The Canadian art rock collective Broken Social Scene are returning from a seven year hiatus and releasing a new (as yet untitled) album sometime this year, and they recently shared a new song from that record called "Halfway Home":
This is pretty standard Broken Social Scene fare, but for those of us who think their standard fare is pretty great, it's nice to know that they're back and are picking up where they left off. Psyched for a new album, and I would kill if they toured somewhere near me——I've only seen them live once, but it was one of the most memorable shows I've been to.
The revamped Dirty Projectors (minus guitarist/singer Amber Coffman) released their album that chronicled the breakup of Coffman and Projectors frontman David Longstreth earlier this year, and now Amber Coffman is on the verge of releasing a record that will presumably detail her side of the story. It's called City of No Reply, and she recently shared "No Coffee" from the album:
There's no way to avoid comparing these two records and how faithful they each are to the pre-breakup Dirty Projectors sound. On this track, you can definitely hear some of the same styles and sounds used in Dirty Projectors, but there's a more breezy, poppy sound that is far more oriented to the mainstream than anything on Longstreth's recent release.
I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing——anyone who has been reading this site for a while knows that I'm not ashamed of loving pop and rock hooks (although most of modern popular pop music is beyond me), and I always struggled a bit with the more esoteric elements of Dirty Projectors, which sometimes felt like they were being difficult just for the sake of being difficult and arty, purposefully subverting the latent appeal of their work.
Anyway. Love this song, and looking forward to hearing the full album.
4.12.17 Animal Collective have released a companion EP to their last album, Painting With, called The Painters. It has four tracks, including a cover of the Martha and the Vandellas track "Jimmy Mack" that has become a staple of their live shows on their most recent round of touring.
The star here is the first track, "Kinda Bonkers", which is exactly that in the way that you would imagine how Animal Collective would manifest that phrase musically. It's goofy fun that fits in really well with the overall tone of the Painting With album, and could have easily been included on that record.
The other tracks aren't bad, they're just clearly b-side material. "Peacemaker" is more meditative and employs a vocal style similar to "Hocus Pocus" and "Summing the Wretch" that renders the lyrics mostly unitelligible in favor of using the vocals as another purely musical element to complement the synthesizers. "Goalkeeper" is bouncy and silly, and while the band seems to have real affection for "Jimmy Mack", I don't have a lot of affection for it either as an unorthodox cover or purely as an Animal Collective track.
Worth getting for fans, but a casual listener who sometimes likes to throw an Animal Collective track onto their shuffle playlist would be best served by focusing on "Kinda Bonkers".
A couple of days ago we went to see the Decemberists at the Fox Theater. It was only the second time I've been to the Fox in my life, and the first since we moved to Atlanta five years ago, and it was a pretty special night. Here's the setlist:
We Both Go Down Together
Down by the Water
Till the Water's All Long Gone
Everything is Awful
Red Right Ankle
This Is Why We Fight
The Chimbley Sweep
The Crane Wife 1 & 2
The Crane Wife 3
As far as the song selection, the highlights were "The Tain" (which we've only seen peformed one other time) and the first encore when the band played the entirety of "The Crane Wife" in order. Otherwise it was a pretty generic set for the band, but any show that features "The Tain" automatically gets huge bonus points.
What really made the night unique was the VIP ticket package that I was lucky enough to get way back in February when tickets first went on sale. Not only did it give us front row seats (we were four seats from dead center), but we also got to sit in on the end of soundcheck, where the band took some questions from the audience and played three or four songs.
The regular tickets went on sale before the VIP packages, so just in case I didn't get the VIP tickets, I had also purchased a couple of regular seats that were also pretty good——about 20 rows back in the center section of seats. I wasn't able to unload those before the show so after the soundcheck but before the show started, Julie and I went up to the balcony and found a couple sitting in one of the farthest rows back and gave the tickets to them as an upgrade. They seemed like big fans and were pretty happy to move down to good seats on the floor.
Because we were right up front, I was also able to get one of the roadies to give me a setlist, which we will add to the tickets, a signed poster, and our VIP lanyards to make a nice framed remembrance of this very cool and very special evening.
There's been a real resurgence of pop punk bands with female singers in the past couple of years, and the latest one that's come to my attention is the Courtneys, a trio of women from Vancouver, one of whom is actually named Courtney.
I picked up their second album, The Courtneys II, based on a couple of streaming listens and consistently good reviews, and while I don't regret the purchase——there's some solid pop songcraft here——it hasn't worn as well as I'd hoped it would. The songs are a little too midtempo, a little too long, and tend to blend together too much when you listen to the whole album straight through.
I have to return to one of the Ur-fuzz guitar,
female-fronted pop bands for a comparison: the Primitives. This record sounds like what the follow up to the brilliant and still underappreciated
4.19.17 Girlpool recently shared another song, "It Gets More Blue", from their upcoming sophomore album Powerplant:
This isn't a terrible song, but there's very little about it that reminds me of all the reasons I loved Girlpool's debut album. This is soft rock that could have been made by any indie guitar band with a female singer between 1990 and today. I don't actually want Girlpool to get too much better at playing their instruments or writing songs or recording songs that sound like typical indie rock——it was their low-key, lo-fi, almost amateurish playing and sincere enthusiasm that made their last record so charming.
It's almost inevitable that this will happen to them at some point——you can't play music for a living day in and day out and not eventually start to get better at it and want to show off your more expert playing skills——but I thought we might get another album or two before the drive to sound like a more traditional indie pop band in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience would kick in. I obviously need to hear the whole album to know if this is an aberration or par for the course for the new record, but either way, it's a bad sign for the future output of this duo.
4.20.17 Wire released a new album a few weeks ago called Silver/Lead, and while there's enough good here to keep Wire diehards satisfied, it's probably not going to be considered a vital document in the band's history.
It's hard to fault a band that manages to regularly release new music that is both faithful to a long-established sound and that also has little experiments and tangets that continue to stretch the boundaries of that sound, especially when the band members are at an age where most musicians have long-sinced ceased to produce any new work worth listening to (three out of four original members are still active in the group, and they are all well into their 60s).
But while the songs are solid and definitely worthy of the Wire canon, they just aren't significantly different enough from any of the other records produced this decade (this is their fifth full-length release since 2010, which is one of the most productive periods of the band's career) to be deserve a strong recommendation to non-Wire fans. There are better starting places, and better recent examples of their style.
I'm stil in awe of this band, though, and I'd love to have a chance to see them live. And someday, when they decide to cease to exist, my future self is going to look back at an entry like this and curse myself for taking them for granted. But I guess that's the downside of frequent and consistent creative output.
4.24.17 Waxahatchee have announced a new album, Out in the Storm, and shared a song from the record called "Silver":
This is a lot rock-ier than most of the songs on her previous albums, but that doesn't really surprise me, and it wouldn't surprise me if this turns out to be a template for the sound of the record. Katie Crutchfield has changed up her style on every release, and while the core of her songs remains pretty consistent across her career, she's definitely not afraid to genre-hop and play around with new settings for her songs every time she goes into the studio to record a new album.
I really, really like this song, which sounds like it's essentially the title track since the phrase "out in the storm" is featured prominently. Can't wait until July——hopefully they'll be a tour to accompany the new record too.
4.25.17 British Sea Power released their seventh album earlier this month, the charmingly titled Let the Dancers Inherit the Party.
I became a bit obsessed with this band's 2007 release Do You Like Rock Music?——there were certain songs that really killed me, like "All In It" and "We Close Our Eyes" (which both feature the refrain "We're all in it/and we close our eyes"), "Atom" ("When you get down down to the subatomic part of it/That's when it breaks you know/That's when it falls apart"), and "No Lucifer" ("Is that what the future holds?").
On each subsequent release from the band, I've searched for the sort of connection I had with that album, particularly those songs, and while they've released some decent work, there's been nothing that's resonated with me the same way. I still need time to process and get to know the songs on Dancers, but I at least feel the early strong attraction that might make this the second great British Sea Power album for me.
It gets off to a good start with "Bad Bohemian" ("Oh, don't let us die/While we are still alive") and "International Space Station" ("You look so beautiful/Between the moon and the stars"),
and there are moments later in the record that have started in embed themselves into my consciousness. The music also has the same wistful and resigned but hopelessly romantic and optimistic tone of Do You Like Rock Music?, which makes the words that much more poignant.
It's easy to like this record, and I am probably falling in love with this record, so I'm not going to talk about it anymore.
4.26.17 The New Pornographers have one of the most solid catalogs in guitar-based indie pop over the last decade and a half (which makes sense given that they have three first class songwriters contributing to a reverse supergroup that spawned the reputations and careers of three artists who later established solo bona fides outside of the band), and they recently added a new full length to the canon called Whiteout Conditions.
This is the first record with no songwriting or studio recording contributions from founding member Dan Bejar, and while there are times when you miss his odd touches and peculiar sensibilities, this is still a great record that uses Neko Case as a lead or co-lead vocalist more often than any other New Pornographers that I can remember.
The opening track, "Play Money", doesn't get the record off to the roaring start that their lead tracks typically do, but by the end they're making good use of the vocal harmonies that are a staple of their best songs, and
the tempo continues to accerlate through the title track and the third track, "High Ticket Attractions" before settling into a nice midtempo groove after that.
As usual for this band, there aren't really any weak tracks on the album, but neither are there the one or two killer songs that are the obvious singles. We have tickets to see them live in a couple of weeks (with Waxahatchee opening!), and I'm very curious to see how these songs translate to a live performance. I have very high expectations for this show, especially given that they killed it the only other time I've seen them (and that was without Neko Case), and I have no doubt that they'll deliver.
4.27.17 Gorillaz have released another track from their imminent new album Humanz, this one titled "The Apprentice":
Even though this is apparently from the deluxe version, and therefore a bonus track/b-side, it's a pretty solid track. Gorillaz have consistently been Damon Albarn's most interesting and varied non-Blur project, and coming off a strong showing with the Blur reunion album two years ago and a seven year hiatus from this project, I have pretty high expectations for this record. And if a song like this isn't considered strong enough to be on the album proper, that's a good sign for the quality of the rest of the tracks.
4.28.17 Phoenix recently announced their first new album in four years, Ti Amo, and shared a track from the record called "J-Boy":
I still swoon whenver I hear "1901" or "Listzomania" from their breakthrough Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but I haven't found a single on their subsequent releases that comes anywhere close to those two songs.
"J-Boy" sounds pretty good after a couple of initial listens——it's got the 80s references and European cool that has become their calling card——and I'm definitely buying the record, but I'm becoming concerned that the rest of my listening relationship with Phoenix is going to be spent hoping that the next track will be one that can take its place alongside those two songs and continually being slightly disappointed even when I like the song.