Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Best Albums in June 2014

Another month passes and another bunch of wonderful albums get released to much or very little fan fare. The five I enjoyed most in June were mostly under the radar, except one, which kind of not surprisingly blew up the radar.

GusGus - Mexico

Over the last couple years, the electro pop type music space has seemingly become a bit cluttered with more mediocrity than previously. Lately though, it seems the proverbial cream is rising to the top a bit more. I have been only mildly familiar with GusGus over the years, so this is the first record where I have invested any proper listening time. I gather their shift to more straightforward electronic based pop songs has been recent, so Mexico feels like them getting very comfortable in that skin. The songs work well as headphone listening, but are very dance floor ready as well, as evidenced by the gem "Another Life." Electronic pop music made by real professionals.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent

This is the fourth album by this band, and for my money it is their best. I have always loved their fearlessness, but it always felt like they might be hedging on melody and covering things sometimes excessively and unnecessarily in reverb and warm sludge. It sounds like they tried some different things in terms of band member duties during the recording process, as well as taking a more studio based approach to production. What it means is a record that is far more engaging and focused, without completely losing their overarching fuzzed out dreaminess. The band sounds much more comfortable with the idea of songs with harmonies and verse chorus structures (nothing over 6 minutes this time) without abandoning any of their inherent need to be adventurous. 

Lust For Youth - International

To this brief point, Lust For Youth has been a prolific project for Hannes Norrvide, but for International, he has added two players, filling out the sound quite a bit. There is still very much a dark synth feel throughout, but it gets balanced with some wonderful pop hooks. Songs like "Illume" reside on the record as classic pop numbers with brooding vocals, rather than some of the post-punk influenced music out there, where the pop is sprinkled sparingly on top of the seriousness. A song such as "New Boys" sounds like the type of song Depeche Mode wish they could still write so effortlessly. A very consistent outing from start to finish, from an artist who is clearly charting a much more mature and deliberate path for where he wants to take his music. 

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

I am still not entirely sure I know what to do with LDR. It feels redundant to try and write anything briefly about her or even this record, which has not been written fifty different ways to the same ambiguous end. If you step away from all the hype, the press and worry less about what her angle is as someone in the celebrity eye, this becomes a pretty fantastic recording which stands completely on its own musically, artistically and aesthetically. I find the songs here far more rich and engaging than on her debut, of which I was only a lukewarm fan. Like the debut however, you would be hard pressed to find another record in 2014 so that sounds anything quite like Ultraviolence. This is a sum of its parts type record, where some songs stand out, but nothing strays far from a straight line of lovely moodiness. It will be interesting to see where her music takes her next, but any way you slice it, this is a quality recording for an artist of any tenure or motivation.

White Hex = Gold Nights

The post punk and dark synth descriptions are fair and obvious for GoldNights, but I would take it a step further and say there are elements of legitimate goth running through these songs. The guitar work brightens things up and pulls White Hex closer to the XX than Sisters of Mercy, but there is a level of angst and despair in these songs that keep them from being full on catchy pop songs with sombre vocals. "Paradise" is likely an accidental trick from the Cold Cave play book, and a song that balances the more wonderfully dreary tracks on the record. Compact at eight songs, this is a solid outing by a young Aussie duo who are doing a wonderful job at trying some things, borrowing some things, and finding their ways as an interesting new band.


How To Dress Well - What Is This Heart?
Lust For Youth - International
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Only Run