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.