Sunday, 29 March 2015

Best of March

March was no doubt a spectacular month for music, some might say that it's the new February 2014, but I'm not quite convinced yet. But my God was some great music dropped this month, from electronica (Jamie XX, Holly Herndon) to folk (Sufjan Stevens, Laura Marling) and psychedelia (Tame Impala, The Holydrug Couple), there was a little something for everyone. Let's recap on the best, in my opinion of course...

Albums of the month

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell

Ever since I heard Seven Swans I was hooked on this guy's music. His inventive combinations of traditional folk, chamber pop and the occasional electronic elements, for me, always set him apart from the bog-standard 'dude with a guitar' acts. When it was first announced that Carrie and Lowell would 'a return to his folk roots', I had no idea how true this statement would be; this is the most bare and raw I've ever heard Stevens sound. As a mummy's boy myself, this is a truly devastating listen with absolutely no break from the darkness in its 42 minute running time. But I must admit, praising this record for its rawness and its relentlessness makes me somewhat of a hypocrite when I criticised Sun Kil Moon's Benji for the exact same reasons. The difference is that Sufjan balances the bleakness of these tracks with far more engaging melodies and his signature paper-thin falsetto, which makes the tone much cozier than it should be.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

The ongoing class war in the UK and the race issues in America have defined 2015 so far and I have no doubt they'll continue to be prominent areas of debate among members my generation, and rightfully so. Growing up in an area which is both ethically and economically diverse, I recognise the need for enlightened social commentators like Kendrick Lamar. Even though I didn't get the hype over his last record, both lyrically and production-wise this stands heads and shoulders above Good Kid M.A.AD City. Inevitably his music won't appeal to a cynical and often ignorant older generation, but what is important is that we take notice of Kendrick's message and be inspired to speak about the issues that concern us.

Lower Dens - Escape From Evil

What is most commendable about Lower Dens on this record is the ease with which they are able to achieve such a distinct atmosphere and sustain it throughout, especially when so many others try so hard to convey any sort of mood whatsoever and fail. Where Escape From Evil shines brightest is when the band let go and embrace a lighter, more euphoric aspect of their sound, particularly on the melancholic yet therapeutic sheen of “To Die in LA”. My only wish is that they capitalized upon this sonic breakthrough with a record full of tracks of this calibre, which makes the fact that they didn't somewhat frustrating. That being said, knowing that Lower Dens have the potential to create melancholic pop perfection is comforting in itself.

Laura Marling - Short Movie

With her debut album, Laura Marling didn't quite 'burst' but 'politely step' onto the scene, though gradually she won over fans and critics alike with her 'British rose with an edge' charm. Fast forward to 2013 and she's musically evolved into a middle-age, troubled American badass on Once, I Was An Eagle. With such an epic predecessor, I had high hopes for 'Short Movie' and fortunately I was not disappointed. The best thing about this record, especially for a long-term fan like me, is how apparent it is that Marling's confidence has grown, both lyrically and vocally. The real gem here is 'False Hope', continuing the crunchy and aggressive folk-rock vibe from Once, I Was An Eagle but with even more bite. 

Lady Lamb - After

Though After feels far more mature and developed than it’s predecessor, it does have a few big moments, namely the tense, bitter and uncompromising stomp of “Batter”. Lead single “Billions of Eyes” is probably the most straight forward track Lady Lamb released to date, the carefree chants and general breeziness of the production make it a summer anthem waiting to happen. “Spat Out Spit” features one of the record’s biggest choruses, laced with horns, hand-claps and rolling guitar. The subtle lyrical references to Ripley Pine tracks scattered throughout the record in many ways cement After as the coming of age record for Spaltro’s Lady Lamb project, which at this stage in her career is pretty damn impressive.

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Though the Aussie chanteuse only just released her debut album, Courtney Barnett has already become somewhat of a cult hero in the indie scene.  As expected her debut LP is full of razor-sharp, dry, witty and clever songwriting that crystallizes the world around us with a sly wink and a smile. Sometimes I Sit and Think... sits comfortably between the romantic and tongue and cheek fun of Father John Misty's I Love You, Honeybear and Alvvays' feelings of confusion and uncertainty of being a 20-something in the 21st century. Barnett recognizes the tedium of normal life (Depreston), but still finds a way to revel in the everyday (Pedestrian At Best).

Songs of the month

Jamie XX - Gosh

Jamie XX has finally announced the details of his debut LP after teasing us time after time with bangers such as 'Girl' and 'Under One Roof Raving' (which unfortunately didn't make it onto the record). Along with the announcement of In Colour, Jamie dropped not one, but two brand new tracks, but whilst everyone lost their shit over 'Loud Places' (which was basically an XX reunion as it features Romy) I was (and still am) mesmerized by 'Gosh', possibly his finest track to date. One of the best things about Jamie's style is how well he uses samples, but with this track he takes it to a new level, the base and the aggression on this track, as well as the epic outro, really encapsulates exactly why he's one of the best producers in the UK, if not the world, right now.

Jenny Hval - The Battle Is Over

Following the release of her breakthrough LP Innocence Is Kinky in 2013, I have been eagerly anticipating her next solo album. Even though her collaborative album with Susanna Meshes of Voices was nice, it was not exactly what I was hoping for. Fortunately though her new solo record Apocalypse, Girl is shaping up nicely, with this, it's lead single being one of her strongest to date (as well as one of the best tracks of 2015 to date). Lyrically this track is a goldmine, to the point where I can't pick just one to feature; with themes ranging from feminism and cancer to socialism, I cannot wait to here this new record when it drops.   

Holly Herndon - Interference

Holly Herndon really is on a roll with these new tracks, isn't she? Both 'Chorus' (still amazing) and 'Home' will feature on her upcoming 4AD debut Platforms along with Interference, yet another clinical exploration of the digital age we live in. With every new track and every interview I read/watch I am captivated by Herndon's artistry and her process as a whole; her approach to her art is so fresh and innovative, it is no surprise that she is so highly acclaimed.  


Tame Impala - Let It Happen

God I love this band. Lonerism is still the official sponsor of my summer (i.e me eating ice cream and pretzels in my room, listening music and watching old TV shows, alone). But it's so much more than that, it is able to mentally transport me to a psychedelic dream world (like some kind of trippy escapism from reality). Even though there has been no official announcement of their new record, Let It Happen, at 8 minutes, is long enough to quench my thirst for the moment. 

Grimes - REALiTi

For the record I actually really liked 'Go', but even I (like many) was relieved when Grimes announced not only that it would not feature on her next record but that it did not represent how said album would sound. I, on the other hand, was fricking ecstatic when this absolute banger entered my life. I may* be getting ahead of myself here but this is the best Grimes song ever and I cannot even begin to explain how exited I am to hear the 're-made' version which she was kinda forced to make. When you're ready, Claire!

Girlpool - Ideal World

"Tranquilize me with your ideal world", even though I am yet to hear Girlpool's debut LP I get the feeling this lyric sums the general sentiment up pretty well. With the Lego-themed art direction as well as the title itself, I get the idea that Before The World Was Big has something to do with growing up (or perhaps not wanting to grow up). As 'Chinatown' was pretty bleak (still great though), I'm glad Ideal World is a bit more chilled and easier to digest. One thing's for sure, this album's gonna be a corker.

Novella - Sentences

Less than a month after putting out 'Land Gone', Novella have released yet another taster from their upcoming debut Land. I don't usually like to feature buzz tracks and singles from the same acts in succession but I just couldn't help myself with this one. Yet another hazy and euphoric number from these guys, drenched in reverb and shoegazing guitars I am once again reminded why I love these guys so damn much. 

Kero Kero Bonito - Picture This

What better way to celebrate (or mock?) the vain, insecure and self-obsessed generation we are than making a fun bubble gum/J-Pop crossover track about it? Well that's what Kero Kero Bonito have done here. I tend to affiliate this band with the PC Music group who have been taking the internet by storm with their sickly sweet, colourful and downright bonkers approach to pop music.

The Holydrug Couple - Dreamy

I don't know too much about these guys so I'll keep this brief. Firstly, they're from Chile, secondly they are signed to the ever-hip Sacred Bones Records and thirdly, they sound like Tame Impala. So to sum up, they're a more chilled and Chilean answer to Tame Impala, got it? Great. 

Shunkan - Our Names

You may vaguely remember me gushing about Kiwi/LA/Japanese badass Shunkan a while back, well now she's back with yet another excellent, albeit painfully short, indie rock gem. I hate to compare artists (even though I do it all the time) but this track really does sound like a much more upbeat Waxahatchee, which is a massive complement because I love a bit of Katie Crutchfield. Once again we see the feeling of loss and confusion when transitioning into an adult, with the lively and hook-laden production making it all seem alright. 

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