaki Miyaki The Dream
The mysterious LA indie-rock band Tashaki Miyaki broke up before they even got the chance to be established, but now a couple years later they’ve reformed to deliver a gorgeous album. Frontwoman Lucy (not her real name) writes heartfelt, yet cleverly comedic, lyrics and croons over dreamy instrumentals. This album is a great marriage of noise, dream pop, and some 50’s soul influence. Beautifully layered orchestrations emerge from beds of fuzz as Lucy’s vocals are layered and effected so all elements make a sweet, hazy sonic atmosphere. Lucy’s vocals remind me of Jenny Lewis with the old Hollywood Americana vibe of Lana Del Rey. The striking album art perfectly demonstrates the beauty of this album where the band name demonstrates their goofy side (I mean they have a song called "Cool Runnings”). This is a combination I can get on board with. I played their song “Girls On TV’ on Best Song Ever and we watched the James Franco directed video starring the incomparable Juno Temple.
San Fermin Belong
When a band has both a male and female singer who trade off vocal duties, you’re going to have your favorite and the songs that the other singer leads are not going to be as good. With Belle and Sebastian the favorite is Stuart Murdoch, with Of Monsters and Men the favorite is Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir. However, on Brooklyn band San Fermin’s third album, both Ellis Ludwig-Leone and Charlene Kaye deliver some solids songs. I grouped this band in with other indie-rock/synthpop bands like Sylvan Esso, and they are in that same vein, but this album was much more impressive and engaging than I thought it would be. Ellis is a composer which makes perfect sense hearing these dense, textured pop songs that come off so effortless. Not only are the lyrics and vocals lovely, but the composition are an ever-changing tapestry of sound, that keeps every song interesting throughout. This band takes an oversaturated style and breathes new life into it.
Sweet Spirit St. Mojo
A Giant Dog’s Sabrina Ellis started a solo project that morphed into an 8 person rock band with a sound that is big, bold, and rocking. When Brian played their song “The Mighty” on Best Song Ever he said it was a “total Luke song” because it’s reminiscent of Queen, and indeed I did enjoy it quite a bit. The instrumentation on this album is interesting because it’s rich and layered with orchestration and 50’s girl group harmonies, backing up raw instrumentals and Sabrina’s unpredictable vocals. Whether she’s screaming about her childhood Dorthy Hamill haircut or her love of Pamela Anderson, her delivery is powerful, changing from speak-sung screams to operatic belting. At times this album is a bit goofy and over the top, but what do you expect from a sound this big? It’s gonna go over the top, and if you’re a fan of A Giant Dog, you know Sabrina likes to inject some levity into her music. I can truly say there is nothing else like this out right now. Brian played their epic song "The Mighty" on Best Song Ever.
Guided By Voices August By Cake
If you listen to Best Song Ever you know Guided By Voices, Grandaddy, and Ween were 3 90’s bands that are cult favorites and people have been telling me to listen to for years. I am now well acquainted with all of them and GBV is actually my least favorite of the 3 (David Obenour will literally kill me if he reads this) but that’s not really an insult because all of them are really amazing bands. Mainly what those 3 bands are is that in the midst of the 90’s grunge mania they made choices that set their music apart. GBV is really unique in the way that they are so prolific (this is Robert Pollard’s 100th album) and they make albums with 30+ songs that are all 1-3 minutes long. That’s a tradition they continued on this album. August By Cake feels like a sort of musical scrapbook, just quick glimpses of different stories and worlds. This is some grade a fuzzed out folk rock with Beatles-esque melodies and bold guitar hooks, yet with 30+ songs you have time for all manner of experimentation and they certainly experiment. I took a long time to get into this band but I am truly in awe that they can make music of this quality and this volume for so many decades. Happy hundredth Robert. Hear when Brian played the song “Hiking Skin” on Best Song Ever.
Diet Cig Swear I'm Good At This
The debut of Brooklyn pop-punk duo Diet Cig is the heartfelt yet self-deprecating autobiography of frontwoman Alex Luciano. The title I Swear I’m Good At This could apply to sex, love, socialization, or just life in general. That’s the thread running through this album, Alex is a young well intentioned woman trying to navigate love and life, and experiencing some comical follies. Like having sex with a person with the same name as her or just the quirky yet relatable comfort of having ice cream on your birthday. When songs aren’t fuzzed out, driving pop punk, Alex delivers a couple White Stripes-esque tender ballads. There are times when Alex’s voice feels a bit whiny, but overall this is a solid debut. The duo have a knack for writing infectious pop-punk and Alex’s writing captures that feeling when you feel like you have confidence in your abilities, talents, or personality yet that doesn’t come through when you want it to. That struggle between having big ideas that lack big execution. Brian played their song “Tummy Ache” on Best Song Ever.
Happyness Write In
In 2014, British indie-rockers Happyness made their debut with Weird Little Birthday channeling their alt-rock influences and garnering attention for a song where they talk about wearing Win Butler of Arcade Fire’s hair after scalping him. On their second album they broaden their horizons and channel the likes of The Beach Boys, Big Star, and Roxy Music to make lavishly textured 60’s influenced pop-rock combined with Jangle-pop and alt-rock influences making this album feel a strange kind of familiar. The band recorded in their Jelly Boy Studios which is in a building that is being redeveloped so this is kind of the end of an era for the band as this is the last album that will be recorded there. Who knows what the future holds for Happyness, but given the path they’ve been on I think we will just see them further develop their sound and explore new territories. I played the album’s expansive opening track “Falling Down” on Best Song Ever so check that out and then just continue listening to the rest of the album.
Tee Grizzley My Moment
The debut full length of Detroit MC Tee Grizzley is equal parts street aggression and glorious homecoming. After serving three years in prison for home invasions he returned home, contrary to the belief of haters, and got a record deal. Tee first made waves with “First Day Out” that chronicles his arrest, case, and homecoming in epic fashion. His style is really distinct, he raps in a sort of stream of consciousness way, he just goes without stopping, covering so much terrain. He holds back before unleashing his full force, which is mirrored by the swells in the beat. This album is not for the faint of heart, Tee is no joke, be prepared to hear a lot of death threats and brags about bitches. However, there are more vulnerable moments, with heart-breaking verses about people he’s lost and pain he’s endured. The aggression feels justified coming from someone who’s been to hell and back. This album is his triumphant return, his moment.
The New Pornographers Whiteout Conditions
The poster child for indie-rock supergroups in Canadian band The New Pornographers. Containing the immense talents of Neko Case, A.C. Newman, and Dan Bejar a.k.a. Destroyer, they’ve been a staple of the indie-rock landscape for over 15 years. They've developed their sound over the years going from raw indie-rock to more elaborate orchestrated rock. This is their first album without Dan Bejar and while Neko and A.C. can absolutely carry an album on their own, I do miss his presence. On this album they carry on the crunchy guitar and spiky synths that they implemented on their last album Brill Bruisers. However, for some reason that sound feels a bit played out on here. I really enjoyed the singles shared before the release of this album, and I even played "High Ticket Attractions" on Best Song Ever but this just didn't do much for me. I love the album artwork and much of the lyrical content is very relevant and the album is well done but compared to their last four records this one fell short for me. I'm sure I'll give it another chance and maybe appreciate it more, but it just had me longing for the old New Pornogs.
Allan Kingdom LINES
Canadian rapper Allan Kingdom has four mixtapes and a Kanye feature under his belt (last year’s Northern Lights was fantastic) and now with LINES he furthers his rise to greatness. Allan cites Cudi as a main influences of sound and that is definitely apparent. Cudi was one of the pioneers of the sing-speak style of rapping that now is extremely oversaturated, yet for certain artist it provides an interesting vehicle for their flow. Allan is one of the few rappers, alongside Lil Boat and Chance, who I enjoy doing the positive sing/rap stye, he also raps in the traditional manner, either way his flow and wordplay and super impressive and infectious. Allan is in with some indie rappers as well as heavy hitters, I was glad to see one of the former, Kevin Abstract a rapper/singer who’s music speaks a lot about his homosexuality. Compared to Northern Lights this album falls a little short, but if you were to throw any of these songs on I would still jam out cuz this guy can do wrong.
Shugo Tokumaru Hikageno
The music of Japanese multi-instrumentalist Shugo Tokumaru can best be described as a cacophony of awesomeness. For his new album Shugo enlisted a bunch of artists to record different part and then he pieced them together. The result is some of the most innovative and enjoyable music I've heard in a long time. This song begins as a tender acoustic ballad, yet constantly evolves with different sounds make appearances, ultimately building to a bitchin' guitar solo that you would think would be too jarring yet it perfectly fits. Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier adds some meandering drums that chaotically accompany Shugo's vocals as the song winds back down to it's basic part before ending. I am beyond excited for this album to come out and it's gonna totally fuck up the list I started for my best albums of the year, it's gonna up at the top. Check out the new episode of Best Song Everwhere Brian plays the song and we talk about it. Toss is out April 28th on Polyvinyl.
Frank Ocean feat. Jay-Z & Tyler, The Creator Biking
We got our second post-Blond Frank song today and it features Hov himself and Frank's ex-Odd Future bandmate Tyler, The Creator. Jay delivers an interestingly lo-fi verse comparing life's cycles to the wheels of a bike and so the bike metaphor begins. I'm still not entirely sure what "biking" is supposed to mean but I think it's kind of supposed to be used how Aimee Mann uses the ferris wheel to describe bipolar disorder: ups and downs around and round. Frank's verse is different that what we're used to from him. Instead of doing his signature meandering r&b vocals he does a sort of sing/rap sort of thing I would expect from D.R.A.M. or Chance. I don't mind it though in fact his flow on this song it super infectious. Tyler spits a pretty good verse and then Frank ends it with a cool scream/sung bridge in the end. I feel like everything Frank has done since Channel Orange has just been super strange (although that albums pretty strange too). Not sure if he has an album coming out soon but whatever he's up to I'm down with it.