The Hold Steady- Teeth Dreams
Release Date: 03/25/2014
One of the most impressive aspects of The Hold Steady’s discography is how their songs have shown a wide variation of sound while the band aged, a sound which has shifted from album to album despite being, for the lack of a better word, formulaic. The appeal of The Hold Steady which has garnered them an impressively dedicated crowd comes from the ‘live’ aspect of their sound which translates into the recorded product, and the energy which accompanies this alongside lead singer Craig Finn’s eloquently vague lyricism. The issue here is that Teeth Dreams is missing the keys that made Boys and Girls in America a joy to laughingly dance to back in 2006 because of the recent departure of Franz Nicolay, and it also doesn’t pack nearly the punch which carried either Separation Sunday or Almost Killed Me did in their most ambitious moments. And so it’s safe to say that this album isn’t the band at it’s best, but an album which continues and perhaps even intensifies the issues of it’s mediocre predecessor Heaven is Whenever in 2010. The music world is in Hold Steady purgatory at the moment where everything that will likely define the band’s career has passed by now, and the rest of what we hear is more similar to an extended farewell tour then a band worthy of releasing new material. All this being said, it would still be a fun farewell show to see.
Top Tracks: “Spinners”, “Almost Everything”
Metronomy- Love Letters
Release Date: 03/10/2014
The Primary impression of Love Letters was that it might have been the unexpected gem album of the year, as the beautifully patient pop track “The Upsetter” opens up the album to grand expectation. It doest die down quickly afterwards, but by the time that the end of the album arrives you realize that the sound has only been descending, or perhaps from an optimistic viewpoint ‘plateauing’ for the past twenty minutes. This is disappointing as a listener because the album’s sound could be described as consistently enjoyable, but the full product becomes so easy to tune out that it is most certainly not capable of being viewed as a terrific comprehensive album. Instead it’s a good release by the band which contains a few terrific songs within it, but a release which should become characterized by it’s almost habitual quality of missing the little thing which would have made it great.
Top Tracks: “The Upsetter”, “Monstrous”
Kishi Bashi- Lighght
Release Date: 05/13/2014
Back in 2012 Kishi Bashi came out with a debut album named 151a which showed that this multi-instrumentalist who was formerly a touring member of the Kevin Barnes-led band Of Montreal had an impressive amount of talent of his own. It was a beautiful creation of orchestral pop which contained music which contained complex, interesting, and melodic music that garnered Bashi some attention due to it’s consistent quality and single appeal in tracks like “Bright Whites” and “It All Began With a Burst”. So does Lighght bring Kishi Bashi back to earth? In some ways, yes. There are more tracks on the album which are stripped down and more direct than anything which was heard on it’s predecessor and thus less ambitious in some aspects, but these tracks actually stand alongside the orchestral pop terrifically well and have become the high-point of the album because of how they display a form of variation which was actually missing before. Kishi Bashi creates some absolutely tremendous music to listen to once again on Lighght, and if you’re a fan of a more complex form of pop similar to what you see in Of Montreal’s chaotically melodic period then I would highly recommend you give Kishi Bashi a listen sooner rather than later.
Top Tracks: “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!”, “In Fantasia”
Future Islands- Singles
Release Date: 03/24/2014
Future Islands is a band that’s difficult to throw into a musical category. There’s heavy use of synthesizers, and genre wise it’s somewhere between pop and rock, but the way that the vocals seem to clash with the instrumentation in an unexpectedly fitting way gives this band their own unique sound. It’s difficult to confuse a Future Islands album with anything else, and their 4AD debut Singles reveals that they are still capable of creating the great sounds which have defined their discography and live performances in the past. Singles is filled with consistently pleasant listens which can either soothe your mind such as “A Song for Our Grandfathers”, or give you an easy excuse to dance like what “Sun in the Morning” provides. It caps out at a B+ here only because Singles sounds just like what it’s name suggests, a collection of singles which lacks the continuity of a great album. That being said, this album will be a great one to throw on and relax to for the upcoming months surely!
Top Tracks: “Seasons (Waiting on You)”, “Sun in the Morning”
Perfect Pussy- Say Yes To Love
Release Date: 03/18/2014
Things have been progressing rather quickly for the noise-rock band who hail from Syracuse. It started with them gaining the attention of national music publications who shared their singles last year, and it’s now grown to both give them a record deal and allow them to become one of the top live-performance stories of the past CMJ festival in New York City. Say Yes to Love clocks in at twenty-three minutes long and contains eight tracks, careening between energy paced rock and long segments of transitional empty noise in the process. These qualities make the listen seem more similar to a demo tape than a debut album, but the rawness of the approach actually helps here more than it hurts because it helps to create the feeling of music which is immediately present to the listener. Perfect Pussy gets a lot of the credit that they do because of how consistently this immediacy is present in their music, but the band really does needs to improve significantly in songwriting before they can claim to fully deserve the attention which they’ve received thus far. It’s doubtful that the band will be sending out apology notes for this however, and to be fair if I could claim a song as good as “Interference Fits” is then I probably wouldn’t be doing that either. It might just be that consistently good songs will require being patient with the band who have received about every opportunity except that up until this point.
Top Tracks: “Interference Fits”, “Big Stars”
Architecture in Helsinki- Now + 4EVA
Release Date: 03/28/2014
This Australian indie-pop group’s music used to be identified by how simple it was to enjoy in earlier albums of theirs like In Case We Die and Fingers Crossed. Those were albums which although light in substance at times, remained fun and at least semi-thought provoking for their duration. Perhaps a band creating their fifth studio album has a good reason to stray from this, but the combination of pop and disco qualities on Now + 4Eva has turned Architecture in Helsinki into a group who’s lost touch with their sentimentality in a similar sense to what’s happened to Ra Ra Riot post-The Rhumb Line. It’s discouraging to listen to because it’s obvious in the opening moments of the first track “In the Future” that this album will accept loose hypotheticals as legitimate song topics and rely on pop qualities to save the song. The group is still very good at overlapping vocals and added instrumentations to their credit, but I’d argue that these are strengths which have been displayed elsewhere in their discography even more impressively than on Now +4Eva. From here on out it appears that there are two justifiable routes for the band: either fully committing to a more electronic sound with the focus being set upon top notch production, or returning to a more stripped-down sound with focus placed upon creatively genuine song topics. Anything else just damages the lasting perception of the work which has been completed beforehand.
Top Tracks: “Born to Convince You”, “Dream a Little Crazy”
Beck- Morning Phase
Release Date: 02/21/2014
Beck is an excellent musician to familiarize yourself with if you enjoy an artist who’s willing to challenge themselves consistently in redefining their sound. Throughout his discography his music has changed drastically, from early lo-fi recordings to sarcastic electronic funk, the man has covered a lot of the possible sounds on the spectrum. Morning Phase is an album which is meant to exist as the companion to an album which is commonly viewed as one of Beck’s best in Sea Change, and this new album carries over similar qualities from there in how it displays Beck in the most straight-forward way we’ve been able to access his music yet. A lot of the focus on Morning Phase is placed upon the harmonies present, which alongside the orchestral pop qualities makes this a pretty product to listen to. The negative here is that this newest release does lack the ambitiousness of the best material which Beck has been involved in, but it doesn’t stop Morning Phase from being an easily enjoyable record from front to back.
Top Tracks: “Blue Moon”, “Morning”
The War on Drugs- Lost in the Dream
Release Date: 03/18/2014
When Kurt Vile left The War on Drugs it didn’t have to much to do with stylistic differences between himself and the band, the semi-shoegaze and ambient sounds of last year’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze are easily compared to work done here on Lost in the Dream afterall. The reported reason for why this separation actually occurred is that Vile wanted to focus his attention to his solo career, but here we’re able to see that another reason for why it may have occurred is that the group would have received significant input from Adam Granduciel whether Vile wanted to be the primary voice in this project or not. I state this because The War on Drugs hasn’t missed a step yet, and for that you give credit to the band for creating consistently interesting musical compositions filled with well placed jams and fantastic production. Lost in the Dream is a terrific album to just lose yourself to, it’s a relaxing listen which doesn’t demand your attention because it knows that you’ll be listening anyway. It is an album which asks the listener to be patient with it however as a majority of the tracks last longer than five minutes and don’t necessarily tell narrative stories, making the music more about a feeling than anything else. If you enjoy listening to relaxing music featuring consistent instrumental breaks than this one would be recommended for you.
Top Tracks: “Eyes to the Wind”, “Red Eyes”
Foster the People- Supermodel
Release Date: 03/14/2014
The band who was able to capture the world’s attention with their single “Pumped Up Kicks” back in 2011 has found themselves in an undesirable situation for the sake of their career. That’s because despite the ambitiousness which the band has tried to portray on their sophomore release, it hasn’t accomplished it’s primary job of destroying the synonymous relationship between the aforementioned single and the group as a whole. That’s how one-hit wonders seemingly become solidified, because if you can’t talk about a band without bringing attention to a specific past song of theirs then every listener has no reason to hope that the best is still yet to come. Supermodel isn’t a complete swing and a miss however as the group still does display some fun tracks within the realm of pop beauty, and the style does change enough to make it an interesting comparison to their debut album Torches. The issue is that nothing here sounds fully inspired, and the moments that exist which seem to suggest some form of inspiration quickly revert back to mundane melodies, a habit which displayed itself on this album with disappointingly consistent results. Supermodel is a sophomore album which sounds like it was released because their sophomore album was due, but there’s no need to jump off the bandwagon quite yet if you’re a fan of the band because they could come back from this.
Top Tracks: “Ask Yourself”, “Fire Escape”