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.