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.