Tag Archive: “The Monday Rewind”

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, October 21st that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat (ANTI-)


The former Weakerthans frontman’s second solo album is a restrained folk masterpiece. His inspiration for the title came from the crop that lies dormant in the winter and then rises in the spring and that’s just what this album feels like, resurrection after a bout of isolation. Samson has always been a great lyricist but his songwriting has matured with him and this album showcases his been writing both instrumentally and lyrically. This album is really hard to stop listening to, John’s soft voice with just the right amount of a nasally whine is so inviting and infectious, coupled with his extremely insightful and powerful lyrics make this album unstoppable. Where Weakerthan’s would rock hard, this album pulls back, it’s subtlty is it’s greatest asset. Samson is great at capturing the love/hate relationship we have with our faults and low points. Whether it’s Samson chronicling of a rehab facility in 17th Street Treament Center, “Most of us here are probably not getting better // We’re not getting better together,” or the encouraging tone of Postdoc Blues. Samson’s wife and collaborator Christine Fellows produced the album as well as contributing instrumentally and the sound of this album is flawless, whether it’s the intimate and spacious spoken-word track “Quiz Night At Looky Lou’s” or the driving folk-pop tune “Fellow Traveler” this album sounds amazing in whatever form it takes on. I’ll leave you with the beautiful closing lyrics of Postdoc Blues, which should be every human’s mantra (inspired by the Canadian organization The Leap Manifesto), “So take that laminate out of your wallet and read it // And recommit yourself to the healing of the world // And the welfare of all creatures upon it // Pursue a practice that will strengthen your heart.”


 

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Columbia Records)


The fourteenth album from songwriting legend Leonard Cohen is his farwell to the world, at age 82 he is preparing to pass. This album has a lifetime informing it, as Cohen reflects on his time on earth, making peace with past decisions and appreciating his blessings. Judging by the title you would expect it to be darker than it actually is, much like the life that Leonard is reflecting on it is about 50/50 with light and dark. Some songs play like lovely hymns, others like an eerie monastic chorus. Though the lyrical content is often somewhat Macabre, there is a peace over many of the songs. Cohen is known for his gravely voice and his speak-singing style. Often there is the subtlest hint of a melody, just enough for you to grab on to, some songs feel so delicate and fragile, as if his most precious thoughts were carefully placed into a song. This album does have it’s moments of thick instrumentation with violins and drum beats, but most often it is minimal. The final track is mainly a gorgeous orchestral reprise of the song “Treaty,” delivering a bittersweet yet beautiful end to the record. I know I’m not alone in hoping that this is not Leonard’s last album, though his day approaches he seems as well equipped to handle it as any of us can be. If this is (as Chance the Rapper would say) Leonard’s “last shit,” it’s one hell of a way to go out.


 

American Football – American Footbal (LP2) (Polyvinyl Records)


 

“Some things never change. Maybe that’s okay.” Mike Kinsella says it all with that line. The emo pioneers have finally released a second album 17 years after their 1999 debut. Much to the delight of long time fans, they’ve picked up right where they left off. Though half of the band has perused other careers since their first album (one is an English professor, the other works in an office) they slip right back in to the groove they had as college students. The interesting interactions between the harmonizing, wandering guitar parts and the complex drum beats are the best part of American Football’s style, and it is alive and well on this album. Often instruments will be in different time signatures and songs often transform throughout. The lyrical content hasn’t lost it’s emo charm, NPR’s Lars Gotritch said Mike Kinsella kind of wrote as a character, as his life and mindset have changed a lot since he was in college. He successfully channel’s his younger self though and write’s songs that feel perhaps slightly embellished yet relate-able. For many people American Football’s album is a coming of age story, perfectly embodying that summer after graduation. This album feels like coming home, but as we find out on this album “Home Is Where The Haunt Is.” Math-rock nerds and music scholars alike will appreciate this group’s long awaited return.


D.R.A.M. – Big Baby D.R.A.M. (Atlantic Records)


On “Broccoli” D.R.A.M. promises “Ain’t no tellin’ what I’m finna be on,” and he lives up to that over the course of the album. You never know what direction the 28-year-old-rapper will go in, but you know whatever it is it will be interesting. Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith’s rap name is an acronym for Does Real Ass Music. Though he of course has the bragadocious style so common in rap, he does it in a very charming and catchy way (I mean the cover of the album is him hugging his golden doodle named Idnit, it’s adorable.) The production of the album is on point with contributions from the likes of Donnie Trumpet, as D.R.A.M. demonstrates some top-notch wordsmith skills and sings with the voice of an angel. With all-star appearances by Eryka Badu, Lil Yachty, and Young Thug this album is not only fun and catchy, but D.R.A.M. serves as an inspirational figure as someone who decided to go and “Get It Myself.” He has talked in other songs about wanting to inspire other people to achieve success like he has which is a somewhat noble pursuit. I have been waiting for this album since “Broccoli” came out and it didn’t disappoint D.R.A.M. is one of the best young rappers on the rise.


 

 

 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, October 14th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gates (Run For Cover Records)


The debut full length the New York rock band is an unexpected pairing of smooth synth-pop and larger than life progressive rock. Songs erupt into arena rock crescendos with screeching guitar solos, brassy synths, and elaborate drum fills. This album was preceded by two EPs that were more punk focused until guitarist Ryan Galloway channeled his love for bands like Rush into their existing sound. The result is a showcase of the technical talent of Galloway and drummer Nick Corbo, while serving as an unlikely yet effective companion to Elaiza Santos’ light and airy vocals. There are sounds present on this album that would ordinarily be considered over the top and cheesy, yet when they’re presented alongside of Elaiza’s vocals they come across as daring and innovative. Every musician is a collection of influences and here we see a pairing of dissimilar styles to make a completely fresh and original pop sound.


Conor Oberst – Ruminations (Nonesuch Records)


Bob Dylan recently won a Nobel Prize for Literature demonstrate the power of storytelling in folk music. In the same week Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst released his seventh solo album, Ruminations, which follows in this same tradition. After last year’s tour with his political punk band Desaparecidos, Oberst became ill and exhausted so he returned to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. He holed up to recover and ended up making this album. Folk music’s power lies in it’s lyrics and these songs truly are literature. Thick with references to historical and cultural figures, like Jane Fonda, Ronald Reagan, even Robin Williams, and talks about meeting Lou Reed and Patti Smith, this album is true americana. On the track above he uses Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and life (the titular Borthwick was Wright’s wife) to examine his own legacy and what it means, “to build something that’s sacred ’til the end.” The music is very simple and bare, Oberst singing over either piano or guitar with the occasional harmonica solo, reminiscent of Dylan and at times akin to Elton John’s more intimate tracks. At this point, Oberst has had a long career in music, and on this record we see him removed from all  of that, as he reflects and considers what’s next. This record is leagues above his previous solo work, with many simple yet powerful folk tunes.


The Game – 1992 (Entertainment One Music)


A couple weeks ago I talked about how on All Songs Considered Danny Brown said he was in the Nas lineage of lyricists, and The Game is definitely a branch on that family tree. Not only does his voice actually resemble Nas’, but his music is an intersection of incredible wordplay, vocal stamina, and vivid storytelling. On his eighth studio album, the Compton rapper reflects of the LA riots of 1992, his childhood in the hood, his partnership with Dr. Dre, and his departure from G-Unit. This album is heavy with references to early hip-hop, not just the cover art that resembles Snoop’s albums in the 90’s. The song “I Grew Up on Wu-Tang” samples Wu Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.”, “True Colors” uses Ice-T’s “Colors” and “F**K Orange Juice” samples Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s classic “The Message.” On “92 Bars” you guessed it, he literally spits 92 Bars and disses Meek Mill and a laundry list of other rappers, “I’m gonna be beefing with Cole, Drizzy, or Cornrow Kenny. Pick your favorite rapper you gon’ be pourin’ out Henny.” This is the final track on the album and the most impressive, though the rest of the album has it’s merit.  This album feels very personal, as he tells stories from growing up, we get to know him better and see the influences and experiences that lead him to hip-hop. The Game has never been on my list of favorite rappers, but with this album he’s definitely making his way toward the top of the list.


 

Swet Shop Boys – Cashmere (Custom Records)


HBO’s The Night Of star Riz Ahmed and Das Racist’s Heems have joined forces as Swet Shop Boys, follows in the footsteps of Heems former project, using comedy and clever wordplay to tackle important issues. Heems has always had skills and he delivers he quirky, signature style of rhymes,  but on this album Riz establishes that he is more than an actor he is an impressive lyricist. This is an album that is both culturally relevant and super cool and catchy.


 

From Indian Lakes – Everything Is Alright Now (Triple Crown Records)


The California indie-rock bands fourth studio album is moody yet surprisingly catchy. As the title implies this album deals with depression in all aspect whether in relationship or friendships. This album is an interesting blend of polished rock and earthy influence, kind of like Local Natives meets Midlake. There is just the right amount of early emo influence with delayed guitars, frontman Joey Vannucchi’s breathy vocals, and drummer Tohm Ifergan’s relentlessly impressive beats. I kept waiting for this album to bore me, but it kept finding ways to keep me interested while staying true to it’s hazy nature.


Jonny Fritz – Sweet Creep (ATO Records)


On his new album the singer/songwriter references country tradition with updated production techniques. This album could easily exist like Conor Oberst’s with minimal instrumentation, but Fritz adds interesting elements throughout. Whether it’s guitar effects, unique percussion, or country classics like fiddle these little touches really make the songs stand out. Fritz’s songwriting is like the folk/country version of John Grant, with songs often being comical and powerful at the same time. On this album Jonny talks about the life and times of a Sweet Creep, talking about ladies and being certainly uncertain about life and what comes next. This album is fun, with a lot of great wordplay and moments of surprising vulnerability.


 

 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 30th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Bellows – Fist & Palm (Double Double Whammy)


Brooklyn’s Epoch collective has delivered some great albums this year from the likes of Eskimeaux and Told Slant, and the latest is Bellows’ Fist and Palm. Bellows is the musical project of Oliver Kalb, joined by other Epoch members, his second album is a lamentation of a friendship that went awry. Kalb outfits his folk-rock style with all sorts of percussion and synthetic sounds, making it sound like something completely different. These songs could easily be intimate folk songs if they were stripped down but Kalb chose to go big. Though his vocals may be soft and the content heart-breaking and personal these song have a big pop-rock sound. These songs are unexpectedly infectious considering their inspiration, yet the album does have it’s spare moments. This album hooks the listener in immediately and there is not a second where it bores them. This is a stylistic breakthrough for Kalb, on this album he makes bold choices that pay off immensely.


Bon Iver – 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)


Bon Iver began as a broken man, Justin Vernon, holed up in a cabin pouring his heart and soul into a record. After a Grammy win and collaborations with big names like Kanye West, Bon Iver permeated the mainstream. This shift has stripped the music of it’s DIY charm, yet it hasn’t altered Vernon’s drive to be daring and creative with his music. This is apparent on his third record, 22 A Million. This album has traces of all styles he explored in the past. He returns to folk style on tracks like “29# Strafford APTS” and “0000 Million” did what he always did best, make indie-rock hymns that cut right to the core. The big sound of his second album comes out with booming drum fills and saxophone solos, he continues to find interesting ways of toying with auto-tune. He then of course ventures into new territory with new production techniques, whether manipulating his voice or looping sounds and samples. One of the most interesting new techniques is how he makes the sound get static and cut out. It’s a sound were all familiar with having headphones or speaker wires cut out and back in, he perfectly mimics that sound to elicit the emotion of feeling broken. Not only is this album elaborate when it comes to symbolism, just look at the titles, but there is so much happening on this album, subtle little sounds, samples, and manipulations of vocals and sounds give the songs the touch of innovation and originality that we’ve come to expect from Vernon. Though we will never get back to that cabin in the woods, Vernon continues to find ways to take the listener to places they’ve never been before.


Regina Spektor – Remember Us To Life (Sire Records)


Following a lengthy haitus, in which she welcomed her first child into the world, singer and pianist Regina Spektor has made her long awaited return with here seventh album Remember Us To Life, where she hones her piano-balladeer sound and takes it to the next level. To paraphrase NPR’s Robin Hilton, it’s as simple as someone just singing pretty. These songs are gorgeous, mainly driven by her vocals and piano yet with she’s often joined by flourishing orchestration. Though many songs are the cute and clean style Spektor is known for she does experiment a bit. On tracks like “Small Bill$” and “The Trapper and The Furrier” she gets dark comments on social issues, “What a strange, strange world we live in where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven.” Grand and dissonant orchestration make intense and effecting crescendos. There has always been a theatrical quality to Spektor’s music and that is definitely the case on this album. It seems that while on musical maternity leave, Regina did a lot of deep thinking and examination of life and what it means to exist, effortlessly accessing grand revelations about the human condition, and doing so with clever rhymes and jaunty instrumentation. She has found a way to take new chances while not straying to far from her signature sound.


 

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)


The Detroit rapper’s fourth album is dark and dynamic. We hear Danny Brown in a new way than we’re used to as the instrumentals dive into a “downward spiral” of moody and experimental jazz and psychedelic rock. This is Brown’s most nuanced album, he searches for meaning yet affects confident swagger. This album is as catchy and exciting as it is mysterious and ominous. The production on this is as impressive as Browns lyricism, an all-star list of producers contributed including the likes of The Alchemist and Black Milk. Recently on All Songs Considered, Brown talked about how Nas was his biggest influence and that is absolutely apparent on this. With each new album Brown develops as a storyteller and a wordsmith. He keeps the spirit of rap greats like Nas and Rakim alive on this album.


 

 

Slaves – Take Control (Virgin EMI Records)


The third album from the British punk band is a call for revolution. Produced by The Beastie Boys’ Mike D, this album is everything you would expect from a British punk album. It is hard hitting high energy from the start, with fuzzed out guitars, furious vocal, and a singer with scratchy vocals screaming about political and social issues. Our buddies across the pond deal with a lot of the same issues as we do here in the US and these guys speak their mind on all of it. They take on wealth inequality on “Rich Man” they tackle technology dependence on “Play Dead”. Mike D appears on “Consume or Be Consumed” making the track feel like an early Beatsie Boys track. The other tie to hip hop on the album is skits throughout, a staple of 90’s and early aughts rap music. It’s not all political they explore many issues about personal relationships and friendships on tracks like “The People The You Meet” “Steer Clear” and “Angelica.” Whatever the subject matter you can expect unapologetic (sometimes quirky and comical) honesty. The bands website domain captures the message of this record (youareallslaves.com) yet they remind us that we are not powerless and urge us to “Take Control.”


Microwave – Much Love (SideOneDummy Records)


Atlanta rock band Microwave’s first album focused on frontman Nathan Hardy’s departure from the Mormon faith. They’ve developed significantly on their sophomore album, which shows the dark side of the world that he left the church for. This album is made up of forceful rock tracks, with killer guitar licks throughout, a punk influence and just the right amount of early aught emo to make their style dynamic and unique. On the standout track “Vomit” Hardy rethinks the party lifestyle and examines his loss of faith in love, struggling to figure out what his new life really means. This track is extremely intimate and emotional, in the second half Hardy screams, “There’s no such thing as love we just felt vulnerable without a god, without a crutch.” On this record we hear a man in between worlds, finding himself disillusioned with each side and figuring out where he belongs.


 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 16th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Touché Amoré – Stage Four (Epitaph Records)


Music doesn’t get much more powerful than this album, both the sonic brawn and emotional content continuously floor the listener. The fourth album of the California post-hardcore band follows frontman Jeremy Bolm’s mother’s death and battle with cancer. This album explores the depths of human emotion: whether it’s Jeremy’s struggle with belief on “Displacement” the regret of not being there when she passed on “Eight Seconds” or the questions he wished he’d asked on “Palm Dreams” we hear Jeremy working through these feelings throughout the album. He ultimately finds some sort of peace and clarity on “Skyscraper” joined by Julien Baker, The National influenced track signifies Jeremy’s closure, ending with the last voicemail left by his mother, which he states on the first track that he hasn’t brought himself to listen to it. The post-hardcore genre magnifies Bolm’s catharsis as he screams through the pain, expressing all the questions and realizations that he’s had during the whole tragic ordeal. Not only is this album a stunning personal expression and a companion for anyone navigating loss, but it redefines what this genre is capable of accomplishing.


El Perro Del Mar – Kokoro (Ging Ging Recordings)


For over a decade, Swedish singer and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Assbring has made indie-pop under the name El Perro Del Mar. During the making of her last record, she welcomed her first child into the world and the baby even joined her on tour. She then took time off to focus on motherhood, but after 8 months she had the itch to get back to work. She had been, “listening to only Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian pop music for the last three years,” and a visit to a musical instrument museum in Sweden, she was taken with instruments and sounds from other cultures and recorded sounds that she sampled on the record.  She then outfitted her mysterious electro-pop sound with sounds from all over the world, with rhythms inspired by Indonesian Gamelan music, Asian string and woodwind instruments, and all manner of exotic percussion. On this record Assbring examines what it means to be human,  perhaps due to maturity or motherhood, or the multi-cultural influence. On “Breadandbutter” she reminds us, “We all come from the very bottom,” and on “Clean Your Window” she warns, “Share some light because Ignorance grows in the dark.” This album is both rhytmic and melodic, which was Assbring’s intention when borrowing from these different styles. This is eclectic and exotic pop unlike you’ve heard before, with every song bringing a new element to the table, this is her best album yet.


Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust (Joyful Noise Recordings)


The third album from multi-instrumentalist K. Ishibashi is an obvious departure from his past work. Following a bout of writer’s block, and marital struggles, he threw himself into his music. He worked in Ableton, a different recording software than he usually uses, and began to create exciting loops and electronic sounds. While his orchestral pop roots are still present, the album is primarily synth and keyboard driven. This record is steeped in 70’s influence, from Pink Floyd and ELO, to George Duke and other Brazilian jazz fusion players. Produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, there are many supporting instrumentalists, making the compositions fuller and more rich than past records. This is Ishibashi’s most accomplished and most personal album. Playing out like the soundtrack to a movie, this album focuses on love and the crazy journey it can take you on. On Sonderlust, you hear an artist bravely enter new territory, with enough connection to his early work to make any die hard fan get on board.


 Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years (Sinderlyn)


In 2013, Staten Island rock band Cymbals Eat Guitars released their third album, which was very well recieved and was follower with a year long tour. Afterwards, frontman Joseph D’Agostino was in a self described “funk” not really inspired to make more music. The song “4th of July” tells the story of the night that brought him back. Hanging out with fellow musician Alex G on 4th of July, he witnessed a violent encounter and escaped unscathed.  He began to write about what it means to be alive and to make your life matter. This album is equal parts pragmatism and existentialism, as Joe grows older and looks at everyday situations through a more cosmic lens, “How many universes am I alive and dead in?”. The sound on this album is bright and hazy, with fuzzy guitars, the occasional shimmering synth, and sometimes even a booming sax; Joe’s gravelly voice and vivid storytelling make it sound like The Clash meets Springsteen. On this album Joe confronts his inevitable death and celebrates his immediate life.


Kool Keith – Feature Magnetic (Mello Music Group)


Kool Keith is the wonderfully talented, terribly hilarious rapper also known as Dr. Octagon, Rhythm X, Dr. Doom and Mr. Gerbek. Yes, he is a truly eccentric talent who has been around since the late 80s when he took the rap world by storm as a member of the Ultramagnetic MCs. For the past several years it seemed that the world may not see another solid Kool Keith album again, but that has been proven false with the release of his newest album Feature Magnetic. Keith also has assumed the role of producer for most of the album under the name Number One Producer, which gives it a very cohesive sound. Musically the songs are strange, yet pretty minimalistic at the same time often built around big looping drums and synth lines. These serve Keith’s signature rapping incredibly well, allowing the focus to be on his very funny lyricism and breathtaking, wholly original deliver. Feature Magnetic is perfect for old school and newer hip-hop fans alike and it’s a joy to hear Kool Keith back in the saddle again. – Words by Brian LaBenne


The Glazzies – Kill Me Kindly (Old Flame Records) 


The Glazzies are a criminally under-heard Long Island rock band. Their new album, Kill Me Kindly, recalls the heyday of nineties grunge, while at the same time taking it in their own direction. Pop-Grung is not really a subgenre of music, but hopefully it will be as The Glazzies demonstrate how awesome it can sound. These are seriously great pop songs clothed in heavy grungey guitars and aggressive drumming perfect for blasting and bobbing you head along to. Psychedelic shades also permeate Kill Me Kindly in both the music and lyricism as most of these songs are straight up about aliens. Overall,  this is a fun album worth your time, especially if you are interested in heavy, catchy and fantastic grunge. – Words by Brian LaBenne


AlunaGeorge – I Remember (Island Records) 


AlunaGeorge have been getting progressively more and more into the mainstream pop world ever since they burst on the scene in 2012 with the stellar single “You Know You Like It,” which was in turn re-mixed by DJ Snake in 2014 resulting in it becoming certified platinum. This is all to say that it should be no surprise that AlunaGeorge’s new album, I Remember, is a swing for the fences, huge sounding modern pop album. A lot of the reviews of the new album seem to not understand the trajectory that AlunaGeorge has been on for the past several years, which really does not make sense. This is an absolutely solid pop album with songs that would fit in with modern pop radio and definitely be the best song playing in any given cycle. I Remember is a breezt affair with mostly up-tempo synth pop songs that have nice subtle verses and shimmering chrosues. I Remember progresses AlunaGeorge closer to their pop music takeover, which was promised all those years ago. – Words by Brian LaBenne


Preoccupations – Preoccupations (Jagjaguwar)


Preoccupations, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, is back with a new self-titled album that is absolutely brutal and punishing in the best way possible. Preoccupations is an album full of awesome post-punk songs that are at time monotonous and at others incredibly varied and catchy. Preoccupations sounds entirely like Viet Cong, yet at the same time absolutely different. They have expanded their sound palate a bit, even evoking Echo and the Bunnymen at times. Lyrically these are songs mostly about falling apart, breaking down and ultimately building back up. The band describes their new album in the following way: “What’s punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass. Your best year can be your worst year at the same time. Whatever sends you flying can also help you land.” – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 9th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seeds Ltd.)


 

Skeleton Tree is an absolutely gut wrenching and heartbreaking album to listen to.  In July of 2015 Nick Cave suffered the loss of his 15 year old son after he fell off of a cliff to his death.  Skeleton Tree opens with Nick Cave in his classic spoken vocal delivery uttering the words “You fell from the sky, crash landed in a field near the river Adur” and that direct honesty continues through the rest of the album.  As is always the case with Cave’s songwriting, literal lines like the opener are mixed with surreal passages making for a mesmerizing listen.  Musically the songs are largely ambient pieces, heavy with electronic elements, piano and string sections, which all really takes a backseat to Nick Cave’s songwriting.  Although this is a mostly dour affair, however there are some moments of light shining through, which is most evident in the closing lines of the album: “And it’s alright now / And it’s alright now / And it’s alright now.”  – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Low Culture – Places to Hide (Dirtnap Records)


 

Low Culture is a raucous garage pop-punk band made up of members from the Marked Men, Total Jock and Shang-A-Lang.  Places to Hide is their second album as a band and it finds them really honing in on their sound, while at the same time reaching out to new territory.  There are fourteen songs and most of them sound like a more aggressive and faster take on 70s punk rock.  Seriously, these songs are really fast with blistering drums and guitar riffs flying by over and over again, making for a really fun listen.  As good as these punk songs are, Places to Hide is even more exciting when they deviate from the norm.  There are songs that are close to slower paced ballads, a Low Culture take on bubblegum pop and even some sonic similarities to David Bowie.  Low Culture proves with Places to Hide that they are a band to pay attention to. – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Grouplove – Big Mess (Atlantic Records)


 

Big Mess has to be the hugest sounding album of 2016, these songs are absolutely massive.  Grouplove finds their sweet spot over and over again on this album, proving themselves a forced to be reckoned with.  These are some of the loudest pop songs around and are absolutely begging to be turned up as loud as your ears can take.  It really is an interesting mix of radio ready pop sounds mixed with loud indie rock music.  Imagine if MGMT made an entire album of songs like “Kids” or “Electric Feel” but with a ton more rock muscle to them.  There are some more toned down tracks on the album, but overall this is an exhilarating album.  Big Mess is for those who like their power and their pop in equal measure. – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Adam Torres – Pearls to Swine (Fat Possum Records)


 

Adam Torres has a voice that you have to hear to believe.  There is a special tone to his falsetto delivery that is something to behold and his effortless shift between registers is breathtaking.  Pearls to Swine is fantastic front to back and showcases Adam Torres in his best form.  The songs are largely scaled back folk numbers, which really allow Torres’ voice to shine.  That is not to say the music is boring, quite the opposite.  This is a great album for fans of beautifully finger picked acoustic guitar and orchestral folk music sung with one of the most interesting voices in a while.  It really does have to be heard to be believed. – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Local Natives – Sunlit Youth (Loma Vista Recordings)


Since Local Natives emerged in 2010, I immediately took to their earthy indie-rock sound and followed them adoringly. When they released, “Past Lives” the first new single off of their third album, it was clear this new record would be a departure. They had seemingly breathed new life into their style, with this powerful and energetic track, reminiscent of early Arcade Fire. However, that is not the case for all the songs on the album. For the majority of the album their new, poppy-er sound outfitted with electronic elements, suits them quite well, but there are a handful of track where is comes across as overproduce and too mainstream. There are certain moments that lack the originality that we’ve come to expect from Local Natives. The third album is often a turning point for a band, venturing into new territory, and that is the case here, though it is a bit uneven. The songwriting and melodies are still strong, and the vocal performances of Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer remains the group’s greatest asset. Some standout tracks on the album like “Past Lives” “Fountain of Youth” and “Masters” are on a level with their previous work, the album as a whole however does not quiet measure up.


clipping – Splendor & Misery


Daveed Diggs has been on fire recently: winning a Tony and Grammy for his role in the hottest musical in years, Hamilton; a role in Baz Luhrman’s Netflix series The Get Down, and now he’s released a new album with his experimental hip hop group, clipping. This is a concept album that, “follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him.” Jonathon Snipes and William Huston provide backing “intrumentals” that completely set the scene with all manner of electronic sounds. Static cuts in and out throughout and different sounds resemble alarms or machinery of the ship. The beats are minimal with a subtle musicality. There are occasionally steady beats and obvious melodies, but more often than not they are muted and fractured. The concept of the album aside this album is quality on it’s own. Daveed Diggs songwriting and lightning-fast delivery are consistently staggering. I would put my money on Diggs to take Eminem’s Guinness Book of World Records spot. Some songs are lead only by Diggs’ voice, feeling like spoken word, some have hip hop swagger, and some have a gospel tone. Though all the songs feel connected the album remains engaging and unpredictable throughout. It feels like some other-worldly mixtape that fell to Earth in a blaze of Splendor & Misery.


Wilco – Schmilco (Dbmp Records)


Last year Wilco surprised everyone with Star Wars, an addictive  fuzzed out rockin’ record. Now they already released a new album and it’s completely different from the last. It is mostly acoustic and much more restrained, feeling more intimate but still effectively catchy. It feels kind of like a middle ground between their classic country influenced indie-rock with glimpses of the dissonant fuzz rock of Star Wars. As you can tell by the cover, Schmilco feels much more playful and childish, with Tweedy reflecting on childhood memories and relating them to his modern self while navigating life and relationships. You know a band is great when the can keep changing their sound, keep doing something new and still making quality work.


 

Okkervil River – Away (ATO Records)


The eighth album from the veteran folk-rock band feels like the ghost of itself, because Okkervil River as we know it doesn’t exist. After band members left for various reasons, frontman Will Sheff thought it was the end for the band. This was, “a confusing time of transition in my personal and professional life.” His music career was seemingly crumbling and he spent a lot of time by the Hopsice bed of his grandpa, his personal and musical hero, as he died. All of this pain and uncertainty is heard on the album: whether it’s the mourning for his old band in “Okkervil River R.I.P.” or his struggles with the music business in “The Industry” or the imaginative telling of his grandpa’s death on “Comes Indiana Through The Smoke,” where he sets the scene of the battleship his grandfather was on in WWII coming to take his grandpa to the next plane. Sheff’s grandpa was a jazz musician, so he sought out jazz players for the album and his grandpa’s trumpet is played on this song by yMusic’s C.J. Camarieri. This album is much more bare and intimate than the previous work, because it’s played by different people. This album feels more influenced by old school folk like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, with long, vivid stories masterfully told in a rambling manner. We now know that, like Kevin Barnes is of Montreal, Will Sheff is Okkervil River. There is no chance of the band breaking up because he is the band. This album is most personal and most powerful songwriting, a beautiful examination of how the end of things makes way for something new.


 

Every Monday (in this case Tuesday), Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 2nd that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

The Hecks – The Hecks (Trouble In Mind Records)


The debut lp of Chicago post-punk trio The Hecks is raw yet nuanced, you wouldn’t expect an album this lo-fi to be this dynamic. It straddles the line between catchy & melodic, and dissonant & abrasive. They implement a speak-sing punk style akin to Parquet Courts. Each song is a surprise, designed with droning ambient tracks to make you zone out, so they can take you off guard with what they do next. Yet, all songs are connected by an uneasiness throughout, even the brightest track has traces of dissonance.  This album is delightfully dark and subtly spectacular.


Izzy Bizu – A Moment of Madness (Epic Records)


22 Year old British singer Izzy Bizu recently gained success via BBC Radio and now has released her impressive debut album. Gliding from soul to r&b to pop, each song is catchier than the last. Bizu is a fierce and powerful vocalist, with backing instrumentals running the gambit of styles. This album feels like a throwback to early aughts pop music. It is an incredibly addictive album and establishes Bizu as a force to be reckoned with.


Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)


On her sophomore solo album Angel Olsen departs from the lo-fi folk/rock style from her debut, into a raw rock/dream-pop hybrid. Though there are many sounds that were not present on the first album, but what they do have in common is being driven by guitar. This album has a wealth of diverse guitar sounds: from the low rumble of “Shut Up Kiss Me” to the echoing twang of “Heart Shaped Face,” Olsen reminds us that she knows her way around a six-string. Produced by Olsen and Justin Raisen, this album is crisp and shimmering, where her last had a crunchy lo-fi charm. On this record Olsen faces harsh realities, sometimes with strength and wit, other times with fear and uncertainty.  While I would ordinarily be turned off to an album where a majority of the songs are about love, Olsen poses interesting questions about love and what it means to be a woman (and a human) with lyrics like, “Will you ever know the same love that I’ve known?” and “What is it my heart’s made of?” Olsen reinvented herself for this album and the result is her best work yet.


serpentwithfeet – blisters (Tri Angle)


If you see a guy with a beard, a septum piercing, and a pentagram tattoo on his forehead you would assume he’s in a metal band. You certainly wouldn’t think that his music would be exceptionally tender and vulnerable. However, that is the case with 27-year old Josiah Wise, whose debut ep as serpentwithfeet is a spare, beautiful showcase of his staggering vocal range and intricate songwriting. Produced by acclaimed electronic artist The Haxan Cloak, the backing compositions are rich yet subtle, often with epic swells that, when paired with Wise’s falsetto, make tracks all the more powerful. His affected harmonies often give a gospel vibe to his R&B style, with lyrics that are deep and abstract. Wise told Pitchfork that his music focuses on, “cultural trauma, cultural mourning, African American mourning,” on his Twitter page he describes the album as, “my 28 years of un-answers.” What we hear on this album is Wise trying to heal from this trauma and trying to make sense of it all. This is a glorious vocal album that gives James Blake a run for his money.


 

Every Monday, Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, August 26th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Vince Staples – Prima Donna EP (Def Jam Recordings)


Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar are quite different talents, but in the same orbit and are probably the best two rappers currently making music. Last year Staples released Summertime ’06, his debut full length, which was only out shadowed by Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. This year, both Staples and Lamar have released EPs that seem to take the greatness of their previous releases and progresses their sound in fascinating ways.  Staples has always made music that is aggressively grimy and murky, yet never in an alienating way. He has somehow been able to keep his music incredibly accessible and challenging at the same time, which is quite a feat to accomplish, especially with hip hop music. Prima Donna somehow finds Staples pushing these conflicting aspects of his music to their limits, making this at times the most challenging and most accessible music he’s made to date. Although there are only six songs on the EP and it’s a short listen, Staples covers more sonic territory than most hip hop albums do in eighteen tracks. These beats are simply mind blowing from start to finish with some real artistic bangers going on. It’s an incredible EP from a real rising star in the hip hop world that simply can’t be missed.  words by Brian LaBenne


Red Pill – Instinctive Drowning (Mello Music Group)


Detroit rapper Red Pill’s sophomore MMG album is unlike anything we’ve heard from him in the past. While his first album Look What This World Did To Us was composed mostly of vintage samples referencing hip hop’s golden age, this record is more creative and daring. Producer Ill-poetic implemented a live band to give the record more physicality, jumping from rock to jazz to psychedelia, sometimes in the same song. In a way this is Pill’s magnum opus, his artistic breakthrough, and his most personal work to date. While his lyrics have always been comically dark, deprecating, and brutally honest dealing with issues of depression, alcoholism, and low self-esteem this record looks at them through a different lens. Reflecting on major life events such as the death of his mother due to substance abuse and wonders what that means for his future. He relates these issues to existentialism, and social and political topics, this record establishes Red Pill as a seriously deep thinker with big ideas. This is one of the most ambitious and interesting rap albums you’ll hear this year and maybe this century.


De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody (A.O.I. LLC)


The cover of De La Soul’s new album is awesome. There are two people on a stage in front of a mob of angry people. One of them says “What are you doing?  Nobody can stop them!” and the other person at the microphone responds with “I am nobody!” This cover is a great representation of what De La Soul’s music has always been: wittily empowering. and the Anonymous Nobody is a great hip hop album, even if it’s not totally a De La Soul album. Really it should be billed as “De La Soul and Friends” due to the sheer volume of guest features they have. The guests range from Jill Scott and Snoop Dogg to David Byrne and Damon Albarn, resulting in an album that makes you bob and scratch your head in equal measure. It’s an album that looks inward and outward, forward and backward all at the same time. It’s both inward and outward as De La Soul handled production on every track, yet recruited a diverse collection of artists to collaborate with. It looks both forward and backward as there are some really unique sounds to hip hop happening, yet it still has the old school heart of De La Soul. Overall, it’s just a joy to listen to, especially for old school hip hop fans yearning for new De La Soul material.  words by Brian LaBenne


Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being (Caroline Records)


UK-based Indie-pop band Glass Animals first album, Zaba, is best described by it’s lead single “Gooey,” with dark, sexy grooves and Dave Bayley’s breathy vocals they seemed to be an Alt-J imitation. However, with their sophomore release they’ve breathed new life into the sound they toyed with on Zaba, and brought it to a whole new level.  Produced by the band under the guidance of veteran Paul Epworth (Grammy winning producer for Adele’ s “Rolling in the Deep) every song has exciting new sounds and elements backed by their signature primitive percussion. They reference many genres “The Other Side of Paradise” is reminiscent of Genuwine’s “Pony,” and “Poplar St.” has Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque guitar, songs are ornamented with samples and synthetic sounds adding subtle yet noticeable production value. Bayley tells vivid stories inspired by the myriad of people they encountered during their two years of touring, injecting his own experience and emotion into them. These songs examine relationships, whether it’s the absentee mother speaking to her abandoned son on “Youth,” the young man being seduced and torn apart by an older woman on “Poplar St.,” the dissapointed lover on “Pork Soda,” or the disgusted lover on, “Season 2 Episode 3,” this album really does ponder How To Be A Human Being. These stories play out like Tarantino Movies (probably intentionally as one of their past songs is called “Black Mambo”), they may not have happy endings (or beginnings or middles) yet the songs are surprisingly bright and insanely catchy. This album got me hooked on a band I didn’t really care about before, Zaba showed glimpses of what this band could be and How To Be A Human Being stares it in the face.


 

Motion Graphics – Motion Graphics (Domino Records) 


This year we’ve seen a lot of artists mixing digital and analog sounds to make their music dynamic. However, Joe Williams’ debut album as Motion Graphics sounds like a mixtape from a robotic dimension, the album art confirms this, bearing the image of a mechanical creature examining it’s own hand. The only sound on this album that isn’t made up of 1s and 0s is Williams’ voice, and even thought is often heavily effects laden. This album captures what the future might sound like and is intended to mimic the chaos of our tech-obsessed society. Often the compositions sound like a strange sort of machinery rising and falling, sometimes overpowering Williams’ vocals. Even the song titles sound like terms from a foreign, such as “Houzzfunction,” “Vistabrick,” and “Mezzotint Gliss.”  Not only is this album unlike any electronic music you’ve heard before, but is an almost prophetic caricature of the digital age.


Space Mountain – Big Sky (Dust Etc.)


Cole Kinsler is the deep, drawling voice behind the act Space Mountain.  For the past three or so years he’s been putting out solid folk-ish music and his most recent album, Big Sky, is probably his best.  Musically this is classic indie folk meets rock, which feels like it could have been recorded in the 90s.  It has a definite Pavement vibe going for it, but also has its own voice as well.  As good as the music is, Kinsler’s vocal performance is the main draw here.  It is deep and rich and at times registers so low its astounding that the human ear can hear it.  There are similarities between Kinsler’s voice and Stuart Berman from Silver Jews, or to a lesser degree Stephin Meritt from The Magnetic Fields.  Vocals and music combine in a glorious whole, resulting in a really solid indie-folk-rock album from a very good and criminally under-known artist you should really listen to.  words by Brian LaBenne


Banks & Steelz – Anything But Words (Warner Bros. Records)


Some of my favorite rap albums from the past few decades have some songs where the MC is killing it, the beat is fantastic, and then when we reach the chorus that standard song structure requires, and some singer (or sometimes the rapper themselves) spits out a mediocre chorus with sloppy rhymes. That is sometimes the case on this record, unfortunately that singer is indie-rock legend and Interpol frontman Paul Banks. However, this is not the case with every song, on tracks like “Gonna Make It” Banks’ vocals and songwriting shine. And just like the choruses on the albums from back in the day, they do grow on you and with each successive listen you come to love them for what they are. Now the other member of this group, Wu Tang’s RZA is at the top of his game. This album shows us a new side of both members, and it is especially apparent with RZA. While there is still some classic Wu-Tang fury, we see a more pensive and mature side to ol’ Bobby Steelz, with many songs about love and his family. On “Wild Season” he talks about how the birth of his daughter brought him back from a dark bout of substance abuse. Though the instrumentation is somewhat all over the place it works well with the new quirky style of these two, RZA himself said this is the strangest project he’s worked on (strange in a cool way). The guest list on this album includes Wu-Tang Clanmates Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, and Method Man; Florence + The Machine’s Florence Welch; and rap legend Kool Keith. Despite it’s flaws this album is fierce, funny, and sometimes extremely insightful and powerful, from one of the most unique and entertaining rap-rock supergroups we’ve ever seen.


 

Every Monday, Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, August 19th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

AJJ – The Bible 2 (SideOneDummy Records)


Arizona-based folk-punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad pulled a Jr Jr (formerly Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr) and shortened their name with the release of their sixth album, The Bible 2. If you listen to the band’s early work they sound like if The Weakerthans “ripped off a man named Woody Guthrie.” However, over their nearly decade long career their sound has evolved, and in recent years they joined forces with producer/engineer extraordinaire John Congleton. Frontman Sean Bonnette’s best songwriting to date, along with Congleton’s contributions make this album their finest work yet. The lyrics are often quirky and comical, my favorite line is “Some days you’re a member of Queen, some days your a Kottonmouth King. Somedays your Emilio Estevez, other days you’re Charlie Sheen.” Bonnette is similar to the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, in that he takes odd routes to get to the emotion of a situation, and once he gets there it is all the more gratifying. If you don’t know this band this album is a good entry point, it is more fun than should be allowed for how powerful some of the songs are. This is the fuzzy folk-punk album you didn’t know you needed in your life, at times resembling Neutral Milk Hotel.  The band did a hilarious parody OK Go’ extravagant videos with the video for, “Goodbye, Oh Goodbye.” It gives you an idea of the goofballs you’re dealing with.


Chris Staples – Golden Age (Barsuk Records)


Florida-based singer/songwriter Chris Staples has been playing music since the late 90’s. First as the frontman of the indie-rock band twothirtyeight, then branching out as a solo artist. Chris was relatively obscure until his friends from the bands Nada Surf and Telekinesis decided to help his last album, American Soft, get the audience it deserved. Barsuk signed him and he’s been on the rise ever since. On the follow up to American Soft, Staples continues to do what he does best, make honest, unforgettable folk songs. This album is deceptively simple and subtly profound. At it’s most upbeat the songs are still restrained, and there is a delicate sparseness to the ballads, where his voice is barely above a whisper. After a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, hip surgery, and the end of long relationship, Staples was longing for a simpler time, as he puts it on the title track, “”Do you want to resurrect some golden age?  Do you sometimes wish you could turn back the page.” However, this album is overall about moving forward. Staples says, “Golden Age is about that myth we carry around. The myth of our past being idyllic. I don’t want to waste any more time dwelling on it.”


Crystal Castles – Amnesty (1) (Casablanca Records)


Once you get a couple songs into Amnesty you realize that it is fractured, not only the distorted synth sounds and disjointed, thumping rhythms, but no two songs are alike. At times frenetic and driving and other times ambient and epic, this album sounds like pop sounds filtered through a broken stereo in a dystopian future world. This album is ominous overall, but the glimpses of light that shine through are particularly bright. This is a diverse, engaging electropop album.


 

Frank Ocean – Blonde (Boys Don’t Cry, Def Jam)


After Radiohead’s internet blackout, Beyonce’s cryptic Lemonade release, Chance’s Apple Music exclusivity, and Kanye’s tinkering with The Life of Pablo, Frank Ocean’s drawn out album release fatigued many fans (including myself). I found myself longing for the days when albums just came out and you could listen to them. That being said, the singer’s follow up to Channel Orange paid off. This album feels uncertain, as if it doesn’t know which direction to head in, so it will try something and then abandon it. This is the way Frank feels in the story of the album, as he deals with the two warring sides of his sexuality. While there are some standout tracks this is an album you need to listen to all the way through, this is an album you need to get lost in. The list of contributors is astronomical; legends from beyond the grave, like The Beatles, Bowie, and Elliott Smith; modern juggernauts like, Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar; and indie darlings like James Blake, Rostam Batmanjiv, and James Blake. Frank’s vocals are of course fantastic and he tinkers with affects for some interesting results. This album is truly a spectacle, it is very deep and full of subtlety, so the listener is sure to make discoveries with each successive listen. Though it took forever to get here it was worth the wait.


Ka – Honor Killed the Samurai (Iron Works)


 

Ka began putting out hip hop albums as a member of the group Natural Elements in the 90s, yet in the past few years has really begun to find his footing.  Honor Killed the Samurai is his newest and best album to date, taking his talent to a whole new level.  Ka is a very insular performer, acting as both the sole rapper and producer on most of his albums, including Honor Kill the Samurai.  He has been able to really carve out his own space in the hip hop genre and makes music that sounds like nobody else right now.  On the surface, Ka’s rapping heavily references New York in both style and his accent; however, the delivery is definitely unique.  Over time, Ka has gotten softer and softer in his vocal delivery.  This is not soft in the way hip hop uses as a put down, it is quiet, calm and smooth like Don Corleone in The Godfather movies you can’t help but hang on his every word.  Where Ka really is otherworldly is in the production.  There are very few actual beats that he raps over during the course of Honor Killed the Samurai.  These are abstract pieces of minimalist music, which sometimes only contain three or four looped instruments.  In the age of trap and dubstep inspired rap music, Honor Killed the Samurai feels like an album from outer space in the best possible way.  This is for serious hip hop fans in search of a truly original artist.


 

Big Eyes – Stake My Claim (Don Giovanni)


Anyone who believes rock music is dead clearly hasn’t been following Don Giovanni Records’ output for the past several years and should be sure to listen to Stake My Claim, the new album from Big Eyes.  This is a collection of ten songs over 23 minutes steeped in rock n roll.  There are elements of classic rock, punk, power pop and hard rock all jumbled together over the course of the album, which makes for an exhilarating listen.  Kait Eldridge’s songwriting and vocal performance are truly outstanding on Stake My Claim mixing moments of hard edged delivery with vulnerable softness often times within the same song.  Lyrically these songs give a feeling of frustration and dissatisfaction, yet with an attitude of assertiveness needed to bring about change.  All the elements of Big Eyes are clicking in high gear, yet what really shines the most is the guitar work.  Stake My Claim is full of great riffs and layered guitar work, really making the most of all the instrument has to offer.  If you have been looking for a great rock album then Stake My Claim is a must listen.


Happy Diving – Electric Soul Unity (Topshelf Records)


San Francisco band Happy Diving is a powerful band that makes poppy songs with a ton of muscle.  Electric Soul Unity is their sophomore album and finds them really honing in on their sound.  Elements of power pop and fuzzy, sludgey guitar work combine in an interesting way, like if Dinosaur Jr. and Weezer decided to collaborate.  Some critics have faulted Happy Diving on the sameness of Electric Soul Unity, feeling that the songs were too similar; however, where one finds similarity another may find cohesion in their ability to have a distinctive voice.  This is a powerfully heavy album that pummels the listener in the best way with only a couple moments to breath before getting assaulted by guitars, bass and drums again.  Electric Soul Unity is both a confident album and one that shows the promise of growth for even greater things to come.


DIVAN – Modern Knowledge 


Modern Knowledge is the debut album of Irish indie-rock band DIVAN, produced by the great Brent Knopf of EL VY. This album is equal parts earthy and urban, inspired by frontman Jamie Clarke’s country upbringing and longing to venture out into the city. But the larger theme here is finding your place in the world.Clarke says, ‘I think always having an innate desire to surround yourself with activity & action when all you’ve known is peace & tranquillity comes out in our music.” With thundering toms and airy guitars driving the song these songs possess a modest folkiness with flashes of rock fervor. This is indie-rock unlike what you’ve heard in the past, informed by the writer’s unique experience.


 

Every Monday, Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, August 12th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits (Castle Face Records)


Thee Oh Sees is a roller coaster ride of a band. In the recent past they announced that they were going to go on an indefinite hiatus, which lasted less than a year and their output since has been some of their most solid work. Thee Oh Sees thrive on kinetic energy, both for their live shows and studio albums, which are both fascinating and unpredictable. A Weird Exits is classic Thee Oh Sees, containing 8 tracks of fast psychedelic rock music, which is one of the best albums they have put together. Not only is it vintage Thee Oh Sees they also have a new flavor in A Weird Exits. The albums succeeds in two interesting ways: capturing the absolute chaos and energy of their live shows and at the same time allowing their songs to breathe with some nice peaceful passages. A Weird Exits works for longtime fans and newcomers alike as it both plays to their existing audience, while at the same time serving as a great gateway album to a band with an intimidating to get into catalogue. This is definitely a win-win album all around: it showcases something new and retains their classic magic; it satisfies newcomer and old timer alike; and it’s just plain great music to listen to.


 

Blind Pilot – And Then Like Lions (ATO Records)


Three is a magic number when it comes to the arts.  In photography and filmmaking you frame a shot based on thirds, in comedy you callback a joke according to the rule of threes, and in music there is a phenomena where an artistic breakthrough happens on the third album. Obviously there are many exceptions to this rule, but it can be seen with Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet,  Radiohead’s OK Computer. The third album often finds artists trying new things, taking new risks, and coming into their own as artists. That is the case with Blind Pilot’s third album, And Then Like Lions. Their first album in five years sees the band at their most rocking and their most restrained. Previously, the band was known for making catchy folk-rock, and that is still the case yet this album contains their most elaborate arrangements, and their weightiest lyrical content. Frontman Israel Nebeker sums up the albums theme perfectly when talking about the lead single “Packed Powder,” in which he compares his childhood experiments with gun powder to people finding their way through life, “we are simply stretching forward in our own dark, getting to discover what we are made of as we go.” The band has done just that, and on this album we see their existing knack for infectious and insightful folk songs reach new heights and show new colors.


of Montreal – Innocence Reaches (Polyvinyl Records)


The music of Kevin Barnes has undergone many changes over the course of his two-decade-long career. He started off as a kind of folk act while a member of the Elephant 6 collective in the late 90’s. His seminal album Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? demonstrates the indie-synthpop sound that he trafficked in for most of his career, until 2013’s Lousy With Sylvanisbar, a guitar driven, classic rock style album. On his fourteenth album, Innocence Reaches, Barnes takes pieces from all the genres and styles previously explored and assembles them into a mosaic of eclectic compositions. The Spotify playlist of inspiration songs Barnes posted proves this, containing everything from Roxy Music to Kendrick Lamar to ZAYN. While the instrumentation takes on many forms, Barnes’ harmonizing, layered effect-drenched vocals make these songs soar. Known for his wordy, astute lyrical style, on this album Barnes uses topics of love, sex, and gender to connect to social and political issues. Whether it’s the unifying thoughts on the album opener, “how do you identify?” offering, “let’s relate,” the examination of gender inequality on “it’s different for girls,” or “def pacts” in which societal myths are debunked, “…to survive in this world you don’t have to become a parasite. You don’t have to be so mercenary so cruel.” For a prolific artist with such a storied career it must be challenging to grow and evolve while meeting your fans’ expectations, but Barnes has pulled it off with this album.


 

Every Monday, Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, August 5th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream (GNDWIRE Records)


Haley Bonar has been making music since the early 2000’s and her album count is in the double digits ( fun fact: she wrote a song called “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy” before Big & Rich, though the two songs have very different tones). Since her beginnings Haley has come a long way, undergone a lot of changes and, like all of us, she’s made a lot of mistakes along the way. That is the basis for her new album, Impossible Dream. On this album she combines classic rock, indie-rock, and dream pop in interesting ways, whether it’s the crunchy punk vigor of “Kismet Kill,” or the dark driving rock sound on “Your Mom Is Right” reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. Each track on this album has a different vibe yet they all feel connected, there is a clear character arc over the course of this album. Our story begins when she leaves home on the opener “Hometown”, she talks about burning bridges and walking away from relationships ” Let it all burn in the rearview mirror” and revisits this concept on “Called Your Queen” singing, “Kiss your head and walk away let the castle dance in flames.” She examines the difference between who you thought you were and who you’ve become. She wishes for improvement on “I Can Change”, and on “Stupid Face” she asks, “When did I get so mean?” On this song she also pines for youth “I miss the heart that does a cannonball into a frosted lake,” and in Kismet Kill saying, “I was impossible when I was beautiful.”  On the upbeat closing track she describes herself as, “only slightly ashamed” and declares the truth, “you can be whatever you like.” You can feel Haley’s entire life informing this album, making it feel intimate and genuine. While more mistakes lie ahead, this album finds Haley taking a breath and reflecting on her past, attempting to accept her regrets and not allow them to slow her down. In doing so she taps into truths about love, life decisions, and societal structures. This album is instrumentally nuanced and lyrically empowering; a hymnal for the proudly imperfect among us.


Wild Beasts – Boy King (Domino Records)


Since their 2008 debut Wild Beasts have outfitted their lush indie-rock sound with electronic elements, blending both digital and physical sounds, but on their fifth album, Boy King, they’ve plunged head first into the digital realm. Though physical instruments are still present synths, wether sludgy, distorted, sharp or shimmering, drive this album. Modern technology combined with the 80’s aesthetic (the font on the cover is straight out of an 80’s arcade game) creates a dark, almost futuristic setting for the story of this album to unfold upon. Produced by master sound manipulator John Congleton, this concept album explores topics of love, gender, carnal instincts, and the self-destructive behavior of males. The album starts with the testosterone soaked tracks “Big Cat” and “Tough Guy” until roles shift on “Alpha Female”. The landscape navigated by our narrator is compared to ancient Greece and Rome with songs like “Eat Your Heart Out Adonis” and lyrics like, “I’m the type of man who wants to watch the world burn,” on “2BU” References to “Colossus” and “Megafauna” see our “hero” making a giant or a monster of himself, making something bigger than a human can control. The dark and danceable sound of the album fades on the tender album closer where the lyrics, “begin again” are repeated. This album is sexy and sinister, full of funky grooves and deep lyrical content.


Rival Consoles – Night Melody (Erased Tapes Records)


London-based producer and independent sound scientist Ryan Lee West has had an obsession with sound his whole life. Though he started out as a guitarist but shifted his focus into electronic music and has been doing so under the name Rival Consoles for nearly a decade. His new album Night Melody, betrays it’s title in that it is exceptionally bright and melodic, yet with occasional ominous undertones. The opener “Pattern of the North” pans the sound from left to right, front to back, and every which way. Listening to it through a car stereo, synths seem to swirl around you. What follows are meticulously built electronic compositions that excite the listener with innovative song structure,  and at the same time subtle melodies and pulsing rhythms makes heads bob and toes tap. This album is a combination of the technically complex and the simply catchy. The 6 songs are so deep and epic they almost feel like 12 songs, surprising the listener with the vast universe of sound that one person can create.


Dogbreth – Second Home (Asian Man Records)


Dogbreth is a criminally under-known band that makes fantastic power pop music, which is equal parts sugary sweet and a punch in the face. Their new album, Second Home, is a short, tight set of 10 songs that span the spectrum of rock music, yet maintains one cohesive voice. Classic guitar rock mixes with punk and power pop in the most balanced way that makes you scratch your head and wonder how they were able to pull this off. There are saxophone and synth parts spread over the album but what really shines is the guitar work and songwriting. The guitars shimmer, effortlessly pounding riff after memorable riff over the course of the album. Songwriting is also a key strength as all songs on the album are sing-a-long-able and will stick with you well through the day. Seriously, please listen to this album. Words by Brian LaBenne

Noname – Telefone


Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, Noname. Yes, she belongs in the same conversation as those seminal acts who have hijacked RnB and Hip-Hop over the past couple years. Telefone is a beautifully poetic piece of art and is just a joy to listen to. It’s spacey and soulful to the tenth degree and Noname’s vocal delivery is fascinating to listen to. She pulls off the spoken/sung/rapped vocals that are popular right now but in her own way. She doesn’t use auto tune, giving this album a very organic feel. If you’re a fan of where Kendrick, Chance and Anderson have started to take music, you’d be wise to add Noname to the list. Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Izzy True – Nope (Don Giovanni)


Izzy True’s album, Nope, delivers on the promise of “Total Body Erasure,” (one of the best singles of the year). Nope is full of rootsey and rocking moments in equal measure, all done in the singular, distinctive voice of Isabel Reidy. Izzy True is kind of like a more muscular version of Frankie Cosmos, or a distilled, scaled back Courtney Barnett; she’s in truly great company. Izzy True alternates between hard and soft in both the music and the vocals, often within the span of just a few seconds, which makes for an exhilarating listen. This is an album that deals with instability in cathartic and magical ways and is also just plain good. Words by Brian LaBenne