Saturday, October 24, 2015

Clarity clarity clarity clarity clarity clarity: New music diary for summer 2015

From the beginning of this blog's existence, the idea was that -- since I get an equal amount of enjoyment from listening and responding to music both new and old -- every new (current year, that is) release reviewed herein would be followed by a catalog writeup. A 1:1 ratio. However, reviews of old records routinely require more concentration and dedication, new ones more research and energy, so it seems logical at this point to split the two into separate routines. Thus from now on, the monthly regular posts will include no reviews of old records; those will be presented and archived separately in ways that will be explained in the near future. There won't be a timeline on those reviews any longer. New LP reviews, though, will start to correspond much more to release dates, though I can't accommodate more than twenty new albums in a month. New dedication to this cause came about because I recently joined the current decade and began using Spotify on a tablet and smartphone, which has made this stuff a lot easier to do consistently and fluidly.

The slightly altered format will also give a bit more information about what sources bring me to the albums that are reviewed here, and what material is being set aside behind the scenes. Very little of the writing on new albums is going to be as polished as something you'd want somebody to get paid for, and in fact I'm trying to scale things back to keep this all both relaxed and fun for me, but hopefully it will remain helpful all the same.


The 20 albums below, released in the first half of 2015 (we're behind), were all heard multiple times by me, and all fit at least one of the following criteria:
- They have received an average of 80 or above on Metacritic with at least ten critical reviews contributing.
- They were recommended by one of three specific sources: they received Pitchfork's Best New Music tag, even though these days P4K seem often to only define one of those three words in the same way I do; they were rewarded 4.5 stars from AMG (R&B and hip hop only); or they received an "A" from Robert Christgau in his Expert Witness column, currently situated at Noisey. These sources can and will change; Pitchfork is the only one I've consistently used since starting this thing in 2010. There are other specific critics I trust and try to follow around as they switch gigs, and friends whose advice carries extra weight with me; at some point I'll try to elaborate some on this.
- They are new albums (usually excluding covers albums or seasonal records, with some exceptions) or EPs by artists who've been given a "highly recommended" review by me within the last ten years. I do not count live albums, compilations, etc. as "new releases" for the purpose of this feature.
- Investigated by me for separate reasons on a previous month of auditions and evaluations (see below), they moved me enough to advance to the full-capsule category. This generally will only happen with records I really really love, enough so to add to my workload here!
- Metal albums are excluded from all of the above. I have no understanding of them and thus I don't review them. I also ignore certain artists it is established I absolutely hate, such as Kurt Vile, Drake and Sleaford Mods.

Matthew E. White: Fresh Blood (Domino) [c]
Virginian DIYer has a distinctly commercial sound; you'll discern quickly whether or not it's for you thanks to his (for me) nails on a chalkboard voice, which reminds me of a fusion between alt-J (whose music I actually like) and '90s one-hitters Eagle Eye Cherry and Everlast.

Madonna: Rebel Heart (Interscope)
Follow-up to MDMA came much more quickly than I expected, and at first I was pleasantly surprised because I'd thought she was likely on the verge of descending into confining her energy almost exclusively to touring. And this album, particularly on the front end, thankfully doesn't prompt the wheels-coming-off feeling of the last two but it still feels unsettled. Madonna is constantly confronted by sexism in the press via mouth-breathers who wonder why she doesn't settle into the adult contemporary doldrums instead of asserting that women her age actually like and want sex and expressing such with a sense of perk and energy. That sort of thinking drives me bonkers, but it's unavoidable that the strongest moments here are when Madonna quits trying to court the youth vote. The first couple of songs are relaxed, assured dance music with a breezy, grown-up nonchalance not unlike what Pet Shop Boys did with former M. associate Stuart Price. The rest vacillates between two weird extremes: elder-statesperson scolding and faux-"current" stuff. The former figures in weak pieces like "Joan of Arc," full of unbecoming "perils of fame" hogwash, and the latter is exemplified by a couple of Kanye West production guest spots, lyrics about "the Illuminati," and songs with titles like "Bitch I'm Madonna." No one can take away her iconic pedigree but the quest for an eternal image leaves the music circling the drain.

Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope) [r]
Is it permissible to call a spade a spade and admit this is bloated? I get it -- validated when the autobio went wide, he is everyman no longer and now a messenger, and as with so many superstars before and after him the sense of responsibility has become overwhelming, particularly in a year when the value of human life is so openly being questioned by murderous authority. Lamar fortunately is talented enough to process this into a compelling, admirable and often brilliant artistic statement, but the result is overlong, sprawling, overambitious. One thing for sure: it's not an album whose mark will be forgotten, thanks maybe less to its intermittently pleasurable, consistently confrontational music than to its unexpectedly timely politics -- George Clinton in tow for real and in spirit on the second recent record after D'Angelo's to call Parliament-Funkadelic and, yes, Sly & the Family Stone to arms as more than sonic wallpaper (Tupac shows up too, standing in as King of Denmark) -- and the engrossingly alive sound, making liberal use of live instrumentation that suggests the arrangement mastery of not just Arthur Lee and Flying Lotus but Marvin Gaye. It's nice to have a record that so boldly and slowly reveals its patterns and structures, denying even more than good kid, m.A.A.d. city the comfort of structred hooks ("i" comes closest with its Isley Brothers sample but tantalizingly breaks down into chaos); though it nevertheless offers up experiences as distinctive as the whimsical "For Free?", defiant "The Blacker the Berry," and blissfully slamming "King Kunta," its best songs "How Much a Dollar Cost" and "Momma" are its most apocalyptic, personal, audibly important. Righteous as it is, taken together it ends up sidelining his most distinctive features, with even his demented flood of vocal inflections from tirade to coo seeming overly worked over and contrived, but that's probably why he's proud of it: it's a message to the people, his people, in the most traditional sense, and that is the salve that eases his fuzziness and guilt over his own popularity. The biggest hypocrite of 2015 is still one of the most dramatic and gifted MCs going; his bid for a legacy is less pop than Section.80, less direct than good kid, as harrowing as either.

Twin Shadow: Eclipse (Warner Bros.) [r]
George Lewis Jr. goes full-bore on principled late '80s FM, power ballads and big dumb pop, and it's undeniable that he's exceptionally good at it, blooming as a consummate performer all but inaudible on his thoughtful, tricky debut Forget but in greater evidence on the tremendous Confess, possibly the record released in the last five years that I've spent the most actual time playing. Mixed in with all this is an unmistakable bid for a kind of pop-Jesus schtick that seems naturally outdated; the songs would've been radio fodder a long time ago, which seems to be the point Lewis wants to make about populism and the relentless universal romance of a late night. The indie rock press doesn't understand it -- major label move and all -- because they don't understand that "being ironic" isn't necessarily the only reason people listen to old Whispers and Al Jarreau singles, so they are powerless to comprehend the beauty in the maxed-out hooks of the insta-classic "Old Love / New Love." At bottom, though, this does all feel a bit rushed and like it was done this way on a dare. His remarks about rockist elitism may be on point, but these songs play less to his sense of flummoxed romance than the likes of "Patient" and "Run My Heart." But as repetitive and a bit lacking in nuance as they might be, these songs do fully convince; he may still be playing clubs, but he looks and sounds the part of a megastar.

Tobias Jesso Jr.: Goon (Matador) [c]
Elton John meets obtuse hipster folkiness and the news is bad. Canadian singer-songwriter plays piano, is very classicist and throwback in the vein of Father John Misty, so he and I don't get along well. He's said his prayers every night since 1995, and I don't even like the stuff to which he's paying homage. The album cover, which looks like a joke, sets the stage: forlorn-looking white guy with messy hair glares straight back at you as if a mirror. The one redeeming facet is that is voice is more versatile than usual, with equally distinctive high and low ranges. So you get the acid casualty sound of "For You," some George Harrison guitar on "Crocodile Tears" (which even sounds like the name of a Hari song)... but the Cat Stevens-like "The Wait" is the closest to tolerable that this gets.

Heems: Eat Pray Thug (Megaforce) [hr]
No way could Heems' proper debut live up to the often awe-inspiring imagination and exuberance of Das Racist's Relax, a record I'm still mad you all slept on; sometimes he cares a lot but sometimes he doesn't even care, and he feels too little need to suppress his depression, insecurity, anger -- but that doesn't make him maudlin. If anything, it makes him as vital a reporter of the American experience in this century as Glenn Greenwald or Kendrick Lamar (though he's so New York he still won't bump Tupac, and oddly in a way I find that more sympathetic than Lamar's open-ended interview with same). And also, don't take it to mean that Eat Pray Thug is absent of pop, just that its pop is intentionally mangled and undercut by Heems' constant and eloquently expressed doubts and caveats. The record lays out its punkest, most direct expression of the author's MO straight away with the witty and messy "Sometimes," and from there it never becomes any less defiantly individual, often musically (the trap-like insanity of "Jawn Cage," the unabashedly emotional alterna-pop of "Home"), more often lyrically (the harrowing pair "Flag Shopping" and "Patriot Act," both heartbreaking remembrances about the experience of being brown in the U.S. just after 9/11; bless Heems for placing them far enough apart on the album that it doesn't become overwhelming, but I suspect that by being grateful for this I'm only exposing my own white privilege), and always vocally. Heems is among the most distinctive MCs ever to work in hip hop, and his mumbles, singing, shouts and drawls perfectly express the mixed-up empathy and apathy, passion and scrawl that make him a major, unpretentious, unvarnished storyteller in the grandest tradition. He embellishes, glosses over nothing (to his label's apparent chagrin, as they essentially put this record out in secret) because he doesn't need to. Not that he and his former bandmates hadn't done so already, but this completely defies the ignorant "hipster" / "joke rap" stereotype affixed to Heems and to Das Racist, although unless you get your music info exclusively from you-know-where, you knew that already.

Earl Sweatshirt: I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside (Columbia)
Mysterious Odd Futurer's depressive flow is instantly recognizable but one can't dispel the feeling he's kind of a brat, and the beats are uninspired. Best album title of the year, though.

Lightning Bolt: Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey) [NO]
"Noise band from Rhode Island," say the press listings. Fuck you, this is metal.

Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop) [hr]
Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter with throttling warmth and wit; it's almost impossible to hear her work and not be riveted. The music she and her capable, pointedly rollicking four-piece band create -- loud but not noisy, brash but soft -- is so addictive, clear and invigorating that the incredible, quietly passionate and well-observed lyrics can fly by almost unnoticed. This is where the lyric sheet packaged with the album is a blessing; even taken separately, Barnett's streams of compassionate consciousness are a pleasure, and like the best pop storytellers of our time from John Darnielle to Heems to Kate Tempest, she thinks far afield of a world solely her own, and in detail: "Breakfast on the run again, he's well aware he's dropping soy linseed Vegemite crumbs everywhere. Feeling sick at the sight of his computer, he dodges his way through the Swanston commuters, rips off his tie, hands it to a homeless man sleeping on the corner of a Metro bus stand. He screams 'I'm not going to work today!' Gonna count the minutes that the trains run late, sit on the grass building pyramids out of Coke cans!'" And all this sung and played with the energy you'd expect devoted to an otherworldly pop confection, which it somehow is. If you need proof that such a verbose album can be musically giant, start with "Depreston," one of the most coherent anecdotes ever delivered in perfectly catchy song form, blessed with a curiously dark and beautiful arrangement. If you need proof this is good old rock & roll, start with the searing "Pedestrian at Best." But really, start anywhere -- the album is sprightly at times, ghostly at others, worried, nostalgic, conscious, always human, and never once flags.

The Paranoid Style: Rock and Roll Just Can't Recall EP (Worldwide Battle) [r]
In their music, cynicism and most of all (inevitably) their vocals, this band is like a slightly grittier take on early Blondie, which is not meant as a reduction -- their invariably catchy songs are solid, if somewhat sloppily mixed with enunciated vocals a little too far out front for me. Elizabeth Nelson rails against idealism; her singing is frayed and awkward at times, the songs slightly rote, but the music makes quite an impression and is instantly appealing. This is a quick enough trip via Spotify that you don't really need the push, but try "New Age Tricks" if you want a good first taste.

Ryley Walker: Primrose Green (Dead Oceans) [hr]
Unabashed hippie-ish psych-folk from Rockford, IL lands because of its beauty and sincerity, and because Walker has a strongly emotive voice that will likely remind you of Nick Drake and/or Richard Thompson. Musically, he resembles neither, and in fact the most obvious aural influence is Astral Weeks; improvisational and almost jazzy at its best, this is clearly the music of -- ugh -- "vibes," but it's refreshingly simple in its ambitions and makes for some of the most perfect road music to come down the pipeline in a good while. Songs don't jump out specifically and the record is a length that won't try your patience, but I keep coming back to "Sweet Satisfaction" as the quintessential moment here.

Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty) [r]
Stevens' trajectory from Michigan to Seven Swans to Illnoise to Age of Adz was virtually unmatched in his chosen genre in terms of his constant progression and the refinement of his writing and performing. Carrie & Lowell is more of a piece with the tossed-off EP All Delighted People from 2010, signifying mostly a heels-dug-in commitment to lyricism and melody over distinctive sound. To these ears it's a bit samey, but others are finding it far more profoundly effective, and one assumes your experience with the grief at its center (as with Bjork's Vulnicura) will determine your relationship to the record. His work has never sounded more organized and polished; it's also suffocatingly formal, despite often arrestingly personal -- even oversharing -- lyrics. His is still a voice for the ages.

Lower Dens: Escape from Evil (Ribbon Music) [r]
These Baltimore indie rockers put on a hell of a show when I saw them in 2011; they'd have been the breathless stars of the evening were they not opening for the Walkmen, who were at their most magical that night. Their music was cerebral and incisive, but leader and guitarist Jana Hunter's considerable stage presence was the real takeaway. On their newest work, Hunter dominates and the sound has changed, her ever more flamboyant rock star delivery -- she's like a far more universally appealing version of Future Islands' Sam Herring -- casting a riveting shadow over pulsating, disco-tinged post-punk. (The cover even looks just like Hot Chip's The Warning, if you doubted its intentions.) The beat is unceasing and permanent. At its best -- the opening three songs, particularly the audacious "To Die in L.A.", and the arresting Joy Division tones of closer "Société Anonyme" -- the work is tense, focused, crafty and detailed. Synths abound, but the voice and snaking guitar lines are the story, Hunter the obvious star, and one who clearly loves what she's doing. The songs become less distinctive as the album progresses, however, and despite striking moments it all gradually recedes into an anonymous backdrop, as though its unflagging energy can only go so far to conceal a lack of variance. Indeed, tallying ten economical songs in just forty-one minutes, it still feels unfortunately longer than it is. As a full-on reveling in a sound, though, this is practically unbeatable, and with Twin Shadow's Confess and Chromatics' Kill for Love the ideal late-night rock record of our time.

Jlin: Dark Energy (Planet Mu)
Indiana electronics. Chirpy, confrontational, headachey, with obtuse samples not unlike those on Aphex Twin's early recordings but not nearly so cleverly incorporated.

Curren$y: Pilot Talk III (Jet Life) [r]
Like Paul McCartney, a guy who's eager to please to a fault, now somewhat hilariously running for cover under the rubric established by his one really notable proper studio record despite the fact that there's not that much daylight between the various episodes in his career anyway. This one is most significant because of the strange marketing strategy behind it; you can buy it at a premium with a bunch of Achtung Baby-like bonus appendages, or you can stream it for free. In this manner it may be Curren$y's most forward-looking record, because there is a decent chance the entire music industry will be floating in the free-listening / luxury-to-own cesspool in a matter of years, bad news for those of us who like music we can hold and touch. But whatever lets smaller artists survive is best, I suppose. As for the music, the first single "Briefcase" has lyrics so unignorably oddball you can immediately tell the guy feels liberated without the Warner Bros. bank. The last song "Alert" is fire. Everything in between is pretty good, fun to listen to, pretty par for the course; OKPlayer's price is righter than the label's.

The Mountain Goats: Beat the Champ (Merge) [r]
A concept album the way Little Deuce Coupe was, the most hard-hitting Goats record in the better part of a decade comes out swinging, driven much as The Life of the World to Come was by one of John Darnielle's many public enthusiasms -- here, pro-wrestling, mostly in the idiosyncratic, largely regional iterations he enjoyed as a child. The lyrical results are personal, shattering, transcendent, particularly on the first three songs: "Southwestern Territory," the desolate sound of a dead end with a heart attached; the extraordinarily vicious "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero," which in its oblique tracking of father-son relationships starts to reveal that this isn't really or completely all about wrestling; and the instant fan favorite "Foreign Object," as catchy and weird as anything in this rich catalog. The musical advancement and often complete capturing of a complicated, forlorn, slightly nostalgic and longing mood make you want this to be as phenomenal as it initially seems. While an improvement on the scattershot if passionate Transcendental Youth, it's still fatally front-loaded despite its focus, with too many near-dirges toward the end (though "Luna" is a unique moment, and the words to "Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan" are essential Darnielle poetry). As ever, Darnielle gives us much to contemplate -- starting with a Wikipedia binge for this universe about which I'm unlikely ever to know much more than he has to teach me -- and he and the band continue to evolve: this is a feat of often masterful storytelling, with steadier-than-ever backing assistance.

Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men Too (Big Dada) [r]
Earl Sweatshirt and Death Grips put together couldn't come up with an album title this eyebrow-raising and weirdly tone-deaf, although it probably has a different tone coming from non-Americans. The follow-up to Mercury Prize-winning Dead from this Scottish collective resembles a traditional hip hop outing even less -- more moody and layered, with droning and broken rhythms and all very indie, alas -- and provides some sense of a more collected, early '90s-style conscious activism. Not sure if that's good or bad but the songs are plenty engrossing.

Waxahatchee: Ivy Tripp (Merge) [c]
Katie Crutchfield's breakthrough Cerulean Salt was a standout in the c. 2013 overflow of strongly '90s-derivative indie singer-songwriters; her songs were personable and sharp. Her Merge debut seems somehow too ordinary; the songs are weaker, but much more to the point, the performances and production are altogether less inspired. Nothing about it sticks. I'm not fully able to articulate why this leaves me so cold and I'm clearly an odd man out despite really being keyed up for it, so give it a listen yourself.

Twerps: Range Anxiety (Merge) [hr]
Once in a while a band, like this Melbourne indie-pop quartet, comes along that reminds me what I frequently love about melodic, lyrical college rock. Wispy and sincere, they most handily conjure memories of R.E.M., the Go-Betweens and the Bats, strongly driven by gentle Byrds-infected guitar riffs and a terrific male-female vocal blend provided by dual guitarists Marty Frawley and Jules McFarlane. A nostalgia trip is nearly inevitable, and the record is quite ready and willing to drift winningly off into sleep alongside the likes of Real Estate, whom they've supported. But if you give it all of your focus, it has an unexpected bite easily of a piece with its influences. Take the early, surprisingly hard-hitting dual punch of Frawley's hungover lovelorn anthem "Back to You" swiftly followed by McFarlane's lilting alienation on "Stranger," halfway between Paisley Underground and Flying Nun. The performances sing and swing and seldom wear out their welcome, even the lightly drummed five-minute fadeout "Empty Road," and the rough-hewn vocals add to the charm of catchy chestnuts like "Love at First Sight" and "Shoulders," but every full cut here ends up revealing its rewards, and at least some of them usually come immediately. This is never more apparent than on the extraordinary centerpiece "I Don't Mind," an achingly moving masterpiece of latter-day jangle that sweeps you up and knocks you out with its sheer unguarded romance. This is an album full of gems, but that song is so grand that even the band can't resist leading off with it. Smart, affecting, quiet and unassuming, this is the sort of music some of us wait years to seek out, and it's the kind of thing that never hits for the jugular but will -- if it's in your wheelhouse -- most assuredly become a permanent and valued part of your life.

Pinkshinyultrablast: Everything Else Matters (Shelflife) [hr]
This would be a genuinely oddball band of hyperactive neo-shoegaze noisemakers even if they didn't hail from Saint-Petersburg. With an initially extremely alienating but stunningly incongruous mixture of electronic beats, feedback drawl and screaming walls of sound within almost prog-like sprawling song structures, stabbing guitar lines, enveloping reverb and fizzy synths, the record captures the airy mood of dreampop simultaneously with a heaviness atypical of such unabashedly vague vibe music. The music is unpredictable, the songs collapsing naturally into one another without becoming completely indistinct. The sound is gorgeous and alien -- with, as corny as this sounds, a feeling of being transported to icy plains and all sorts of underseen landscapes -- and packs quite an atmospheric wallop, sounding more massive than one could attribute to a mere five-piece. If I had to compare it to anything, hard-to-pin-down mystery and all, it's probably Cocteau Twins, and there's not quite enough press about this for me to check and see if I'm just being ignorant, but this truly does sound like one of the more unique and exciting records of its kind in a good while.


This is a list of records that were auditioned recently (see explanation below) that are in the running to be evaluated further. This isn't to be taken as an outright recommendation of these records, but it's worth noting that something about the cuts I heard intrigued me enough to set them aside for future reference; I will listen to these from start to finish at least once. Complicated as this sounds, it's the most efficient system I've come up with to weed through so much music. On occasion a record strikes me to such an extent that it immediately gets placed in the queue for a mainline review; this happened with the Twerps album above. A level below that are albums that would hypothetically receive asterisks on the list below, which means they stand a better than average chance of receiving complete reviews down the road. (Pinkshinyultrablast's album was an example.) When I spend more time with these albums next month, they will either appear as regular capsules, in the "also recommended" list at the end of the year, or will be demoted back to the reject pile. So consider this an albums list for the truly adventurous.

- The Monochrome Set: Spaces Everywhere
- Allison Moorer: Down to Believing
- Chastity Belt: Time to Go Home
- Lonelady: Hinterland
- The Go! Team: The Scene Between
- Follkazoid: III
- Pokey LaFarge: Something in the Water
- Colleen: Captain of None
- The Very Best: Makes a King
- Toro Y Moi: What For?
- This Is the Kit: Bashed Out
- Stornoway: Bonxie
- Polar Bear: Same as You
- Built to Spill: Untethered Moon
- Wire
- Stealing Sheep: Not Real
- Knxwledge: Hud Dreams
- STS x RJD2
- Rhett Miller: the Traveler
- Della Mae
- Mbongwana Star: From Kinshasa
- Georgia Anne Muldrow: Thoughtiverse Unmarred
- Valet: Nature
- Indigo Girls: One Lost Day
- SOAK: Before We Forgot How to Dream
- Girlpool: Before the World Was Big
- Leftfield: Alternative Light Source
- Prinzhorn Dance School: Home Economics
- No Joy: More Faithful
- Sarah Cracknell: Red Kite
- Bully: Feels Like


Each month, I troll the Metacritic database for all recent album releases that have received an average of at least 70, which alas -- music critics are by and large a kinder lot than their cinematic brethren, or maybe the number of niches has just gotten too unwieldy -- is most of them. This -- for several years now, but I'm only now being this open about it -- is how I attempt to get a handle on the music that doesn't fit the criterion addressed at the top of this entry. If something grades in the low 70s and has less than ten reviews, I ignore it; I probably miss some good things as a result, but for my sanity I have to cut things off somewhere. In the upper seventies, that changes to five reviews. I also gather up the records that made it into the eighties but with just a handful of reviews attached. Laugh at my compulsiveness if you want, but this is how I found Kate Tempest among many other favorites of recent years; we can no longer count on PR and cool labels to bring us all that we need to hear.

Please note: I don't listen to these albums in their entirety. In a method borrowed from several other critics with similar ambitions, I play the first few cuts of each album. Sometimes, I can't even make it through one of them but I try very hard to give them at least a minute, a cutoff time I picked up years ago when I did a singles-review column called Wuzzon. Singles that failed to generate any kind of emotion from me after a minute were ignored; albums whose first few tracks I feel negative feelings or no feelings at all about will be listed below, as rejects. I never previously considered "showing my work" in this process, but it dawned on me that it may be helpful if, for instance, I eventually wonder why I never wrote anything about something listed below, or if ages from now I determine I need to take a look at something and wonder why it sounds vaguely familiar. There's also inevitably the chance I could just change my mind. I'm choosing not to do any "writing" about the material here, but I've included a special note on certain records -- "NYIM," which stands for "It's Not You, It's Me." This notes that my dismissal of the record is not to be counted as an actual criticism against what I heard of it, but that it is just so completely not to my taste (a metal record that slipped through, for example, or most modern country) that I can't hear or say anything of value related to it. The rest are objectively bad. Just kidding. But I could defend my boredom about them more concretely if I had to; thankfully you kind folks won't require that of me.

Villagers: Darling Arithmetic
Calexico: Edge of the Sun
Gallows: Desolation Sounds
Rocky Votolato: Hospital Handshakes
John Moreland: High on Tulsa Heat
Passion Pit: Kindred
Squarepusher: Damogen Furies
Olivia Chaney: Longest River
George Fitzgerald: Fading Love
Bill Fay: Who Is the Sender?
Nai Harvest: Hairball
Braids: Deep in the Iris
Mew: +-
Shelby Lynne: I Can't Imagine
Django Django: Born Under Saturn
Mikal Cronin: MCIII
Metz: II
My Morning Jacket: The Waterfall
Oddisee: The Good Fight
Coliseum: Anxiety's Kiss
Mac McCaughan: Non-Believers
Torres: Sprinter
Best Coast: California Nights
Nadine Shah: Fast Food
The Alchemist / Oh No: Welcome to Los Santos
Van Hunt: The Fun Rises, the Fun Sets
Snoop Dogg: Bush
The Weather Station: Loyalty
Prefuse 73: Rivinton Nao Rio
The Early November: Imbue
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell: The Traveling Kind
Blanck Mass: Dumb Flesh
Patrick Watson: Love Songs for Robots
Paul Weller: Saturn's Pattern
Graham Parker & the Rumour: Mystery Glue
Twenty One Pilots: Blurryface
The Story So Far
Brandon Flowers: The Desired Effect
Du Blonde: Welcome Back to Milk
Joanna Gruesome: Peanut Butter
A$AP Rocky: At.Long.Last.A$AP
Rachel Grimes: The Clearing
The Vaccines: English Graffiti
Turbowolf: Two Hands
Maysa: Back 2 Love
Rolo Tomassi: Grievances
Jaga Jazzist: Starfire
Four Year Strong
Nozinja: Nozinja Lodge
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard: Django and Jimmie
Dawes: All Your Favorite Bands
Florence + the Machine: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Dean McPhee: Fatima's Hand
J Fernandez: Many Levels of Laughter
Jenny Hval: Apocalypse, Girl
Ash: Kablammo!
The SteelDrivers: The Muscle Shoals Recordings
Hudson Mohawke: Lantern
Genghar: A Dream Outside
Heartless Bastards: Restless Ones
The Orb: Moonbuilding 2703 AD


Normally -- if I actually continue to include this feature -- it'll be Songs of the Month. These are the songs, new and old, that according to and my own estimates I've listened to the most in the relevant time period, or that I'm simply most obsessed with at the moment, and also songs from evaluated albums that I liked even though the records overall ended up in the reject bin. (Those are listed on the top.) In a lot of cases, the most-played songs will correspond to album reviews from this current post; sometimes it will give a hint of what you'll be reading a lot more about here very soon, as my schedule with these things overlaps quite a lot; and sometimes it's entirely arbitrary.

The Allo Darlin' song below is from an album I only had time to listen to in full once last year, which I now see was a mistake. I listed "Half Heart Necklace," from the same record, as one of my twenty favorite tracks of 2014, but "History Lessons" has turned out to be the one that haunts me. The lyrics, vocal and arrangement are all perfect. I tried and failed to learn to play and sing it myself. It is stunning and even just on its own would give enough reason to reevaluate the record and band as a whole in the near future. Meanwhile, Susanne Sundfør's "Fade Away" is -- especially in conjunction with "Accelerate," just before it on the album -- one of the most brilliant pop songs of the decade. And finally, when I got married in September, there was no first dance; that will be happening at a party we're throwing in the spring. But the Kinks song, a discovery from the vinyl-only compilation named, was certainly running through my head the entire time.

- The Unthanks "Mount the Air" [Mount the Air]
- Bop English "Dani's Blues" [Constant Bop]
- Susanne Sundfør "Fade Away" [Ten Love Songs]
- Twerps "I Don't Mind" [Range Anxiety]
- Allo Darlin' "History Lessons" (2014) [We Come from the Same Place]
- Courtney Barnett "Depreston" [Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit]
- Lower Dens "To Die in L.A." [Escape from Evil]
- The Mountain Goats "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" [Beat the Champ]
- Kendrick Lamar "How Much a Dollar Cost" [To Pimp a Butterfly]
- Twin Shadow "Old Love / New Love" [Eclipse]
- Heems "Flag Shopping" [Eat Pray Thug]
- Ryley Walker "Sweet Satisfaction" [Primrose Green]
- Curren$y "Alert" [Pilot Talk III]
- Bjork "Pluto" (1997) [Homogenic]
- The Kinks "There's No Life Without Love" (rec. 1967) [The Great Lost Kinks Album]
- The Paranoid Style "New Age Tricks" [Rock & Roll Just Can't Recall]

The September and October posts will follow in the next few weeks, sans wordy explanations; save those into a handy Notepad folder so you can keep up with this blog which I know is extremely vital to your day to day life! But honest to goodness I love you all, goodnight.