Sunday, June 22, 2014

5 Best Albums in April 2014

I am clearly running almost three months behind on these monthly bits. That was probably inevitable, but I am committed to highlighting five great records that were released each month for the balance of 2014, so here are some from April. Given my propensity to lag behind and get wrapped up in real life matters of far lesser consequence than music, this challenge may prove the ultimate lever for forcing a greater sense of brevity in these reviews on my part.

School Of Language - Old Fears

The regular gig for David Brewis is with his mates in the Brit art rock outfit, Field Music. The similarities start and overlap with his vocals obviously, but a solo project like School of Language has proven, as it does for so many other artists requiring an additional outlet, to be just the trick for Brewis to release some slightly quirkier and off kilter art pop. His voice reminds me at times of Brian Eno in his pre-ambient 70's pop period. This is a very listenable record, with wonderful melody flow, but there is nothing standard about how all the pieces have been put together. I expect Old Fears will be heavily overlooked this year, which is really too bad.

Fear of Men - Loom

I have seen Fear of Men described commonly as dream pop. That is not entirely unfair, nor are the shoegaze references. Just the same, there is a tweeness just as reminiscent of early days Belle & Sebastien, but with a bit more punch. Loom is the type of recording that could easily get lost in the shuffle of a recent barrage of soft female double tone vocal outfits, with jangly minor based chording. Like Frankie Rose and few others however, there is a depth to these songs that pull them away from standard gloomy lo-fi meandering. There is also a lyrical sincerity here that also elevates their charming simplicity of song structure. Lovely album this one.

Sweet Apple - The Golden Age of Glitter

The first Sweet Apple record went largely unnoticed, especially compared to the modest attention this year's The Golden Age of Glitter has garnered. To be fair, this attention mostly seems to have been from fans of Guided by Voices, Dinosaur Jr. and other bands whose members make up the ranks of Sweet Apple. I would suggest this album is a classically power pop tinged rocker with bits of hard rock, compared to the debut which was likely the other way around. Lots of hooks and solos, without any wank or gratuitous feedback. Fans of Cheap Trick, Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, Bad Finger, and any number of other power pop big hitters should enjoy this one. Mommy's alright, daddy's alright, and this record is really friggin fun.

Todd Terje - It's About Time

A now approximate ten year veteran of the Scandinavian electronic music scene, this is the long awaited full length, self penned debut offering from Terje, and it is a fabulous manic mess of wonderfulness. Most discussions for this record talk about the seamless shift from style to style, from track to track. There is salsa, lounge, dance floor, and even some shit that sounds like the Knight Rider opening theme. This is an ambitious project that feels more like a record Terje has had dancing around in his own head for ten years, but was finally able to map it all out in a way that should never work, but absolutely works in every way.

Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

It is hard to know what type of record fans from his various projects (Blur, Gorillaz, etc) were expecting from Albarn for his first proper solo release. For my part this sounds like the record he always wanted to release, but he needed to have gone through and captured certain life experiences for the timing to be right. Much has been (fairly) made of the lyrical subject matter on some tracks, and Albarn's candour with respect to things like substance abuse. To me what makes this a special project is his unwillingness to venture into previous sound territories that would have been safe and diehard fan appeasing. Every song on this record has a unique sonic approach, all bringing an interesting level of listener engagement, blended brilliantly with a respectful standoffishness which challenges the listener to spend some non casual time with these songs. Brilliant album.

EMA - The Future's Void
Kelis - Food
The Both - The Both