So so so so so much new music has come out within the past month. I needed to highlight the ones deemed 30Hz Recommended. I’m not going to spend a crap-ton of time doing this because there’s bad new TV to watch this week (and then immediately dismiss). Also I’m going to poo poo a popular pick because I’m the one with the microphone and I don’t care what Pitchfork thinks.
Listen to this:
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical
Being from Pittsburgh I might be tempted to call this indie-yinzer but that might confuse some people. Is it indie? Is it jug band punk? The best I can do is call this Lesser Low-Fi Hillbilly Post-Punk. If you know Clap Your Hands, you know the brand, but may have forgotten the music since they’ve been on hiatus for a few years. Critics poo-pood their second album (which I also liked quite a bit) because it wasn’t as good as their debut. Well critics are still poo-pooing. Pitchfork offers a 5.6 / 10 review and suggests that the most interesting thing about the band isn’t the music but the story about the band. They’re long gong from those DIY roots, but the band still produces interesting music whether or not you’ve been on board from the beginning.
Listen to: “Same Mistake” and “Into Your Alien Arms”
Wild Flag – Wild Flag
A super group. Yes. Groan. Another super group. But hold up. This collection of egos (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater Kinney, Helium’s Mary Timony and the Minders’ Rebecca Cole) crafts an infectious brand of punk-pop lacking the self-consciousness that tarnishes most of this genre. Danceable punk with musicality? Guitar-laded foot-stompers with 60’s style harmony and the pop-sensibility of Ric Ocasek? Yep. It’s all in there. And it’s one of the most impressive debut albums of the year.
Listen to: “Boom” and “Romance”
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
I really liked Girls’ last effort: Album. There was a certain steadiness of purpose — jangly guitars, lyrical lament and an indie-rock crooner with an air of unpredictability. Plus, they used the omnipresent 60’s pop thing to better ends, whereas bands like Wavves, Best Coast and the Cults seem to just use it. On Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls takes what made them great and dilutes it with symphonic interludes and head scratching. The album is very good, and in time it’s quirks may further grow on me, but I’m not ready to worship it. By “maturing,” the Girls have created something… else. If you’re a Pitchfork-subscribing hipster by all means slather your hipster juices all over it, bathe in it, take it to dinner for organically-grown cocktails. But for now, let’s just recommend the album for the half that still sounds like the Girls evolved and encourage our own potential growth with the part that doesn’t.
Listen to: “Alex” and “Forgiveness”
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
This album came out of nowhere. I vaguely remember the band name from their first release but I can’t recall ever listening to the album or perhaps as the band Kurt Vile departed. What a shame for Kurt Vile (of whom I am not fond) but through his loss, War on Drugs has gained. This Philadelphia-based quartet has taken my waning summer by storm with their “surging murkiness” (to borrow the excellent phrase from Stephen Hyden’s A.V. Club review). They’ve been called “heartland rock” or “rootsy” but in my opinion this is a disservice to the layers of orchestration present in their music. These are dense tracks laced with electronic flourishes, atmosphere, moody guitar and reverb. If Arcade Fire lost their newfound fame and pretense, played in smoke-filled taverns and listened to more Bob Dylan you might have something like The War on Drugs.
Listen to: “Baby Missiles” and “Brothers”
Wooden Shjips – West
They call this experimental psych-rock. They also call it misspelled. The reviews of this album suggest that frontman Ripley Johnson wears his influences like boy scout patches. Since I’m unfamiliar with these San Francisco-based (being the right-coaster that I am) influences I’m just going to go on the record and saying that it sounds like a lot of great bands of which I am familiar as well. There’s some Velvet Underground in there. Maybe a little bit of Sabbath during the intros. David Bowie space rock (not his dance-y stuff). Guitar, reverb and symphonic noise. There’s definitely more potential beyond this extremely promising debut. They’ll either pave their own way or falter under the weight of their forebears. For being “experimental” Wooden Shjips is surprisingly accessible as it clings to the battle-tested rock and roll heritage of dirty, droning guitar and trippy out of this world loops and reverb.
Listen to: “Lazy Bones” and “Home”
St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
I don’t get it. I’ve tried. I’ve listened to every St. Vincent album and the best I can say is that it’s interesting. That is not to say I think it is listenable or musical or engaging. I return to her every time because I find it interesting. Her voice is something special and she creates an occasionally beautiful track. But I always want more or something else or just something unexpected out of her. And as interesting as her music can be, I’m never particularly surprised with the end result. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s a bad thing. I just can’t recommend this record to someone who doesn’t already like St. Vincent. It hasn’t changed my mind and it’s not likely to sway any similar naysayers.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You
Is that fly attracted to this stink coming off of this record? The best compliment I can give is that it’s not as bad as I expected without guitarist John Frusciante. The Peppers have been in a downward spiral since Californication. As sorry as I am to say, this band is just not capable of great things anymore. They are however capable of middling, merely okay things. On the scale of innovation de-evolution they’re somewhere south of Kings of Leon but they’re competing hard.