Thought I’d start a monthly recap thing on here. Think of this blog as a big net that’s cast over the stream of music that flows through the year and these are the “catches of the day,” in a way. There’s a huge spectrum of releases featured here, from lovely Americana, to paranoid space terror, to perkied-out hip hop to funeral doom metal. Pretty good way to start off 2016.
Aoife O’Donovan – In The Magic Hour
The presidentially-recognized, folk singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan continues her streak of perfection with her sophomore solo LP, In The Magic Hour. This record is a lot less instrumentally folk than her previous output, with more crunchy, electric accompaniment. But folk heads shouldn’t fret – there’s still plenty of acoustic guitar & fiddle, assisted by modern folk all-stars Chris Thile, Sarah Jarosz & Sara Watkins, among others. But as usual with an O’Donovan project, her voice is the highest priority. And oh, it’s good here. It’s so good. This record is so good. I’ve been a fan since her days in Crooked Still, so I think it’s clear that I’ll be a fan for life.
Blithe Field – Face Always Toward The Sun
Musician Spencer Radcliffe goes back under the name of Blithe Field for this ambient/bedroom pop/electronica album. Face Always Toward The Sun was released on Orchid Tapes, as opposed to Radcliffe’s previous album under his own name, which was put out on Run For Cover. It definitely fits into the Orchid Tapes catalog nicely, reminding me of Ricky Eat Acid or Foxes In Fiction’s warm deconstructive soundscapes. Tons of Boards Of Canada-esque synth tones on here too. Very homespun, very lo-fi, very lovely. Love-fi. New genre. 2016: year of love-fi.
Chairlift – Moth
By far the best pop record of 2016 so far. At first I was a big deterred from the overtly pop direction Chairlift was going in initial singles “Romeo” and “Ch-Ching,” but now I’m totally wrapped up in this sparkling, glossy universe of this album. “Crying In Public” makes my heart swoon to unreasonable heights and if you can personally relate your own relationship to the song “Show U Off,” I’d say things are going well for you two. You go, reader. You go.
David Bowie – Blackstar
I mean, what can I say at this point that’ll really sway you to listen to this if you haven’t yet? David Bowie’s death created the most ripples in the artistic community I’ve seen since Michael Jackson’s passing. The album is chronicle of his descent towards death; an art project that only a musician like him could pull off. Of course it’s a recommended album of January 2016.
Future – Purple Reign
Future had the best year of his career in 2015 and somehow he hasn’t slowed down at all after releasing three mixtapes and a full-length album. At this point if you’ve heard enough Future, you know what you’re in for: dark, moody, hard-hitting beats with Future’s mumbly flow rapping about how he loves but resents the fame, introspective thoughts on his own relationship problems and of course the Percocet. It’s pretty incredible to hear such conscious thoughts coming from such a drug-addled persona in this day and age, which makes Future extremely intriguing.
Lycus – Chasms
My foray into metal has started strong in 2016 with this doom metal behemoth, which I’m very grateful for. This technically fits into the classification of “funeral doom metal,” which is noted to be slower and more dirge-like, focusing on building atmosphere with brutal, crushing riffs and deep, chanting vocals. This record brings all that to the table, with moments bringing up elements of dreamy post-rock and featuring a cellist along with the blistering guitar & drums. This, along with a touch of black metal influence here and there for good measure makes this a not-to-miss album for metal fans.
NZCA/Lines – Infinite Summer
Some really, really good synths on this record. Like, real nice and infectious. There’s something new on each track, very few textures are reused and the ones that are are used in varying ways. It’s like a bag of jellybeans, each one is sweet in a different way. That was a terribly basic comparison, but I’ve already said what I’m trying to say – the instrumentals on this are really, really good.
Roly Porter – Third Law
Truth be told, I haven’t gotten all the way through this on one listen – mostly because it’s just too harrowing. Think The Haxan Cloak, but in space. It’s the soundtrack to a paranoid hell mission in space. An appropriate Doom soundtrack. This is extremely dark, unsettling ambient electronic music, with plenty of crashing dissonance, harsh noise and eerie effects. When it’s quiet, it’s unnerving because it is certain that something is going to go awry at any moment. Sure enough, something usually does – a spike of shrill noise stabs in or a frantic, breakneck beat ups sounds out of nowhere; almost like a villain pops out of the shadows with a bloody knife. Music that can keep the listener on the edge of their seat like that, much like a film or a novel would, is something impressive, despite the years it might take off your life.
She-Devils – She-Devils EP
A delightful, three-song + remix debut EP from the Montreal duo that takes cues from classic dream pop and mixes it in with an interesting blend of 60s french pop flavor and a tasteful amount of tape hiss & ambient noise. The results are hypnotic, luxurious songs that make me really excited for more.
Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
This weirdo record is making a run at being my favorite Ty Segall album, which isn’t an easy feat, since I’m a big fan. I thought it would just blend into his other recent LPs, but nope. This thing is so messed up and tweaked out, it stands way out in many ways. There’s the sock & hair & lip remover “Diversion” that flexes you out the door with its monstrous riffage, “Mandy Cream” that’ll confuse you at first with a bizarre time signature and then possess you with its voodoo powers, and there’s “Candy Sam” that has Ty at his prime, classic garage rock sound. There’s tons of variety to make it stick out from the pack of not only Ty Segall records, but lo-fi rock records as well.