Oh Sees – Face Stabber [Castle Face]
John Dwyer throws us a little bit of a curve ball on Face Stabber. While not a complete departure from the MANY albums he’s produced, this one comes in hot with a little bit more of a pre-prog, kraut-rock vibe! Now, anything Dwyer does is 100% John Dwyer and any comparisons are suspect, at best. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been revisiting some Can or Neu! albums lately…maybe with a little James Brown and Sha-na-na thrown in.
Jay Som – Anak Ko [Polyvinyl]
There’s a familiarity to Jay Som’s music. Much of her music takes me back to the late nineties/early 2000s, with bands like Pinback or Mirah. Thanks to the the cyclical nature of music, we can hear what others might do with that genre that might not have been thought up the first time around. The trick is to add enough of your own flavor. While Jay Som has me wrapped in the warm blanket of familiarity, she’s also teaching a thing or two about what modern pop music can be. Without relying on favored, overused effects like auto-tune or…auto-tune, she’s able to create music that is current and fresh, by bending and reshaping older styles, adding the perfect amount of modern production to timeless song writing.
Whitney – Forever Turned Around [Secretly Canadian]
Whitney returns with another “feel-good-while-feeling-bad” album. Maintaining that light 70s lilt with a hint of trippy-ness, Forever Turned Around projects your old family super 8 videos onto your black light poster. There is definitely a lot more nostalgia than previous efforts, with hints of Shuggie Otis or the more delicate songs of Bread. But, everything we loved about their earlier albums is still there.
Lillie Mae – Other Girls [Third Man Records]
When exploring older, traditional genres of music, like folk, there is never any shortage of talented musicians. There are libraries dedicated to all the licks, changes and material to pull from. Where the art happens is in the choices the musicians make with all that history and learning. Lillie Mae is undoubtedly a folk musician. But that simple title just doesn’t sit well by itself. There’s a word missing there, but you’re not quite sure what it is. Almost every song on this album starts from a familiar place, only to take some weird turn within the first verse/chorus. I can appreciate a purist approach to folk music. But, all the music we love didn’t start from where we picked it up. We love it because of the long journey it traveled to get to us. As fans of music, we often forget to love the journey as much as the music, itself.
Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops [Joyful Noise]
As a young, shitty student of music, I had a moment when I realized that an academic path might not have been for me. We had a visiting professor who specialized in big band arrangements. The first thing he said to us was “I’ll tell you right now. If I had it my way, I would be a professional golfer and not a musician.” What followed these inspiring words was a rudimentary “walk through” of a big band jazz arrangement. When we got to the part where he wanted to bring up the “intensity,” he asked how that might be achieved. I raised my hand and said “only have one instrument play.” This was met with confusion and judgement. Without even considering it, he went to the next student who said “bring in all the instruments” with whom he enthusiastically agreed. Being the little shit head I was, I said “OOOH, you meant how do we make it LOUDER!” Tropical Fuck Storm is all the proof that I need that my instinct was right. Real tension happens in the spaces. In a conversation filled with silence, a shift in a chair or a clearing of a throat can be the equivalent of throwing that chair through a window or a growling like an animal. On TFS’s second album, the band plays with the noise of space and gives the medium of recording room to make a little noise of it’s own. Like seeing the brush strokes on a painting, their sound is saturated, overdriven and often EQ’d in a way that would put a grimace on any audiophile’s face. I love this about this band. As their name might suggest, they’re not looking to get it “right”. They are reacting to the world around them and that world is full of noise and uncomfortable silences, where the first sound we hear could be our last.