Q12014: The Year in Music (So Far)
My dear friend Alan got got me into Patterns the first full week of January, and almost three months later I still work my way through Waking Lines quite often. In the same vein as British Sea Power, Patterns work their dreampop and shoegaze influences into massive, near-anthemic compositions. They slipped under the radar a bit, releasing an album just six days into the new year, but Patterns are well worth a listen.
Sevendeaths released the ominous, fantastic Concreté Misery, an album that seamlessly shifts between the spectral landscapes of Tim Hecker and the cinematic efforts of Cliff Martinez. Concreté Misery almost snuck by me, but luckily my coworker Dan made sure that didn't happen. I highly recommend giving the album a chance if it somehow managed to slip past you.
Dum Dum Girls impressed with the wonderfully 80s-inspired Too True—seriously, if you haven't listened to "Rimbaud Eyes" in a while, you really should—and Hospitality got it very right with Trouble, bringing January to a fine close.
CEO's (wonderfully?) weird Wonderland helped kick off February, with Erick Berglund taking a fair number of steps away from the sound he help craft with the Tough Alliance. Even a month or so removed from Wonderland, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. Yet I keep returning, curious to see what layers may unfold with repeated study. Maybe by year's end I'll have some idea of how the record sits with me. (Maybe not.)
Lauren successfully got me into Gardens & Villa with Dunes, a record I look forward to listening to more this summer as the music seems to exist in a semi-tropical world of endless summer nights, the day's last light rippling along the darkened waters, a hint of rain in the air, a caress of humidity. But I digress, we're talking about music here, not my trip to Hawaii, which kicks off today. (I'm going to take my time in Honolulu to become the boss bitch I know I am in my mind while you guys help keep modern civilization afloat at the cubicle farm. Please take the nearly two weeks I am away to [re]watch Broad City, you'll thank me later, and those ladies will distract you from thoughts of me enjoying Paradise while you languish back here on the mainland.)
Cheatahs more than lived up to the hype with their self-titled debut. The album is dripping with the influence of My Bloody Valentine, but Cheatahs work enough of their own songwriting and talents in to make it so much more than some talented kids aping Loveless.
Com Truise continued to do that thing he does so well with Wave 1. If your day has been lacking in ebbs and flows and echoes of electronic instrumentation and crazy drum programming, I'd click that link above.
The Notwist released an intriguing, engaging album in the form of Close to the Glass, which covers a number of essential indie bases—opener "Signals" travels in the same strange waters as much of Radiohead's recent work, the title track creeps into the unnerving territory of the Knife a little bit, and "Kong" dances around the peripheries of the Radio Dept.'s (or even If You Lose It-era Last Days of April's) world, and that's just the first three songs!
Unsurprisingly considering the strength of singles "Wanderlust" and "Sweet Spot," the finest record of the month belonged to Wild Beasts. Present Tense may not quite surpass the tragic beauty of Smother, but it comes damn close, and its deft exploration of new territory and phenomenal production make it a more than worthy addition to their brilliant catalogue. As with the previous two albums, Present Tense warrants and encourages multiple listens. The true beauty of Wild Beasts is their ability to quietly layer their songs, allowing for discovery even four or fives listens down the line, and there is a lot to discover in Present Tense.
My buddy Alan stepped up again in early March, getting me into Trust's latest release, Joyland, one of the more bizarre, haunting, and beautiful albums I'm stumbled across (or had thrown in my path) this year. It's difficult to attempt a description of Joyland, or even list off possible influences, so I shan't embarrass myself. Just find the title track on Spotify (or in some other dark corner of the internet) and give Trust a chance. According to Alan, dude can pull off that voice live with no (or minimal) processing. (Also, don't get scared off by "Geryon," even if it does sound like the Yellow King fronting an industrial band.)
I'd been waiting for Eagull's self-titled record ever since my friend Andrew came back from CMJ raving about them, and the British lads didn't disappoint. I'm grateful to bands like Eagulls for reminding me why I fell so hard for punk rock music during my formative years, an event that ended up shaping much of my life to come—the friends I'd meet (some of whom later became family), the bands I played in, starting a punk rock record label (and then driving it into the ground); in many ways, punk shaped the life I led from pre-adolescence until my early 20s. While punk rock may take a backseat to some other genres these days, an album like Eagulls makes me wonder why. (And if the term "punk rock" is about to scare you off, Eagulls are right up your alley if you're a fan of the early The Men or proper garage rock.)
MØ's No Mythologies to Follow added some wonderful, soulful pop tones to an already strong month of music. Existing somewhere between Robyn, Duffy, and Amy Winehouse, MØ is definitely worth a listen, preferably on a quiet, warm evening, on a porch or balcony, alone, glass of wine in hand.
The War on Drugs is a band I've always enjoyed hearing at parties or at friends' houses, but hadn't ever bothered to track down an album or keep up with the band too much. Not entirely sure why, especially after the strength of their latest work, Lost in the Dream, which combines all the strengths of Arcade Fire's Neon Bible with their unique and wonderful songwriting, expanding upon the '70s rock (and Springsteen) influences. Definitely one of my favorite things to have dropped this year.
Also worth checking out from the first quarter: