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april 2016

Hotelier announced a new album called Goodness, and shared a track from that record called "Player Piano":

This band had one of my favorite 2014 indie rock debuts with their album Home, Like Noplace Is There, and while this continues in that same vein, it's a little more...rock-y than that release.

The production seems a little crisper, and the instruments are all a little more distinct and punchier in the mix. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing at this point——I'll probably need to hear the whole album to see how it plays out. But I'm glad to have some new music from them.

So. Andy Rourke (bassist for the Smiths) and Dolores O'Riordan (Cranberries singer) have formed a group called D.A.R.K. and shared a song called "Curvy":

The ONLY reason I wanted to give this a listen is because of the Smiths connection——despite the fact that even the two principal creative forces haven't produced anything geniuse in their various post-Smiths endeavors in 25 years, I still can't resist anything even remotely attached to that band.

This song isn't as bad as I thought it might be, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be buying this record. It sounds a bit like I might have expected from someone in the early 90s trying to co-opt some of Lush's vibe and combining it with Smiths/Stone Roses guitar sounds. But it's not particularly memorable, and it wouldn't have made much difference if the song had come from that time period originally——it still wouldn't have been a standout for that time period.

When I love an album, I usually get attached to very specific details——my favorite moments from each song, the way those moments interact with and refract one another in the context of the album as a whole, and very specific memories of where I was and what I was experiencing during my first few listens.

Sonic Youth records aren't like that for me. They're more like novels, which I generally remember in a very impressionistic fashion——moods, undercurrents, more like experiencing an aura than an experience I can pinpoint more precisely.

Sure, there are sometimes songs that stick out for me, but Sonic Nurse and Murray Street are perfect examples of this phenomenon——I can't name a single track nor could I likely identify a Sonic Youth track as having come specifically from one of those albums, but I know those are two of my favorite records of theirs, and I have a very strong sense of the emotions they will invoke in me when I listen to them.

There aren't too many bands like this for me——again, this is more typical of the way I experience books——but this is definitely the case for their entire catalog, as varied as that can sometimes be.

Car Seat Headrest's formal debut album (after a slew of self-produced Bandcamp albums), Teens of Style, was a slow grower for me but eventually became one of my favorite albums of 2015. Now Will Toledo is back with the follow up, a more proper studio album called Teens of Denial, and he recently shared a track from it called "Fill in the Blank":

This is a cleaner, more focused version of a lot of what I liked about the first record, so I'm pretty excited to hear this whole album. It doesn't have that same drowsy, gauzy feel that many of the purposefully underproduced tracks from Teens of Style, but this evolution is more like a clarification of purpose than it is a new mission statement.

I remain completely taken with Bent Shapes' Wolves of Want——I've listned to it nearly two dozen times already (I haven't listened to any other 2016 release more than half a dozen times), and I also went back and picked up their debut, Feels Weird, which has also gotten a half a dozen plays of its own (it's not quite as good as Wolves of Want, but still definitely a keeper, especially as it's clear that the band was still defining their sound and persona).

They're ocming to play Atlanta in a few weeks, but I'm not sure if I'm going to make it——it's on a weeknight in a dodgy part of town at a bar I've never been to before, and the chance of convincing someone to come with me is approximately zero. But it would be really great to see them live——I can only imagine how their raucous energy would translate in a live setting.

I'm still digesting Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, but despite the long wait and the massive buildup to its release, it's leaving me feeling mostly uninspired and feeling like for maybe the first time in his career, this known perfectionists overthought things a bit more than he should have.

There are some great tracks on here, and it hangs together well as a whole, but compared to the two very different but very effective statements he made with his previous two albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus, it feels more tentative and less sure of itself.

It's still likely to end up one of the year's best albums, but I haven't often had to let a Kanye album grow on me, and if this one is going to become a favorite of mine, it's definitely going to be as a grower.

After a five year wait for the follow up to Hurry Up We're Dreaming, M83 (fronted and primarily constituted by Anthony Gonzalez) have finally released the follow up, Junk.

I thought this was going to be a no-brainer preorder for me, but this in one case where an artist sharing music prior to an album release worked against him, because I was so turned off by the two songs he shared in the last coupld of months that I held off on preordering.

And now that it's officially and I can preview the whole thing, it's even less likely that I'm going to order it——it's just tonally so different than what he's done before that I'm not sure I can wrap my head around it. And it's not just a matter of me wanting him to stay more like he was——it's that these songs just seem genuinely contrived and uninspired. The title, at least to my ears, is one of the most honest and accurate in recent memory.

I might circle back in a month or two to listen to it again, and I wouldn't be surprised if I picked it up if it went on sale for $5 at some point, but I don't see myself purchasing this record at this point.

Tokyo Police Club recently release a surprise new EP (their first since their initial releases, which were both EPs, a decade ago) called Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness, Pt. 1, a jokey title that references Smashing Pumpkins' seminal double album, although neither the reference or the adolescent snark are indicative of the five songs on this record.

Instead, it's more of the rock solid guitar-based pop that they have produced consistently throughout their career——in another universe or another time in music history, they'd be the biggest stars on radio, and I can't for the life of me figure out why they can't gain significant traction while some large percentage of the audience. In my personal canon of unsung musical heroes, only Los Campesinos have been more criminally ignored than these guys, but at least Los Campesinos are weird and quirky enough for me to understand why they might not be to everyone's taste. With Tokyo Police Club, I just don't get it.

So this is my plea to you: if you're reading this and you have no idea who they are, go and give them a serious listen. Melon Collie isn't their absolute best work, but it's pretty indicative of their sound, so it's as good a place to start as any.

Two decades removed from their last release of new material, Lush is back with a Blind Spot, and it's pretty amazing, both because it picks up just where they left off in the 90s, but unlike many of their peers from that era, their shimmering, spectral threads of gossamer proved to be amzaingly prescient and timeless——you get the feeling that if they were to release their entire catalog as a new band over the next five years, they would be seen as just as innovative, original, and of the time as they were when they were actually released.

Blind Spot is only an EP with four songs on it, but you have to hope this is a harbinger of more recordings and a new full length sometime in the next year or so——it would be a shame for a band that vanished at their creative peak to demonstrate so definitively that they were still experts at their craft only to vanish again after briefly surfacing.

PJ Harvey's records tend to immediately pull me in or remain sort of undefined and nebulous for me no matter how many times I listen to them, and although I'm only a week into her most recent, The Hope Six Demolition Project, it's feeling like it fits in the latter category.

It starts out with perhaps her most hummable and engaging song ever, "The Community of Hope", but after that promising start, it starts to lose the plot a bit, and I'm can't convince myself that it ever gets back on track. Again, I'm very early in my experiences with this record, but my past history with her tells me that my immediate reactions tend to tell the story of what I'm going to think of her records——for the albums of hers that I love, I loved them immediately and fully.

It's never a good idea to write her off, so I'm definitely going to be engaging this one for a few more weeks to make sure, but I'm kind of bummed that, after the unqualified majesty of Let England Shake and the relatively long wait for its follow up (five years is the longest she's gone between releases in her entire career), I was hoping for another that I could fall in love with right away.

Deerhoof have announced a new album, The Magic, and shared a new song from that record called "Plastic Thrills":

There was very little chance that I wasn't going to order this record, since this band has just been too good for too many years for me not to automatically buy everything they put out, but this song sure seals the deal for me. It's got a weird mix of a 50s early-days-of-rock vibe mixed with a very distinct early 70s dawn-of-metal/glam rock thing that is simultaneously hard to reconcile and makes perfect sense. In other words, it's a near-perfect Deerhoof song in that it's pretty great and pretty hard to classify.

Hotelier shared a second track from their upcoming new album Goodness, this one called "Soft Animal":

This one reminds me more of the aspects of the band that I loved on their debut a couple of years ago than the first song they shared from this record ("Player Piano"), and the production certainly helps with that——it's a little muddier than on "Player Piano", and the arrangement seems a little looser too.

So: I was supposed to go see a Robyn Hitchcock concert last week, and I had even arranged for a babysitter so my wife could go with me. But the artist he was paired with was Eugene Mirman, a hipster comedian who is a favoite of the NPR crowd, and I wasn't really interested in seeing him, so I called the venue to see who was going to be going on first to minimize the time away from home, since my wife didn't want to see Mirman either. The show as supposed to start at 8 with Mirman, followed by Hitchcock around 9:30, so we planned to leave the house around 8:30 to make sure we could get to the venue and grab a seat in between the two performers.

The first hiccup happened when Will started feeling sick while we were having dinner with the babysitter, and by 8 it was clear that one of us was going to have to stay home with him. Since I'm a bigger fan and because I'm used to going to shows by myself, my wife volunteered to miss the show, and I planned to wait to leave until 8:45 just to make sure he didn't miraculously recover.

But then as I was about to leave at 8:40, I noticed a tweet in my Twitter feed from the venue stating that, contrary to what they had told me on the phone, Hitchcock had actually started the proceedings at 8:00, and that Mirman would follow at 9:30. Which meant that even if I left right away and didn't have any issues with parking, I might catch the final ten minutes of Hitchcock's show.

So I didn't end up going, and I'm pretty pissed at the venue for giving me bad information. I know, I know——I should plan to be there for the whole show even if there's an artist on the bill I don't think I'm interested in seeing, especially on a tour when they've been swapping headlining duties depending on the city, but still, I did my homework and I feel like I got cheated out of a show.