Craig Finn We All Want The Same Things
I’ve been sitting on this album for a long time patiently awaiting it’s release so the world could hear what I did. This is one of my favorite albums of the year if not my favorite. The former Hold Steady frontman channels his inner Springsteen and tells elaborate tales of the human condition, landing on the truth, “We All Want The Same Things.” Whether it’s “Junebug and Jester” “Nathan you’re my only friend.” or “James I’m glad that you’re here” we’re introduced relatable characters that help us access the triumphant highs and defeating lows of life. This is Finn's most ambitious and instrumentally diverse album. Whether it’s jangly folk or polished driving rock, Finn creates a new musical atmosphere for each song. Every song feels like a new scene in an anthology film, with a new director showing each scene through a different lens yet they all connect in ways. Finn has had a lot of experience as a storyteller and this feels like his Master’s thesis, the intersection of master storytelling and production expertise. I played the beautiful song “Preludes” on Best Song Ever.
Sera Cahoone From Where I Started
On her fourth solo album, the singer/songwriter and former Band of Horses drummer looks back on her life and reflects on what she’s learned and what she still wants to improve. She looks at where she is now compared to where she started. She talks about overcoming her stage fright, the untimely loss of a loved one, and her desire to be a “Better Woman” a better lover and a better friend. She has previously been classified as lo-fi country but that’s not the case on this album. This is crisp and clean country, consisting mostly of Sera’s soft and majestic voice over a gently picked guitar, with occasional swells of strings or guitars or harmonicas, helping the songs bloom into more elaborate compositions. I never knew that a phenomenal singer/songwriter was back behind Ben Bridwell all this time, and now I’m glad I was able to see the amazing music Sera is capable of creating.
Spiral Stairs Doris and The Daggers
Pavement’s Scott Kannberg a.k.a. Spiral Stairs enjoyed a couple years of quiet life in Australian countryside with his wife and child, before they grew tired of the country life and moved back to the states. He initially intended to record this album very quickly but the death of his friend and bandmate Darius Minwalla died caused him to make the songs more emotional and expansive. This extra time and attention to detail pays off, where he intended these song to be straight garage rock, now each tune is outfitted with synths, or affected guitar riffs, giving each song it’s own vibe and personality. Not only does this album sound great but it features a killer indie-rock lineup of contributors. The National’s Matt Berninger lends vocals on “Exiled Tonight” and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew lends vocals and Justin Peroff plays drums on the whole album along with bassist Matt Harris. I played the song “Dance (Cry Wolf)” on Best Song Ever and we talk about the video which stars Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle watch it here and watch the video for "Emoshuns" below.
Kendrick Lamar The Heart Part 4
Kendrick surprised everyone this week when he announced his album in one of the most unique ways. Over the course of this epic 5 minute track Kendrick updates us on where he’s at over a smooth, soulful composition repeating the chorus, “Don’t tell a lie on me and I won’t tell a truth about you.” The beat is constantly evolving with the tone, hitting harder, as Kendrick reminds us all who is “King Kunta” taking what many people believed to be veiled shots at Drake. The beat gets darker and more driving while Kendrick establishes “I am the greatest rapper alive,” reviewing his career and where he’s at now, while effortlessly weaving in musical and cultural references, social commentary, and even calling out Donald Trump. He ends it say, “Ya’ll got til April the 7th to get your shit together.” I was actually enjoying Drake’s new album and then Kendrick has to come along and remind everyone that he can’t be touched. His writing is so phenomenal because he covers so much ground in a way that doesn’t feel disjointed, while simultaneously making innovative choices that make his flow the most interesting to listen to. As he announce in the song his follow up to 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly is out April 7th.
Sufjan Stevens Saturn
You never quite know what to expect from a new Sufjan Stevens album. The multi-instrumentalist genius and Detroit native is always coming up with amazing new ideas and album concepts, whether it was the 50 states projects, the BQE symphony, or his fore into electronic music The Age of Adz. Now he’s following up 2015’s Carrie and Lowell, the scaled down folk album about the life and death of his mother, with an album about space. He’s enlisted musician friends like The National’s Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and James McAlister to compose an ode to the cosmos. This album was written and toured four years ago but now they’re finally putting the songs out as an album. I’m sure some people, like my cousin and co-host, will not like this more electronics saturated sound, with arpeggiated synths and heavily auto-tuned vocals. However, the genius of Sufjan is that he has his signature song structures and melodies that feel familiar, but he presents them in so many different ways, whether it’s electronic like this and Age of Adz or on All Delighted People where he did different genre versions of the title track. I am excited to hear what Sufjan music about space is like, I’m sure it will not disappoint. Planetarium is set to come out sometime this year.