There has been a flood of new music in the past few weeks and it has been a fun challenge to keep up. In an effort to highlight just a few of the amazing albums I’ve heard, here are five that I felt are worthy of further thought and discussion. -Dario
This is my favorite kind of find. Jane Weaver’s career is a perfect example of just how vast the world of music is. On my first few listens, I recognized a sound that is deeply rooted in the music from the late 90s, early 2000s, with hints of synth pop, similar to Stereolab or Broadcast, mixtures of rich, flowing textures and driving, crunchy guitars, reminiscent of Yo La Tengo. Upon further inspection, I learned that Jane Weaver was making music right along side these artists, since the 90s. As a founding member of British group Kill Laura she would have had a front row seat, to what I consider, one of the more innovative eras in recent music. Weaver has a catalog of solo albums, dating back as far as 2002. My excitement upon hearing Modern Kosmology with all of its driving post rock ideas and trance-inducing waves of dream pop psychedelia, will only continue giving, with an extensive collection of albums from Jane Weaver, to explore for the next few months or years. And, who knows, this could be one of those artists that I once bought years ago, after an excited listening, only to get lost in a collection of music that is maybe more than any one person could pay attention to (you know how it is.) Perhaps I’ll do a series of reviews of things in my collection that I never actually listened to. We’ve all got them!
Love at Low Speeds is a very self aware album even the title itself conjures images of 70s/80s yacht rock. Shook is another artist that may fall in line the growing trend of “the new light rock.” It’s apparent now, with the rising fame of Mac Demarco, Real Estate and a slew of other bands that are turning down the amps and cranking up the smoothness, that light rock is back and it’s better than ever. When considering the cyclical nature of music, I often try to consider what music we hear as children and how that influences who we are as musicians, in our adult life. Perhaps we’re just now witnessing the blooming of musicians who were conceived to Hall & Oates or the Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood soundtrack. Luckily for those of us who were of a more cognitive age at these times, music has a way of being filtered through the rebellious youth of its creators and through that filtration, it perhaps loses some of the more sanitized ideas and replaces them with unusual twists and turns. Abram Shook is simply continuing the tradition of playing what you know and adding just enough of their own thing to keep music moving forward.
Powerplant is equal parts sweet saccharine pop and driving middle finger punk. Every song has that perfect lose knit lilt pioneered by artists like Edith Frost of Mirah, with no shortage of grinding turns, perfectly offsetting the flawlessly catchy nature of these songs. At the absolute core of this is the perfectly blended, yet slightly dissonant harmonies between signers and primary members, Cleo Tucker (guitar, vocals) and Harmony Tividad (bass, vocals). Girlpool is a relatively new band, but there is a solid youthful maturity that is a rare thing to find so well balanced and effective. The arrangements are simple and seemingly effortlessly executed. But, it all comes together as one rich tone that conveys something that sounds much bigger than two (three at the most) musicians playing simple parts and singing with relaxed voices and angsty lyrics.
James Toth returns with his first Wooden Wand album since 2014. It seems little has changed since his 2004 release of Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Fig, with ten albums in between, all featuring slow, feverish folk tunes with abstract lyrics, mixed with old Americana imagery. James Toth brings little in the way of style or affected vocals or arrangement. This is folk music that exists for the sake of the song and has little care for current trends in modern folk music…or old folk music, for that matter.
My introduction to Wooden Wand was through Toth’s folk noise collaboration as Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice. This group shed all templates for what “folk” should be, or even what “noise” should be. In fact, I’m pretty sure they would scoff at my generalization and use of such a definitive label. But, his participation in this project made it clear that he has set up a clear channel for music. It’s a rare gift to create music that comes through with little residue of what the world around you is projecting and makes a clear statement that is purely from the artists own psyche.
I trust Lindsay. She’s a more than competent record store manager, a fantastic musician and has the taste to back it up. So, when she shoots down all my biased, baseless opinions about a band with L.A. in their name, expressing how awesome the music is, I listen. Even if she describes the music as having elements of prog rock, I put aside all of my preconceived ideas of what kind of music I find appealing and I listen. L.A. Takedown is a prime example of why I put this trust in her. Yes, this is, in many ways, prog rock. And yes, name dropping Los Angeles does seem to be fitting, for this band. But shit, this is good stuff. It has all the elements of 80’s California based cop shows and Giorgio Mororder soundtracks, with just the perfect amount of organic tones and low end to put to rest any negative elements I would associate with this brand of music. In fact, there are many similarities to bands I absolutely love, like Tortoise or Do Make Say Think. There’s just maybe a little more cheese ball synth…but they fucking OWN IT!