February was pretty great. Here are some albums that I like a bunch:
AMTHST – Euphoria EP
The unlikely pairing of synth pop seductress Nite Jewel and Bay Area rapper Droop-E has resulted in some of the sexiest & silkiest music of 2016 so far. Like its album cover, the whole thing has a purple edge draped over the instrumentals, which for the most part are similar to modern contemporary jams, draped with consistent fog & pierced with bright lasers. It’s all about texture & atmosphere on this project, which is makes just an EP a perfect length for this collaboration, so that the mood doesn’t get stale.
Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom EP
In the past I’ve been a fan of Charli XCX, specifically her first few singles (“Nuclear Seasons,” “Stay Away,” “You’re The One”), but nothing since then has caught the same amount of attention. Until now, of course. Charli’s immediate pop charm parading over electronic necromancer Sophie’s demented pop monstrosities is such an obvious fit, it’s nuts that these two haven’t collaborated before. It’s deliriously dark & fun pop music that brings out the best in both parties involved.
El Guincho – Hiperasia
After six years in the making, Spanish musician El Guincho has released Hiperasia, a drastic change from his bright, tropical-infused style to one that’s more electronic/vaporwave & hip hop influenced. The change came from El Guincho’s discovery of Madrid’s Asian market district and other urban environments, which caused his sound to sound more modern and city-obsessed as opposed to the easy, breezy vibes from Barcelona & the Canary Islands. Tracks here are bright, hard-hitting and sound like commercials for crazy, futuristic products flying directly at your face. It’s certainly a unique trip to start off 2016.
Kedr Livanskiy – January Sun EP
Kedr Livanskiy lives in Moscow, but sounds like she’s been holed up in a Brooklyn or Chicago basement for years, analyzing the sounds of the assorted underground dance floors and morphing the textures and formulas into something totally new. There are strains of lo-fi house, IDM, drum & bass/jungle and so much more on here. This is easily one of my top favorite releases of this year just because it sounds like nothing else – it’s unnerving, hypnotizing, relaxing and upsetting all in one go. The lyrics are all in Russian, but the clarity of Livanskiy’s pop songwriting sensibilities are here. Get on the hype train now! Choo choo!
Matmos – Ultimate Care II
Ultimate Care II is an “experimental techno” album made entirely out of sounds from a washing machine’s wash cycle. That much becomes clear right from the start, when someone turns a knob and water starts flooding into the chamber, thus starting the journey. It’s truly an incredible auditory experience that is as therapeutic as it is blood pumping. But this isn’t new territory for Matmos, who have made songs comprised of samples of plastic surgeries, bovine uteruses & crawfish brains. Truly an inspiring piece of music for experimental musicians.
Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Mothers’ much buzzed about debut When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired shows much promise for this young band’s future. With delicate yet strong vocals similar to Angel Olsen and folk-leaning art rock instrumentals, Mothers create songs that are slow and deliberate, each line painfully spread to its limit. There are some seriously heartbreaking moments on here, which occasionally grow tiresome over the course of the album, but overall the intricate songwriting and obvious musical skill that the band possesses shows that they will be a band to watch with their sophomore record.
Mt. Si – Limits EP
This little EP is made from some big components of the modern LA synth pop scene, featuring members of Superhumanoids, Kisses & Classixx – a true supergroup going on right here. On Limits the supergroup comes together and grants us some pretty magnificent slices of dream pop perfection. Every song has a similar feel, but each has its own fantastic hook to help distance the feeling of monotony. Just sit back, relax and let these bubbly tunes exfoliate and cleanse all the bad vibes you collected throughout the week.
Pinkshinyultrablast – Grandfeathered
If you’re looking for incredibly noisy shoegaze/dream pop from 2016, look no further. This thing is draped with a thick mat of distortion & feedback, which occasionally cuts out to reveal glistening & jangly pop instrumentals underneath with a slight math rock edge. Drums are pretty high in the mix, always adding a complicated rhythm to the mix, along with an extra melody guitar to shake things up. Prepare to get blown away, sonically and metaphorically.
Porches – Pool
My stance on this album came as I was driving to my partner’s house after a long day of work and a two and a half hour train commute. This was going to be the last time I would see her for four months. I listened to this album on the way over, and when paired with the dark expanse of the highway, the groggy residue from train travel, anticipatory love pangs, and the streetlights rhythmically illuminating the way forward, the album hit a sweet spot. I think it’s an album that’s as much about feeling isolated as it is about feeling in love. As much about deep introspection as it is movement towards something bigger. To cut myself off before becoming a complete conceptualized ass, Pool is the album I need in my life right now.
Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge
Sarah Neufeld is most well-known for her work in Arcade Fire, but I hold her to the highest regard with her 2015 collaborative album with Colin Stetson Never Were The Way She Was. Here we see her virtuosic violin playing shine, which for the most part flies solo aside from some accompanying percussion & vocals to augment the atmosphere. There are many moments of intensity like on the title track, but there are also moments of sublime elegance, like on the closer “Where The Light Comes In,” which is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard in since Aphex Twin’s “Aisatsana” in 2014.
Other Notable Releases:
- Animal Collective – Painting With : Homogenously textured record from experimental pop band that doesn’t sound as “experimental” as their previous records.
- DIIV – Is The Is Are : Highly anticipated sophomore record accentuates their dreamy indie rock formula, with some tracks going heavier & more depressing than others.
- DMA’s – Hill’s End : Authentic sounding brit-pop from some Aussies. This record is immaculately produced – like it’s one of the nicest things I’ve heard in a while.
- Junior Boys – Big Black Coat : Electronic pop record that’s tons of fun and has lots of micro grooves to get you moving throughout the day.
- Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo : The controversial hit & miss collection. Has so much squandered potential, but for the most part is pretty dang good.
- Mass Gothic – Mass Gothic : New project from lead singer of Hooray For Earth. I love this dude’s voice, so chances are I’ll like almost anything he puts out.
- Mount Moriah – How To Dance : Easily lovable alternative country music with lots of heart and traditional traits of the best, classic country music.
- Prins Thomas – Principe Del Norte : Thick swaths of uncut smooth vibes for a good 90 minutes. Made for completely zoning out for a while.
- School Of Seven Bells – SVIIB : Final album from synth pop band. Tons of sentimental value since it’s a posthumous work from one of the band members. They’ve been a favorite of mine for a while now.
- Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony : Debut album from young NYC-based rock band. Shows immense promise for the future of the group. Very excited to see what they do next.
- Wild Nothing – Life Of Pause : Dream rock outfit’s third album that cuts back on the amount of usual haze for varied instrumental backdrops & songwriting hooks.